kick off your Cinco De Mayo
with this Rebooted Tex Mex Mac N "cheese" family favorite! Prepare to drool. Then prepare your grocery list. Friday is coming, and you want to be ready for the fiesta because this is the ultimate comfort food with a kick of spice and no guilt! There is no better excuse - as if we needed one - to celebrate the delicious Mexican cuisine then with these colorful, flavorful, dairy free, mostly plant based (don't tell the kids!) Mac N' "Cheese" stuffed bell peppers!
reboot with bell peppers
Red bell peppers may not get a lot of attention for being great sources of vitamin C! They contain almost double the amount than oranges or citrus fruit. Red bell peppers are not only an excellent source of 30 different carotenoids, but also rich in sulfur-containing compounds, which together provide anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits.
- Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. It is not stored in large amounts in the body. Any extra amount is lost through the urine. You need to include vitamin C rich foods in your diet every day.
- Vitamin C is important for growth and repair of bones, teeth, skin and other tissues.
- Vitamin C increases your body's absorption of non-heme (plant based) iron food sources.
- Helps to prevent cell damage and may reduce your risk for certain cancers and other chronic diseases.
- Protects you from infections by keeping your immune system healthy.
The vitamin C content of food may be reduced by prolonged storage and by cooking because vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is water soluble and is destroyed by heat. Steaming or microwaving may lessen cooking losses. Fortunately, many of the best food sources of vitamin C, such as fruits and vegetables, are usually consumed raw! Consuming five varied servings of fruits and vegetables a day can provide more than 200 mg of vitamin C!
RD Tip: I use bell peppers raw, roasted, sautéed, pureed, or blended into salad dressings, in stir-fry dishes, chopped in salads, soups, added to homemade hummus, topping for sandwiches or tacos, or simply as a crunchy snack!
Ask the RD: how much vitamin C do I need?
Most people can get enough vitamin C by eating a healthy diet. If you smoke you need an extra 35 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per day.
- 19+ years
- Male: 90 mg
- Female: 75 mg
- Pregnancy: 85 mg
- Lactation: 120 mg
RD Tip: If you want to maximize the availability of vitamin C and carotenoids from bell pepper, allow them to ripen! Recent studies have shown that the vitamin C content and the carotenoid content of bell peppers both increase with ripening. When the vitamin C and carotenoid content of bell peppers increases, so does their total antioxidant capacity. You’ll know when they’re ripe when they have a deep rich red color, are heavy for their weight, which may indicate how “juicy” they are.
ASK THE RD: Why do Latinos Live
THE LONGEST IN THE US?
Why do Hispanic people live longer than other races in the United States? It is a question that experts have been trying to answer for years.
Hispanics have lower mortality rates in 9 out of the 15 leading causes of death in the US, even though they are twice as likely to be living under the poverty line and three times more likely to lack health insurance. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that life expectancy rates for Latinos in 2014 were the highest out of any group studied — Latinos in the United States live an average of three years longer than Caucasians, with a life expectancy of 82.
At any age, healthy Latino adults face a 30% lower risk of death than other racial groups, according to a 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health. Hispanics have a lower risk of premature death, and lower risks for 9 of the 15 leading causes of death—notably less cancer and heart disease. Therefore, the very existence of the Hispanic Paradox could represent a major opportunity to identify a protective factor for cardiovascular disease applicable to the rest of the population.
So, what positive health behaviors may account for this?
- Maybe it’s just genetic? No, because as foreign-born Hispanics acculturate to the United States, as they embrace the American way of life, their mortality rates go up.
- Maybe they exercise more? No, Hispanics appear to be even more sedentary.
- Maybe it’s their diet? Studies show, yes! As Latinos acculturate, they introduce more processed foods and animal foods into their diet, and fewer plant foods—and perhaps one plant food in particular: beans. Although Hispanics only represent about 17% of the population, they eat a third of the beans in the United States, individually eating four to five times more beans per capita; a few pounds a month as opposed to a few pounds a year.
what is the secret diet to explain Hispanic longevity?
Diet has helped to explain the Hispanic Paradox, because legumes—beans, split peas, chickpeas, lentils—cool down systemic inflammation. While cigarette smoking and air pollution cause lung inflammation, which increases the risk for emphysema and lung cancer, eating beans have shown to do the opposite. Beans, which contain fiber and resistant starch, are the good bacteria for our gut and are broken down in the form of small-chain fatty acids that absorbed into our system and decrease systemic inflammation—which not only inhibits lung cancer development, but also other cancers throughout the body. Hispanics have the lowest rates of COPD and lung cancer, and also tending to have lower rates of bladder cancer, throat cancer, and colorectal cancer, for both men and women. The systemic inflammation concept is also supported by the fact that when Hispanics do get lung cancer, colon cancer, or breast cancer, they have improved survival rates. Decreasing whole body inflammation may be important for both prevention and survival.
Hispanics also eat more corn, tomatoes, and chili peppers. A quarter of the diet in Mexico is made up of corn tortillas, and Mexican-Americans born in Mexico, and Mexican-Americans born in the U.S., continue to eat more than the general population. Looking at cancer rates around the world, not only was bean consumption associated with less colon, breast, and prostate cancer, but also rice and corn consumption appeared protectively correlated, as well. In the U.S., Also, Hispanics eat more fruits and vegetables than other groups; about six or seven servings a day.
One thing we can learn from the Hispanic cuisine is that beans and a more plant-based diet in general may be an essential tool in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease.
Tex Mex Mac N "Cheese"
Recipe By Dietitian: Taylor Johnson, RD, LDN
Recipe Type: Dinner
Dietary restrictions this recipe can meet: Gluten Free, Diary Free. (Leave out the ground chicken for modifying to: Plant-based, Vegan, Vegetarian)
Whether you’re celebrating cinco de mayo or wanting a healthy alternative to a family favorite with a little spice, this recipe is perfect! The vegan, dairy free "cheese" sauce is creamy and delicious you and your family wouldn't even know its nutrient packed and plant based! These are so creamy and flavorful they are great re-heated the next day for lunches!
RD Tip: This recipe can be versatile, ready to serve right away in the cooking pot, baked into a casserole dish or stuffed into bell peppers for more color and flavor!
Cashew Butternut Cheese Sauce:
- 2 cups roasted butternut squash or buy frozen, pre-chopped (for a time saver!)
- 3/4 cup raw cashews
- 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid (from the pasta) or vegetable/chicken stock (Add more or less for desired consistency)
- 1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
- 6 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, halved with seeds removed
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less if prefer spicier)
- 1/2 tsp. onion powder
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder or 1/2 clove fresh garlic
- 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. turmeric
- 4 tbsp Nutritional yeast (provides the cheesy consistency)
- 3 tsp dijon mustard
- Salt + black pepper to taste
Tex-Mex Pasta Stuffed Bell Peppers:
- 16 oz. (about 4.5 cups) brown rice pasta of your choice - penne, spirals, shells or macaroni
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 can, 10 oz, mild chopped tomatoes
- 2 cans, 4.5 oz, diced green chilies
- 6 bell peppers, halved with seeds removed
- 1 can, black beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
- 8oz. organic ground chicken or turkey (optional)
- 3 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
- 3 tbsp. green onion, chopped
- 1 fresh lime
- Corn tortilla chips, crumbled
- Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 425F. In a bowl, season chopped squash with some extra virgin olive oil (~1 tsp) and pink sea salt and evenly coat. Add to baking sheet and roast in oven for 35 minutes.
2. While your squash is roasting, prepare the stuffing for the peppers. In a skillet over med-high heat with ~1 tsp extra virgin olive oil add your can of black beans and chopped yellow onion. if you're adding ground chicken/turkey, also add this into the skillet. Break up chicken and mix evenly with a spoon, until browned and crumbled (~6 min).
2. Cook your pasta according to package directions. Once done, save 1/2 cup pasta water. Drain and rinse pasta with cold water.
3. When squash is finished roasting, you can start assembling your "cheese" sauce ingredients (cashews, pasta water, non-dairy milk, garlic, onion powder, turmeric, nutritional yeast, mustard, salt and pepper to taste) into a high speed food processor or blender. Blend until smooth and creamy. If the sauce becomes too thick, you can add a bit more non-dairy milk or water/stock to thin it out.
4. Once the pasta is done, add it to your beans, onion and tomato mixture. Add in your "cheese" sauce. Stir well. Feel free to add in any other desired mix-ins like broccoli. You can either heat this up in the pot and serve, pour it into a casserole dish (I top this with whole wheat bread crumbs) or stuff the mac n "cheese" in halved, pre-baked bell peppers to add color and even more favor! Bake casserole or stuff bell peppers (covered with tin foil) at 350 for about 30 minutes. Top bell peppers with chopped green onion, cilantro, and crumbled tortilla chips. Store any leftovers in the fridge and use within a few days for lunches!
P.S. NEED TO RECHARGE + REFOCUS + RESET YOUR HEALTH?
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