Monthly Archives: March 2011

A Nutritious On-The-Go Snack: Olive Oil Granola

By JoAnna Anderson Brown, Certified Nutritional Therapist

Granola can be a great source of protein, fiber and beneficial fat.  Unfortunately, many of the granola brands out there are full of artificial sweeteners, preservatives and other unnecessary, unhealthy ingredients.  For example, look at the ingredients in Kellogg’s Special K Low Fat Granola:


I don’t know about you, but i think 32 ingredients is a little excessive when it comes to a simple granola!

Yikes!  As you can see, just because it says granola, that doesn’t mean it’s the healthiest choice.  You can find high-quality granola brands at the health food store, but many times they offer very little bang for a whole lot of buck.  Instead of forking up all your hard-earned dough for a tiny little sack of organic granola at the market, why not make your own just the way you like it?

Olive Oil Granola Ingredients:

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup nuts*, coarsely chopped (I used almonds and walnuts.)
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
1 cup coconut chips
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom*
1 cup dried fruit (I used cherries, cranberries and apricots, but bananas, raisins or pineapples would also be tasty!)

* Check out these tips on soaking raw nuts to make them easier to digest!

*Never heard of cardamom?  The spice has numerous health benefits, such as improving digestion and stimulating metabolism.

Preparation Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  • In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, pumpkin seeds, coconut chips, maple syrup, olive oil, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and cardamom.

Feel free to switch up the ingredients to make this your own!

  • Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown and well toasted.

Bonus – your house will smell delicious all day!

  • Transfer granola to a large bowl and add dried fruit, tossing to combine.
  • After letting the mixture cool for a few minutes, serve and enjoy!

Tada! A nutrient-packed granola with half the ingredients of most grocery store brands!

With very little effort and about an hour, you can prepare a big batch of delicious granola that your family can enjoy for the next week or two.  It also makes a great homemade gift for teachers, neighbors or party guests.  You can probably save more money by buying the nuts and seeds in bulk or from your local farmer’s market.  Another great thing about this recipe is that you can play with the nut and fruit varieties to make it a little different every time.


A Bit of Spring Cleaning

Some people love cold weather, but I am not one of them.  By the time the New Year rolls around, I’m already dreaming about 70 degree weather, which makes the next three months pretty long and miserable.  Thankfully, Spring is FINALLY here, and I couldn’t be happier.  Don’t you just love daylight savings?  Bring on the walks in the park, days by the pool and cook outs with friends!

I also love a little spring cleaning.  Over the weekend, I did a big closet switch, digging out all my tank tops and shorts and bidding farewell (more like good riddance) to my heavy sweaters and boots.  I also filled up a huge trash bag full of stuff for the Goodwill.  A good closet purge always feels good.

So you probably know what’s coming next…

Spring is also a great time to give your diet a little overhaul.  Since I’ve been eating a lot of soups and root veggies over the winter, I’m ready for some fresh spring produce.  Here are a few ideas to give your meals a little spring makeover!

  • Think Green. The greening that occurs in springtime should be represented by greens on your plate.  Think tender, leafy veggies like  swiss chard, spinach, romaine lettuce, fresh parsley, and basil.  (Hint: You can dress up hum-drum salads with fruit, nuts and soft cheeses.  I love apple gorgonzola salad – romaine lettuce, sliced green apples, nuts of your choice, dried cranberries and gorgonzola cheese.)

Swiss chard is packed with antioxidants like Vitamin C and E, beta-carotene, manganese and zinc.

  • Taste the Rainbow. No, I’m not talking about Skittles.  I’m talking about colorful fruits, like strawberries, cherries, kiwis, pineapples and mangoes.   I’m already excited to eat watermelon on the Fourth of July!

Fresh berries make a nice light snack or dessert, and they go great in salads and smoothies.

  • Mix it Up.  Stuck in a dinner rut?  Spice things up by finding some new recipes that incorporate all the fresh spring produce.  Click here and here to get some ideas!
  • Lighten Up.  Now is the time to get out and use your grill!  Throwing veggies and meat on the grill is so quick and easy, and it’s so much lighter than frying or making heavy casseroles and pastas.  You can make all kinds of healthy dishes using nothing but your grill.  In the next couple of weeks, I’m going to do a post with a complete, nutritious dinner cooked on the grill (even dessert!), so stay tuned for recipes!

If you don't already have a grill basket, I highly recommend it. It makes grilling veggies so much easier.

These are just a few ideas to get you started and on the right track toward feeling good in your bathing suit!  Don’t forget to take advantage of the extra daylight by getting out and taking an after-dinner walk or working in the yard.

Do you have any suggestions for giving our health and fitness a little boost this spring?  What is most motivating and effective for you this time of year?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Happy Spring!

The Beet Goes On

Beets are definitely one of those polarizing foods.  You either love them or you hate them!  I’m a beet lover, and here’s why.

Nutritional Benefits:

  • Beets are a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains, which have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support.
  • The carotenoids in beets contribute to eye health and age-related eye problems.
  • The betanin pigments from beets have been shown to lessen tumor cell growth.
  • Beets contain powerful nutrient compounds that help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers, especially colon cancer.
  • 15% of our recommended daily fiber is contained in just 1 cup of beets.  While we tend to lump all food fiber into a single category, not all dietary fiber is alike.  Beet fiber provides special health benefits, particularly beneficial to our digestive tract and our cardiovascular system.

How to select, store and prepare beets:

  • Choose small or medium-sized beets whose roots are firm, smooth-skinned and deep in color.  Avoid beets that have spots, bruises or soft, wet areas.
  • Trim most of the greens and their stems from the beet roots to prevent the pulling away of moisture from the root.  Leave about two inches of the stem attached.  Don’t wash beets before storing.  Place in a plastic bag and wrap the bag tightly around the beets, squeezing out as much of the air from the bag as possible, and place in refrigerator where they will keep for up to 3 weeks.  Store the greens in a separate bag.
  • When you’re ready to work with your beets, you may want to wear gloves as they can stain your skin (Don’t worry, it comes off with lemon juice!).
  • Don’t cook the life out of your beets.  Studies show that their phytonutrients are diminished by heat.
  • Steam your beets for 15 minutes or roast them in the oven (400 degrees) for about an hour to maximize their nutrition and flavor.  You’ll know they’re done when you can easily insert a fork or the tip or knife into them.   Once they’re cooked, the skin will come off easily and you can slice and serve!
  • The greens attached to the beet roots can be prepared like spinach or Swiss chard. They are incredibly rich in vitamins and minerals as well as carotenoids such as beta-carotene.

You know who else loves beets?

Just Beet It:

I whipped up some beet salad last night, and it was super easy.  I wrapped 6 beet roots in foil and roasted them for an hour.  While they were in the oven, I prepared a marinade of olive oil (2 tbs), balsamic vinegar (1 tbs), fresh cilantro (about 1 cup chopped), and salt and pepper.  You can serve the salad hot or let it marinate in the refrigerator and serve it cold.

You can substitute parsley or another fresh herb for the cilantro and add crumbled of feta or goat cheese and nuts.

Beet salad makes a great salad topper or side dish. I served mine with baked salmon and sautéed kale.

Just a warning: Cooking beets is a messy business, so you may want to wear gloves and an apron when handling them.

I poked around for some more beet recipes on the Internet, and lo and behold, they’re featured on the New York Times website today!  Check it out.

I encourage you to give beets a try.  You can find them year round, but their peak season begins in June.  They’ll add vibrant color and unique flavor to your hum-drum meals!

Are you a beet lover?  What’s your favorite beet recipe?