Spinach and Goat Cheese Egg Muffin

I have very busy mornings. Actually, no, I don’t. I just really like to sleep. That means that generally I get up with enough time left to do the very basic of what needs to be done, nothing more. I am working on my ability to be an early riser, and we will see if it ever works out.

 

For now, though, I have to figure out a way to have a healthy breakfast that doesn’t take too much time. For inspiration, I looked to one of my favorite bloggers, Dietitian Cassie. She is all about eating real food and staying away from processed, sugary garb. I could not agree more. I have been meaning to try her egg bake recipe for a long time because it looks really good, and can be easily reheated in less than a minute (if you use the microwave; I’m sure it wouldn’t take long in a toaster oven, either). I finally tried it, and I have to say that I think this is going to be my new breakfast of choice. Of

course, you know that I can’t just follow a recipe without putting my own stamp on it. This is what I came up with: 

Spinach and Goat Cheese Egg Muffin

And it tastes even more amazing than it looks! Check out the recipe below, and start following Dietitian Cassie! She has got some amazing articles that you will definitely want to read.

Spinach and Goat Cheese Egg Muffin
Serves 6
A delicious breakfast egg muffin that requires very little time to reheat. Prepare a batch of these on the weekend, and enjoy an entire week's worth of breakfasts that can be reheated in less than a minute!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 medium yellow onion
  2. 5 ounces fresh spinach
  3. 3 ounces goat cheese
  4. 12 eggs
  5. 1/4 cup heavy cream
  6. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Butter a large, 6 muffin pan. Alternatively, you could use a 12 muffin pan, but you would need to eat 2 muffins for one portion. I butter pans by rubbing some butter into a paper towel, and then greasing the pan with that. Then in a mixer or large bowl, beat all 12 eggs until mixed well and mostly homogeneous in color. Then add heavy cream, fresh spinach, and onion. Mix just until combined. Using a ladle, scoop mixture into each muffin tin equally. Then, place 1/2 ounce of goat cheese onto each muffin carefully. Bake muffins at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until firm. Serve immediately, or save in close-top container in the refrigerator and reheat in microwave for 45 seconds when ready to serve, depending on microwave wattage.
Adapted from Dietitian Cassie's Egg Bake
Nutrition To Fruition http://www.nutritiontofruition.com/
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Spaghetti Squash and Meat Sauce with Brussels Sprouts

pinterest spaghetti squash meat sauce

 

Spaghetti nights are the best. Or at least, they were…

Used to be, I could do a spaghetti night once a week or so, use very few dishes and very little money. Everyone was happy. It was like a day off for me.

And then.

Then the entire world fell apart when I realized pasta (and other sources of wheat) do not make me feel very good. I tried to sneak in the pasta, I really did. And then came the bloating, the gas, the cramps, the discomfort.

I’ve had to rework a lot of things in the family diet. We still do spaghetti nights. The kids and husband eat whole wheat spaghetti (baby steps), and I eat spaghetti squash.

Spaghetti squash is amazing because it looks like spaghetti, but it is not. The texture is different, and the taste is different, but it is actually very pleasant, and meshes well with tomato sauce and meat.

spaghetti squash collage

Spaghetti squash is really easy to make, too. Just chop it in half, (I promise you, this is the hardest part. You are going to need a little strength!), turn it upside down on a baking sheet, and bake in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes or so, depending on the size. I just stick a knife into it, and when the knife goes in easily, I know it’s done.

Meanwhile, I browned some ground beef (preferably grass fed) and heated up some jarred spaghetti sauce (au natural). I also got to work chopping some brussels sprouts in half and cutting off the stems. With about 10-15 minutes to go, I stuck the brussels sprouts in the same 400 degree oven covered in olive oil, salt and pepper.

brusselssprouts

I pulled the sprouts and the squash out at about the same time; the sprouts slightly browned around the edges, and the squash was tender. I flipped the squash over, scooped out the seeds and pulp with a spoon, then fluffed the meat of the squash with a fork, and it instantly turned into spaghetti! Amazing! I stuck that in a bowl. On top of it, I added spaghetti sauce. I try to choose a sauce with the least amount of ingredients that has no added sugar or any preservatives. This brand is pretty good:

tomatosauce

 

If you can’t read the text it says “Ingredients: Imported Italian Plum Tomatoes, Imported Italian Olive Oil, Fresh Onions, Fresh Garlic, Fresh Basil, Salt and Spices.”

– No added sugar (Tomatoes have a little bit on their own)

– Not terrible on the Sodium (440 mg per half cup)

– Uses olive oil (although after reading this article about the virginity of olive oil, and whether or not it is even actually olive oil or not, I have to question whether or not this is true)

Overall, I think it’s a pretty good choice. I don’t really care about the brand or any of the claims on the front. If it says heart smart, it’s probably not. If it says it has extra veggies in it, it probably has something else in it that will shock and disturb you. Just read the ingredients label, and you will thank yourself later. After verifying the ingredients are good, I go for what’s cheapest. I do like a little spice in my sauce, though, so I tend to get a spicy variety.

So I have spaghetti squash and sauce in my bowl; then I added some grated parmesan cheese, the browned meat, and the brussels sprouts on top. Here it is!

finished product

 

It was very tasty, indeed. Tasty, fast, inexpensive, easy. Can’t ask for a lot more. Serves 4.

Price Breakdown:

Large Spaghetti Squash: $2.50

Grass-fed Beef (1 lb): $7.95

Spaghetti Sauce (1 jar): $4.99

Brussels Sprouts: $1.99

Parmesan Cheese: $0.50

Salt, Pepper, Olive Oil: negligible

Total Cost: $4.48/serving.

 

If you have a friend who can’t eat spaghetti, whether it’s because of the wheat, because it’s high glycemic, or any other reason, please share this article with her! I know she will appreciate bringing spaghetti night back (Timberlake Style).

 

 

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Things You Should Know About Coconut Oil

coconut

 

I was recently reading an article about coconut oil on a mainstream nutrition website, and on it a cardiologist warned against coconut oil because it is saturated fat. I immediately thought about how we have come such a long way, yet so many physicians, dietitians, and others are not really up to date on the latest research. Maybe that’s because it wouldn’t benefit the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture cholesterol medications.

If a cardiologist can be misled about fat, how many other people are avoiding coconut oil because of it’s saturated fat content? That’s why I decided it would be important for people to really understand what coconut oil is and how it can be used.

 

Coconut oil is different from animal saturated fats. Saturated fats are not bad; in fact, they are beneficial. The key, though, is getting a good ratio of fats – saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated all should be fairly balanced. Another important indicator is the ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids. The higher the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, the less inflammation you will have.

Balancing fats is perhaps one of the most important dietary tasks. Check this article out for more details on that. The point of me referencing that article is that I am NOT suggesting you replace all of your fats with coconut oil. Coconut oil is one of those things that I think is great to use in balance with other fats. If you look at my recipe for curried coconut spinach, it contains some coconut fat (although the product is actually whole, organic coconut flesh which is less refined) balanced with olive oil and other natural ingredients. 

Most people think that coconut oil is bad for you (or should be eaten sparingly) because of its saturated fat content. It seems that even the link between saturated fat and heart disease is shaky. Opinions are slowly changing about coconut oil and here are some interesting reasons why:

1. Virgin Coconut Oil might help with your blood pressure. A study published in Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine was done on rats comparing palm oil that had been repeatedly heated up to virgin coconut oil. The palm oil was supposed to mimic the effects of fried foods because many fried foods are cooked in reused oil that is repeatedly heated up. Heating oils and fats repeatedly or too much is generally a bad idea because it creates trans fats, the nastiest, ugliest, most horrible fats out there, AND it causes oxidative agents which create chain reactions of havoc that only antioxidants can fix. American culture can show that fried foods generally lead to high blood pressure, which can then lead to stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, etc. The rats fed the multiple-heated palm oil had significantly higher blood pressure than those fed just coconut oil and even the rats fed coconut oil and multiple-heated palm oil.   

2. Coconut oil contains an abundance (a little less than half) of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). “MCT oil” is actually fed to patients in the hospital when they are really sick and need some calories that won’t stress their bodies too much. MCTs go straight to the liver to provide instant, easy-to-use energy. It is not stored as fat like other saturated fats, and it doesn’t go through the lipoprotein process, which is what animal saturated fat does that raises your LDL and total cholesterol (which is NOT a good indicator of risk of heart disease, in my opinion) There is some shaky evidence that replacing fats with MCT oil can help with weight loss; I haven’t tried it and haven’t recommended it, so I don’t know.

3. Coconut oil may or may not decrease your waist size. A couple of small scale studies (here, here) have shown this association, but I am the first to admit that this doesn’t prove anything. I am certainly not saying you should add coconut oil as a supplement to your diet to lose weight; this would just add calories which makes no sense. I am saying, however, that if you can replace shortening or regular butter with coconut oil, that is probably a positive change. This may be due to the MCT oil, but more studies are needed to draw conclusions.

4. Coconut oil does not necessarily raise your LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol, but it does not necessarily lower it, either. Some studies have found modest benefits to LDL from coconut oil (here, here, here), while others show no benefit at all. The studies that show a benefit, however, are studies in which coconut oil was replacing animal saturated fat (probably because the animal saturated fat is from GMO, grain-fed cows and pigs).

5. Just to wrap things up, coconut oil isn’t bad and it isn’t the next best weight loss solution. I think it is much better than shortening which contains trans fat. I think it’s somewhat better than the butter or fatty meats you buy from a typical grocery store. It’s definitely better than foods fried in refined vegetable oils. That is why I use it in my cooking; but not for every fat I use. I also use lots of olive oil, eat nuts or nut butters daily, eat fatty fish regularly, and incorporate other natural fats into my diet.

If this article has been helpful to you, post a comment below and let me know what your plan is for using coconut oil! There are so many uses and I would love to hear some more!

(This article was originally posted on Sept 3, 2013, but was updated on Nov 11, 2013)

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Bacon: You’ve Been Lied To.

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Ah the bacon debate. A mention of bacon brings so many thoughts to mind: Saturated Fat, Animal Fat, Cholesterol, Heart Disease, on and on and on. The sad thing is that you’ve been lied to about bacon. 

You’ve been mislead if you think bacon is the most horrible disease-causing cancer-causing cholesterol-raising junk food that is out there.

You’ve also been mislead if you think bacon is the end-all-diseases cure-of-the-earth super-food that you would perceive if you follow Paleo bloggers. I think the Paleo diet has unintentionally adopted bacon as it’s mascot.

Unfortunately, both sides are misleading, and they are stretching the divide between bacon champions and bacon haters.

I am here to weigh in on that lovely bacon debacle and give you my take on bacon.

The Friend Disguised as an Enemy

If you believe bacon is bad for you, let me ask you: Why? Undoubtedly, you will answer that it is a fatty meat laden with cholesterol and saturated fat; a heart attack in a pan, if you will. It is just waiting to clog your arteries… Not so fast. According to the USDA Database, one slice of bacon has 11 grams of fat in it’s raw state (that is, prior to rendering the fat by cooking it). Of these 11 grams, just about 4 are saturated. Woah, only 36%? That is not what you have been lead to believe….

Truth is, bacon is mostly unsaturated fat. Yes, bacon is mostly those healthy fats that are in olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. My oh my, the lies come out. Five grams of the 11 grams are monounsaturated, the same type of fat that olive oil is known for. Two of the 11 grams are polyunsaturated, which are usually found in nuts and seeds in abundance. The horrors of bacon seem to be quickly fading away if your argument is that bacon increases cholesterol or causes heart disease.

The truth of the matter is that fat doesn’t make you fat, nor does it cause clogged arteries or heart disease — even saturated fat. The entire war on saturated fat is finally coming to a halt, leaving skid marks in its tracks, as saturated fat is finally exonerated of it’s previous charge that it causes heart disease. In the end heart disease is more about inflammation and reducing inflammation in your body with the right ratio of fats, especially the omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio.

The Enemy Disguised as a Friend

I am glad you are still reading this, because it means you didn’t drop this article to run to the store and immediately stock up on the delicious no-longer-guilty pleasure…or is it? Unfortunately the bacon of today is a far cry from what bacon used to be, and what bacon should be. Pigs are known to eat pretty much everything. A few hundred years ago, this was a great thing: you could feed your pigs vegetable and table scraps, and all the leftover scraps you couldn’t use, knowing that those calories would be coming back to you. These days, pigs mainly eat grains: GMO grains – corn and soy especially. For an example of what is acceptable pig feed, take a look at this swine feed. Then remember what Michael Pollan said in In Defense of Food: (paraphrasing) you aren’t just what you eat, but you are what you eat eats too. If you are eating an animal that had a horrible diet, you are essentially eating that horrible diet yourself.

To add insult to injury, bacon is then further processed before it arrives on your grocery shelf. Unless you are buying “Uncured Bacon”, which generally costs twice as much, your bacon has nitrates, nitrites, phosphates, and other salts. We could go through endless debates about whether or not these cause heart disease or cancer; however, I just have one simple rule: if it is a chemical before it was put into your food, don’t eat it. Yes, I know celery, spinach, kale, and other greens naturally have nitrates in them. Fruit also naturally has sugar in it, but are we going to argue that table sugar is just dandy or that fruit sugar is bad? (Well I know some of you would, but I don’t believe that for a second.) As far as the phosphates go, they are horrible if you have any kind of kidney problems, which by the way, don’t show up in blood tests until your kidney function is very poor. Even if you don’t have kidney issues, recent studies suggest that phosphates can lead to heart disease even in the general population. Again, it’s a chemical, so stay away.

What’s a Bacon Lover To Do?

So you want the bacon benefits without the pitfalls? I do, too. That’s why I found a local family farm that produces bacon the way it was intended to be produced. No nitrates, nitrites (except those naturally in celery juice), no phosphates, nothing but good ol’ smoked bacon. My farm feeds the pigs a vegetarian diet, mostly veggie scraps from the kitchen. I use Ray Family Farms, but if you aren’t in the area you can look up a family farmer at localharvest.org. Or you can go to the farmer’s market in your area and ask around. It’s time we start asking questions about how our food was produced.

Another thing that bothers me about Paleo/Nutrition memes and infographics is that they don’t convey the truth of what it means t obe on the Paleo diet. I don’t like diets, and I don’t follow specific ones simply because of the ability to mislead the public via stereotypes and misconceptions. The Paleo diet is now known for large consumption of meat, especially fatty meats like bacon. The truth is, though, if you were truly living like your Paleolithic ancestors, you wouldn’t make a kill every day, thus your meat consumption would come in spurts. You would eat the entire animal over a week or two – including the leanest parts (i.e., not bacon). Your day-to-day tide-me-over diet would mostly consist of plants, berries, nuts, and seeds. So let’s stop misleading people about what Paleo would really mean, and stop posting

things like this:

Bacon-is-Paleo

 

 

 

 

 

(All of the above images were found on Paleo websites/blogs)

Because to the average Facebook and Instagram browser, this just says “GO BUY ALL THE BACON” without explaining the horrors of grocery store meats. And grocery store bacon is definitely something to eat less of, if at all.

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Butternut Squash Leek Soup

I am all about fall. The smell of the air, the crisp, cold, cozy feeling that you get when you walk outside and breathe in the morning air. Ahhh. Unfortunately in North Carolina lately we haven’t gotten a whole lot of fall. We get Summer and then Cold. Well, for a few brief weeks it seems to finally be turning into fall until the cold weather comes. Let’s enjoy that while we can. This butternut squash soup screams fall. You might want to take it to the park in a thermos and have a picnic under the falling leaves. Just as long as those leaves don’t fall in the soup.

butternut squash soup
Picture by Grace Tyler Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes. That soup.

Butternut Squash Leek Soup
Serves 12
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 medium butternut squash
  2. 4 leeks
  3. 1 large or 2 small/medium shallots
  4. 4 tbsp olive oil
  5. 1 carton vegetable stock
  6. 1 tsp mccormick's garam masala
  7. 1/2 tsp salt
  8. 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  9. 3/4 cup heavy cream
  10. 6 ounces bacon (for garnish)
  11. nuts of your choice, (for garnish)
  12. 2 tbsp sour cream (for garnish)
  13. 2 tbsp heavy cream (for garnish)
Instructions
  1. Cut leeks into thin slices, leaving out the dark green ends. Place cut leeks in large bowl of water for about 15 minutes to remove sand.
  2. Meanwhile, peel butternut squash with peeler or knife. If you have a sharp peeler, you can simply peel the skin away by using the peeler several times until the outside turns bright orange. Then cut in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp.
  3. To use a knife, cut the neck off the squash and work with the neck and bulb separately to make it easier to cut. Then, cut the bulb in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp.
  4. Cut squash into cubes.
  5. Slice shallots by cutting in half lengthwise, peeling of skin, and then slices into 1/4 inch pieces.
  6. Drain leeks.
  7. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and then shallots and drained leeks. Cook until translucent, stirring occasionally.
  8. Add squash and stir around, and then add vegetable stock. Cover and let pot come to a simmer. Simmer contents for 30-45 minutes, or until squash is very tender.
  9. Using an immersion blender, puree entire contents until completely smooth. Alternatively, you can use a food processor and puree in batches. When completely liquid, add garam masala, salt and pepper. Lastly, add 3/4 cup heavy cream and stir until combined. If freezing soup, do not add cream until just before serving.
  10. For the garnish: cook and drain bacon, then chop into small pieces. Toast nuts for best flavor, then chop into pieces. For drizzle, mix equal parts sour cream and heavy cream, and whisk together until combined. Then add salt and pepper.
Nutrition To Fruition http://www.nutritiontofruition.com/

 

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