Superfoods for super cheap

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 7, 2014

For the past few years, so-called “superfoods” have been circulating in foodie magazines and featured on talk shows for their health benefits. However, people who try to fit more superfoods into their diet may be taken aback by the price tags on promoted items such as acai berries. So what, exactly, is a superfood, and where can you find them on a tight budget?
These are among the questions that South Rowan Regional Library and Novant Health Rowan Medical Center have teamed up to tackle in a series of workshops titled “Learn. Act. Grow.”
The first of these workshops was held on Jan. 27 with guest speakers from Morrison Food Services — Sarah Lynch, director of food and nutrition at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, and Chris Herron, executive chef at the medical center. They provided tips and tricks for adding superfoods to your diet and maintaining a healthy pantry.
A superfood is any food that provides record amounts of nutrients without a lot of calories. They’re healthy, delicious, and … everywhere. There’s no need to break out the big bucks to put more of these power punch ingredients in your diet, the speakers said. If you maintain healthy eating habits, you’re probably consuming more superfoods than you realize.
Some of the most common superfoods include lentils, oats, kale, almonds, quinoa, tea, oranges, tuna, peanut butter, apples, eggs, wheatberries, carrots, cabbage, berries, nuts, yogurt, broccoli, beans, and sweet potatoes.
Many are common pantry items in the American household.
Put to good use
But how do you use superfoods to the best advantage for your health? While Lynch explained how to stock a superfood-rich pantry, Novant Health Rowan Medical Center’s Executive Chef Chris Herron demonstrated how to make a flavorful, savory dish. The quinoa, chicken, and veggie stir-fry not only includes two superfoods (quinoa and lime), but it’s also an easy way to make a fresh, healthy meal.
Herron began by explaining the proper way to cook quinoa. This recently popular member of the grain family needs to be rinsed well with cold water before cooking. Once it’s rinsed, it can go into the saucepan.
Like similar foods such as rice or couscous, quinoa needs to absorb liquid to fluff up and cook. And an easy way to add some zing to any quinoa-based dish is to simmer the grain in broth, not water. Substituting a rich broth adds an extra layer of flavor to the meal. Quinoa should be simmered in a covered saucepan until it’s translucent and a small white “tail” is poking out of each grain.
Next, Herron moved on to cooking the chicken. He suggested putting any oils you use for stove top cooking in a small spray bottle. Not only will the oil cover pan surfaces better, but you’ll end up using less. Herron threw out other tips while he cooked the chicken. He encouraged using herbs, not salt, to build flavor, and said lemon juice is a great salt substitute — as are flavored oils and vinegars.
Buying a few lemons or limes is actually more cost effective than buying a bottle of processed juice — and it’s more versatile. After squeezing for juice, the rind of most citrus fruits can be grated to use as zest — a great flavor addition to any recipe. Zest, however, has a short shelf-life; you’ll want to use it in a day or two. If you don’t need zest, the rind also produces great oils that can be used in flavoring.
Herron added zucchini to the pot and explained that when it comes to shopping, ingredients should be as fresh and as high-quality as possible. The better the quality, the bigger the flavor, the less you’ll need. And the less you use, the less you spend — and that goes for everything from salt to vegetables, Herron said.
While Herron continued cooking, workshop attendees were able to sample the finished product, cooked to perfection.
Eating healthy, delicious superfoods doesn’t have to break the bank. There are tricks to it, just like with everything else. The key is knowing how to get the most out of the money you do spend.
(Serves 6)
1˝ cups of rinsed quinoa
2 cups chicken broth
4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 small zucchini, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
˝ cup fresh basil leaves, rough chopped
1 lime

Bring quinoa and chicken broth to a boil in a saucepan; reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Simmer until broth is absorbed, the quinoa is fluffy, and a white line is visible in the grain — about 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet; cook the garlic and onion in the oil until they are translucent, about five minutes.
Add chicken strips and cook until slightly pink on the inside, about five minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add two tablespoons of olive oil to the same pan and cook zucchini and tomato until soft, about five minutes. Add chicken back to the pan and add feta cheese and basil, and squeeze juice from the lime into the pan. Cook another four to five minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked.
Serve over hot quinoa.
Oils, Vinegars, and Condiments
• Extra-virgin olive oil for cooking and salad dressings
• Canola oil for cooking and baking
• Flavorful nut and seed oils such as sesame and walnut oil
• Unsalted butter
• Reduced-fat mayonnaise
• Vinegars: balsamic, red wine, white wine, rice wine, apple cider
• Asian condiments and flavorings: reduced sodium soy sauce, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, chile-garlic sauce, curry paste.
• Kalamata and green olives
• Dijon mustard
• Barbecue sauce
• Worcestershire sauce
• Seasonings
• Kosher salt, coarse sea salt, fine salt
• Black peppercorn
• Onions
• Fresh garlic
• Fresh ginger
• Dried herbs: bay leaf, dill, crumbled dried sage, thyme, oregano, tarragon, Italian seasoning blend, ground ginger, dry mustard, nutmeg, paprika, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, turmeric
• Lemons, limes, oranges
• Brown Sugar
• Honey
• Pure maple syrup
• Unsweetened cocoa powder
Canned Goods and Bottled Items
• No salt added: canned tomatoes, tomato paste
• Reduced sodium chicken, beef, and/or vegetable broth
• Lite coconut milk for Asian curries and soups
• Canned beans: cannellini, great northern, chickpeas, black, red kidney
Freezer Basics
• Fruit-juice concentrates
•Frozen vegetables: edamame soy beans, peas, spinach, broccoli, corn, chopped onions, uncooked hashbrowns
• Frozen berries with no added sugar
• Low-fat vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt for impromptu dessert
Grains and Legumes
• Flours: whole wheat, all-purpose
• Assorted whole wheat pastas
• Grains: Brown rice, pearl barley, quick-cooking barley, rolled oats, whole couscous, bulgur
• Dried lentils
• Plain, dry breadcrumbs
• Chunk light tuna and salmon
Nuts, Seeds, and Fruits
• Nuts: walnuts, pecans, almonds, dry-roasted unsalted peanuts, pine nuts
• Sesame seeds
• Natural peanut butter
• Assorted dried fruits such as: apricots, prunes, cherries, cranberries, dates, figs, raisins
Refrigerator Basics
• Low-fat milk or soy milk
• Low-fat or nonfat plain yogurt and/or vanilla yogurt
• Reduced-fat sour cream
• Good-quality Parmesan and/or Romano cheese
• Sharp Cheddar cheese
• Eggs
• 100% orange juice
• Dry white wine
• Water-packed tofu