Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mango Watercress Salad with Jerk Shrimp

This salad is the second recipe in my "Summer of Salads" series.  It developed out of a strong yearning for a tropical fruit salad that was low-glycemic and well-balanced.  This salad delivers on both accounts and provides a fresh and exciting alternative to the ubiquitous garden salad.

Recipe development for this salad was a bit of a process.  I love mangoes so I knew that would be my key ingredient.  Then, I did a little research and found this recipe from Caribbean Pot that provided me with an excellent base for the salad.  I made a few modifications and ultimately decided that I prefer a 3:1 salad mixture of arugula and watercress.  Otherwise, the watercress is too strong for my personal liking.  To make the salad a little more complex, I added roasted cashew nuts, jerk shrimp, and raw green beans and tossed it in a homemade Allspice and Nutritional Yeast Salad Dressing.

Mango Watercress Salad with Jerk Shrimp


  • 5-8 shrimp
  • 1 container Grace Hot Jerk Seasoning
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1/3 cup watercress
  • 1/8 medium red onion, julienned
  • 1/8 medium red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1/4 cup raw green beans, snapped
  • 1/4 ripe mango, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon roasted cashew nuts


Peel and devein shrimp.  Rub generously with jerk seasoning and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.  Remove shrimp from refrigerator and cook using your preferred method -- grill, broiler, or stovetop.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the flesh turns pink.  Remove from heat and set aside.  

In a large salad bowl, toss the remaining ingredients with 2 tablespoons of Allspice and Nutritional Yeast Salad Dressing (recipe below).  Transfer salad to a serving plate and top with cooked jerk shrimp.  Enjoy!

Allspice and Nutritional Yeast Salad Dressing

  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup tamari
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup safflower oil


Place first nine ingredients in a blender and combine.  With blender running, slowly pour in oil to reach desired consistency.  

Note: This recipe yields about 2 cups of salad dressing, which will last approximately 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sardine & Kalamata Olive Mesclun Salad

I recently returned from a culinary pilgrimage/road trip to the Deep South where I indulged in epicurean delights to my heart's desire.  It was great while it lasted.  However, I returned to Maryland and immediately went into detox mode, vowing to end the summer with salads.  It's been quite refreshing to lighten up my meals and pull together fresh ingredients on a whim.  This salad embodies that approach.  It was prepared with mesclun greens from my patio garden, tabouleh, sardines, kalamata olives, and toasted caper breadcrumbs.  The final product was flavorful and nutritiously dense (e.g., high in protein, calcium, iron, fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C).  The caper breadcrumbs were my favorite element of the salad, elevating it to new heights.

Sardine & Olive Mesclun Salad


  • 1 tbs Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp capers
  • 1 cup Mesclun greens
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs tabouleh
  • 2 sardines
  • 4 kalamata olives

Heat a small skillet over low heat.  Add panko breadcrumbs and capers.  Toss together and lightly toast for 1 to 2 minutes.  Set aside.

Wash mesclun greens and dry in a salad spinner.  Toss greens with balsamic vinegar and transfer to a plate.  Top with tabouleh, sardines, olives, and caper breadcrumbs.  Enjoy!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

What's In That Bottle?

Did you know that 5 of the top 25 sources of calories among Americans ages 2 years and older are beverages?  (NHANES, 2005-2006).

  • #4 are soda/energy/sports drinks
  • #6 are alcoholic beverages
  • #13 is reduced fat milk
  • #22 is fruit drinks
  • #23 is whole milk
These drinks should be consumed as occasional treats, but for many people, they are their primary fluid choices.  Considering that many of these drinks are nothing more than empty calories with no nutritional value, they pose a significant public health concern.  In a year's time, the cost of drinking caloric beverages could really add up.  For instance, drinking one 12 ounce can of soda (Coca Cola, Pepsi, or Dr. Pepper) each day for one year adds an additional 51,100 calories to the diet (140 x 365), costs about $274 ($0.75 x 365), and could lead to 14.6 pounds in weight gain (51100/3500).  If you're like me and would rather put your money and calories to better use, consider the alternatives.

The Nutrition Source at Harvard School of Public Health actually delineates a healthy drink spectrum that I am quite fond of.  Check it out here.  It has 6 levels of healthful beverages.  All recommendations below are my own and not endorsed by the Harvard School of Public Health.

Level 1: Water

Water is abundant (in the US), refreshing, free, and provides zero calories to the diet.  It is by far the healthiest beverage choice available. If you don't enjoy the taste of water, spruce it up by adding a splash of fruit and vegetable juices such as lemons, limes, strawberries, cucumbers, cherries, raspberries, or pomegranates.  I really enjoy a sprig of fresh mint in my water.  If you desire the carbonation of soft drinks, try a half/half mixture of water and carbonated water.  

Level 2: Tea and Coffee

In the US, there's a tea or coffee shop on every other corner in most major cities.  They are the second most popular and healthful beverage choices after water (when consumed straight).  For hot coffee and tea, sweeten them with a low glycemic sweetener such as agave nectar and opt for a soy or skim milk instead of cream and whole milk to cut down on the calories and fat.  For iced/cold tea, try adding fresh citrus, mint, and carbonated water (right before serving to keep it from getting flat) as an alternative to sweeteners.

Level 3: Low-fat and Skim Milk and Soy Beverages

Dairy is an important sources of calcium in the diet and it is better absorbed than many other calcium sources, but it's important to drink low-fat and skim milk to eliminate the high amounts of fat found in dairy.  Soy beverages are a good alternative for vegans and those with a lactose intolerance, but always check the food label for sugar and other additives.  Skim milk is actually the healthiest choice of all three due to its lack of fat.

Level 4: Noncalorically Sweetened Beverages

Diet sodas are a healthier alternative to the regular beverages, but they are still not a health drink.  Artificial sweeteners may confuse the body's natural feedback mechanism that controls satiety (fullness) leading to overeating, the phosphate in colas may have a deleterious affect on the bones, and some artificial sweeteners have been found to stimulate the appetite.

Level 5: Calories Beverages with Some Nutrients

In this category is fruit juice, vegetable juice, whole milk, sports drinks, vitamin-enhanced waters, and alcoholic beverages.  I find that people are most confused by this category of drinks.  Make sure that any fruit juices you consume are 100% juice to get the most nutritional benefit.  However, you CANNOT substitute fruit juice for fruit consumption itself as juice lacks the fiber you get from eating the flesh of the fruit. The USDA recommends one serving (4 ounces) of fruit juice per day. 

Fruit smoothies are high is calories and carbohydrates.  Drink sparingly.

As with fruit juices, make sure that all vegetable juices you consume are 100% juice and check the sodium content.  

Whole milk has all the fat naturally found in dairy, but is loaded with nutrients.  Considering there are healthier alternatives that provide the same nutritional benefit such as reduced fat and skim milk, you should limit your consumption of whole milk.

Sports drinks, vitamin-enhanced waters, and alcoholic beverages, for the most part, all have high sugar content and add calories to the diet.  These are not healthy drink choices by any means.  

Level 6: Calorically Sweetened Beverages

This category includes soft drinks, fruit drinks, lemonade, and other "ades".  These drinks are loaded with sugar, calories, artificial ingredients, and other additives.  Make these drinks an occasional treat because they have little to no nutritional value and are not recommended for daily consumption.