(Family Features) Freshen up family dinners by adding new ingredients like pecans, with natural richness and subtle sweetness coupled with irresistible crunch.
Kitchen staples are being used to add twists to traditional dishes, so finding an item you can use to mix up classic family recipes is key. Pecans pack flavor, texture and nutrition all in one bite, and they have a long shelf life. Shelled pecans can be kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator for about nine months and for up to two years in sealed plastic bags in the freezer.
While pecans are beloved in classic desserts, like pecan pie, they also offer a variety of nutrition benefits that can be added to nearly any meal. They are among the highest in “good” monounsaturated fats, contain 3 grams of plant protein per serving and are a source of fiber, flavonoids and minerals like manganese, which is essential for metabolism and bone health.
Nearly two decades of research document the heart-health benefits of pecans. In fact, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1 1/2 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pecans, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. One serving of pecans (28 grams) has 18 grams of unsaturated fat and only 2 grams of saturated fat.
Add crunch to this Chinese Chicken Salad with Pecans by swapping out croutons, use chopped pecans as a flavorful and nutrient-dense coating for Pecan Chicken Meatballs and bake this Pecan Banana Bread as a nutritious and kid-friendly breakfast or snack to fill your home with a delicious scent.
Pecan Chicken Meatballs
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Yield: 9 meatballs
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1/4 cup spinach, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 cup finely chopped fresh pecan pieces, divided
- Heat oven to 400° F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In large bowl, mix ground chicken, spinach, lemon juice, egg, garlic, onion powder, paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne (if desired) and 1/2 cup pecans until well combined.
- Roll chicken mixture into 1 tablespoon- sized meatballs.
- Place reserved pecans in bowl. Roll meatballs in pecans to coat then place on prepared baking sheet.
- Bake 20-30 minutes until meatballs are cooked through.
- Serve warm with sauces for dipping or over pasta.
Chinese Chicken Salad with Pecans
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
- 1/4 cup pecan butter
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons warm water, plus additional as needed (optional)
- 4 ounces dried thin rice noodles
- cold water
- 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
- 4 cups chopped iceberg lettuce
- 1/4 cup toasted and chopped pecans
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1/2 cup crispy wontons
- 1 cup mandarin oranges
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 2 cups rotisserie chicken breast, chopped
- To make dressing: In medium bowl, whisk pecan butter, rice vinegar, honey, sesame oil and soy sauce until smooth.
- Add 2 tablespoons warm water and whisk until incorporated. Add additional water, 1 teaspoon at a time, if desired, until dressing reaches pourable consistency.
- To make salad: Cook rice noodles according to package instructions. Once cooked, drain and transfer to bowl with cold water to keep from sticking.
- In large bowl, toss romaine and iceberg lettuces, pecans, scallions, bean sprouts, crispy wontons, mandarin oranges and sesame seeds.
- Divide salad among four plates; top each with 1/2 cup chicken and serve with dressing.
Pecan Banana Bread
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes
- 10 ounces gluten-free baking flour mix
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 flax eggs
- 1 cup organic brown or coconut sugar
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 1/2 cup vegan yogurt
- 3/4 cup mashed bananas, ripe
- 1 cup raw pecan pieces, chopped, plus additional for topping
- Heat oven to 350° F. Prepare 9-by-5-inch banana bread pan.
- In medium bowl, sift flour mix, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt; whisk to combine.
- In mixer bowl, mix eggs, sugar and coconut oil 2 minutes on medium-low speed.
- Scrape vanilla bean and add to mixture. Add vegan yogurt and mashed bananas; mix 2 minutes on medium-low speed.
- Remove bowl from mixer and fold 1 cup raw pecan pieces into batter until evenly distributed.
- Add batter to banana bread pan and use spatula to smooth down top. Sprinkle additional pecan pieces on top.
- Bake banana bread on top rack 60 minutes until toothpick comes out with few crumbs but not completely clean.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes in pan. Hold sides of pan and flip onto wire rack.
- Allow bread to cool completely. Slice as desired.
Source: American Pecan Council
(Family Features) One of the great myths of healthy eating is that it’s expensive. Making healthier choices can actually save you money when you know how to shop smart.
To help encourage healthier communities, the American Heart Association and Aramark have simple tips to keep in mind as you seek out affordable, nutritious and tasty food options for your family:
- Shop with a plan in mind. Taking a list to the store helps limit impulse purchases, but it’s OK to make smart swaps while shopping if items you’d normally use are on sale.
- Consider your fruit and veggie options. Locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables are often reasonably priced for recipes like this Mediterranean Chicken and Grain Bowl. Canned and frozen options, meanwhile, can be just as nutritious as fresh options.
- Cook once, eat twice. Choose recipes that make enough food to enjoy fresh for one meal and as leftovers later, such as this four-serving Curry-Spiced Tofu with Asian Vegetables.
- Buy in bulk. Look for items with long shelf lives like whole grains and non-perishables such as canned beans and vegetables.
- Focus on dishes with limited, common ingredients. They are easy to prepare and allow you to avoid purchasing items like rarely used spices.
- Develop a budget. Assess your current food expenses each week. Multiply by the number of weeks that month to find your monthly food budget and determine if this fits with your other monthly expenses.
Mediterranean Chicken and Grain Bowl
Recipe courtesy of Aramark
- 8 ounces farro or brown rice
- 6 cups spinach, stems removed
- 1 1/2 cups diced seedless cucumbers
- 1 1/2 diced tomatoes
- 6 thin slices red onion
- 3 cups cauliflower florets
- 3/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette
- 3 cups cooked skinless chicken breast, visible fat discarded
- 6 tablespoons fat-free or low-fat crumbled feta cheese
- 3 tablespoons kalamata olives
- Cook farro according to package instructions.
- On serving plate, place 1/2 cup farro. Around farro, arrange 1 cup spinach; 1/4 cup cucumber; 1/4 cup tomatoes; 1 slice red onion, separated into rings; and 1/2 cup cauliflower.
- Drizzle balsamic vinaigrette over salad. Top with 1/2 cup chicken and garnish with 1 tablespoon feta cheese and 1 1/2 teaspoons olives. Repeat with additional servings.
Nutritional information per serving: 342 calories; 12 g total fat; 52 mg cholesterol; 551 mg sodium; 35 g carbohydrates; 4 g fiber; 8 g sugars; 25 g protein.
Curry-Spiced Tofu with Asian Vegetables
Recipe courtesy of the American Heart Association
- 12 ounces light, extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry, cut into four slices
- 1 tablespoon, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons, curry powder, divided
- 12 ounces packaged fresh stir-fry vegetables
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 large onion, cut into 3/4-inch wedges
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup light coconut milk
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
- Put tofu on large plate. Sprinkle tofu on both sides with 1 tablespoon curry powder.
- In large microwaveable bowl, microwave vegetables and water on high 2-3 minutes, or until vegetables are almost tender-crisp. Pour off remaining water.
- In large nonstick skillet, heat canola oil over medium-high heat, swirling to coat bottom. Cook tofu in single layer 3-4 minutes on each side, or until browned. Transfer to separate large plate. Cover loosely to keep warm.
- In same skillet, heat sesame oil over medium-high heat, swirling to coat bottom. Cook onion 1 minute, stirring frequently.
- Stir in vegetables and garlic. Cook 1-2 minutes, or until vegetables are tender-crisp, stirring constantly.
- Stir in coconut milk, chili garlic sauce and remaining curry powder. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Spoon vegetable mixture over tofu.
Nutritional information per serving: 151 calories; 6.5 g total fat; 86 mg sodium; 14 g carbohydrates; 4 g fiber; 4 g sugars; 10 g protein.
Family Features) If you're looking for tasty ways to improve your diet, you're in luck. You can get big taste and big benefits from a little fruit - Wild Blueberries.
The Color Connection
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Eating across the color spectrum is important so you get a variety of nutritional benefits.
Wild Blueberries get their color from naturally occurring phytochemicals, which are primarily responsible for antioxidant activity. Wild Blueberries are antioxidant rich, making them a great choice for their nutritional benefits and disease fighting potential. In fact,
- USDA studies rank Wild Blueberries highest in antioxidant capacity per serving, compared with more than 20 other fruits including cranberries, strawberries, apples and even cultivated blueberries.
- Health magazine has named Wild Blueberries high on its list of "America's Healthiest Superfoods for Women," singling out their variety of potential health benefits, including preventing memory loss, improving motor skills, lowering blood pressure, and fighting wrinkles.
Wild Blueberries are available year-round in supermarkets nationwide. Frozen at the peak of ripeness, all the farm-fresh taste and nutritional benefits are locked-in. Most studies show that frozen fruits and vegetables are higher in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients because they are frozen near the time of harvest.
Great taste, good nutrition and really convenient - no wonder so many people are wild about blueberries. Learn more about this superfruit and get more great recipes at www.wildblueberries.com.
Did You Know?
Wild Blueberries are a different berry from cultivated blueberries. They grow naturally in the fields and barrens of Maine and Canada. They are smaller in size, have a unique sweet-tart taste, and are only available frozen.
Here are some of the reasons frozen produce is a perfect option for people looking to fill the pantry with healthy foods all year round.
- Frozen offers great value when compared to in-season pricing.
- No aging or spoiling means no waste, saving you money.
- Frozen produce is ideal for smoothies, entrees, desserts, breakfast, and most recipes that call for blueberries.
- Frozen Wild Blueberries are thoroughly washed and have no caloric syrups or additives.
Chicken Breast with Sweet and Sour Wild Blueberry Sauce
Prep Time: Approximately 20 minutes
- 1 6-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breast
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1 small red pepper
- 1 small green pepper
- 2 tablespoons fig jam (or apricot jam)
- 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons sweet and sour chili sauce
- 2/3 cup frozen Wild Blueberries, thawed and drained
- Season chicken breast with salt and pepper. Heat oil in small, non-stick frying pan. Fry chicken breast for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Wash, seed and cut peppers into bite-sized pieces. Cut cooked chicken breast into bite-sized pieces; combine with peppers. Mix jam with balsamic vinegar, sugar and chili sauce. Gently stir in Wild Blueberries.
Wild Blueberry Gingered Lemon Muffins
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Yield: approximately 36 muffins
- 6 cups cake flour
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups low-fat buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) egg substitute
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 4 cups frozen Wild Blueberries
- 1/3 cup (3 ounces) crystallized ginger, chopped
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar, for topping
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- In bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; reserve.
- In another bowl beat together buttermilk, egg substitute, 1 1/2 cups sugar and oil; stir into flour mixture just to blend. Fold in Wild Blueberries, ginger and lemon zest.
- Scoop 1/4 cup batter into each greased 1/3-cup muffin tin. Sprinkle each muffin with sugar. Bake in 400°F conventional oven or 375°F convection oven 18 to 22 minutes or until firm to the touch. Serve warm.
Wild Blueberry Lemon Jam
Prep Time: 25 to 30 minutes
Yield: about 8 half-pints
- 5 cups frozen Wild Blueberries
- 1 package dry pectin
- 5 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- Crush thawed Wild Blueberries one layer at a time, or chop frozen in food processor.
- Combine thawed, crushed Wild Blueberries and pectin in a large saucepot. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Stir in grated lemon zest and lemon juice. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling water canner.
Wild Blueberry Ice Cream Pops
Prep Time: Approximately 15 minutes, plus thaw and freezing time
Yield: 6 Pops
- 1 cup frozen Wild Blueberries
- 1 ounce milk chocolate chips
- 2 cups fat-free vanilla frozen
- yogurt, softened slightly
- Materials: small wooden or plastic sticks
- Thaw Wild Blueberries and purée. In a bowl, combine puréed Wild Blueberries, chocolate and frozen yogurt. Mix thoroughly.
- Rinse 6 standard muffin cups with cold water and spoon in Wild Blueberry mixture, dividing it evenly between the cups (silicone muffin cups need not be rinsed first). Place a stick in the center of each "muffin" and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.
Tip: Mixture can also be frozen with plastic sticks in small glasses or espresso cups.
Source:Wild Blueberry Association
New seasonings make it easy
(Family Features) Exotic flavors common in the Middle Eastern region of the world like harissa, za’atar and shawarma are having a moment, appearing on restaurant menus and in popular make-at-home recipes.
Now is the perfect time to give these flavors a try. Thanks to new global seasonings from McCormick Gourmet, the spice combinations are already blended for the ultimate taste and simplicity.
Made from high-quality herbs and spices, the seasonings are USDA-Organic certified and Non-GMO Project verified so you can feel good about the ingredients used in your cooking. The expertly blended spices help create distinctive global-inspired dishes that take your home dining experience to the next level so you can explore these flavors from around the world without leaving the comfort of home.
- Za’atar: This traditional Middle Eastern blend of spices including thyme, oregano and sesame seeds is perfect for sprinkling on flatbreads, roasted vegetables, nuts
or popcorn. It can also be mixed into hummus or oil
- Harissa: A spicy flavor found in North African cuisine, this seasoning is made from a combination of chilies, warm spices and mint. Add it to meat and veggies before roasting, stir it into cooked rice and grains, mix it into yogurt to make a dip or combine it with roasted bell peppers and oil to turn this spice into its namesake sauce.
- Shawarma: Often associated with the slow roasting of meat, this Middle Eastern street food favorite is made with cinnamon, coriander, cardamom and more. Use this seasoning to flavor an easy marinade for chicken, pork or steak.
Look for these flavors as well as new Peruvian and Berbere seasonings in the spice section of retailers nationwide. Find more recipe ideas at McCormickGourmet.com.
Grilled Chicken Shawarma
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 16 minutes
- 1 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt, divided
- 5 teaspoons McCormick Gourmet Organic Shawarma Seasoning, divided
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Sicilian Sea Salt
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 4 pita pockets, halved
- 1 medium seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
- 8 lettuce leaves
- In small bowl, mix 1 cup yogurt and 1 teaspoon shawarma seasoning. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- In small bowl, mix oil, lemon juice, remaining yogurt, remaining shawarma seasoning and sea salt. Reserve 2 tablespoons of mixture; set aside.
- Place chicken in large re-sealable plastic bag or glass dish. Add marinade; turn to coat well. Refrigerate 1 hour, or longer for extra flavor.
- Heat grill or skillet to medium heat.
- Remove chicken from marinade. Discard remaining marinade. Grill or saute 6-8 minutes per side, or until cooked through and internal temperature reaches 165 F, brushing with reserved marinade.
- Slice chicken into thin strips. Serve in pitas with cucumber, lettuce and yogurt dressing.
Shaved Carrot Salad with Pomegranate Harissa Dressing
Prep time: 20 minutes
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
- 3 tablespoons pomegranate juice
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons McCormick Gourmet Organic Harissa Seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Sicilian Sea Salt
- 1/4 teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Organic Black Pepper, coarse ground
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 pound multicolor carrots, washed and peeled
- 1/2 cup shelled roasted pistachios
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 3 cups baby arugula
- 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- In large bowl, mix mint, pomegranate juice, honey, harissa seasoning, sea salt and pepper. Gradually add oil while mixing with wire whisk until well mixed. Set aside.
- Trim carrot ends. Slice each carrot lengthwise into ribbons with vegetable peeler or mandoline. In medium bowl, toss carrots with 1/4 cup prepared dressing. Stir in pistachios and cranberries.
- Arrange arugula on serving platter. Drizzle with remaining dressing and top with carrot mixture. Sprinkle with feta before serving.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Servings: 8 (2 tablespoons each)
- 1 cup labneh (yogurt cheese)
- 2 teaspoons McCormick Gourmet Organic Za’atar Seasoning, divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- pita bread, for serving (optional)
- pita chips, for serving (optional)
- sliced fresh vegetables, for serving (optional)
- In small bowl, mix labneh and 1 teaspoon seasoning until well blended.
- Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with remaining seasoning.
- Serve with fresh pita bread, pita chips or sliced fresh vegetables, as desired.