Helping families eat healthier for less

Helping families eat healthier for less

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Bite into NNM with Sweet Potato Breakfast Risotto with Cinnamon and Raisins

Sweet Potato Breakfast Risotto with Cinnamon and Raisins

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by USA Rice Federation and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

The theme for this March’s National Nutrition Month® is “Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle.” You can do this now by biting into a morning bowl of creamy risotto rice, flavored with sweet potatoes, cinnamon and raisins. there are so many reasons to "think rice" when biting into a healthy lifestyle. Visit the USA Rice website ( for a wealth of information about rice grown in this country. For example, I learned:

·         Rice is naturally gluten free and the least allergenic of all grains.
·         Rice is naturally sodium-, cholesterol-, trans fat-free with just a trace of fat.
·         A half cup serving of rice is about 100 calories and contributes 15 vitamins and minerals, especially folate, other B vitamins, iron and zinc, making it a nutrient dense choice.
·         Rice supplies complex carbohydrates that our bodies and brains need to function. It triggers the production of serotonin in our brains, a chemical that helps regulate and improve our mood.
·         Rice grown in the US has a positive impact on our environment as the rice fields create wetland habitats for many species of birds, mammals, and reptiles.
·         About 85% of the rice eaten in this country is grown in this country.
·         American grown rice is exported to over 150 countries.

Arborio or risotto rice is different from long grain, white rice.  It’s higher in starch and cooks into a creamy texture around a chewy center. This rice has an exceptional ability to absorb flavors.  The cooking method is different too!  Instead of simmering rice in water, small amounts of hot liquid get added to cooking rice.  The rice slowly absorbs the liquid as one stirs.

For me, rice and coconut are a winning combination. So, when thinking about developing a breakfast risotto, I decided to start with canned lite coconut milk as the base. Then I wanted to add some good nutrition with some mashed cooked sweet potato. To round out the flavors, I added cinnamon, vanilla extract and golden raisins.

Sweet Potato Breakfast Risotto with Cinnamon and Raisins

2 cans (13.6- to 14 ounces each) light coconut milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
1 cup U.S.-grown arborio (medium grain) rice
1/2 cup cooked sweet potato, mashed
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup golden raisins

Warm coconut milk in microwave-safe container, covered, until hot, but not boiling, about 4 minutes. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the rice and stir to coat. Ladle in enough hot coconut milk to cover the rice. Stir with wooden spoon over medium flame. As rice absorbs the milk, ladle in 1/2 cup more hot milk and stir. Continue this process until all the milk has been added and is absorbed, stirring constantly. This will take 15 to 20 minutes. Rice should be tender with just a little bite to it. Stir in the sweet potato, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and raisins. Stir well to combine. Stir over low heat until heated through.
Serve warm or cold.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Nutrition Information per Serving (for 1/6th of recipe):
322 calories, 13 g total fat, 9 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 2 g dietary fiber, 3 g protein, and 38 mg sodium. One serving of this low cost recipe provides an excellent source of vitamin A.

Cost per Serving: $1.39
Pricing Note: all ingredients were at “regular” prices.

 Here are preparation photos:

(Left to Right): Adding rice to pan with butter; stirring to coat; adding hot coconut milk in stages.

(Left to Right); Addition of milk and stirring; rice develops a creamy texture; addition of mashed sweet potato,cinnamon, vanilla, and golden raisins.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Serve Meal in Bell Pepper for Nutrition Bonus

STOUFFER'S Macaroni & Cheese inside a red bell pepper.

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Nestle and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Balance Your Plate is a recipe contest by Nestle where you start with a Nestle frozen food item and add other foods to it to make it a nutritious, balanced meal that meets the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Last month, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee issued their preliminary version of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The report concludes that generally we do not eat enough vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and dairy and many of us eat too many refined grains, added sugars, saturated fats, and salt. We should strive to make half our plate fruits and veggies, at least half our grains whole grains, switch to fat free or lowfat dairy products, watch portions, and get regular physical activity.

Planning a healthy meal day after day can be challenging, even for a dietitian. Some days after coming home from work you’re tired and have no energy and the last thing you want to do is spend an hour or better in the kitchen putting together a healthy meal.

Frozen meals can easily fit into a balanced plate. You make them more balanced by adding a serving or more of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, or lowfat dairy. Frozen meals are one way to keep on handle portion size as well as cost, especially when you find them on sale or have a coupon.

Here are some creative ways to make a more balanced meal that start with a Nestle frozen food:
  • Top your baked frozen pizza with salad. Purchase a salad kit from the produce department of your supermarket. (My favorite is sweet kale vegetable salad kit that includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chicory, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds.) Prepare the salad as directed on the package, and then place it on top of your baked pizza. Cut into wedges and enjoy.

  • Serve your favorite LEAN CUISINE entree with a lower sodium vegetable-based soup, such a carrot ginger.

  • Serve your favorite LEAN CUISINE® entree over a baked sweet potato or baked winter squash.

  • Top your favorite LEAN POCKETS® or HOT POCKETS® with a zesty bean dip (Rinse and drain a can of white or black beans and put in food processor, along with herbs and spices, hot sauce, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil).

  • Prepare a salsa of mango, green onion, red bell pepper, lime juice and jalapeno pepper. Pour over your favorite LEAN POCKETS® or HOT POCKETS®.

  • Prepare your favorite LEAN POCKETS® or HOT POCKETS® as directed on the package. Then cut it up into crouton-size pieces and serve over a tossed green salad.

  • Prepare your favorite LEAN CUISINE® Simple Favorites (such as Santa Fe-Style Rice & Beans)  or Morning Collection  (such as Veggie Scramble) entrees according to package directions. Microwave a whole grain tortilla and serve your Simple Favorite entrée inside the tortilla along with a 4-ounce glass of 100% fruit or vegetable juice.

My favorite suggestion to serve a more balanced meal is very simple one. Serve your Nestle product inside a cooked bell pepper. You may be surprised at the nutrition that just one red bell pepper adds to a meal. One medium red bell pepper adds only 37 calories and no fat, 5 mg of sodium, 2.5 grams of fiber and helps you meet 75% of your daily value for vitamin A and over 250% of your vitamin C needed for the day. And if you use a large red bell pepper, you get over 100% of your vitamin A and 349% of your vitamin C for the day and add only 51 calories and 7 mg of sodium. What a tasty way to get your vitamins. Green bell peppers are good, too, although you don’t get near as much of vitamins A and C as you do with the red ones.

You can fill you bell pepper with a number of different Nestle products.  Here are a few examples.

Start with peppers that have flat bottoms so that they will sit upright in a custard cup or container. Slice off the top of the bell pepper and remove the seeds and inner membranes. 

Slice top off pepper and remove seeds and membranes.

I found that it is best to partially cook the bell pepper before filling in. So, cover it loosely with plastic wrap and microwave on high power for 2 and a half minutes.

Microwave bell pepper for 2-1/2 minutes.

Fill the partially cooked bell pepper with your favorite frozen entrée that has been allowed to thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Fill partially cooked pepper with thawed macaroni & cheese.

Here is a red bell pepper with STOUFFER’S macaroni & cheese.

Finished Macaroni & Cheese in red bell pepper.

Here is a green bell pepper stuffed with STOUFFER’S Chili Cheese Mac Cup

Chili Cheese Mac in a Green Bell Pepper.

Here is a pepper stuffed with LEAN CUISINE Turkey Sausage Scramble

Turkey Sausage Scramble in a green bell pepper.

Here’s the complete recipe for the Macaroni & Cheese Stuffed Bell Pepper:

Macaroni & Cheese Stuffed Bell Pepper


1 12-ounce package LEAN CUISINE® Macaroni & Cheese
1 red or green bell pepper
Parsley or cilantro for garnish, if desired


Thaw frozen Macaroni & Cheese in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
Wash and dry the green or red bell pepper. Slice off the stem top and remove the inner seeds and membranes. Place pepper in a custard cup or microwaveable container to hold it upright. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Microwave on High power for 2 and a half minutes.
Uncover and fill partially cooked bell pepper with softened macaroni & cheese.
Microwave, covered, on High Power for 2 to 3 minutes, or until peppers are tender. Let set for 1 minute. Garnish with parsley or cilantro, if desired.

Makes 1 Serving.