Collard Greenz

Food, recipes and everything in between


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Persian Chicken with Nutty Rice Pilaf

I have been on a real Middle Eastern kick in when it comes to food inspiration these days. This recipe is perfect for a healthy mid-week dinner that is quick and easy to make.

Ingredients (feeds approx. 4):

Chicken   

Marinate the chicken in the following ingredients ideally for at least 20 minutes before roasting, or better still, prep a night in advance and marinate in the refrigerator over night.

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (use breast if you prefer white meat)

2 tbsp. EVOO

1/3 cup pomegranate molasses

2 tbsp. za’atar

dash of salt and cracked black pepper to taste

marinaded chicken - Copypomegranate molas

Rice

1 tbsp. each: turmeric (a natural anti-inflammatory & preservative) & smoked paprika

1 tsp. cumin

2 cloves garlic and 1/2 onion minced

1 large carrot and 1/2 zucchini shredded

3/4 cup toasted walnuts and pumpkin seeds

3 cups basmati rice

2 tbsp EVOO

dash of salt and cracked black pepper to taste

toasted nuts - Copy

Method:

Place chicken in roasting dish in 375* preheated oven. It will take about 25-30 minutes for the chicken to be cooked, the oven temp is slightly high so the chicken gets a little charred and golden brown on top. Once it’s just cooked through, tent loosely in foil and let it rest for about 5 minutes so juices can return to meat to ensure it does not dry out.

Meanwhile, once chicken is in the oven, prepare the rice in a large non-stick sauté pan – not a pot – this will enable the rice to caramelize and evenly cook to ensure it retains a nice fluffy texture, nobody likes gloopy rice mush. Heat EVOO in pan, fry spices for about 1 minute, add shredded veggies and minced garlic/onion, sauté until soft for about 2-3 minutes, then add a bit more EVOO if necessary, add rice and sauté the rice in the spice & vegetable mixture for an additional 3-5 minutes, this step is crucial to ensuring that the rice absorbs the nutty sweet flavor of the spices, vegetables and olive oil and it’s well worth taking the extra couple of minutes to do so. Add 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock. Let simmer on medium low heat stirring occasionally, once all of the liquid is absorbed, add a bit more stock. The idea is not add too much liquid too quickly nor to over-stir. Once the rice has simmered for about 20-25 minutes and absorbed all the liquid, it should be cooked. Firmly press rice mixture down in an even layer, let it remain in pan once liquid is absorbed so it may get golden and slightly crisp on the bottom. Once ready to serve, stir in chopped dill, toasted walnuts & pumpkin seeds, pomegranate seeds & lemon zest. Serve along side the pomegranate roasted chicken.

rice w dill

rice & chicken

 


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Mezze

I had a craving for Middle Eastern Mezze and my husband and I decided to half cheat/half cook an easy at-home version. Though we have a plethora of tasty restaurants representing food from all over the world, our neighborhood is lacking in the Mezze department. Mezze is a word of Persian origin that loosely means “taste” and that’s exactly what it is – a tasting of a large number of dishes. We were not trying to replicate the robust flavor sensations delivered when eating freshly made Mezze found on the streets of Marrakech or Beirut (I have tried the likes of these on some of my travels and wouldn’t know where to begin!) but in a pinch, when craving a falafel, this dinner really works.
Traditional Mezze
Morocco mezzeIf you want something on the table quickly, I strongly believe that there is nothing wrong with using a bit of assistance in the form of semi prepared ingredients, particularly if they are healthy and all natural. I have made each of these things from scratch, but in the interest of time and product delivery, this assisted at home meal really hits the mark. Although this is a rather carb high meal, it also happens to be fairly low glycemic (excluding the flat-bread), so when eaten in moderation, it shouldn’t spike BGL too highly after eating, an added bonus if you are a diabetic.
On the menu:
Falafel
Hummus
Dolmas
Grilled halloumi
Tomato and cucumber tabbouleh
Grilled flat bread
Pitted olives – Kalamata are my favorite, I love the juicy sweet taste and meaty texture
Tzatziki
Lots of freshly squeezed lemon and glugs of EVOO
Quick At-Home Falafel Wrap & Dolmas
falafel
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Falafel mix from a box – this is convenient and only takes minutes to prep. My favorite brand is Casbah All Natural.
  • Hummus – I love Trader Joe’s as it’s very smooth and there is not too much garlic or tahini.
  • Dolmas – these should not be too acidic and are best when they contain pine nuts and raisins, search for options preserved in EVOO not canola or brine.
  • Halumi cheese, you only need to grill it for about 30 seconds per side to get it nice and golden.
  • I made tabbouleh using a bit of leftover cooked quinoa that I had in the fridge instead of bulgur, dill, parsley, lemon, EVOO all mixed with super sweet, juicy, local, vine ripened tomatoes and cucumber, the combo is a summer-time classic that I adore using in abundance while both of these ingredients are in season
  • Tzatziki – made from yogurt, freshly squeezed lemon, EVOO, grated cucumber, salt & pepper


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Low Glycemic Multi-seed & Nut Loaf

Over the weekend I experimented with gluten free flour in an attempt to produce a loaf of something that would not spike my LO’s (a T1D) blood sugar after breakfast. Certain low glycemic wraps and grains also work well for breakfast options, but I wanted more flexibility as a low carb/low GI wrap every morning gets old fast even if the filling changes every day! This recipe is not only great for diabetics, it’s super healthy and versatile. It toasts very well and lasts for a few days.

Regardless of whether you are a diabetic, we are all afflicted by the dawn phenomenon. The body works to produce extra glucagon in the early morning hours – the hormone that triggers the production of glucose, the effect of which raises blood sugar – in order to mitigate against going into hypoglycemic shock before breakfast, after having not eating for several hours during the night. My LO tends to wake up on the high side of normal for her age/weight bracket, so it’s especially important that her breakfast is as low glycemic as possible. She craves and desires carbs so I am constantly in search of good low glycemic index carbs that work well in the AM. Whole wheat/grains that gluten based – including breads and cereals simply don’t work for breakfast, they are ok later in the day though…. hence the use of gluten-free flour in this recipe.

The flour I used resulted in no spikes whatsoever and the end product was surprisingly tasty. My husband said that it ‘tasted healthy’ but once I sprinkled a bit of coconut sugar on the slice he promptly devoured it, as did my LO, so it couldn’t have been that bad!

seed bread 2

Ingredients: Pre-heat oven to 350*F

2 cups all purpose gluten free all purpose flour (mine is made from garbanzo flour, potato starch, sorghum flour and fava flour)

1 and 1/4 cups buttermilk (in a pinch mix 1 cup milk with 1tbsp white vinegar, let curdle & sit for 5 mins)

2tbsp coconut sugar

1tbsp baking soda

1/2tsp salt

1 egg

1/3 cup EVOO

1/3 cup each: sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, ground pistachio or other ground nut

2tbsp chia seeds

Combine all dry ingredients, mix through flour sieve.

Combine all wet ingredients, stir into dry ingredients, lastly add seeds/nuts. The batter was a bit on the wet side. Save 1tbsp of the mixed seeds/nuts to sprinkle on the top.

Bake for approx. 40 minutes until tester comes out dry.

seed bread 3

The loaf has a crunchy exterior and slightly sweet, nutty, dense interior. The density was as a result of the bean based flours, in the future I might use a bit more flour and slightly less buttermilk for a more traditional bread-like texture. Either way it was a success! If you have any other low glycemic breakfast ideas, tips or suggestions, please let me know :)

seed bread


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Humble Meat Pie

There are so many variations on this humble combination. Across the pond it’s a staple dish – shepard’s pie or cottage pie – that I grew to love after spending several years living in the UK. It’s a comfort food classic and always a crowd pleaser, perfect for mid-week dinners. I lightened mine up and also used flavors I grew up with – Italian sausage with greens. This dish is low carb, low glycemic and super healthy. It also packs a punch with the chili and garlic spiced sausage.
sausage pie
1.5lbs lean chicken Italian or chorizo sausage (to make this dish meat-free, I like using veggie based sausage Field Roast)
2 cups chopped kale and spinach lightly blanched
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
2.5lb sweet potato (I also make this dish with roasted and pureed butternut squash instead of sweet potato, both work really well)
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup water
Start with sweet potato – Slice into quarters and roast w skins on in 350* oven for about 45 minutes until soft.
While roasting the potatoes, prep the sausage filling for the casserole. Remove meat from casing. Sauté minced onion until soft, add garlic and sausage meat until browned. Add white wine and water to deglaze and create a sauce. Italian sausage tends to be full of flavor, spices and salt (including the meat-free varieties) so I don’t find it necessary to season the sauce.
Once potatoes are roasted, purée into a smooth paste in food processor with the skins, this adds flavor and extra nutrients. Add 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup evoo, pinch of salt and pepper. If using butternut squash instead of sweet potato, once roasted, removed flesh from skin and roughly puree with a fork.
To assemble the casserole, place a layer on smashed sweet potatoes on the bottom, top with meat sauce, then add chopped and blanched greens, followed by a top layer of the smashed potatoes. Sprinkle with grated parmesan, asiago or other hard salty cheese.
(check this recipe out for another Anglo/Italiano fusion creation).


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No more boring healthy meals

Farro risotto, roasted zucchini squash w caramelized red onions, roasted chick peas and spicy beet relish 

  Trying to convince my husband and daughter to eat more vegetables is a daily challenge, especially a meal without any meat, shock horror I know 😝

This is a very easy midweek dinner ready in about 35-40 minutes. It’s super healthy and packed with palate pleasing flavors and textures. Don’t be put off by the number of components, they are all easy to do and most can be prepped once the zucchini and onion are in the oven. 

Feeds 4

Firstly, slice 2 large zucchinis and 1 small red onion, drizzle in evoo, sprinkle w salt and pepper, roast in moderate 350* oven for about 35 minutes until soft and lightly golden. 

In a separate pan, roast 1 can pesto coated chickpeas for about 20 minutes, once veggies have been in for about 15 minutes. The chickpeas should be slightly crunchy but still smooth and buttery on the inside, not hard or dried out. 

Once the vegetables are in the oven, cook 1 cup dry faro according to package instructions until al dente, I opt for whole grain fast cooking option which takes about 12 minutes. Faro is an excellent low glycemic index grain with a sweet nutty flavor that won’t spike BGL – an added health benefit for diabetics. 

While faro is cooking prep spicy beet relish. Grate 1 large beet and 2 carrots, sauté in new pan on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes with evoo, salt, pepper, 1/2tsp chili flakes, add 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar and 1/2 cup ketchup and 1 cup water, let simmer on medium heat for about 5 minutes. (ps if you like beet, check out my MIL’s fabulous beetroot pie)
While beets are simmering on stove and veggies finishing in oven, sauté quarter of an onion and 2 cloves garlic until soft in pan, add al dente faro along w 2tbsp pesto and zest & juice of 1/2 lemon, lightly sauté until grains are slightly caramelized which will lend an extra nutty texture, flavor and crunch.
  
To assemble the plate, place faro on bottom, top with pesto chick peas and roasted zucchini and onion, serve w warm spicy beet relish. The contrast of the nutty faro, smooth inside & crunchy outside of chickpeas along w sweet roasted veggies and spicy relish really results in a full burst of flavors and will excite skeptical palates! 


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Not all carbs are created equally

In addition to learning more about the clinical side of type 1 diabetes management each day, I am also learning loads about nutrition, particularly the impact carbohydrates have on the body and how carbs are processed. Through trial and error/experimentation we are getting much better at controlling the mid-morning post breakfast BGL spike for our LO.

The frequent misconception is to keep carbs to a minimum all day, but with a growing toddler this is virtually impossible and not advisable as part of a healthy balanced diet. Particularly for a diabetic, where both BGL lows and highs need to monitored and controlled through carefully measured consumption of carbs/insulin. The healthier option is to opt for the low glycemic index foods that allow us to maintain steady blood glucose levels throughout the day by choosing the right types of carb (low GI) foods.

High vs Low GI Foods

GI chart

A carbohydrate with a high glycemic index (high GI) breaks down quickly during digestion and therefore releases glucose into the bloodstream rapidly. Some foods with a high GI include white bread, most cereals, crackers and sugary and/or highly processed snack foods. (NB. in moderation, these types of foods are also used to treat BGL lows.) Bring on the animal crackers my toddler says, and when BGL is dropping far too quickly, that makes my toddler especially happy as it’s time for a few SKITTLES or juicebox :P !

A carbohydrate with a low glycemic index (low GI) breaks down more slowly therefore causing a much slower and more gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream. Foods with a low GI include oats, rye, whole grains, most fruits, vegetables, and beans. Not even all low GI foods are created equally, bananas for example seriously SPIKE my LO’s BGL level for quite a while, whereas other fruits like apple and blueberry she can have without the need of insulin. Each body processes carbs differently, even the good kinds.

Also, protein, fat and various other nutrients contained in foods often eaten at the same time with carbs can greatly affect the true glycemic index and the overall digestion/absorption of the meal that food is a part of. Despite not being perfect, the glycemic index is a useful tool to help figure out which high carb (low GI) foods in general, are best and healthiest.

To that end, I recently stumbled upon this bread from Trader Joe’s and it seems to work quite well. It doesn’t spike BGL and is great toasted with sweet or savory toppings. It’s LOW GI, whole grain, low carb, low calorie, low gluten bread that actually doesn’t taste like cardboard, hooray! For a fussy toddler that crave breads/cereals for breakfast, this is really a great option. As an added bonus, it’s also high in fiber and vitamins to help promote a healthy gut.

bread 1

bread 3

Please note I am not a nutritionist. I am simply sharing my experience and I am eager to learn about nutrition and health benefits of controlling BGL, not just for diabetics. If you have any thoughts, feedback, comments or advice, please let me know. I am learning every day would greatly appreciate it! :)


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My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard

 milkshake 4I have known about the benefits of alternate milks for quite some time but never had the inclination to stop drinking cows milk as I like the taste. Cows milk, though low in carbs, seriously spikes blood sugar, something any diabetic knows, which I learned very quickly after my LO was diagnosed with T1D. Commonly, kids have milk with breakfast, it’s perfectly healthy, filling and nutritious, but when dealing with a diabetic toddler, I want to do what I can to avoid the post breakfast BGL (blood glucose level) spike… Almond and coconut milks are excellent alternatives. They have 40% more calcium than cows milk, virtually zero carbs, more protein and fiber than cow milk, and hardly any fat. The health benefits arguably outweigh those of drinking regular milk. Moreover, no BGL spike! You can make it yourself, but in terms of cost benefit analysis, you are actually better off purchasing this from the supermarket. It’s surprisingly difficult & expensive to source real raw almonds, most varieties in supermarkes have been treated and blanched. I like the brand Califia because they make varieties combining true un-tampered raw almonds with ingredients such as coconut and vanilla.
These milks don’t taste like cow milk and I am not trying to convince you otherwise (I still prefer moo milk in my coffee), but for the breakfast beverage of choice and vehicle for cereal, this is a really great alternative, especially if you are concerned about the impact on BGL and/or are lactose intolerant. The sweet nutty flavor works very well. For a growing toddler, it’s still important to have cows milk, but this is not an issue as my kid ADORES cheese. Confusingly, cows milk cheese does not spike BGL despite being made from cows milk, and it’s a ‘free snack’ ie. zero carbs!
Friday morning used to consist of a chocolate milkshake treat for my daughter (milk, chocolate syrup and small dollop of whipped cream) and I didn’t want to deprive her of this sweet treat but equally, I hated the adverse effects of giving her milk laced with chocolate syrup – a diabetic disaster – even with insulin. This milkshake recipe will convert even the most dubious and discerning consumers into at least trying alternate milk sources – I made it for my husband also, whose palette is as picky as a fussy toddler and even he enjoyed it.
Ingredients:
Almond milk
Vanilla bean paste
Cocoa powder
Coconut nectar – extremely low GI sweetener
Ice
Small spray of carb free whipped cream
milkshake 1
milkshake 2 - Copy
We still indulge in creamy milky treats like froyo and icecream on the weekend, just not first thing in the morning – the ideal window is as an afternoon treat, after which you can run around like crazy in the park or your backyard to burn off the inevitable sugar rush 😝
milkshake 3
As for soy milk, I am still not convinced.
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