Healthy Freezer Meatballs

Meat Balls

This recipe kills two birds with one stone.

 

If you are really busy, like me, there are nights when you come home too late to cook a full meal. Cooking and freezing a quick batch of these meatballs on the weekend and then microwaving them during the week for dinner is a breeze.

 

Trying to eat healthy, I eat a lot of chicken and fish. Having red meat once a week not only adds a few extra vitamins in minerals found higher in red meat, but it also increases variety.

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

 

In a food processor, puree the following:

2 carrots

1 onion

3 cloves garlic

 

Pour into large bowl and add:

2 lbs lean ground meat (I like buffalo or elk)

2 eggs

2 cups Italian style bread crumbs

1/3 cup dried parsley

¾ cup parmesan cheese

1/3 cup ketchup

1 tsp pepper

 

Thoroughly mix by hand until all ingredients are distributed equally. Roll into 1 ½ inch round meatballs. Bake for 20 minutes on a baking sheet. Cool and place entire sheet into the freezer, meatballs not touching. Once frozen, you can place them in freezer bags and pull them out 1 meatball at a time. Microwave for a couple minute and put on pasta, with steamed vegetables, or just by themselves. They have enough flavor you don’t need to add sauce!

Sweet Potato the Superfood

Sweet potato

Sweet potatoes are starting to show up everywhere! Sweet potato fries, chips, mashed, twice baked, casserole, in beef stew and of course the ever loved sweet potato pie! It’s no coincidence because the sweet potato was added to the healthiest Superfood list!

Sweet potatoes were cultivated in many tropical locations around the world in ancient times. It is a tropical plant that was more than likely brought to America by Columbus who found the plant on his trip through the West Indies. You’ll find sweet potatoes grown mostly in the southern United States because of their tropical nature. There are many varieties and colors including a version called a yam. True yams are only found in Africa and Asia, so to minimize confusion in the America, they are all labeled as sweet potatoes.

Interesting fact, sweet potatoes yield the highest amount of food per square acre over any other food.  I can confirm this having grown 50lb of sweet potatoes on my first try in a 5‘ X 10‘ raised bed! It’s that easy to grow. Purchase tubers, cut into section and plant in mounds of soil. Vines similar to a morning glory will grow wildly over the mound. The flowers even look like large purple morning glories.  The more difficult step is after they are harvested, the outside must be properly dried at higher temperatures to store well. The longer they are stored, the sweeter they are.

The best thing about sweet potatoes is their fantastically sweet taste while still offering health benefits. They have almost no fat or cholesterol and are low in sodium. They contain high amounts of Vitamin A, B6, C, potassium and magnesium.  This means they are heart and bone healthy, boost our immune system and are great for eye health.

If you have concerns about the sugars in sweet potatoes be assured they do not spike your blood sugar levels like most sugars do. It’s a great way to get your sweet tooth taken care of without the side effects of refined sugar. If you were born with diabetes, you will want to consult your doctor before making sweet potatoes a regular part of your diet.

With a high fiber content, sweet potatoes are recommended by doctors to help regulate patients with digestive issues. Specialty dog food companies have even created dog food with the main source of carbohydrate being sweet potatoes. It’s used for dogs with sensitive stomachs or allergies. I’ve seen this work first hand.

You can prepare sweet potatoes anyway you would regular potatoes, and even some ways you would use squash. My favorite is baked with a little cinnamon sprinkled on top. They are so tasty you really don’t need to add anything. For extra special times I also add a teaspoon butter. There are many recipes online you can try. It’s a good time to experiment and find a great side dish for the holiday!

Healthy food is NOT expensive

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I watched a news story the other day that focused on how expensive healthy food is. They talked about the cost of organics being higher than regular food and showed pictures of packaged foods like low fat crackers and whole grain cereals.

I get frustrated with the lack of good, helpful information when it comes to nutrition.  Healthy food is NOT expensive. In fact, if you spend time focusing on your low cost options you may even spend less than you do now!

Let’s start with organics. Organic is not necessarily healthier.  Organic is the focus on fewer chemicals, not higher nutrition. Some people love to tell me how they buy EVERYTHING organic, including their toilet paper! The only people that need to buy everything organic are a person with extreme sensitivities to chemicals. The rest of us can focus on two major areas, produce and dairy products. Those are foods of concern when it comes to chemicals. You can reduce chemicals by selecting ones that naturally have less like avocado, cantaloupe, kiwi, papaya, mango, pineapple, and ones you can peel such as oranges and bananas.  The produce in which organic makes a real difference are apples, berries, celery, cherries, cucumbers, grapes, mushrooms, peaches, peppers, plums, potatoes, and most greens.

If chemicals are a concern, consider produce and dairy products that claim all natural or pesticide free. Many farms follow organic practices but can’t afford the process to become organic certified. The cost of the process of becoming certified is passed on to the consumer.

Buy your produce in season because it’s always cheaper then. It also hasn’t been stored for very long which means it’s higher in nutrients. Produce tends to lose its nutrient content over time so the sooner you eat it, the healthier it is. Buying local produce also helps with this. Farmers markets are a great source for local and all natural produce, and many times are cheaper because you are buying it direct.

Don’t purchase what I call fad foods. These are foods that suddenly become popular as the latest health craze. The price goes up when this happens. A great recent example is when kale became popular. Before the health claims of kale were widely publicized it was the cheapest green in the produce section. Now it’s the most expensive. Many other greens are loaded with vitamins and minerals and are far cheaper now. Change your selection based on the price.

Canned fruits and vegetables are also cheaper in many cases and have not lost as much nutrition as you may think. The canning process can reduce nutrition loss especially compared to produce that is imported from other states or even other countries.

When it comes to protein, meat can be very expensive. There are other cheaper, healthy alternatives including eggs and beans. Just substituting beans or eggs for your protein a few times a week will make a big difference in your wallet. You can also save money on purchasing full form meat. You get so much more for the price buying a whole chicken rather than individual chicken breasts. Yes other parts of the chicken may have a little more fat, but they are healthier than many other meat options.

Anything packaged will cost more. Get as much food in its raw form as possible. Instead of purchasing cereal, buy oatmeal. Make your own bread. Buy plain rice, pasta or potatoes and add various flavorings rather than purchasing pre-packaged meals. A good example is red beans and rice. That’s a great low cost healthy meal and easy to make.

Portion control is another big factor in health and cost. If you keep portions down to what is considered the right portion, I bet you eat less and have more leftovers. You should only eat 3-6 oz of meat at one meal. For instance, chicken breasts are sometimes so large I cut them in half and eat two meals out of them.  Other portion sizes to watch are carbohydrates.  If you buy large potatoes, eat only half. Only ½ cup is considered one serving for items like rice, cereal and pasta. You can have 1 cup if you are young, active or not trying to lose weight.

As you can see there are many food options that will allow you to be healthy at a low cost. Focus on in season, local produce, less meat, less processed foods in the right portions.