Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Healthy Holiday Sides - Wheatberry Salad

I first tasted wheat berry salad at a local foods luncheon.  I loved it so much that I purchased a bag of wheat berries without even knowing how to make the salad. 

I still don't have a 'real' recipe for wheat berry salad.  I have come to think of this salad the same way  I do a lettuce salad.  The wheat berries serve as a base, like lettuce.  I build the salad from there.  Wheat berries tend to be very chewy.  So I add something crunchy like nuts.  I also like dried cranberries for more texture and color.  Unpeeled apples add more flavor and a little moisture.  Depending on the time of year, you can mix and match your ingredients.

Here is my version of wheat berry salad.

Wheat Berry Salad

Serves 6 to 8.

1 cup wheat berries
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
cup orange juice
cup dried cranberries
1 large apple, unpeeled and diced
½ cup walnuts or pecans, toasted
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

1.  Sort through wheat berries and discard any stones.  Rinse well under cool running water.  Place in a medium sauce pan.  Add water and salt.  Cover and bring to a boil. 

2. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Drain. 

3.  Combine orange juice and dried cranberries in a small bowl.  Let stand for 15 minutes.

4.  Combine wheat berries, apple and nuts in a large bowl; stir gently.  Drain the cranberries, reserving the juice.  And cranberries to wheat berry mixture.

5.  Whisk together the orange juice, vinegar and oil in a small bowl until combined.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour over salad and stir gently to coat.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sweet Potatoes for the Holidays

If your family is like mine, it is a must to have sweet potatoes on the holiday table.  I must also say that our sweet potato dish starts with a stick of butter and is topped off with a cup (minimum) of sugar.  Now you see why my family does not purchase bathroom scales.  We will still make candied yams this year.  If we didn't, we would be cast out of the family. 

While I am willing to provide the traditional family favorites, I am also going to add a few healthier options.  After all, those concerned with their caloric intake should also have options.  And if the others like, we'll share.

Sweet Potato Gratin

Serves 6 to 8.

3 pounds sweet potatoes
6 Tablespoons butter, divided
¼ cup, plus 2 Tablespoons packed light brown sugar, divided
2 eggs
cup orange juice
2 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
cup all purpose flour
¼ cup old fashioned or quick oats (not instant)
cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Pierce sweet potatoes in several place with a knife or fork.  Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until tender, about 1 hour.  Alternately, sweet potatoes can be cooked in a microwave.

2.  While sweet potatoes are still hot, remove the peel and place potatoes in a large bowl.  Beat in 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons brown sugar.  Add eggs, orange juice, 1½ teaspoons cinnamon, salt and nutmeg.  Beat until smooth.  Pour mixture into a 1½ quart baking dish.  Smooth the top.

3.  Topping.  Combine flour, oats, remaining ¼ cup sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl.  Cut in the remaining ¼ cup butter with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in pecans.  Sprinkle topping evenly over sweet potatoes.  At the point, the dish can be covered and refrigerated for up to one day.  Let stand at room temperature one hour before baking. 

4.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Bake the gratin for 25 to 30 minutes or until sweet potatoes are heated through.  For a crisper topping, broil 5 inches from heat source for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Healthy Holiday Sides - Brussels Sprouts

First of all, I'm not sure if anyone eats Brussels sprouts at Christmas and Thanksgiving.  However, food magazines seem to think that we all eat Brussels sprouts during the holidays.  I am actually quite fond of Brussels sprouts. But after testing a few Brussels sprouts recipes for this blog, I don't want them for the holidays.  If you haven't had your fill of Brussels sprouts yet, give them a try during the holidays. 

Brussels sprouts belong to the cruciferous family of vegetables.  Other members of the cruciferous family include collards, kale, turnip, broccoli, and kohlrabi.  These vegetables tend to be slightly bitter.  You may have to try a few preparation methods before you convince your children to try them. 

Recently, scientists have been touting the benefits of cruciferous vegetables.  These vegetables contain a compound called isothiocyanates which may help prevent certain forms of cancer.  And that is good news.  So this holiday season make sure there is at least one cruciferous vegetable on the table.

I found this recipe for Not Your Mama's Brussels Sprouts in the book, A New Turn in the South, by Hugh Acheson.  I really like the book.  For a Southern girl, turned sorta Midwesterner, that's a compliment.  The Brussels sprouts are parboiled for about 1 to 2 minutes and then dipped in cold water.  They are then briefly saut√©ed in butter and olive oil.  If you want a little extra zip, add red pepper flakes.

Not Your Mama's Brussels Sprouts

Serves 6.


1 pound Brussels sprouts
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
½ Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional


1.  Wash Brussels sprouts and slice off about ¼-inch on the stem end (It's dirty).  Slice Brussels sprouts in about ¼-inch slices.  Set aside.

2.  Bring 2 quarts of water to boil over high heat.  Add ¾ teaspoon salt.  Add Brussels sprouts and cook for about 2 minutes.  Remove and immediately dump into ice bath.  Drain water.

3.  In a 12-inch skillet heat the olive oil and butter until it is almost smoking.  Add Brussel sprouts and saut√© for about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and vinegar.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Healthy Holiday Sides

This is my second year of doing healthy holiday side dishes.  It's been fun doing these dishes to help you keep your holiday table a little healthier.  Most of these dishes are simple and easy to prepare.  After all, it's the holidays and something in your life should be simple. 

Since you don't have a lot of time, I'll get right to the recipe.

Braised Winter Squash

Serves 4 to 6.


2 pounds winter squash, peeled and cubed
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon rosemary or sage, optional
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups apple cider or apple juice
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1.  Melt butter in a large saucepan.  Add rosemary or sage and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.

2.  Add apple cider, salt and black pepper.  Bring to a simmer.

3.  Add squash.  Cover and cook until tender, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  At this point, the squash should have a glazed appearance.  If not, remove the lid and continue to cook for a few minutes.

This recipe will work with any type of winter squash or sweet potatoes.  Winter squash include butternut, acorn, sweet dumpling, and delicata.  Check with your supermarket or farmer's market for selections available in your area.