UPDATED – Baked Alaska – An elegant dessert for a celebration

New Year’s eve is coming soon and to celebrate the day, I thought it would be fun to make something special like Baked Alaska. This is a family favorite that I have been eating since childhood and making for almost 30 years.

Who invented Baked Alaska?

Alaska was purchased in 1867 from Russia for $7.2 million (a little over $100 million in 2016 dollars).  To celebrate the acquisition of the new territory, Chef Charles Ranhofer at Delmonico’s steakhouse in New York City created this dessert.  (March 30 1867)

When did I first eat this amazing dessert?

One of my first memories of eating Baked Alaska was at summer camp when I must have been about 10 years old.   I still vividly remember the waitresses (counselors) parading through the mess hall with Baked Alaska for all of us to celebrate some special occasion I can no longer recall. What an introduction to this wonderful dessert!

My mother started a new tradition of making Baked Alaska at home as a special birthday treat soon after I regaled her with tales of what had happened at camp.   This was certainly a tradition I endorsed.  Back then she made it with regular meringue with unpasteurized eggs, not the Italian meringue I now use in my recipe.  We didn’t worry as much about food safety in those days.   I guess we didn’t know as much about the potential perils of eating raw unpasteurized eggs as we do today.

Start a day or two in advance so the cake and ice cream are fully frozen

To make this dish you need to start a day in advance (or more), and before you start make sure you have adequate space in your freezer for the individual desserts.  Be forewarned, once you make this one time for your friends or family, they’ll never let you off the hook again.  In fact, you’ll probably find yourself making it over and over again for birthdays, holidays and the occasional family treat.

Do I personally eat Baked Alaska?

In case you are wondering, yes, I eat Baked Alaska on special occasions, despite being a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN).   Some things in life are just too good to miss…savor every moment and I hope you always enjoy good food, good health, and good friends.

 

Happy New Year!!

Have a wonderful 2020!!

 

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Baked Alaska - An elegant dessert for a celebration
A festive dessert for nearly any celebration. To cut down on the preparation time, use slices from a commercially prepared pound cake.
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Course Dessert, Holidays
Cuisine American
Prep Time 55 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 15 hours
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servings
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Cake Bases
Italian Meringue
Course Dessert, Holidays
Cuisine American
Prep Time 55 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 15 hours
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Cake Bases
Italian Meringue
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Instructions
prepare cake bases
  1. check your freezer to make sure you have enough space for three trays (4 to a tray) desserts.
  2. cut 6 parchment paper squares approximately 6" x 6"
  3. In the meantime, sift the cake flour and set it aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. When soft peaks begin to form, slowly add 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
  5. Add 1/4 of the beaten egg whites to the yolk and stir gently. Carefully fold the remaining egg whites, flour and salt into the yolks. Do not over mix.
  6. Place batter in parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes until done.
  7. Set cake aside to cool. While the cake is cooling, cut a new parchment sheet into twelve 4″ squares.
  8. When the cake is completely cool, cut into 2 3/4″ rounds. Place one cake round on each parchment square.
  9. Working quickly, place one scoop of ice cream (approximately 1.5 oz. size scoop) in the center of each cake round. I often use coffee flavor, but you can use any flavor you prefer.
  10. Place tray of cake bases with ice cream in freezer for several hours to re-freeze the ice cream.
Italian Meringue
  1. Place sugar, corn syrup and water in a small pot on the stove and heat until boiling.
  2. Continue to heat. When temperature of the sugar syrup gets close to 220 degrees F (use the candy thermometer) begin beating egg whites in mixer until soft peaks are formed.
  3. Slowly add 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar and continue to beat for 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
  4. When temperature of sugar syrup reaches approximately 240 degrees F, pour the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the egg whites while the mixer is on high.
Recipe Notes

Nutrition Information (per serving): 189 calories; 17 grams fat; 9 grams saturated fat; 107 mg cholesterol; 173 mg sodium; 67 grams carbohydrates; 0 grams dietary fiber; 10 grams protein (values are approximate).

Hoppin’ John — A Southern Tradition for a Happy New Year!

 

Wishing you a happy, healthy 2019!

To start the year off right, this guest post comes to us from Sonja Stetzler, MA, RDN, CPC, a registered dietitian who works as a health and communications coach. Born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, Sonja loves sharing southern food traditions.

Sonja originally shared this recipe with me several years ago, and it was a popular post. So here it is again — it is a delicious dish and is believed to bring good luck for the New Year.

 

Cooking for Some Luck in the New Year!

By Sonja Stetzler, MA, RDN, CPC

As food traditions go, my southern family is much like the rest of America. We had corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day, hamburgers and hotdogs on Fourth of July, and turkey on Thanksgiving. However, our New Year’s Day meal would not be complete unless we had Hoppin’ John – a dish containing black-eye peas, chopped onions, rice and bacon.

Eating Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day is a southern tradition

Eating it on New Year’s Day is thought to bring a year filled with good luck. The peas are symbolic of pennies or coins. Greens such as collards, mustard greens, chard, kale, or cabbage are prepared to go with Hoppin’ John, as the greens represent currency and are supposed to add to one’s wealth. Cornbread is also served as its golden color symbolizes gold.

Over the years, chefs have created many variations of the traditional Hoppin’ John dish.  Despite the many variations in preparing this southern tradition, I wouldn’t dream of starting my New Year without black-eyed peas and greens – for fear I would have a little less jingle in my pocket and a little less green in my wallet in the upcoming year.

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Hoppin' John and Black Eye Peas -- Happy New Year!
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
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Recipe Notes

Nutrition information per serving:  420 calories;  9 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 0 grams transfat;  15 mg cholesterol;  750 mg sodium;  69 grams carbohydrate;   8 grams dietary fiber;  17 grams protein (values are approximate).

If you are looking for a lower calorie option to help bring some good luck in the New Year, try making Black-eye Pea Salad as an alternative to Hoppin' John...

 

Sonja Stetzler, MA, RDN, CPC is a registered dietitian who works as a health and communications coach. Born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, she loves sharing southern food traditions.  In her practice, Sonja coaches her clients to make small steps to reach goals, believing that consistent small steps over time will result in sustainable, positive outcomes.  Find Sonja at www.effectiveconnecting.com.

 

Mint Mojito Mocktail

mint mojito mocktail

Moving into summer, sometimes it is nice to enjoy a refreshing beverage with all the sophistication and complex flavors of a cocktail but without the alcohol. This Mint Mojito Mocktail is a sweet choice for pre-dinner cocktails or as an after dinner drink.

Mojito cocktails around the world

Originally from Cuba, you can now find mojitos being served in many different spots around the world. For example I’ve been served mint mojitos for Cinco de Mayo.  It is a recognition of the Mexican army’s victory over France in the 1862, Battle of Puebla. In Mexico, it is a somewhat minor holiday.

In the US, always looking for a reason to celebrate, Cinco de Mayo parties pop up in many places. Mojitos are also popular to serve at summer gatherings such as the 4th of July, Labor Day or other festive days.  If you have guests who don’t drink alcohol this mint mojito mocktail is a nice alternative to canned soft drinks or bottled water.

 

An Easy and Refreshing Mocktail

If you are hosting a brunch, lunch or dinner party with guests who prefer to not not drink alcohol, or if you are simply looking for an easy non-alcoholic beverage for yourself, this recipe is a great option.  Coming in at just 50 calories per serving, the fresh mint in this mocktail is refreshing after a busy day. It only takes about 10 minutes to make.  Serve over ice alongside Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce or Yellow Beet and Tomato Bruschetta and you are ready for a sweet celebration!

 

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Mint Mojito Mocktail
Mint Mojito Mocktail
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Course Beverages
Cuisine American, Cuban
Prep Time 10 minutes
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Course Beverages
Cuisine American, Cuban
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
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Mint Mojito Mocktail
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Recipe Notes

Nutrition information per serving: 50 calories; 0 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 0 grams transfat; 0 mg cholesterol; 20 mg sodium;  13 grams carbohydrate;  0 grams dietary fiber;  0 grams protein (values are approximate)

Do you eat artichokes?

artichokes and cherries at aix market
Farmer’s market in Aix-en-Provence

Artichokes are everywhere in the grocery store this time of year and they make a delicious treat for dinner.  I  grew up eating artichokes every once in a while. Back then we ate them with a side of butter sauce and a little extra salt.  I learned from a young age how to navigate my way around the “choke” which hides in the middle of the vegetable, lying in wait for an unsuspecting diner.

Artichokes in Paris

When I was a little older, I was once served an artichoke in Paris. I was there for a study abroad semester during my university days.  I’ll never forget how surprised my French host family was  when they saw that I knew how to eat an artichoke. They had apparently never met an American who had been raised in the ways of this wily vegetable.

Artie the Artichoke

Fighting artichoke
Artie the Fighting Artichoke.

I am also a fan of the Fighting Artichokes who hail from the Scottsdale Arizona Community College athletic department.  Despite having  no direct tie to that college, I love their mascot, Artie the Artichoke. I first learned about Artie  on a trip to Arizona a few years back.  According to several news blogs, Artie was selected by the students as the school’s mascot back in the 1970s.

Cooking and Eating Artichokes

Moving on to food and nutrition – here’s a bit about cooking and eating artichokes.  Artichokes are low in calories (about 90 calories for an entire large artichoke) and contain potassium and vitamin C along with a good amount of dietary fiber (over 8 g in a large artichoke).  Where the extra calories can sneak in, is in the sauce that is typically served alongside the artichoke for dipping.  I serve a simple balsamic vinaigrette as the dipping sauce; if you serve melted butter, hollandaise or mayonnaise instead, you will significantly add to the calories you gain from this dish.

Be sure to stop by the shop to stock up on supplies.

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Do you eat artichokes?
Do you eat artichokes
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Course Appetizers, Snacks
Cuisine French
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
Course Appetizers, Snacks
Cuisine French
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
Do you eat artichokes
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Recipe Notes

*If you are planning a more formal presentation of the artichokes, for example if you are serving them to guests, pull off the first layer of the tough outer leaves and/or cut the thorny tips off the leaves before cooking and brush with a little lemon juice to prevent discoloration. When I am serving artichokes at home, I usually don’t bother with this step.

Nutrition information per artichoke:  90 calories; 5 grams fat; 1 grams saturated fat; 0 grams transfat; 0 mg cholesterol;  102 mg sodium;  20 grams carbohydrate;  10 grams dietary fiber;  5 grams protein (values are approximate).

 

Ratatouille to celebrate Bastille Day

Storming of the Bastille
The Storming of the Bastille. Artist: Charles Thevenin. ca.1793. etching. Source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/384288

ratatouille ingredientsSaturday, July 14 is Bastille Day, the French national holiday that commemorates the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. This date marked  the start of the French Revolution. Some of the factors which fueled the revolution, were “discontent with the monarchy and the poor economic policies of King Louis XVI” (The French Revolution).  The extravagant lifestyle of the king and queen (Marie Antoinette) no doubt also played a role in inciting the the population.

My First Bastille Day in Paris

One of my happy memories is when I was a student in Paris. This was back in my early 20s and I had occasion to be there for the Bastille Day celebration.  It was a wonderful day and night of festivities, with many revelers filling the streets with joyful celebration.  I’ll never forget how glorious the Champs Elysses looked all lit up on that special night. Was it the magic of Paris? Or the magic of being 20-something celebrating my own independence with friends in the city of lights?

Bring Paris to You by making a classic French Ratatouille

Many of us can’t get to Paris by Bastille day. Instead, we can bring a little Paris into our homes and make French cuisine to celebrate.  Ratatouille is a wonderfully easy summer dish.  If you are trying to lose some weight, at 40 calories per 1/2 cup serving, Ratatouille can be included as part of a healthy eating plan to help you reach your weight loss goals.

The Many Variations of Ratatouille

Ratatouille goes well with grilled fish, chicken, or beef. It can also be served as an hors d’oeuvre. Just add it to a toasted slice of crusty baguette or toasted whole grain pita. There are many variations of this classic dish, for example, many recipes add red or green bell peppers into the mix.  You can also make it more savory or less by adding more garlic and other herbs — what’s your favorite variation?

If you don’t have the olive oil or spices on hand you can purchase them in the shop.

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Celebrate Bastille Day with Ratatouille
Ratatouille to celebrate Bastille Day
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Course Vegetarian
Cuisine French
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
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Course Vegetarian
Cuisine French
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
cups
Ingredients
Ratatouille to celebrate Bastille Day
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Recipe Notes

Approximate Nutrition Information per 1/2 cup serving: 40 calories; 2 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 0 grams transfat; 0 mg cholesterol;  80 mg sodium;  6 grams carbohydrate;  2 grams dietary fiber;  1 gram protein.

Corn and Potato Chowder

I don’t know about you, but when a rainy day comes along and I sit down corn chowder to a meal, I often just want to have a nice hot bowl of soup. What better way to drive away the gloomy damp of the outside than to warm up on the inside? This corn and potato chowder recipe is a perfect way to brighten up a rainy day and it makes a great dish to cook for an easy supper or weekend lunch.

All About Chowder

Chowders are generally milk or cream based soups. They tend to be thick and filled with chunky vegetables making them hearty and filling. Chowders are versatile and can be made with a variety of meats or vegetables. They often contain seafood, such as the famous New England Clam Chowder. Chowder made using corn and potatoes is also a popular variation.  The great thing about a chowder, like many soups, is that you can adapt it by adding your favorite ingredients, vegetables, fish or chicken to make it your own.

A Healthier Variation

This recipe was adapted from a recipe for corn chowder from my well-loved, and cover-worn, Fannie Farmer Cookbook.  The Fannie Farmer version uses salt pork and butter.  In my version, I use a few slices of bacon instead of salt pork, skip the butter, and add some seasonings including a clove of fresh garlic. If you want to go even further towards reducing the calories and fat, you can substitute nonfat or 1 % milk and add a little potato starch as a thickener to improve the texture.  The end result is a little lower in calories and fat than then original version. These changes make it a little healthier, and it still tastes delicious.

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Corn and Potato Chowder
Corn and Potato Chowder
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Course Soups
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
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Course Soups
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
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Ingredients
Corn and Potato Chowder
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Recipe Notes

Approximate nutrition information per serving: 130 calories; 4.5 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 0 grams transfat; 10 mg cholesterol;  190 mg sodium;  19 grams carbohydrate;  2 grams dietary fiber;  6 grams protein.

Thai Turkey Lettuce Wraps: Cook once, serve twice

img_6503-700sq-thai-lettuce-wraps

Thai lettuce wraps are an all-around favorite in our household and I end up making them every 4-6 weeks most of the year.  They are savory and filling, and work well for nights when different members of the family need to eat dinner at different times due to work, recreation or school activities.  Does this ever happen in your house?

Preparation at home is an opportunity to choose ingredients

You could go for the take-out option and purchase Thai lettuce wraps at most Thai restaurants…but they are very easy to make. Another benefit of making them at home, is that you control the ingredients. This means  you can tailor the dish to your tastes or dietary needs. When you cook at home, it can be a great advantage to your health. By the way, these are a little high in salt, in case you were wondering.  If you follow a lower salt diet, omit the extra salt from the recipe and make these a “once in a while” dinner, instead of a regular part of your monthly recipe lineup.

Cook once and serve twice

These particular lettuce wraps are made with 99% fat free ground turkey. In most restaurants they will be made with ground chicken (which you could also use when you make them at home).  By making extra filling and sauce, you are able to cook once, but serve them twice.

Use Fish Sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or Ponzu

One note on fish sauce.  This is a very pungent strong-flavored sauce made from fermented fish and is commonly used in Thai cooking. If you can’t find fish sauce, or don’t like the flavor, you can omit it or try substituting a little Worcestershire sauce, or a little ponzu sauce (a citrus flavored soy sauce with a little fish flavoring).  The flavor won’t be quite the same, but it will still be delicious.

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Thai Turkey Lettuce Wraps: Weeknight Quick and Easy
These are a weeknight quick and easy dinner and only 170 calories per wrap. They are a little high in sodium, so if you are watching your salt intake, omit the salt and make sure you use low-sodium soy sauce.
Thai Turkey Lettuce Wraps
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine Thai
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
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wraps
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Filling
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine Thai
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
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wraps
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Filling
Sauce
Thai Turkey Lettuce Wraps
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Recipe Notes

Nutrition information per wrap:  170 calories;  9.5 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 0 grams transfat;  30 mg cholesterol;  490 mg sodium; 8 grams carbohydrate; 1 gram dietary fiber; 12 grams protein (values are approximate).

Carrot Ginger Soup — Good Source of Vitamin A

 

carrot ginger soupCarrots are a good source of beta-carotene which your body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A is one of the fat soluble vitamins (along with D, E and K) which means that you need a certain amount of fat in your meal at the time you eat it, in order for the body to be able to absorb and use it.  This is why I often suggest adding a little salad dressing to your carrots when you snack. Too much vitamin A can be harmful, however, so supplements are generally not recommended  — stick to eating lots of colorful fruits and vegetables instead.

Eat the Rainbow

You may have heard the phrase “eat the rainbow” which means a healthy diet includes a broad variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. The colors are related to different nutrients and phytochemicals found in your produce.  So by eating a broad variety, you will get a wide variety of different nutrients in your diet.

How does it affect our health?

Vitamin A is important for good vision and can have a positive effect on our skin.  It also helps with our immune system.  Too much can lead to liver damage, nerve damage and birth defects.  The carotenoids found in many fruits and vegetables which turn into vitamin A, may also act as antioxidants which may provide additional health benefits.

This soup is easy to make and freezes well.

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Carrot Ginger Soup -- Good Source of Vitamin A
Carrot Ginger Soup
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Course Appetizers, Soups
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45-50 minutes
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Course Appetizers, Soups
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45-50 minutes
Servings
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Carrot Ginger Soup
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Recipe Notes

Nutrition information per serving: 100 calories; 0 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 0 grams transfat; 0 mg cholesterol;  230 mg sodium;  22 grams carbohydrate;  4 grams dietary fiber;  2 grams protein (values are approximate).

A cup of ginger tea

A cup of ginger teaBusy day? Sometimes it helps to pause and have a cup of tea.  Feeling under the weather due to the flu or other illness? Ginger tea is a soothing “comfort” drink that goes down easily and can make you feel better.

This post is dedicated to Indian style ginger tea.  My friend Pam tells me that when you make a social call in India, tea is always offered to welcome you as a guest.  It is also a nice way to reset your afternoon when you need a break and don’t want to add a lot of extra calories or sugar from a commercially prepared hot beverage and is usually served with a small snack. If you want something sweet with your tea, try my Cinnamon Almond Biscotti.  If you are avoiding caffeine, you can substitute decaffeinated black tea in the recipe.

 

What’s the difference between green, black and white teas?

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to visit one of the world’s largest tea plantations near Munnar, India and learned a lot about the cultivation of this essential plant.   I found out that green tea, black tea and white tea all come from the same bush – Camellia Sinensis – but have different levels of processing which gives the teas their distinct characteristics.  Green tea is lightly steamed, but not oxidized.  Black tea is oxidized using heat and moisture to develop the leaves.  White tea is minimally processed.

The amount of caffeine varies among the different varieties but is generally similar, regardless of whether it is black, green or white tea. Both black and green tea have been studied for their potential impact on mental alertness, heart disease, and certain types of cancers.  Research is ongoing, and like much nutrition research is still in need of clarification.

About the ginger

Some research has shown that ginger can be potentially helpful with symptoms of nausea and vomiting from various causes.  Be cautious with using ginger if you take any blood clotting medications such as warfarin (Coumadin). If you are on any medications, be sure to ask your doctor for advice before starting to drink a lot of ginger tea.

We made our ginger tea with milk but no sugar.  If you want to add some sugar, that is up to you. However, in the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015 -2020 which were recently released by the USDA, the recommendation is that less than 10% of your calories per day come from added sugars.

This recipe is part of my comfort food series.

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A cup of ginger tea
A cup of ginger tea
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Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
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Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
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A cup of ginger tea
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Recipe Notes

Nutrition information per cup (without sugar):  15 calories;  0.5 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol;  20 mg sodium; 2 grams carbohydrate; 0 grams dietary fiber;  1 gram protein (values are approximate).

Resources

For information regarding tea and cancer prevention, click here for a fact sheet prepared by the National Cancer Institute.

If you'd like to purchase Tetley Original tea, click here.

 

Pam Mehta and Barbara Spalding, MA, MS, RDN
Pam Mehta & Barbara Spalding, MA, MS, RDN

Simple Chicken Curry — Make extra to “cook once and eat twice”

Simple Chicken Curry

This quick and easy chicken curry, is one that you can make again and again and again. It never seems to get old, and I make it throughout the year, but especially in winter and early spring.

Cooking “from scratch”

I cook “from scratch” almost every evening, and I don’t have time to make complicated recipes during the week.  You can prepare this chicken curry in about 30 minutes and it will add variety to your menu rotation.  Another bonus is that is uses easy to find ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen pantry or freezer.

(If you don’t have most of these items on hand and ready to use, we need to talk about stocking your pantry for easy meal preparation.)

This recipe traces its roots to an old tried and true recipe I found in a Craig Claiborne cookbook a long time ago.  For those of you who aren’t old enough to remember him, he was a New York Times food editor and restaurant critic back in the 1980s and 90s.  I guess I’m showing my age on this one.  In any case, the original cookbook is long gone from my collection so I really can’t report on how close this recipe is to his original version.  In any case, this dish lives on and is definitely worth adding to your recipe collection.

By the way, if you are cooking for two (or one), this makes a good “cook once, eat twice” dish which comes in handy at this time of year.  If you make it, please share it with a friend or family member, or post it to your FB or Instagram.

 

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Simple chicken curry
Simple Chicken Curry
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine Fusion, Indian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine Fusion, Indian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Simple Chicken Curry
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Recipe Notes

Nutrition Information (per serving): 330 calories; 7 grams fat; 1.5 grams saturated fat; 135 mg cholesterol; 160 mg sodium; 12 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 54 grams protein (values are approximate).