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One way to cut down on monthly expenses is to cook at home more often and to employ cost-cutting measures to help you get the most nutrition out of every food dollar. The keys: a) shop smartly and b) know how to throw together quick and easy meals.

The secrets to saving money on produce are to buy what’s in season or what’s on sale, and then to preserve things correctly so that they last longer. Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark place – not the fridge – with good air flow, for example. Mushrooms last longer in a paper bag in the main section of the fridge than in a Styrofoam container in the produce drawer. Fresh herbs last longer when washed immediately and rolled in a damp paper towel, then packed in an open plastic bag in the fridge.
Now, what to do with all of that good food? With just a cast iron Dutch oven and a few minutes, you can quickly and easily throw together a delicious (and nutritious!) dinner in minutes – without having to resort to take-out.

Tuna is a good source of omega 3’s – just what the doctor ordered to keep the nervous system functioning well. I keep individual servings of boneless tuna steaks in the freezer just for meals like this one. Just pop the frozen fish directly into the pot; there’s no need to thaw and it won’t add any cooking time.

Sesame Tuna with Orange Sauce
Serves 4

1 cup couscous or quinoa
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons broth of water
4 4-ounce tuna steaks
zest of 1 orange
1 orange, squeezed or 1/2 cup orange juice
4 teaspoons honey
6 tablespoons soy sauce
5 teaspoons sesame oil
8 to 10 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger,
1 head broccoli, cut into florets (about 4 cups)
2 small yellow squash, cut in medallions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F.
  2. Coat the inside of a cast iron Dutch oven and lid with sesame oil.
  3. Place the couscous with the water in the pot and stir to make a smooth layer.
  4. Add the tuna steaks in single layer (it is okay if they are partially or completely submerged), and drizzle or spray with olive oil.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk the orange zest, juice, honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, sesame seeds, and ginger until thoroughly combined. Pour half the mixture over the tuna.
  6. Add the broccoli and squash into the pot and pour on the rest of mixture.
  7. Cover and bake for about 53 minutes, or until 3 minutes after the aroma of a fully cooked meal escapes the oven. Serve immediately.

Per serving: Calories 475    Prot 38g     Carb 51g    Fat 14g      Chol 43mg  Sod 128mg        Fiber 7g

Originally published in eMS News, 9/29/2011

Nutrient Dense Food
Stuck In A Rut? Try Some New Grains
By Elizabeth Yarnell

Are you stuck in a carb rut? We tend to go for the same old things for dinner: potatoes, pasta, rice, bread… Bo-o-o-ring! Bring your food to life by adding some different grains to your diet. Not only will your meals be more exciting, but your body will thank your for the whole grain goodness and you will feel better, too.

Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”) is one of my favorites. The only grain that is a complete protein, quinoa sustained the Incan empire and they called it “the mother grain.” It’s fluffy and nutty and easy to cook (just like rice).
Expand the range of barley far beyond soups; try it in a cold salad with beans, bell peppers, and a balsamic vinaigrette. Or cook and drain it and serve tossed with garlicky broccoli spears. However, Barley does contain gluten, so it is not a good choice for those following a gluten-free diet.

High in protein, fiber, and amino acids, amaranth nearly disappeared but is now making a comeback in the grain sections of health food markets. Try this fun and easy recipe using amaranth if you can find it, or substitute parboiled (quick-cooking) brown rice if necessary.

Amaranth Chili
Serves 2

¼  large onion, chopped

3/4cup raw amaranth
¾ cup broth (beef, chicken, or vegetable) or water

1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
½ to ¾ pound ground meat (beef, turkey, or soy) 

1 4 ounce can green chiles, drained, diced
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon oregano

2 cups shredded zucchini

3 medium tomatoes, diced, or 1 15-ounce can

  1. Preheat oven to 450F.
  2. Spray the inside of a cast iron Dutch oven and lid with olive oil.
  3. Scatter the onions in the pot.
  4. Add the amaranth and pour in the water. Stir to make an even layer of the grains.
  5. In a medium bowl, mix together the beans, meat, chiles, most of the sea salt, cumin, and oregano.
  6. Drop forkfuls of the mixture into the pot to cover the amaranth.
  7. Top with a layer of shredded zucchini, then one of tomatoes. Lightly season with the remaining sea salt.
  8. Cover and bake for 45 minutes, or until 3 minutes after the aroma of a fully cooked meal escapes the oven. Serve immediately.

Calories 882   Prot 57g   Carb 105g   Fat 27g   Chol 99mg   Sod 102mg   Fiber 28g

Originally published in eMS News, 10/11/2011

Quick and Easy Meal of Delicious Harvest Vegetables
By Elizabeth Yarnell

It’s fall, my favorite time of year. Picking pumpkins, sipping freshly-pressed apple cider, unraveling corn mazes, admiring the alpenglow on the turning leaves, and of course, enjoying the bounty of the harvest.

Here in the southwest, the aroma of roasting chile peppers is a sure sign of autumn. The distinctive perfume makes my mouth water and reminds me of one of my favorite fall recipes that marries fall veggies in a tasty and satisfying vegetarian meal.

One of the mainstays of any MS diet should be to reduce your intake of saturated fat. Pioneered by Dr. Swank more than 60 years ago, he prescribed a diet low in saturated fats to his MS patients and saw them improve. Since saturated fats are found in animal products, MS sufferers would be smart to include more meatless meals in their lives.

In Native American lore, the three sisters —corn stalks, the beans that wind up them, and the squash growing in the shade underneath— symbolize the symbiotic relationship of siblings, community and togetherness. Many of the ingredients used in this recipe, including the corn, tomatoes, chiles, and beans, were unknown in Europe before the return of Columbus from the new world, making this a truly American dish. Double the recipe and add about 8 minutes to your cooking time to feed a family of four.

Three Sisters Navajo Harvest
Serves 2
1 cup white rice or parboiled brown rice (sold as “instant “brown rice)
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 -ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 yellow squash, cut into large julienne sticks
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
fresh kernels cut from 2-3 corn cobs, or 1 14-oz can, drained and rinsed
3 to 4 large tomatoes, chopped, or 1 14- oz. can chopped tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, or 2 teaspoons dried
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
salt and pepper, to taste
3-5 roasted chile peppers, peeled, seeded and chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F.
  2. Spray the inside of a cast iron Dutch oven and lid with olive or canola oil.
  3. Rinse the rice in a strainer and put into the pot with 1 cup of water. Swirl gently to settle into an even layer.
  4. Layer the beans, squash, zucchini, corn, and tomatoes into the pot, interspersing sprinkles of sage, oregano, salt, and pepper.
  5. If using fresh corn cobs, shuck the cob, stand on end on a plate and remove the kernels in a smooth, downward motion. Then add the corn to the pot.
  6. Add the chiles.
  7. Cover and bake for about 35 minutes, or until 3 minutes after the aroma of a fully cooked meal escapes the oven. Serve immediately.
Originally published in eMS News, 8/1/2011
MS and Diet: Healthy Eating on a Budget 
By Elizabeth Yarnell

Elizabeth Yarnell, ND, is the author of Glorious One-Pot Meals: A Revolutionary New Quick and Healthy Approach to Dutch Oven Cooking (Clarkson-Potter, 2009). A naturopath, patented inventor, and Director of the “Fight MS with Food” project, Elizabeth runs a nationwide virtual clinical practice focused on helping people in chronic physical distress feel better. She blogs and speaks about healthy eating to groups around the country.

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