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Friday, September 27, 2013

A Low-Sodium Option To Pizza – Fast & Easy Whole Wheat Tortilla Pizza

I have been craving pizza lately. Probably because we've had it several times at the office lately and I have to sit there and smell it, but I can't eat it. Why? Well, fast food pizza is 600 mg (or more) of sodium per slice and 35 carbs (without meat, do you think most people in my office want to eat a plain cheese pizza?). So, I can eat one slice of bad take-out pizza and a piece of fruit to max out on both sodium and carbs, or I can abstain. I usually choose to abstain.

I even tried a frozen pizza the other day from the nutrition section of my local grocery store – it was a “Simple Truth Organic Roasted Vegetable Pizza” one third of the pizza which was about the size of two small slices of pizza came in at 45 carbs and 410 mg of sodium, better than a Pappa Johns...the taste? Well...let's just say it left a lot to be desired. It was good but it just wasn't that satisfying.

So I decided to try making a tortilla pizza. Now, I don't really like thin crusted pizza but not only is making homemade pizza dough more than I want to do after work I also don't want to be tempted to eat more than I should. I know that I can get the sodium to a decent level if I make it myself, but there are still a lot of carbs in the dough. I will however experiment with this in the future. Hence my choosing to use a whole wheat tortilla. You may wonder why I didn't try pita bread or something like that – well I just couldn't find one with a low enough sodium content...

This “pizza” was pretty good, it had the taste that I was looking for although because I don't care much for thin crust pizza it did lack the chewiness that I like. My whole wheat tortilla pizza using an 8 inch tortilla came in at about 21 carbs and 406 mg of sodium, and was slightly larger in size than the serving of Simple Truth pizza. Also, it had 12 grams of fiber! I used Kraft Natural Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese as it was the lowest in sodium that I could find at the time – I will shop around for one that is lower, I am also interested in trying vegan cheeses which are lower in fat but may be higher in sodium. I also used Mission Carb Balance Whole Wheat Tortillas, which were lower in carbs and lower in sodium than the other tortillas my store carried, you may be able to find a better option. The best part? It only took 5 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to cook!

Fast & Easy Whole Wheat Tortilla Pizza – serves one
1 whole wheat tortilla
2 Tbl low-sodium tomato puree
¼ c mozzarella cheese
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp basil
¼ tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
2 mushrooms
a few leaves of spinach

Pre-heat oven to 475 degrees. Put the tortilla in an iron skillet, spoon on tomato puree leaving an edge around the tortilla, sprinkle on garlic, cheese, oregano, basil, pepper, add mushrooms and spinach. Heat in oven for about 10-12 minutes or until cheese starts to melt and the edges of the pizza brown. Remove from the skillet with a spatula, cut into 2-4 slices and enjoy...

Nutritional Data for Whole Wheat Tortilla Pizza – per serving
Calories 192
Fat 7.3 g
Saturated Fat 4.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat .1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 15 mg
Sodium 406 mg
Potassium 360 mg
Carbohydrate 21 g
Dietary Fiber 12 g
Sugars 1.9 g
Protein 12.9 g
Vitamin A 79%
Vitamin C 23.3%
Calcium 29.2%
Iron 9.6%

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fasolia – Ethopian Green Beans and Carrots

I had an opportunity to try a different Ethiopian restaurant (Cafe Desta) in Tucson a couple of weeks ago and they had Fasolia on the menu – something that the restaurant (Zemam's) that I usually go to doesn't offer. I really liked it, so the other day when I had a friend over for dinner I thought I would make it myself. I looked up several recipes online, looked for similarities and tried to remember the flavors of the dish I enjoyed.  This is what I came up with, I hope that you enjoy it.  Since green beans are now in season, or if you are looking for something to do with your "harvest", give this recipe a try.

If you are not trying to make an authentic dish I think there are several changes you could make to this recipe that would be delicious too! You can add berebere seasoning, crushed red pepper, curry powder, cauliflower, chickpeas, potatoes, etc. to make it taste a little different.

Fasolia – serves 8
2 medium onions, sliced thin
4 c green beans, cut into 1-1 ½” pieces
3 carrots, sliced thin
1 – 1 ½ c stewed tomatoes (no salt added)
2 tsp ginger
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
½ tsp turmeric
2 Tbl olive oil
water, as needed

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil for 2-3 minutes, add green beans and carrots, continue to saute for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and spices, cover and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes – add water if needed to keep vegetables from sticking to the pan.

Nutritional Data for Fasolia – per serving
Calories 84
Fat 3.6 g
Saturated Fat .5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat .4 g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.5 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 39 mg
Potassium 245 mg
Carbohydrate 13 g
Dietary Fiber 3.9 g
Sugars 3.7 g
Protein 2 g
Vitamin A 66.2%
Vitamin C 26.4%
Calcium 4.4%
Iron 5.4%

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Try a Garbanzo Burger Today...

I tried a MorningStar Original Griller Burger the other day and I have to say it wasn't too bad. It had an interesting flavor – not at all like meat, not that I really expected that, but the texture was close. It was a bit thin though and not all that satisfying for someone on a low sodium diet. If I had eaten it on a bun I don't think I would have been able to taste much of the burger, kind of like when you get a regular burger at McDonald's. Then again, maybe that's what they're trying to be, a “McDonald's burger”. I had it with corn-on-the-cob and a large salad. So my total meal was 50 g carbs and 420 mg of sodium – pretty doable, but only because I didn't have a hamburger bun and ketchup. If I had the Griller on a bun with ketchup only that part of my lunch would have had 32 g carbs, and 630 mg of sodium. I have to say that as long as you watch the sodium content (some of the other flavors of non-meat burgers are very high in sodium) these non-beef burgers are not a bad thing to keep in the freezer for a quick dinner – heated in the microwave for 2 minutes it's a pretty darn quick meal.

I think my Garbanzo Burger is a lot more satisfying – it's both more filling and tastier. Although it takes a while to prepare a batch of my Garbanzo Burgers, once you make up the recipe and form them into burgers, you can freeze them and cook them later. They do not have the taste or texture of the MorningStar Griller or a real beef burger, they kind of taste like a falafel... But to me they are a tastier and healthier option to keep in the freezer – however they do take more than 2 minutes to cook even when you already have them on had. My Garbanzo Burger has 30 g carbs, 23 mg sodium, 7 fiber and 13 protein compared to MorningStars Original Griller at 5 carbs, 260 sodium, 3 fiber and 15 protein and is at least twice as thick as the Griller. To me it is a much more satisfying meal.
Garbanzo Burger – serves 6
2 c garbanzo beans, cooked without salt
1 c cooked brown rice
1 c tofu
½ c onion
1 c bell pepper, chopped
4 mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/3 c nutritional yeast
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp black pepper
1 Tbl olive oil

Saute onion, bell pepper, mushrooms and garlic in a frying pan with 2 tsp of oil. While cooking, put all other ingredients into a food processor. Add vegetables and process on high for 2-3 minutes until a paste forms. Form into burgers and cook with remaining oil over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes per side.

So why not go ahead and try one today...

Nutritional Data for Garbanzo Burgers – per serving
Calories 225
Fat 6 g
Saturated Fat .9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.8 g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.3 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 23 mg
Potassium 466 mg
Carbohydrate 30 g
Dietary Fiber 7 g
Sugars 1.3 g
Protein 13 g
Vitamin A 5.2%
Vitamin C 36.4%
Calcium 7.5%
Iron 14.5%

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Hospital Food – Is it good for you?

I don’t usually write non-recipe articles back to back but I read and posted this link ( on Home Cooking is Better’s Facebook page this morning.  While I am very happy that a lot of hospitals will no longer be having McDonald’s restaurants in them, it made me think back to when I was in the hospital in January and the very unhealthy food that I got served by the hospital – and then I got angry… 

When I was in St. Mary’s Hospital, in Tucson, Arizona it was a very scary and upsetting time, I didn’t know what had happened to me and I didn’t know if I was going to get better.  I did know that I was to be on a low-sodium/low-carb diet (as I still am) and that I needed to rid my body of water.  Every morning when they would come by to deliver breakfast they dropped off the menu for the day, I was supposed to look over it and choose what I wanted to eat that day and to have for breakfast the next morning.  The menu they gave me was labeled low-sodium/low-carb, but it wasn’t really low-sodium or low-carb…  It should also have been low-fat, just because everyone’s diet should be low in fat, but it wasn’t that either… 
So what kind of food was on the menu, and why wasn’t it healthy? 

Usually for breakfast there was a cereal option (Option 1) with Cheerios, banana, milk and juice.  This is not low-carb and not very low in sodium either, there are better cereal choices than Cheerios.  So, option 1 – Sodium 311 mg, Carbs 112 g, Fat 5 g and Fiber 9 g.  Thank God, I could subtract the 9 grams of fiber from the 112 grams of carbs – that made that option only 43 grams of carbs too high to be a low-carb meal for a man and 58 grams of carbs too high for a woman.  Option 2 was scrambled eggs, toast w/margarine, banana, juice and milk.  The totals for option 2 – Sodium 542 mg, Carbs 104 g, Fat 27 g, Fiber 6 – uh oh… 542 mg of sodium!  104 carbs minus 6 fiber equals 98 carbs!  Well, that was a little better, right?  Only 38 carbs too many, but 542 mg of Sodium!!!  Were they trying to kill me?  Well, I don’t eat that much food anyway – so what if I only ate the Cheerios and enough milk to wet the cereal?  250 mg of Sodium and 29 carbs – better, but too few carbs…  if I added half a banana that was better, right??? 251 mg of sodium, 54 carbs… ok I did it….  Wow, that was stressful…  Now the nurse came in and asked why I didn’t eat all of my food, um…well…I am still hungry…but I can’t eat it all it’s too many carbs and the sodium is too high…  I’m sorry…

For lunch there was a choice of some hot food that was typically high in sodium and carbs or a cold meal that was also high in both.  Dinner was usually a meat/fish, veg, starch, salad, roll, margarine and dessert or pasta with meat/fish, salad, roll, margarine and fruit.  Ugh…and these were the low-sodium/low-carb options!  Now, most of the time the food didn’t taste too bad – but it wasn’t that good either…  What really bothered me was that it wasn’t healthy to eat.  The food choices and combinations weren’t good.  The hospital chef should know that corn/peas are grains/legumes not vegetables and shouldn’t serve them with rice, pasta or potato.  After a few days of grumbling from me, I happened to get a person delivering the menu that cared and understood my frustration.  Well lo and behold they told me that I had more than the two choices!  What?  Yeah, I could order off menu or side dishes!  Oh wow!!!  How exciting!!!  I was able to order yogurt and fresh fruit, oatmeal, chef salad (ok, it would have been better without the low-sodium deli meat, cheese and hard boiled egg, but I did need a protein) and other options.  I did get tired of eating the same food over the next 10 days because there aren’t that many different side items, but at least I could eat both healthy and filling food without endangering my health (too much).
They sent a nutritionist around to explain to me how I should eat, now that I had a heart condition.  I told her that eating healthy wasn’t a problem for me, especially when I’m home.  But I pointed out to her that the food they were making me eat in the hospital wasn’t healthy and wasn’t at all what I would eat at home.  In fact I ate healthier and less food when I was on my own and active – not lying in bed in the hospital all day.  She agreed that their food was not very healthy and that they did not fit good nutritional guidelines but that she and the people in her department had no control over the kitchen or the cafeteria.  She also told me that she was sure that a lot of decisions were made on the basis of cost and ease of preparation, which would also explain the over use of pre-prepared foods.  Ahh, now things are beginning to make sense.  It doesn’t matter if they make you sick in the hospital, they need to save money and if you happen to have a cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes or other condition they can just up your medication – which of course they  make money on….  Ok, I get it now.

So what to do?  If you find yourself in the hospital and they give you that little menu to choose your food from, ask them if you have to order one of the two choices or if you can order something else.  Talk to the nutritionist and tell them your concerns, write to the hospital administrator tell them that they should be offering healthy food in the hospital.  I’m so tired of the fact that everything today is about money, this needs to change and besides it really isn’t any more expensive to serve healthy options, it just takes a little time and knowledge.  If they can all of a sudden do away with the rent that McDonald's pays them, then they can do this too.

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Some foods can trigger a stroke... and here are some things that you can do to lower your chance of having a stroke

A poor diet can contribute to having a stroke. People who eat diets that are high in saturated fat are especially susceptible, saturated fat can cause a build-up of fatty plaques in your arteries. It also increases cholesterol levels and leads to high blood pressure and obesity. A low fat, low sodium, high fiber diet is recommended, as well as eating lots of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole-grains. A balanced diet also includes a small amount of unsaturated fat which will help to reduce your cholesterol, so it's a good idea to include oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds, as well as sunflower, olive and canola oils in your diet.

As always you should quit smoking, drink in moderation and get exercise. Smoking doubles your risk of having a stroke because it narrows the arteries and makes your blood more likely to clot. Excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat. Men should drink no more than 2 drinks a day and women no more than 1 drink a day. Exercise helps you to keep your weight lower, lowers your blood pressure and also helps to lower your cholesterol levels. Try to get at least 20-30 minutes of moderately aerobic exercise a day.

Because of trans-fats, crackers, chips, store bought pastries and baked goods block arteries, upping concentrations of lipids and cholesterol, raising your risk of having a stroke by 30%. Limit trans-fats to no more than 1-2 g per day, as always read labels on processed foods.

Smoked and processed meats can contribute to strokes because of the high sodium content which contributes to high blood pressure, also the preservatives sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite cause arteries to harden, narrow and become brittle. Smoked meats may also lead to diabetes and cancer. Eating just one serving of processed meats a day can increase your risk of getting coronary artery disease by 42%. Try eating tuna fish, peanut butter or slicing homemade roasts and chicken.

Scientists don't know why yet, but people that drink a single diet soda a day are 48% more at risk of having a stroke. Regular diet soda drinkers have a 60% higher chance of having a stroke, heart attack or coronary artery disease, so substitute more water or iced tea.

Because red meat is so high in saturated fat, people that consume too much have a 42% higher risk of having a stroke. Red meat clogs arteries with protein plaques and the high iron content may pose a specific risk to have a stroke. Eat more white meat and fish, don't forget to try Meatless Mondays – or perhaps try even two to three days a week to get your protein from plants!

Eating canned soups and processed foods also raise your risk of having a stroke because of the very high amount of sodium in canned soups and processed foods – even those that sound healthy. Beware of other ingredients besides salt that are actually loaded in sodium such as, baking soda, baking powder, MSG, disodium phosphate and sodium alginate. People eating 4,000 mg of sodium a day double their risk of having a stroke from those eating 2,000 mg a day or less. Make your own soups or buy low-sodium soups and read labels!

So remember as Michael Pollan said in his book, In Defense of Food, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” and “Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.” Do as Ben Franklin said and “Eat to live, don't live to eat”, base your diet on whole, natural, foods not processed, packaged garbage that pretends to be food.
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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Still have a lot of Zucchini in your garden? Make a Zucchini Casserole...

I bet you're still harvesting zucchinis from your garden and you've probably made grilled zucchini, skewers with zucchini (March 20, 2012), zucchini bread (July 17, 2013) and maybe even Zucchini Manago (September 20, 2011) until you're sick and tired of them. What to do? Well you can make a zucchini quiche (recipe another time) or you can make a zucchini casserole.

Zucchini casserole is quick and easy. You can change, add or adjust this recipe to suit your own personal taste. The original recipe called for mozzarella cheese and my mother likes to make it with feta cheese, personally I prefer using goat cheese – it's low in sodium and adds a nice flavor to the dish. I think it would be really good if you added a handful of spinach or kale and 6-8 sliced mushrooms too... You can also season it up a bit with a couple of cloves of garlic, a pinch of oregano and maybe a bit of crushed red peppers.  If you want to make it a little more substantial, you could add some cooked pasta like ziti, rigatoni or bread crumbs - but that will add carbs and sodium...

Zucchini Casserole – serves 6
2 Tbl olive oil
2 medium zucchini, 1/4” slices
1 medium onion, chopped
1 28 oz can of low sodium diced tomatoes
1 8 oz package of soft goat cheese

Heat oil in a skillet, saute zucchini and onions until soft. Layer into a casserole dish, cover with tomatoes, sprinkle cheese on top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or until cheese starts to bubble and brown.

Nutritional Data for Zucchini Casserole – per serving
Calories 178
Fat 12.5 g
Saturated Fat 6.1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat .6 g
Monounsaturated Fat 5.1 g
Cholesterol 17 mg
Sodium 198 mg
Potassium 63 mg
Carbohydrate 9 g
Dietary Fiber 2.7 g
Sugars 5 g
Protein 8.5 g
Vitamin A 7.8%
Vitamin C 5%
Calcium 5.8%
Iron 4.5%

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Another Wonderful Gulf Coast dish – Jambalaya

While I'm not going to go on a Gulf Coast food rant – I did think that I'd add one more good seafood recipe... Jambalaya is a good Lousiana Creole dish that is somewhat related to Spanish paella, another one of my favorite dishes... Maybe I'll share a recipe for that in the future, but I can't really get good fresh seafood here in Arizona to make these recipes properly and I miss eating them, even writing about them makes me want to eat them, so enough for now...

In fact Jambalaya was originally based on paella, but the Spanish settling in New Orleans couldn't get saffron, so they substituted with tomatoes. Then the French/Caribbean influences came in and the modern Jambalaya dish was born.
You'll notice that Jambalaya still has the “holy trinity” of onions, bell peppers and celery – but does not have roux or file'. When cooking the “holy trinity” you should have about twice the onion as you do bell pepper and celery (keep these two in equal proportions), but of course you can adjust to suit your own tastes. You can also add hot sauce or more cayenne pepper, if you like things hotter. In fact, you can add different meats, seafood and veggies and make this dish your own. If you are on a low sodium diet, you can still eat this dish, but you'll probably want to omit the sausage. Good luck with making your Jambalaya and if you enjoy eating cajun or creole food – take a trip to New Orleans!
Jambalaya – Serves 4
1 chicken breast, diced
12 med shrimp, peeled and chopped
6 oz smoked sausage, sliced thin (optional)
1 lg onion, chopped
1 lg bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp paprika
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp oregano
2-3 bay leaves
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
3 c low sodium chicken broth
¾ c rice
1 Tbl olive oil

In a large pot, add oil and saute onion, bell pepper and celery until soft. Add the chicken to the pot and saute until lightly browned on both sides. Add garlic, cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes, spices, rice and broth. Cover and simmer on very low heat until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid and the chicken is barely tender, about 20 minutes, add sausage and sausage, cook another 10 minutes. Serves 4

Nutritional Data for Jambalaya – per serving
Calories 340
Fat 11.2 g
Saturated Fat 3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat 5.6 g
Cholesterol 76 mg
Sodium 606 mg
Potassium 520 mg
Carbohydrate 33 g
Dietary Fiber 4.8 g
Sugars 4.1 g
Protein 26.4 g
Vitamin A 12.9%
Vitamin C 75.5%
Calcium 7%
Iron 16.2%

Nutritional Data for Jambalaya w/o Sausage – per serving
Calories 274
Fat 5.8 g
Saturated Fat 1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat .9 g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.1 g
Cholesterol 64 mg
Sodium 351 mg
Potassium 462 mg
Carbohydrate 33 g
Dietary Fiber 4.8 g
Sugars 4.1 g
Protein 22.6 g
Vitamin A 12.9%
Vitamin C 75%
Calcium 6.5%
Iron 15.1%

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