A Taste of Hispanic Heritage

National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of culture and history by American citizens of Hispanic descent. According to the National Hispanic Heritage Month website, observation began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to start on September 15 and end on October 15.

In honor of the month, we offer some of our best Hispanic recipes from our sister blog, Eat Smart. The Eat Smart blog features family recipes, parenting tips, and more to keep your family healthy.

Try one of these recipes for a meal or a snack!

Simple Fish Tacos

Enchilada Casserole

Fruit Salad with Jicama

Black  Bean and Corn Salsa

Mango Smoothie

Southwest Veggie Bake

Mango Salsa

The Eat Smart blog is also available in Spanish. Sign up to receive post updates and more in Spanish at https://extension.umd.edu/programs/family-consumer-sciences/snap-ed/eat-smart/en-espanol/eat-smart-blog-en-espanol.

Diggin’ into Plant-Based Diets

Following a plant-based diet is very trendy these days. Whether it’s an environmental reason (reduce your carbon footprint) or health goal (decrease the risk of some chronic diseases), many people, including myself are consciously reducing their consumption of animal products.

What does it mean to follow a plant-based diet?  That really depends. Some interpret it is being a vegan or vegetarian. Others view a plant-based diet as being broader, including more plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and grains, and also fewer animal foods, like meat, fish and dairy. It’s not necessary to give up all the animal foods you enjoy; however, you can consider decreasing the portion sizes so these foods are no longer the main attraction on your plate. 

Ever since attending a 2019 nutrition conference, I’ve been inspired to consume more plant-based foods. It’s unlikely I will give up my glass of cold, fat-free milk in the evening (with one cookie); however, I do consume at least three meatless meals per week, eat smaller portions of chicken, fish, and lean beef and pork, and I load up half of my plate with vegetables (see my grilled vegetable recipe). This summer, my deck garden provided enough delicious red tomatoes to enjoy almost every day on salads. Since making these changes, I’ve maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure and feeling good about doing something for Mother Earth. 

Are you ready to ‘dig in’ and adopt a more plant-based diet? Here are some tips that helped me get started.

1. Go meatless one day a week. Beans, lentils, and nuts are great sources of plant-proteins and add fiber to your diet, which makes you feel full. Instead of adding meat to my pasta, I toss it with grilled vegetables. If you like chili, peruse recipe websites for a bean-based chili that appeals to your taste buds.

2. Combine vegetable proteins. Quinoa, is a perfect protein, meaning it contains the 9 essential amino acids your body needs daily. You can also combine other plant foods to get that perfect protein. Some of my favorite combos are black beans and rice, chick peas and pasta, and whole what bread and peanut butter (with some jelly).

3. Re-think your meat portions. You can still have meat at your meals, but in smaller amounts, like 3 cooked ounces (the size and thickness of a deck of cards). Many of meals like soups (winter) and salads (summer) are full of vegetables and whole grains, but I add a small piece of protein, like a leftover grilled and shredded chicken breast or a few slices of pork tenderloin.


Try this recipe for Easy Grilled Vegetables!

Selection of vegetables:

  • Red, yellow or green peppers – cut in half and seeded
  • Yellow and green squash – sliced length-wise, about ½ inch thick
  • Eggplant – sliced width-wise, about ½ inch thick
  • Mushrooms – whole cleaned
  • Onion – sliced width-wise, about ½ inch thick

Additional ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons, minced garlic
  • Fresh chopped or dried herb (parsley, thyme, basil, etc.) for garnish

Instructions:

1. Mix oil, salt, pepper, vinegar and garlic together.

2. Arrange vegetables on grill or in a grill pan (medium heat).

    Note: depending on the size of your pan you may need to work in batches.

3. Grill vegetables 6-8 minutes, brushing with oil, and vinegar mixture.

4. Remove vegetables from grill or grill pan and place on a platter. Drizzle remaining oil and

    vinegar mixture on vegetables. Sprinkle herbs over vegetables and serve.

Celebrating a World of Flavors!

March is here and spring is just around the corner. It’s also National Nutrition Month (NNM) and this year’s theme “Celebrate a World of Flavors,” is exciting as it embraces global cultures and cuisines, giving every culture a place at the table. My husband and I love to travel and this theme made me think about our pre-pandemic trips and all the delicious foods we had on our table. 

In Greece we dined on Spanakopita (spinach pie) and Galaktoboureko (custard pie) and in Norway, we enjoyed Vaffles and Brunost (waffles and brown cheese). Some of our favorite experiences; however, were when we prepared local cuisine with local chefs. In Poland we rolled the dough and ‘pinched’ meat-filled perogies and in Spain we made seafood paella in the largest frying pan I ever saw! These experiences not only broadened our palate, but also provided us with insight into and appreciation of other cultures. 

Making seafood paella in Spain.
Making seafood paella in Spain.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my own Ukrainian heritage and the meal traditions and recipes we observed especially around the holidays. Growing up,  I remember making paska or Easter Bread in coffee cans with my mother a few days before Easter, and the debate about which kind of raisins to add – brown or golden yellow raisins (yellow seemed to win out more often). Then I would watch my mother assemble her big wicker basket with an Ukrainian embroidered basket liner which held the paska, hard-cooked and brilliantly colored eggs called krashanky, salt, butter, grated horseradish, kielbasa, and poppyseed bread, which she took to her church to be blessed the Saturday before Easter. 

Though my mother has passed, she remains in spirit and inspired me this past Christmas to dust off her old Ukrainian cookbooks and make homemade pierogies, a traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve dish. With the assistance of my husband and daughter (pierogi maker-in-training),  we made potato and cheese filled perogies smothered in onions that would make my mother proud! 

In celebration of this year’s NNM’s theme, Why not commit to trying a new food from another cultural cuisine? Below are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Host a ‘Heritage Day’ and have your friends or coworkers prepare and share their favorite cultural foods.
  • When eating out, try a restaurant that serves a cuisine that is new to you.
  • Each week, during this month, explore a different international culture and prepare one new food from a different culture.

As for me, I’m off to Costa Rica to attend a wedding and send-off brunch. I can’t wait to try Gallo Pinto (traditional rice and bean breakfast)!

SUPER BOWL — THE HEALTHY WAY

This blog was originally published by our sister blog, Eat Smart, developed and maintained by the University of Maryland Extension SNAP-Ed team.

The Super Bowl isn’t just about watching football — many people love the food, too!  Super Bowl parties often have lots of unhealthy foods.  This year why not try something new!  Continue to work on your New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier.  When your friends come to watch the [game], why not have a tasting party this year?  Invite friends over to bring healthy foods for everyone to eat. 

Need ideas?  Here are 10 ideas for “healthier” Super Bowl snacks that everyone will love! 

  1. A Healthier Spinach Dip.  Try using a reduced fat cream cheese and non-fat yogurt instead of mayonnaise.  This will add extra protein for less calories.  Your friends won’t be able to tell!
  2. Salsa — try this MyPlate salsa recipe which is a hit with the kids and the best part — you get all of your food groups in one recipe.
  3. Mini Pita Pockets — instead of filling pita pockets with meat, try adding cucumbers, green and red peppers, and low fat cheddar cheese in the pita.  Spreading hummus in each pita will also give a nice flavor too.
  4. Fruit pizza — who doesn’t love pizza?  Try making them with pita bread or whole wheat tortillas. Use peanut, almond or sunflower butter and add your favorite fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, and oranges. Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top for an added treat.
  5. Pasta salad — a great addition to any party.  Try using whole grain pasta and then adding your favorite veggies like carrots, celery, green peppers and mushrooms for added crunch.  Use low fat Italian dressing for less fat and calories.
  6. Kale chips — an alternative to regular potato chips.  Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to fresh kale and bake at 300 degrees for 35-45 minutes.  These are a great grab and go snack the kids will love.
  7. Guacamole — a great dip that goes with many things!  Mash the avocado with tomatoes, add a little garlic, onion and lemon.  Guacamole goes great with whole grain tortilla chips or fresh veggies.
  8. Fruit and Veggie Tray — a must have for any party! Add all of your favorite fruits and veggies in a colorful display. 
  9. Low-fat popcorn — this whole grain is good for you and good to munch on too!  Try sprinkling with spices like garlic and pepper for a new flavor.
  10. Fizzy fruit water — a drink that will quench your thirst without adding the calories.

What are you some of your healthy foods that you plan on making for a Super Bowl party?

Follow the Eat Smart blog for more great nutrition information and healthy recipes the whole family will love!

Holiday Dining Tips for Diabetes-Friendly Meals

November is American Diabetes Month. According to the 2020 Center for Disease and Prevention Report, over 1 in 10 people have diabetes and approximately 1 in 3 have prediabetes. Managing diabetes through diet, physical activity, and medication can be challenging anytime, but it can be even more difficult during the holidays.

November also begins the ‘holiday eating’ season as tempting foods are everywhere through December. Whether it’s a neighborhood party, work function, or family gathering, following a meal plan that limits the sugars and fat found in our favorite holiday foods can be overwhelming. Check out these healthy holiday eating ideas that will help you maintain good control of your blood sugar levels and allow you to still enjoy your favorite dishes.

1. It’s all about the carbs. Some holiday foods may be too tempting to resist. But you can still savor the flavor of these foods by consuming them in portions based on your diabetes meal pattern and by keeping track of the number of grams of carbohydrates you consume. Below are foods found on the USDA MyPlate and the number of grams of carbohydrates they contain:

  • Starches:(potatoes, bread, pasta, rice, cereal, beans, corn, etc.) 15 grams per serving
  • Non-starchy vegetables:(carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, etc.) 5 grams per serving
  • Fruits: 15 grams per serving
  • Milk and yogurt: 15 grams per serving
  • Meat and other protein: 0 grams per serving except for foods like beans

Note, beans (kidney, black, red, white, etc.) are starches and contain 15 grams of carbohydrates per serving You can find out more about serving sizes by visiting the USDA MyPlate website https://www.myplate.gov/

2. Choose carbohydrates wisely. Limit the amount of starches you eat, and try consuming non-starchy vegetables. They contain 1/3 of the carbohydrates and calories in starches and do not cause big spikes in your blood sugar. Consuming whole fruits with skins are better than canned fruit or juices because they contain fiber, which prevent spikes in blood sugar. Include low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt in your holiday meals. Milk and Greek yogurt are excellent sources of protein, calcium, and other nutrients and can be substituted in some of your favorite dishes. For example, use fat-free Greek yogurt instead of sour cream in your favorite dips and low-fat milk in your eggnog recipe.

3. The scoop on alcohol and diabetes. If you don’t currently drink alcohol, then don’t start. However, if you plan to indulge in some alcohol, consult with your healthcare team first. Whether you can consume alcohol if your diabetic is very personalized and may be based on your medications and other health conditions.

4. Work it out. Make time to be physically active. The more you stick with your year- long routine during the holidays, the more likely you will keep focused on your fitness and blood sugar goals too. 

5. Host your own holiday event! Take control of the ‘party foods’ you serve by providing your guests a list of healthy holiday foods they can bring. It reduces time you  spend preparing multiple dishes and provides your guests the opportunity to create festive healthy options that all can enjoy. For example, instead of cheesy dips, ask someone to bring a festive vegetable plate with hummus dip and red vegetables and green vegetables. You can also add a red and green fruit platter to the list too. 

Try this fruit tart recipe from the Dining with Diabetes program. It’s easy to make and one of my favorites. Wontons sheets are available in the produce section of the grocery store. To learn more about upcoming Dining with Diabetes program I’m teaching at the University of Maryland Extension, feel free to reach out to me at: bjackey@umd.edu

Happy holidays!

Fresh Fruit Tarts

Serving Information: Serves 12 (1 serving = 1 tart)

Ingredients:

  • 12 wonton skins
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar-free jelly or fruit spread
  • 1 1/2 c. diced fresh fruit*
  • 1 c. non-fat yogurt, any flavor
  • Cooking spray

*Select fruit combinations based on what is in season. Any of the following could be used: bananas, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, kiwi, raspberries, peaches, orange sections, etc.

Equipment:

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Small saucepan
  • Muffin tin

Directions:

  • Preheat over to 375 degrees F and spray muffin tins with cooking spray.
  • Press wonton skins into muffin tins allowing the corners to stand up over the edges.
  • Bake wontons until lightly brown, approximately 4-6 minutes. Watch carefully, as wonton skins bake very quickly.
  • Remove from oven; carefully take each wonton out of the muffin tin and allow time for cooling.
  • Warm jelly or fruit spread and lightly coat bottom of each wonton.
  • Fill each wonton with fruit and a rounded dollop of yogurt on top.
  • Garnish with small piece of fruit or a dab of jelly/spread and serve immediately.

Roasting Adds a New Twist to Vegetables

The farmer’s market season is winding down but there is still time to enjoy the end-of-the-season veggies in a new way. All you need is an oven, a baking sheet, olive oil and seasonings (salt, pepper and your choice of herbs and spices). Roasted vegetables is a mouth-watering dish that your family will enjoy and ask for again. The high dry heat of the oven concentrates the natural sugar in the vegetables creating a caramelized flavor that is both savory and sweet.

Selecting the vegetables to roast is an important first step. Root vegetables like potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, and turnips are delicious when roasted. Other vegetables like winter squash, asparagus and mushrooms are also good choices for roasting. Green colored vegetables like green beans and broccoli are not as well suited because their color may turn to an unappealing olive green. Be sure that cut vegetables are similar in size so they cook evenly.

Set oven temperature between 400-450°F and move the racks to the top third of the oven. The higher rack helps the vegetables to brown. The high heat is important so the vegetables caramelize on the outside. Cooking at a lower temperature will cause the vegetables to overcook before they achieve their browned color. Use a heavy 13×9-inch roasting pan or any large baking pan. Lining the pan with aluminum foil will save time when cleaning up.

Put vegetables that take the longest to cook in the pan first. It is important to leave space between vegetables. If vegetables are crowded together, they will steam instead of roast. In a small bowl, combine olive oil with your choice of seasonings, like lemon juice, salt, pepper. A general rule of thumb: use 1 Tablespoon of olive oil for every 2 pounds of vegetables. Drizzle the seasoned oil over the vegetables in the pan and toss lightly to coat all the vegetables. Remember to keep some oil if you are adding other vegetables later in the roasting process. Coating the vegetables lightly with the seasoned oil keeps them from drying out and adds flavor while roasting. You can also add garlic cloves or sprigs of fresh rosemary, oregano, thyme or sage to your pan to add flavor.

Vegetables cook at different times so use this chart as a guide to determine recommended roasting time. For example, roast onions and Brussels sprouts (tossed with seasoned olive oil), uncovered, about 30 minutes, stirring once. Remove the pan from the oven and add red peppers (drizzled with remaining oil). Toss to combine all vegetables together in pan and return to the oven. Continue to cook about 10 to 15 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and brown on the edges.

Roasted vegetables are a special treat especially this time of year when the vegetables are fresh out of the garden but can also be enjoyed year round. Combining a colorful variety of vegetables together when roasting makes an appetizing and healthy side dish.

The Glycemic Index:  A Tool For Diabetes Meal Planning

The glycemic index, or GI, is a useful tool for people with diabetes to manage their diet for better blood sugar control. The glycemic index measures how much a food containing carbohydrates may increase blood sugar levels. Foods with a high glycemic index are digested and absorbed quickly which causes a rapid increase in blood sugar levels.  In comparison, foods with a low GI value are digested slowly causing a slower increase in blood sugar levels.  Low GI foods are typically rich in fiber and protein but may also be high in fat, saturated fat and calories.

This index is based on the weight of the food, 50 grams, and not the portion size. For example, 50 grams is about one cup of cooked rice but is 4 cups of cooked beets. Portion control is important for managing blood sugar and weight, regardless of the GI value of the food.  

Image by anncapictures from Pixabay

Glycemic Index is not related to the nutrition quality of the food. Chocolate and carrots have the same GI value of 49, which is considered a low GI food, but obviously carrots are much higher in nutrient value than chocolate. Keep in mind that the GI is based on a single food being consumed alone on an empty stomach but usually we eat foods together in a meal. One way to use the GI system is to combine high-GI foods with low-GI foods to balance the meal or try to select more medium and low GI foods.  

Several factors can influence the GI value of foods. Fruit juice has a higher level than fruit since the fruit has fiber to lower the glycemic index. The ripeness of the fruit increases the GI value, because the fruit creates more sugar naturally, as it ripens. The more processed a food, generally the higher the GI value. For example, mashed potatoes have a higher GI value than a baked potato.  

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

There is no one diet or meal plan that works for everyone with diabetes.  A good foundation is to select high-fiber foods, such as whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, balanced with meat, dairy and healthy fats. Choose more foods in their natural state, and less processed foods. 

Meal plans should be individualized to meet personal food preferences and lifestyle to control blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels and maintain a healthy weight. A registered dietitian can develop a personalized meal plan that works for you. To find a registered dietitian in your area, go to https://www.eatright.org/find-a-nutrition-expert .

The Glycemic Index should not be the only guide to determine food choices but is another tool to use in the meal planning process. For more information on the Glycemic Index, go to the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org.

DASH to Heart Health

Almost half of the American population has hypertension, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and having high blood pressure puts you at risk for things like a stroke, heart disease, or even death. Not only are the numbers high, the CDC says only 1 in 4 of those people who have hypertension, have their condition under control.

The University of Maryland Extension health and wellness team are working to help remedy that issue by offering online classes to learn the DASH-Plus high blood pressure management program. DASH-Plus: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – Plus Physical Activities is a community-based education program designed for adults over 55 years old who are managing high blood pressure with or without medication.

The full program includes eight 1-hour sessions, presented online for easy learning from home. Classes include subjects relating to healthy eating habits and incorporating physical exercise into your everyday routine. Learn about salt solutions, dairy, the benefits of fruits and vegetables, and even grocery shopping and budgeting tips to create the healthiest diet plan for your heart.

DASH-Plus classes, led by dietitians and trained University of Maryland Extension Educators, are happening now with a new session beginning Sept. 9, 2021. Interested participants can sign up for all eight classes, or choose the individual workshops that fit your needs.

Go to https://extension.umd.edu/resource/dash-plus-september-session to find more information, a class list and registration information for each class.