Friday, December 3, 2010

Food From and For the Heart {Fab Find Friday}

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{Photo credit Muffet via Flickr Creative Commons}
I grew up in the eighties. The time of an increasing amount of convenience food (at least how I see it). My parents embraced every new fad diet, every invention (who else has a salad shooter? Baked potato cooker for the microwave?) and since they both worked, any and all food that made feeding 3 kids easier.

My husband and I take a much different approach to food. If Grandma didn’t have it, or there is more than 3 ingredients we can’t say, we avoid it. We’re not perfect, but we try hard to abide by this. We strive to make all our own meals (6 nights a week) from scratch, or mostly scratch. We eat fresh whenever we can.

Part of it is for taste, my husband especially is what I lovingly refer to as a food snob. A bigger part of it is our genes. We need to pass on healthy habits to our children because when it comes to cardiovascular health, the cards are stacked against them. From their mother they get weight issues, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, etc. From their father they get a history of aneurysm and probably high blood pressure. Knowing our history (and with my background and passion being in medicine) we very consciously work hard to make sure we are eating healthy, with particular attention to heart healthy foods. The American Heart Association recommends high fiber, low sodium, low fat diet filled with fruits and veggies.

I'll be the first to admit this is not always easy. I have one child who is underweight and needs to have a higher fat diet and one picky eater. My husband loves salt, wings, and beer. I love baked goods, chocolate and when not pregnant wine with an occasional martini. Not to mention that in the Midwest starting, oh about now, fresh fruits and veggies are harder to find and more expensive.

Thankfully I have two secret weapons, frozen veggies and canned tomatoes. Frozen fruits and veggies are just as (or sometimes healthier) than fresh counterparts especially if the alternative is to go with out them all together.

Canned tomatoes are a staple in our house as my husband likes to pretend he is Italian. I would guess that we have a meal with tomatoes at least once, if not twice a week. ConAgra Foods (the makers of Hunt’s Tomatoes) recently released reports on just how healthy canned tomatoes can be. I was excited to read them, I knew about all the prostate healthy benefits of lycopene in tomatoes, but was unaware of the heart benefits.

Some of their recent findings (full press release here)

  • Recent studies have suggested that the distinct combination of nutrients found in tomatoes may have a measurable impact on heart disease prevention.
  • Daily consumption showed a reduction in blood pressure for people with elevated blood pressure
  • Tomatoes not only contain high levels of carotenoid antioxidants such as lycopene, but also serve as a significant source of vitamin C, fiber and potassium

All good things when you are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle!

So what do I use my canned tomatoes in?

  • Pasta sauces. My husband has two or three he rotates through and it only takes a little longer than opening a jar of sauce
  • Lasagna and Baked Pasta (see above)
  • Soup 
  • Meatloaf (okay it’s Ketchup, but it’s still tomatoes!) 
  • Slow Cooker recipes like Spicy Pulled Pork (mmm dinner last night!) 
  • Chili

Chili Mac is something that we make in a minimum 2 pound batches in the winter because my son (the underweight one) wolf it down like he has been lost at sea for 3 weeks. It also makes great leftovers for those rushed dinners after Advent masses or for hot lunches for a certain pregnant mom.

Here is our recipe for Football Worthy Chili, take note, it’s not the healthiest (see: underweight child eats it). To make it healthier you can leave out the bacon and beer, and add more veggies or use a combination of a leaner meat such as sirloin or ground pork, we have even made it with ground turkey.

PB Family Football Worthy Chili*
Ingredients:
3-4 slices of bacon (cut into inch- thumb size- pieces)
2 pounds of ground beef
2 medium onion chopped
1-3 cloves of garlic (we use 3+)
1 green (or red) pepper (for more heat you can add a chopped jalapeno in the chili or as a topping)
2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 8oz can of tomato sauce
1 can of beer (optional)
2 tablespoon chili powder (I recommend)
1 1/2 Tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cans 15 or 16 oz kidney or pinto beans rinsed and drained

  1. In Large Stock pot fry bacon until brown but not crunchy.
  2. Add onion, garlic and peppers until soft (about 5min)
  3. Add ground beef and brown. Once brown add ½ can to full can of beer and cook off (about 5 min)
  4. Stir in all remaining ingredients except beans. Heat to boiling, reduce heat. Cover and Simmer at least 1 hour stirring occasionally.
  5. Stir in beans Heat to boiling, reduce heat. Simmer uncovered about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until desired thickness.
We serve over elbow noodles for me and the kids and spaghetti for dad topped with shredded cheddar cheese.







*Adapted from Betty Crocker Cookbook

Disclosure: I was compensated by The Motherhood for passing on the research information released by ConAgra foods. The opinions and recipe are all mine.

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