Tomato Basil Spinach Risotto

Risottos can be really heavy with a lot of butter and cheese. I’ve cut down on the cheese and butter in this recipe plus added in some extra veggies to make it a healthier side dish. This recipe is a great base for any type of risotto – you could add more veggies like mushrooms or asparagus too.

Tomato Basil Spinach Risotto

Serves 4 – Prep Time 10 minutes – Cook Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup parmesan (optional)
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 lemon, zested
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

Combine rice, broth, and butter in a medium pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer (for about 20 minutes). While the rice cooks, combine basil, spinach, and garlic in the base of a food processor. Pulse until minced, scraping down the sides as needed. Once the rice is cooked add in parmesan and tomatoes until cheese is melted. Season with salt & pepper. Top with lemon zest to serve – pairs great withs seafood and poultry.

Breakfast Really is the Most Important Meal of the Day

Break – fast: a meal designed to break your overnight fast.

You’ve probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but many of us still skip it anyways (busy schedules, not hungry, kids, work, deadlines – it’s hard to make the time in the mornings). There are scientific reasons why breakfast is the most important meal of the day and here is why:

  • Skipping breakfast means missing out on important nutrients – breakfast skippers tend to have lower intake of protein, calcium, zinc, potassium, fiber, vitamin C (just to name a few)
  • Eating breakfast restores muscle and liver glycogen (stored glucose) – restoring your glucose is important to maintain your energy
  • Missing breakfast can cause your body to break down amino acids from muscles – decreasing muscle mass (this is why it’s important to get a source of protein at breakfast)
  • Promotes balanced blood sugars – important even if you aren’t diabetic to avoid an energy crash
  • Supports your metabolism and sets you up for a regular eating pattern (less snacking and empty calories)

Making the Perfect Breakfast (even when you don’t have time)

Think about typical American breakfast foods: cereal, toast, waffles, pancakes, eggs. Many of the foods tend to be carbohydrate focused and don’t really promote eating fiber, protein, and healthy fat. Foods that are high in fiber, protein, and fat help slow the absorption of carbohydrates into our blood stream – which means more consistent energy and you’re less likely to have a crash. Use this equation for a balanced breakfast and below are a few great options:

Protein + Complex Carbohydrate + Heart Healthy Fat

  • oats, nut butter, berries
  • whole grain toast, avocado, hard-boiled eggs
  • toaster waffles, nut butter, sliced apples, cinnamon
  • bagel, hummus, sliced veggies
  • yogurt, granola, walnuts, berries
  • breakfast smoothie: yogurt, nut butter, frozen banana
  • chia seed pudding, nuts, mango
  • whole grain toast, cottage cheese, pear
  • protein bar, fruit

A quick note on fortified breakfast cereals: Have you ever noticed the front of a cereal box saying it’s fortified with vitamin A & D? A & D are both fat-soluble vitamins which means they require fat in order for them to be absorbed. Many people eat breakfast cereal with skim milk (which also happens to be fortified with A & D). The problem? There’s no fat in skim milk so the vitamins in both the milk and the cereal aren’t even absorbed. Aim to get 5 grams of fat from your milk to take advantage of those vitamins (I like to use 2%).

The BEST Avocado Toast

Avocado toast has made its way onto the menus at many restaurants in Seattle. It can be a great appetizer and even better breakfast when topped with an egg or two! I always look forward to making avocado toast on the weekends when I have extra time. It’s super easy to make (and so much cheaper than ordering out at brunch).

What Makes Avocados Healthy?

Avocados are a heart healthy fat containing monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs for short). MUFAs help raise the good cholesterol (HDL) and may help reduce the bad cholesterol. Not only are avocados heart healthy but they are loaded with fiber, potassium, vitamin K, B vitamins, and vitamin E.

Since avocados are high in MUFAs they help absorb many fat-soluble vitamins that are found in many plant-foods. Avocados are also high in their own antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, which help support eye health.

The fat content of avocados makes them slower to digest – aka you will be fuller longer. Try adding avocados to salads, snacks, sandwiches, and anything in between.

The BEST Avocado Toast

Serves 4Prep Time 5 Minutes – Cook Time 5 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 medium Haas avocado, pitted
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • flaked sea salt
  • black pepper, freshly ground
  • 4 slices whole grain bread (my favorite is the Macrina Bakery Vollkorn loaf)
  • Optional toppings: pesto, pumpkin seeds, sun dried tomatoes, feta cheese, pickled veggies, smoked salmon, dill, eggs

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, mash together avocado, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt, and pepper until you reach a slightly chunky (or smoother if you prefer).
  2. Toast 4 slices of bread – if you don’t have a toaster broiling toast in the oven is a great option.
  3. Top each slice of toast with 1/4 of avocado mix and any other toppings.

Note: If making for breakfast, add a lean protein – learn more about why here.

Vitamin C – It’s More than Just a Cold Remedy

Vitamin C is a micronutrient and water soluble vitamin that gets a lot of buzz during the fall/winter (aka flu season) for helping our bodies fight off colds. It’s true, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that does help our bodies fight off getting sick – but it does so much more!

Functions of Vitamin C

  • Vitamin C is a cofactor in the reaction that makes a structural protein called collagen. Collagen is abundant in connective tissue (like skin). There’s a lot of skincare products on the market that have vitamin C as a main ingredient – research is looking at how vitamin C might help repair damage from UV light, but more studies need to be done. Hello healthy skin!
  • Vitamin C supplements can shorten the duration of common colds if eaten/taken regularly
  • Vitamin C helps recycle other antioxidants like vitamin E
  • Did you learn about scurvy in grade school? Poor wound healing and gum health…Eating oranges and lemons was used to treat scurvy in the British navy.
  • Wound healing – Vitamin C is involved in the healing of wounds and can speed up recovery time. Eating foods high in vitamin C is something I talked about with patients in my rotations as a dietetic intern for post-surgical healing.

Sources of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is found in a variety of foods – not just the citrus fruits many people typically think of. Here are some of the foods highest in vitamin C to add into your diet:

  • Kiwis
  • Grapefruits
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Red peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Spinach

How much vitamin C do you need?

The RDA for men is 90 mg/day and 75 mg/day for women. 1 cup of strawberries is equivalent to 85 mg. It’s always best to get your nutrients from food sources over supplements (when possible). It’s a good idea to work with a medical provider if considering starting a new supplement.

Mediterranean Sheet Pan Chicken and Veggies

Looking for your next meal prep recipe? Try out this Mediterranean Sheet Pan Chicken and Veggies recipe adapted from Half Baked Harvest!

I love making Mediterranean foods – did you know there are a lot of health benefits to eating a Mediterranean diet? Research shows that people following a Mediterranean diet have reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and inflammation (an underlying process of most chronic diseases). Following a Mediterranean diet can also promote healthy weight maintenance.

A Mediterranean diet is packed with plant-based foods, lean meats, and heart healthy fats. The emphasis on plant-based foods means adding a lot of antioxidants (the compounds that give plants their bright colors) to the diet which help fight inflammation. Heart healthy fats are also anti-inflammatory and include avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. To learn more about the Mediterranean diet head on over to Today’s Dietitian.

Mediterranean Sheet Pan Chicken and Veggies Recipe

Serves 4Prep Time 15 Minutes – Cook Time 45 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 medium sweet potato, sliced
  • 1 small cauliflower, florets
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 bundle broccolini
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 1/4 cup oil packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F
  2. On a rimmed baking sheet, combine chicken, 2 tablespoons olive oil, juice of one lemon, balsamic vinegar, dill, paprika, garlic and salt & pepper. Toss well to coat the chicken. Add the sweet potato, cauliflower, broccolini, bell pepper, and onions. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoons olive oil. Arrange in an even layer. Add lemon slices (from remaining lemon) and transfer to the oven. Roast for 40-45 minutes, tossing halfway through cooking until the chicken is cooked and veggies are crispy.
  3. While the chicken cooks combine feta, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives in a bowl
  4. Top chicken with feta mixture to serve!

Get the original recipe from Half Baked Harvest here.