Olive oil

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup

Need a quick weeknight dinner idea?

NutriFocusRD has got your answer!

This creamy, nutritious soup hits the spot!  It is a guaranteed family favorite!!

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Creamy Tomato & Tortellini Soup:

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • ½ lb. Italian Sausage
  • 1 Diced White Onion
  • 24oz Organic Marinara Sauce
  • 8oz Reduced Fat Cream Cheese
  • 32oz Reduced Sodium Chicken or Vegetable Broth
  • 8oz Diced Bella Mushrooms
  • 4-5 cups Fresh Organic Baby Spinach
  • 16-20oz Frozen or Refrigerated Whole Wheat Cheese Tortellini
  • ½ cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • French Bread or Rosemary Olive Oil Bread (Costco)

Directions:

  1. In a stockpot, add EVOO, diced onion, and Italian sausage. Cook until sausage is brown.
  2. Add marinara sauce into the meat mixture and stir well.
  3. Using a whisk, stir in cream cheese until blended well. Once blended, add chicken broth and bring to a boil for 10 minutes.
  4. Add mushrooms, baby spinach, and cheese tortellini to broth and combine well. Allow to simmer for 7-9 minutes.
  5. Serve soup warm, topped with 1-2 Tbsp shredded parmesan cheese, and with a warm, crusty French bread for dipping! Enjoy!!!
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Greek-Style Green Beans

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Need a quick and simple side dish, but do not want to compromise your nutrient intake? 

Looking for a side dish that provides a nutrient-dense punch with delicious flavor?

Do you have 5-minutes?

If you answered yes, then Greek-Style Green Beans are the perfect side dish for you!!!

Greek-Style Green Beans are extremely versatile. They pair nicely with sandwiches, grilled wraps, or alongside chicken, tuna, or salmon salad. (Pictured below is Greek-Style Green Beans Mediterranean Chicken Salad from Whole Foods on a Bed of Greek-Style Green Beans -- Flavorful Lunch Idea That is Quick on Time and High in Nutrients!!)

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These flavorful beans also provide the crunch that most individuals enjoy about potato chips.

Consider this dish for your next tailgating party. It can be served hot or cold and compliments all grilled meats, burgers, and sliders!

Greek-Style Green Beans:

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Ingredients:

  • 1 package Green Beans in a Steamable Bag
  • 2-3 Handfuls Organic Baby Spinach Leaves
  • ½ Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) or Coconut Oil
  • ½ Red Onion, Diced
  • ¼ cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
  • ½ cup Kalamata Olives (pitted)
  • Garlic Salt to Taste
  • Ground Black Pepper to Taste

Directions:

Microwave green beans according to package directions. Meanwhile, sauté baby spinach and diced red onion in a skillet over medium heat. Once green beans are cooked, add the beans to the spinach and onion mixture. Gentle toss in crumbled feta, garlic salt, pepper and olives. Serve hot or cold.

TALKING TRUTH ABOUT TRANS-FATS!

What are trans fats?! This is a question I hear quite frequently from clients, family members, and friends so I thought writing a blog about it would be a great way to make us all smart food consumers that will ultimately benefit our health! Trans-fats were invented in the 1950’s by grocery manufacturers.  Since trans-fats are more solid than oil, it allows food to stay fresh longer, have a longer shelve life because they are less likely to spoil, and have a less greasy feel.

Trans-fats are created by a process known as hydrogenation.  Hydrogenation is the process of infusing oil’s fat molecule with hydrogen atoms, which creates a denser molecule and raises its melting point, so that the oil becomes solid at room temperature.   Typically, they appear on food labels as “partially hydrogenated oil” usually with vegetable or palm oil.  Partially hydrogenated oil means that the hydrogenation process was stopped short of a full solid, creating a creamier, semi-soft consistency, much like margarine.

How do you know whether food contains trans-fat? Read the ingredient list located on the back of all food products!  Fortunately, in 2003, the Food and Drug Administration adopted regulations requiring all manufacturers to include trans-fat content on their packaging. This regulation has been mandatory for all food manufacturers since 2006. Look for the words "partially hydrogenated" vegetable oil, which is another term for trans-fat, or shortening. Although the content of trans-fats are listed on the nutrition label, it is important you read the ingredient list due to a loophole most food manufacturers revert to so they can label their foods with 0g of trans-fats.  If a serving of food has less than 0.5g of trans-fats, the label may state zero!  If you read a food label and you notice the terms "fully" or "completely" hydrogenated oil, then the product does not contain trans-fats because the process used to make fully or completely hydrogenated oil does not result in the same trans-fatty acids. Small amounts of trans-fat do occur naturally in some meat and dairy products, but it's the processed trans-fats that are linked to increased health risks.

Recently, trans-fats have stolen the spotlight and people want to know why! The negative health implications that are related to trans-fats are so staggering that it is imperative that all Americans know what is in their food.  Trans-fats have been found to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol. If your LDL level is high over time, it can cause an accumulation of fatty deposits on your artery walls which is known as atherosclerosis.  The deposits are referred to as plaque and can reduce the blood flow through your arteries.  A blood clot may form if the plaque tears away from the artery which can block blood flow to the heart or brain.  If blow flow to the heart is stopped, a heart attack occurs and if blood flow to part of the brain occurs, a stroke occurs.

Other health implications related to high trans-fat intake includes, a weakened heart, increased risk for diabetes, an increased triglyceride level, an increase in Lp(a) lipoprotein, and an increase in inflammation, which plays a major role in the formation of fatty blockages in heart blood vessels.

What should consumers do?! There is good news! Trans-fats are appearing less on grocery store shelves and some restaurants are working hard to reduce/ban the use of trans-fats in their establishments. Although most restaurants are not required to list trans-fat content, there are some establishments taking the initiative to make their food healthier for their customers.  In October of 2008, Chick-Fil-A announced they were eliminating trans-fats from every menu item. Other chains, such as McDonald's and KFC, have dropped trans-fats from cooking oil and many other products.  Some cities, such as New York City, have banned restaurants from using trans-fat and California became the first state to ban restaurant chains from using trans-fats for cooking or frying in 2008.  According the Food and Drug Administration and American Heart Association, there is no question that all individuals should limit trans-fat intake.

In summary, BE A SMART SHOPPER! Read labels and buy products with the smallest amount of trans-fat. Begin shopping for healthy fat sources that contain monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fast (omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids).  A healthy diet contains 25%-35% of your total daily calories from fat. Monounsaturated fats can be found in olive, peanut and canola oils, fish, flaxseed and flaxseed oils and is considered a healthier option than saturated fat. Nuts, fish and other foods containing unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to protect the heart from cardiovascular disease.  Omega-6 fatty acids can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol and can be found in vegetable oils, meat, eggs, and dairy products.

RECIPE RAVE!

I made this recipe on Thursday night for my husband and myself with a little hesitancy, but  I was pleasantly surprised!!  If you need a quick weeknight meal this recipe is for you! This pasta dish contained a lot of flavors and made enough for a large group or lunch leftovers! Mike and I both ate the leftovers for lunch on Friday cold,  and the dish cold was just as good as the original dish right off the stove! The star ingredients contain vitamins and minerals that have a major impact on our health as indicated below:

  • Spinach in this dish makes it a great source of  potassium, iron, and folate
  • Olives make it a great source of Vitamin E which has anti-inflammatory actions, helps reduce the severity of conditions caused by high levels of free radicals (asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer), and may help reduce the frequency and/or intensity of hot flashes in women going through menopause.
  • Whole Wheat Pasta makes this recipe a great source of dietary fiber and provides other health benefits such as lowering risk of metabolic syndrome, lessens chronic inflammation, and promotes gastrointestinal health!
  • Olive Oil is rich in monounsaturated fats which lowers rates of heart disease, diabetes,  and asthma. By reducing inflammation and free radical damage , dietary olive oil protects the lining of our blood vessels, helping to maintain its ability to relax and dilate which prevents high blood pressure.
  • Feta Cheese is rich in calcium, riboflavin, phosphorus, and vitamin B12.  Calcium is required for the development of bones. Riboflavin is required by the body as it aides in metabolism of macronutrients (carbs, pro, and fat). Phosphorus plays a major role in the formation of bones and teeth and Vitamin B12 is required by the human body to keep red blood cells healthy, supports function of the immune system, and prevents heart disease.

It reminded me of a dish that would be served at Taziki's, maybe similar to the oh so famous Friday's Special!! I highly recommend this recipe to my NutriFocus family!! If you try this dish, please share your comments!! Bon Appetit!!

Penne with Spinach, Feta, and Olives Yield:  4 servings (serving size: 2 cups) 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 3 garlic cloves, crushed 6 cups hot cooked whole wheat penne (about 12 ounces uncooked tube-shaped pasta) 2 cups chopped spinach 1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives 2 tablespoons capers 3/4 cup (3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Add pasta, spinach, olives, capers, and cheese; toss well.

Cooking Light, May 1998