Art Grotto
(That’s my almost 94-year-old dad enjoying one of his favorite purple beverages in moderation!)
David Grotto, RDN

I know you may be thinking that “seeing “red” was your only color choice when it comes to making smarter dietary choices to support heart health. Not so fast!

Though red is a wonderful color, there are more colors in the rainbow when it comes to doing what’s best for your ticker. Many of the foods that I recommend and feature in The Best Things You Can Eat for heart health actually come in red, white, tan, orange, green and even purple! Turning purple is a lot more fun and easier than holding your breath. That’s why I’m thrilled to be working with the folks at Welch’s to share the grape news about heart health.

Polyphenols are a group of plant nutrients that, according to the Produce for Better Health Foundation, may play a role in heart health by supporting healthy blood vessels. You’ll find polyphenols especially in purple variety foods such as grapes (think wine and 100% grape juice), cabbage, potatoes, eggplant and even non purple foods such as tea, onions and even nuts. In fact, berries (including grapes!) are a delicious way to get your daily dose of purple, and they deliver polyphenols (specifically anthocyanins) not found in many other colors of fruit.

Purple potatoes. This variety hails from South America and is rich in potassium, vitamin C in addition to polyphenols. By the way, leave the skin on. Like grapes, you’ll find polyphenols in the skins! Roast in a pan with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Yum!

Eggplant. Hard to believe that there was a time that this lovely vegetable was once thought to cause insanity and leprosy! Amazing! But the good news is you’ll find potassium, folate magnesium fiber and many other additional healthy nutrients in eggplant.

Purple Cabbage. Cabbage belongs to the family of veggies called Brassicas. This stinky but yummy veggie contains a healthy amount of fiber, vitamin C and anthocyanins. Glucosinolates, another group of plant nutrients found in cabbage, may help support a healthy immune system, too!

Wine. I see the debate brewing already. “Come on Dave … wine is not a food, it’s a beverage.” Well, hold onto your grapes of wrath! Red, purple, blue and black varieties of grapes are all used to make red wine. What distinguishes red versus white wine is that red varieties are allowed to have the skin and the seeds come in contact with the grape juice as it ferments. The health benefit may be due to a group of plant nutrients called polyphenols, which are abundant in red wine varieties. As with all alcoholic beverages, wine is beneficial for your health only in moderation.

Concord Grapes. And for those who are not wine lovers or choose not to drink alcoholic beverages, dark purple Concord grapes and 100% grape juice possess many of the same polyphenols as those found in red wine. Thanks to the Concord grape, 100% grape juice helps support a healthy heart. An 8 ounce glass of Welch’s 100% Grape Juice made with Concord grapes supplies 250 mg of polyphenols, provides an excellent source of vitamin C and counts as two servings of fruit.

Here’s a twist on the traditional tuna fish salad sandwich to include some tasty polyphenols and other healthy ingredients. Enjoy!

Grapes of Wrap
Servings: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
¾ cup Purple grapes, quartered
2 cans Tuna or chicken, drained
½ cup Celery, chopped coarse
1/3 cup Purple/red Onion, chopped coarse
1 teaspoon Dill, chopped fine
¼ cup Canola oil mayonnaise
½ teaspoon Black pepper
2 teaspoons Honey
1 teaspoon Fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Welch’s 100% Grape Juice concentrate (defrosted)
¼ teaspoon Toasted sesame oil (optional)
½ teaspoon Dry mustard powder
6 Whole-wheat tortillas

Directions:
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Spread some of the salad on a whole-wheat tortilla. Garnish with lettuce and tomato, hold together with a toothpick and serve.

Nutrition Highlights
Calories: 195; Total Fat: 4.5g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 20mg; Sodium: 460mg; Total Carbs: 27g; Dietary Fiber: 3g; Sugars: 6g; Protein: 18g

Henrici’s Steak and Lobster Photo Courtesy of ConsumerGrouch.com

by David Grotto, RDN

When I was a young lad, about 16 years old, I had a rare opportunity to cook at the then famous Henrici’s Steak and Lobster restaurants, scattered throughout Chicago and vicinity. I basically did most of the prep work there but they did allow me behind the line to cook their wonderful beer batter-dipped onion rings, assemble huge shrimp cocktails and prepare their famous mushrooms, which usually were an accompaniment to the thick and juicy steaks they featured. The last ingredient added to the mushrooms, as they were sautéing, was a healthy splash of dry vermouth, which always flamed up for a nice show. That vermouth really added flavor and helped brown up the mushrooms, nicely.

I think you are really going to like the recipe but don’t worry about the effects of the vermouth – the alcohol burns off as you are cooking down the mushrooms so they shouldn’t be calling DCFS on you because you served them to your kids.

Lastly, the mushrooms in this recipe really have a meaty flavor which is great for my veggie-leaning daughters who love the taste of meat but would rather not eat so much of it. Besides, they are thrilled to know that mushrooms are low in calories. Mushrooms are also an excellent source of chromium, selenium and a good source of pantothenic acid, riboflavin (B-2) and niacin. They are the highest vegetarian source of vitamin D and contain good amounts substances called beta-glucans which possess immune-stimulating and cholesterol lowering benefits. Mushrooms may be a worthy opponent in the fight against dia-besity. Research has shown that swapping out high calorie dense foods for low-calorie yet filling foods like mushrooms can help aid in managing weight yet feeling satisfied after meals. Reducing weight can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Enough nutrition…

Feast your eyes on these mushrooms!
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Nice, eh?

Here’s the recipe! Very simple to make with only six ingredients.
Servings: 4

Prep and cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

24 ounces baby Portobello mushrooms, washed and sliced 1/4″thick (crimini, button, shiitake and oyster varieties work wonderfully, too)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
4 ounces of dry Vermouth

Directions:

In a large skillet, add olive oil and butter and warm over a medium heat until butter is melted and mixture starts to bubble. Add in sliced mushrooms. Stir and cover mushrooms well with oil and butter. Raise heat to high and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms become tender and fluid from mushrooms starts forming in the pan (about 10 minutes). Add seasoning salt and pepper. Stir mixture well. Cook for another few minutes until fluid in pan starts to reduce. Add vermouth and continue to stir and cook until mushrooms are browned and liquid is well reduced. Serve.

Hope you enjoy these mushrooms as much as we do. They are terrific over eggs, fish and of course, meat. But they also make a great side dish.

Image  —  Posted: February 14, 2014 in recipes, Uncategorized
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Hi all:

Hope you are enjoying all of the recipes that I have been posting lately. I realized I posted this delcious one to my Twitter and Facebook accounts but completely forgot to post it to my blog. Sorry! Anyhow, I developed the Strawberry Siracha Salmon recipe specifically for the California Strawberry folks so just click on the link here and you will be brought right to the recipe.

Important tip. Like it spicy? Leave the Siracha amount at 2 teaspoons. Want it favorable but not so spicy? Cut the Siracha down to 1 teaspoon. As always, let me know what you think in the comment section. Enjoy!

Dave

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By David Grotto, RDN

I wish I could eat my blog. I’m not sure if creating the recipes, taste testing them, taking the photos or writing about the ingredients and their health benefits is more enjoyable than the other. Yeah, right. Eating is the most enjoyable – who are we trying to kid here?

So Sharon (the wife) brought home some fingerlings to accompany some of her wonderful homemade chicken soup. I decided to pick out all of the purple ones and create a side dish that was rich in heart-healthy polyphenols. In fact, anthocyanins, the group of polyphenol plant chemicals that give these featured peruvian purple taters their color, are also responsible for giving red fruit, such as strawberries and cherries, their rich red color, too.

Research has shown that anthocyanins possess a wide range of biological functions including anti-inflammatory, germ fighting and even anti-cancer activity. Besides, they also help protect blood vessels and regulate blood components that lead to plaque formation and increase the risk of heart disease. But enough already with the healthy reason of why you should eat these taters – more importantly, they taste GREAT! So let’s get cooking!

If you can’t find the purple Peruvian variety, regular fingerlings will do. Both are pictured above. Let the fun begin!

Servings: 4

Prep and cooking time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

1 pound fingerling potatoes, washed, sliced width-wise, 1/4 inch-thick
1/4 cup Marsala wine
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
3 tablespoons Bleu cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9×12 casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, place olive oil, pepper, salt, garlic, marsala wine and potatoes together and mix well. Remove and line the casserole dish with the potato slices. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top of the slices. Place in the oven. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, until slightly browned. Remove from oven and flip over potato slices. Sprinkle bleu cheese crumbles evenly over the slices and return to the over until well-browned and the cheese has melted – about 10-15 more minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Hit me up in the comment section and let me know what you think!

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By David Grotto, RDN

Looks yummy, eh?
Well I must tell you. My wife Sharon and I absolutely LOVE Brussels sprouts – not only for their wonderful taste but also because they are an outstanding member of the crucifers – a group of stinky veggies that contain cancer-fighting and immune-boosting plant chemicals called glucosinolates. But unfortunately, they’ve been a bit of a hard sell to the Grotto girls. Alas! We may be on to something because when we served them to the kids last evening, they ate every last one of them and said, “I’d eat this version of Brussels sprouts, any day!” So without further ado, here’s the recipe that won the kids over.

Servings: 4

Cooking and prep time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

1 Pound Brussels Sprouts (pick smaller varieties – they tend to be sweeter and less bitter)
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 tsp McCormick Smokehouse Maple (optional. leave out if you don’t want a smokey flavor)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tbsp real maple syrup

Directions:

Preheat oven to 420 degrees. Wash Brussels sprouts, remove any damaged leaves and slice each sprout in half. Pat dry. Add sprouts to a medium mixing bowl with all of the other ingredients and mix well. Spray a 9×12 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Pour sprout mixture into the baking dish and spread out over the entire bottom. Place in oven for about 20-25 minutes, stirring 2-3 times during the baking period. Brussels sprouts should be well-browned and starting to char when done. Serve.

Let me know what you think and if you have any of your own tricks to get kids to eat these cute little cabbage-like veggies!

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by David Grotto, RDN

What do you do when a polar vortex blows through Chicago on Super Bowl Sunday? Make pancakes!

I really don’t need a lame weather excuse to make pancakes for my family – it’s one of our fave breakfast meals. But today I wanted to jazz them up a bit with the latest in the line from Hooray Puree – Sweet Potato! Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A and are so good for you.

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This product is 100% organic sweet potato and nothing else added. Each box contains 2 packets and each packet is equivalent to two vegetable servings. I love the “no-brainer” approach that Hooray Puree offers to increase vegetables by simply tossing it in to your favorite dishes. Pancake mix turns out to work quite well with this product.

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I love Kodiak brand pancake mix. Actually, I screwed up and bought the buttermilk pancake mix version instead of the whole grain mix. Regardless, this turned out AWESOME. But I will try it using the whole grain mix the next time we make it. It was really simple to put together and my family loved it. Then I topped off the pancakes with a delicious berry mix – it doesn’t really need maple syrup but we like adding real maple syrup to just about anything – just like Buddy the elf! Ha!

Without further ado, here is the recipe. Let me know what you think.

Servings: 2 ( A serving = 2 large pancakes)

Ingredients:

Pancakes:
1 cup water
1 packet Hooray Puree Sweet Potato
1 cup Kodiak pancake mix
1/2 tsp. Pumpkin Spice mix
2 tsp. Nielsen-Massey vanilla sugar (can substitute regular sugar and add 1/4 tsp vanilla extract)
1 smashed, ripe banana, medium

Tuscan Triple Berry
1/2 cup Blackberries
1/2 cup Raspberries
1/2 cup POM Pomegranate Arils
2 tbsp Red wine
2 tsp Nielsen-Massey vanilla sugar (can substitute regular sugar and add 1/4 tsp vanilla extract)

Directions

Pancakes: Spray non-stick cooking spray onto a large skillet or griddle. Preheat over medium high heat. Whisk all ingredients together until smooth in a medium bowl. When griddle is hot, pour 1/4th on the mixture in. Cook until bubbles appear at the top. Lift pancake slightly to see if well-browned. Flip pancake over and cook until done. Add butter or Benecol light margarine, if desired

Tuscan Triple Berry: Rinse blackberries and raspberries then add to medium mixing bowl. Add POM arils to other berries. Add wine and sugar to berry mixture and fold until berries are well coated. Top pancakes with 1/2 of the mixture.

Enjoy!!

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By David Grotto, RDN, LDN

After 20 long years, the FDA is now proposing revisions to the Nutrition Facts label, commonly found on the pack of food and beverage containers.

Why? Many experts agree that the information contained within the label is outdated or not clearly understood by the consumer. This may explain why less than half of adults currently read the nutrition label, with any regularity. Though encouraging news from a recent USDA study, which found that label reading has increased by 34% over the past two years, improvements are still needed to get the rest of us on board.

What information from the nutrition fact panel isn’t resonating with consumers?
Calories. Experts and consumers agree. This info is probably the most important thing on the label and should be easily seen. Bolded and larger font size for “calories” is being proposed.
Calories from fat. Science supports that total calorie intake is far more important than where calories come from. Though it is important to know if a product contains healthy fats or bad trans fats, we no longer have to be “total fat-phobic”. News Flash! Olive oil derives 100% of its calories from fat. See how “Calories from fat” doesn’t help much?
Grams. As much as our elementary teachers have tried, we (as Americans) have not warmed to the metric system. Most consumers have no idea what 30 grams of something looks like. Instead, use teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, handfuls or a shot glass (okay – I understand how much that is – maybe the kids won’t).
Sugars. Is it total sugars in a product or added sugars that is a real or perceived concern? Many are pushing for either including a line that says “added sugars” or replace sugars with the term “added sugars”. Again, maybe an icon that shows teaspoons of sugar versus grams might be more useful?
Grams of whole grains. Again with the grams thingy! Us old-school RDs have always taught our patients to look to the first ingredient in determining what is most in a product. We also said to look for statements like 100% whole grain on the label. People understand percent’s.
Be Up Front. In this day of transparency, the consumer assumes that someone is trying to pull the wool over their eyes (aka “hiding something”) when nutrition information is relegated to the back of the package. I agree. Expect to be seeing more “Nutrition Keys”, which are highlights of the nutrition facts panel, appearing on the front of the label.
Serving size. Time to get real here too, people. Expect to see not only more realistic serving sizes but perhaps visuals/language that does a better job explaining what a serving size is. “A serving is a Fred Flintstone-sized bowl of cereal” (cue Fred). Well – maybe that’s my serving size – but you get the idea, right?
More importantly, what do you think needs to change? What say you? Take the short survey below!

Thank you to my intern Liana Akkawi for her assistance with this post!