Maureen Fraîche

Mixing Business and Pleasure in the Kitchen

Archive for the category “Food Profile”

Lentil Soup with Chicken Sausage

Every now and then, I come across someone who has never had (or heard of!) lentils and my reaction is always the same–something bordering on shock, I’m sure.  Of course, when you grow up in the supposed lentil capitol of the world, it can be no surprise that these tiny legumes were a regular staple in my family growing up.

Nutritionally speaking, lentils are ridiculously good for you.  Just one serving (1/2 cup cooked), provides complex carbohydrates, 8 g of fiber, 9 g of protein, and a host of vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, iron, a range of B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus…and all for a mere 115 calories!  If you are trying to lose weight or boost your health, lentils simply must be on your grocery list.

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Sunny Side Up

Eggs have been the center of a heated debate for quite some time.  Are they healthy or not?  And how many is too many?

Let’s get some stats.

A single large egg provides about 70 calories, 5 grams total fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 185 mg cholesterol, 0 carbs, and about 6 grams protein.  Eggs also provide a smattering of other essential nutrients, such as a small amount of various B vitamins, vitamin A, and a decent dose of vitamin D (about 10% of your daily value).  Egg yolks are also the richest source of choline, a B vitamin vital for normal cell function and a healthy central nervous system. So in a nutshell, we’ve got a nice little nutrient-rich source of highly bioavailable protein that is rather high in cholesterol.

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is it in you?

For your Sick-Day Survival Kit

Last week was officially the lost week.  The entire crew came down with some nasty strain of the stomach flu and it was no 24-hour bug.  Yeesh.  Anyway, as I struggled to keep myself and my family from the brink of serious dehydration, I was ever-so-happy that I had happened to pick up a big ole’ canister of Gatorade mix a couple months back.  While most folks think of Gatorade as merely a sports drink, it is supremely useful to have on-hand whenever dehydration threatens a trip to the ER.

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What’ll ya have?

So a guy is trying to lose weight and is looking for ways to cut calories.  While he doesn’t want to give up alcohol completely, he knows his weekend six-pack isn’t doing his gut any favors.  The solution?  He switches to liquor because beer, as everyone knows, is sky-high in calories because of all the carbs.  Problem solved! 

Sound familiar?  Over the years, I have heard this one over and over again.  In an effort to lose weight, dieters switch from ‘fattening’ beer to wine or hard alcohol, believing the latter options are more diet-friendly.  But are they?

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Coconut Oil

A close friend recently asked for my take on coconut oil.  It seems like coconuts have been all the rage lately, particularly coconut water, coconut milk, and coconut oil.  But what’s so special about coconuts?  Is this just a bunch of baseless hype?  Or is coconut oil a worthy addition to your grocery list?

Let’s start with a quick break-down.

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Food Profile: Greek Yogurt

I love yogurt and apparently I’m not the only one.  Have you checked out the yogurt shrine–er, section–at your local grocery store lately?  The selection is staggering!  (I would say it almost rivals the toothpaste aisle.)  More recently, Greek yogurt has crept into American food culture and has finally become readily available in most locales.  But what is this stuff?  How is it different from ‘regular’ yogurt?  And is it worth the extra money?

Simply put, Greek yogurt is strained yogurt.  In fact, before the stuff was stocked at my local grocery store, I’d occasionally make it by hanging plain, natural yogurt in a few layers of cheese cloth.  (Yes, I know.  Kinda crazy.)  What is being strained out, you ask?  A yellowish liquid called whey.  As a result, Greek yogurt is very thick and creamy.

Not all brands are created equal and many vary considerably in their nutritional content.  Calorie content might be as little as 100 calories per serving and I’ve seen as high as 310 calories.  Why?  Some have zero fat and others are on par with premium ice cream.  Similarly, some have zero added sugar and others turn this yogurt into a dessert.  Protein content can vary from 8 grams up to a whopping 21 grams per serving.  To find the right brand and variety for your needs, just check out the nutrition facts label.  A low-fat, plain Greek yogurt can be a great choice for someone looking to add protein without bouncing the calorie budget, while a full-fat, sweetened variety could be an efficient way to boost energy intake for a person struggling to get in enough calories.

Regardless of variety, all Greek yogurts on the market contain active and live cultures, meaning they contain those healthy bacteria that are so important for gut health and immunity.  They also contain calcium, though less than standard yogurts (unless otherwise fortified).  Some may also be fortified with vitamin D, but usually not.

Greek yogurt is super versatile and can be eaten alone, used in cooking, or as a substitute for other high-fat dairy products, like sour cream or heavy cream.  For cooking and substitution, plain (read: unflavored, unsweetened) varieties are best.  Also remember that fat-free dairy products are more likely to curdle or break at high temperatures or when acids are added.  A gentle hand is best; when mixing Greek yogurt with other ingredients, carefully fold using a rubber spatula.  Avoid vigorous mixing or whisking as this tends to loosen up the thick and creamy texture.

Here are a few of my favorite uses for Greek yogurt:

  • Mash up a mix of your favorite berries (use thawed frozen berries in the off-season).  Add a couple drops of vanilla or almond extract and fold together with the yogurt.  Top with toasted and sliced almonds and a drizzle of honey.
  • Making homemade fruit or veggie dip?  Use low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.
  • Make a quick and satisfying pasta dish using a multi-grain pasta (try Barilla Plus!), pre-made pesto, and Greek yogurt (fold the latter two together and then add to your cooked pasta).

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