An Apple A Day Keeps Cholesterol At Bay

If you don’t fancy chickpeas for breakfast (and really, why would you?) perhaps adding some apple to your daily granola is more appealing as a healthy diet change?

Though I never planned to add chickpeas to my breakfast fare, I did intend to add it to my daily diet. OK, weekly diet. Indeed, so intrigued was I to learn that chickpeas lower cholesterol (see, Don’t Like Oatmeal, Try Chickpeas!), that I decided it was a good idea to try to make my own hummus from scratch.

On Christmas Eve.

A good idea it was not.

My homemade hummus experiement failed epically. Hence my latest research into apples, which I cannot make from scratch.  Just add to my diet. (Maybe. As I dislike apples only slightly less than salad.)

But I digress.

TahiniLet me explain about the hummus.

First of all, have you ever tried to stir tahini?  No? Well, imagine stirring cement. Because that’s what it felt like. Check out this spoon standing up on it’s own, and just imagine the huge sucking sound when I tried to free the spoon from the evil tahini.

Let’s just say that the ensuing emergency load of laundry was not in the timeline for Christmas Eve preparations. So, um, things got a little messy.

But after a good ten minutes (and I am not exaggerating) I managed to get 1/3 cup of tahini into the food processor, along with the requisite amount of drained chickpeas, garlic, salt, freshly squeezed lemon juice, water and hot sauce.

Yet this time, both of my usually reliable cookbook resources failed me. Barefoot Contessa AND epicurious  both called for 4 cloves of garlic.  FOUR cloves.  And yet the title was not GARLIC hummus. Though it should have been.

I should have known  better.  It did strike me that 4 cloves of RAW garlic was going to be, um, garlicky.  But I like garlic.  And figured maybe it would be mitigated by the tahini (as if it might ‘cure’ the garlic or magically blanch it or something.) In the end, the fact that both recipes said to use 4 cloves gave me confidence. Which was misplaced. I served my Christmas Eve guests – who were all eager to try my homemade hummus – a mouthful of very raw, garlicky hummus.  Not ideal.

So we all had more to drink. Far more.

Also not the plan.

So I’ll now be buying my hummus from Trader Joe’s.  And this epic fail left me searching for a different cholesterol-lowering food I could easily add to my daily diet.

Which is where apples come in.

Now unlike chickpeas, my doctor definitely told me to eat apples. And for a while there, I dutifully added sliced apples to my daily oatmeal. But that oatmeal gave way to a bagel and lox, so the apple thing didn’t last long.

As I threw my tahini-strewn shirt into the washing machine, I got to wondering what it was about apples that was good for lowering cholesterol.  I knew about dietary fiber, but was there another, compelling reason to add apples to my diet?

What I learned is that apples pack more cholesterol-lowering punch than just dietary fiber. They are rich in phytonutrients, which  help regulate blood sugar…and are also flush with Vitamin C and with antioxidants, which attack free radicals.

Blah, blah, blah…  Apples are good for you. Yeah, I know, my doctor told me to eat them. But why? Are they just healthy, or do they actually help lower cholesterol?

Yes, Virginia, they do.

As I explained in Health Benefits of Apples, actual research studies have proven that apples lower cardiac disease risk:

The Iowa Women’s Health Study reported that, among the 34,000-plus women it’s been tracking for nearly 20 years, apples were associated with a lower risk of death from both coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.”  In a very specific small study conducted in 2011, Florida State University researchers asked 160 women aged 45-65 to eat dried apples or prunes every day; they proved that in just 6 months, LDL (bad) cholesterol was reduced by 23% and HDL (good) cholesterol rose by 4%.

Now as it happens I don’t love raw apples (though I do enjoy them, if someone (else) slices them and sprinkles them with cinnamon or dices them for oatmeal), but dried apples as a snack could be something I can easily add to my diet.

So I’m off to Trader Joe’s to buy some hummus AND some dried apples.

And I think I’ll get some raw apples, too. Because hey, maybe I can convince my husband to slice them for me. And then I can try – just once this week – to have oatmeal for breakfast instead of my beloved half-bagel and lox.

I’m going for a valiant effort at eating some cholesterol-lowering food … that has zero chance of resulting in additional laundry.



Don’t Like Oatmeal? Try Chickpeas!

Every morning I feel guilty as I eat my half-bagel with a smidge of whipped cream cheese and fresh lox – guilty because I know I should be eating that miracle breakfast food, oatmeal. I know oatmeal has a lot of dietary fiber, and dietary fiber reduces cholesterol. But I just don’t care for oatmeal all that much.

So imagine my surprise when I learned while researching for my article, Chickpeas Help Lower Cholesterol (who knew?!) that chickpeas have a lot of dietary fiber. And I mean A LOT.



Why didn’t my doctor mention this?

She did say to eat a lot more fiber. She did say to eat oatmeal and fresh vegetables and take Metamucil.  But nary a word about chickpeas.

Which is a bummer because I can easily pop open a can of chickpeas and toss a handful in a salad. I’m far more likely to do that than eat oatmeal (Yes, I know – I always write about how I don’t like salad. That said, I am having far, far more success eating salad for lunch than I’ve ever had eating oatmeal for breakfast!)

So I did a little more research – and guess what? A mere half-cup of canned chickpeas packs 5 grams of dietary fiber, compared to 4 grams of that pain-to-make steel cut oatmeal (!) and 3 grams of fiber in instant oatmeal packets. The only oatmeal with more dietary fiber than chickpeas is that new Quaker Instant High Fiber Oatmeal (which I haven’t yet tried but guess I should?)

Check out this nutritional comparison I did using the Quaker site — comparing 1 serving of three different Quaker Oatmeals with 1 serving of Eden Organic canned chickpeas (the Goya and Progresso sites did not have all the nutritional info but I’m betting it’s similar). My guess is that you’ll join me in both searching the web for hummus recipes and popping chickpeas into your salads.

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Fast, Fancy, Fabulous Fish Dinner

I tried to make up for a decadent, totally-not-lo-co (and absolutely fantastic) dinner at Jean Georges in NYC this Friday with a 4 mile walk around the perimeter of Central Park Saturday morning.

But in my heart, I knew that wasn’t enough.  After a weekend eating out in NYC for every meal, I decided it’d be a good idea to cook some healthy dinners this week.

My husband was shocked.  Pleased, but shocked.

Especially since on Monday I actually cooked the fish I bought – rather than my usual mojo which is to buy the fish, declare “I’m too tired to cook, let’s go out,” then tossing the never-cooked fish a few days later.

What I picked up on Monday were the ingredients for a perennial favorite in my household: Mustard Roasted Arctic Char. Well, it’s a fave with my husband and me; our son dislikes mustard, so this is not a winner when he’s home. Which he’s not. So.

As it’s been a few years since I posted about Ina Garten’s Mustard Roasted Fish I thought it high time to write about this delicious dish that’s a rare find: easy enough for a weeknight and fancy enough for a dinner party.

Plus, it’s pretty lo-co considering the cream-based sauce is used for cooking – with just a dollop served on top. So you get a lot of flavor without a lot of cream.

Personally, I like to serve this dish with roasted asparagus which stands up to the mustard flavor AND can be served room temperature, so it’s perfect for a dinner party. Steamed string beans also work well.

And I have a new favorite side: Near East’s new Quinoa Blend Rosemary & Olive Oil.  It’s a blend of quinoa and brown rice that’s tasty and so easy to make (and keep warm) using a rice cooker. Directions for rice-cooker-cooking aren’t on the package, but no problem: just follow package directions for olive oil and water amounts and toss it all in a rice cooker at least 45 minutes (maybe a tad more) before serving dinner. Fair warning though: this has a LOT of salt, so if salt is an issue, choose a different side…

MustardRoastFishQuinoaAsparagusI made this Monday night for dinner: Mustard Roasted Artic Char, the brown rice quinoa blend, and roasted asparagus. I used 1 pound of Char which netted dinner for my husband and me Monday night PLUS enough for my lunch the next day. (It’s not the best photo, as it was Monday evening and I was running late so was HUNGRY. Just pretend I’d taken my time plating it to envision this as a dinner party dish!)

Is it the most lo-co dish ever? No. But it’s not bad, really – especially if you go light with the “dollop the mustard sauce on top before serving” step.  I wrote about the nutritional value of this fish recipe on Mmm Mmm Mustard Roasted Fish – so if you want more details about nutritional info, check out that post.

Also, I NEVER make the entire amount of cream sauce since I usually make about one pound of fish rather than the 2 pounds called for in Ina Garten’s original recipe.  I mean, really – look at how huge that fish portion is on my plate, and that’s about 1/3 of the pound of char I cooked.  So for 2-3 servings, one pound of fish – and half the cream sauce – is what’s called for, IMHO.

For my half-recipe (and my modifications: I also use less salt than called for in the original), see my hand-revised recipe, Mustard Roasted Fish a la Karen.

Make this dish on a December weeknight after indulging in too much egg nog and/or holiday cookies over the weekend…or for a “Yay, the holidays are over” dinner party in January!