October Blog Posts

Greetings, foodies. Welcome to part two of my tribute to National Hispanic Heritage Month. Where were we? Ah, yes, we were enjoying the Caribbean breeze and preparations of raw green plantains. We traveled south to the coastal regions of Venezuela and Colombia to sample their twice-fried tostones. Thanks to our friends at Goya and Neilly’s, Giant Food carries varieties of both in our freezer aisle. While in Colombia, let’s switch from food to beverages and chat about the world's second-most traded commodity: Coffee. National Coffee Day was on September 29—how about that for perfect timing? On average, Americans about $1000 a year on coffee and believe it or not, we’re not even in the top 10 countries for consumption! Finland leads, followed by Norway and then Iceland. Those long dark winter months must necessitate more of a jolt than we need here. And all of us can thank Colombia and Brazil for supplying the majority of the world’s coffee.

Nutritionally speaking, coffee has been studied for ages and has been found to have both health benefits and risks. Your daily cup of joe packs a punch of antioxidants as well as some B vitamins, which may reduce the risk of certain diseases! However, more than four cups a day can have consequences like jitters, anxiety, and insomnia. And dressing up your coffee with sweetener and creamer tacks on calories and saturated fat that can outweigh those benefits. If you're a coffee drinker, enjoy South American-grown beans in moderation—without many accessories. Also, consider the many Fair Trade brands that we sell which ensure fair and ethical treatment of coffee farm laborers. Look for the Fair Trade Certified stamp on packages, such as these Nature’s Promise beans.

You can also take it a step further and use the HowGood rating system, which helps customers choose products based on environmental sustainability and social responsibility. HowGood empowers consumers with information we need to cast a vote for a better world. Products are given Good, Great, or Best ratings based on a holistic approach that considers growing guidelines, processing practices, and corporate conduct. I’m proud to say that those Nature’s Promise Colombian beans get a Great rating!

Our next stop, with beverages still on my mind, is Argentina. I’m thinking about Malbec wine, the jammy medium to full-bodied dry red that pairs well with meats, cheeses and vegetables alike. Argentina produces 75% of the World’s Malbec grapes, but did you know this thick-skinned variety comes from the southwest of France? Due to its weak resistance to weather and pests, it never made it as a French varietal and instead found a new home in Mendoza, Argentina in 1868. Some would even say Argentina saved Malbec. I don't know about you, but I'm genuinely grateful for that.

Research shows that moderate consumption of red wine has actually been linked to health benefits due to its antioxidant level. Moderation is key here. According to the Dietary Guidelines, moderate consumption is defined as one drink per day for women and two for men. One serving of wine is five ounces, and a standard bottle contains about 25 ounces or five servings. I’m thrilled to share that Malbecs tend to contain a higher concentration of antioxidant compounds than many other popular reds!

Let’s get back to food to have with our wine, shall we? We can’t leave Argentina without savoring their empanadas. These are hand-sized baked or fried turnovers stuffed with all sorts of seasoned meats, cheeses, and vegetable combinations. The dough is always made from wheat flour, but each province has its own flavors and fillings. A very typical one has seasoned ground beef, onions, olives, raisins, and more. It may sound like an unlikely combination of ingredients, but trust me, they play nicely together. Here’s the fascinating part: Creating your own empanadas is easier than you’d imagine! Of course, perfecting the filling may take a few tries, but we've got all the ingredients needed to make it a simple and even fun activity! Grab some Goya® dough discs from our freezer aisle, stuff with your favorite cooked ingredients (almost like pizza toppings), then bake or fry. If you’re not up for that, Goya® and Neilly’s have several mouth-watering frozen options to choose from!

Now let’s head over to Chile and quench our thirst again! Although their export market didn’t begin to flourish until the 1990s, the wine industry in Chile has been around since the 16th century when Spanish conquistadores brought over vines. French immigrants then contributed their knowledge and introduced varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, which undoubtedly Chile is most known for. In the past decade, Chilean whites such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc have gained attention. Keep an eye out if you're seeking a chilled, juicy wine to accompany your charcuterie board—and keep in mind that Chilean wines have also been recognized for producing wines of exceptional value. So pour a glass and celebrate a productive day of work, the beauty of autumn, or Hispanic Heritage Month!

Are you ready to travel north to Peru for some refreshing ceviche? It is made from chunks of raw fish cured in citrus juices and spiced with salt, aji chili peppers, herbs, and onions. It is considered to be Peru’s national dish. If you’re wondering, the citric acid denatures the proteins in the seafood, causing them to appear to be cooked. Traditionally, the mix was marinated for several hours and served with corn on the cob and slices of cooked sweet potato. The modern version is similar to Japanese sashimi and calls for the fresh fish to marinate for only a few minutes. Just as with empanadas, there are plenty of regional variations of ceviche dependent on available ingredients and the catch of the day. Many other coastal Latin American countries have their own versions of ceviche as well. In Ecuador, you can find a version prepared with shrimp and tomato sauce resulting in a completely different flavor profile. Regardless of the recipe, it’s a quick dish that really impresses guests who appreciate raw seafood. Serve it with your favorite whole grain or sweet potato, and a colorful salad and you’ve got yourself a perfectly balanced meal!

Finally, we can’t forget about everyone’s beloved treat, cocoa. What a perfect, sweet ending to our journey through the culinary influences of Hispanic origin that we enjoy! Many tropical countries in Latin America are home to cacao trees, from the Dominican Republic and Mexico to Colombia, Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador—anywhere close to the equator. Cocoa contains many nutrients, including potassium, magnesium and even fiber, but its antioxidant content gets most of the attention. Not surprisingly, its consumption has been linked with decreased blood pressure, better blood vessel health, and improved cholesterol levels, among other benefits. However, chocolate tends to be high in sugar and fat, so just like wine, enjoy in moderation to reap the benefits, and aim for 70% cacao or higher for the most benefits. For a unique experience, try out Taza Chocolate, which sources from the Dominican Republic. It uses an old Mexican inspired stone mill process to grind their cacao resulting in a gritty texture and robust flavor.

I hope you enjoyed the rest of our trip through Hispanic and Latino American heritage and culinary influence—and came away with some new things to taste! Stay tuned for the next International Foodie post, where we’ll dive into holiday traditions from around the world. Until then, eat well, and try something new!

Min is a registered dietitian and in-store nutritionist for Giant Food who is all about adventures through traveling and exploring off the beaten path. She has a passion for cuisines of the world and their beneficial ingredients. In her series “International Foodie,” she takes you on culinary journeys through distant lands and shows how you can create some of those special experiences right here at home.

Eating right, even at the tailgate

With football season fast approaching, tailgating can be a challenging time to try to maintain a healthy diet. “Tailgating” is defined as hosting or attending a social gathering at which an informal meal is served from the back of a parked vehicle, typically in the parking lot of a sports stadium. And tailgating is synonymous with burgers, hot dogs, and beer—a brief survey of my friends and family uncovered just that! Nick Banta, an Army Veteran and avid tailgater, went as far as to tell me, "No one cares about health during tailgating."

Well, as a registered dietitian and in-store nutritionist, I beg to differ. More and more people are realizing the positive impact of healthy eating and looking for ways to make healthy changes. And we should be.

Approximately 78% of tailgaters are men, which makes the tailgate is an excellent place to start for us! Join me as we look at healthy twists on tailgating that may spark some new ideas.

Grilling is the favored method of cooking, but not all sporting events allow charcoal grills or open flames. What’s the backup? How about using a Crock-Pot® or slow cooker? Add your desired cooking item, season to taste, and walk away until it’s ready to serve. Vehicles often come with more options these days, including an A/C power adapter. That’s all you need for your slow cooker, leaving lots of time for friends and the game!

What tasty items can be done in a slow cooker? I thought you'd ask that. Here is one of my favorite recipes that's an easy touchdown at your next tailgating event: pulled chicken slow cooker tacos. I don't want to cramp your culinary creativity so I will keep the recipe details basic. (There are unlimited variations on slow cooker pulled chicken.) For more inspiration, check out recipes from our Savory magazine at the bottom of this post. Once you choose your favorite flavors, prepare the sides or in this case, toppings. For tailgating, you want handheld items. Tacos pack a ton of ingredients in one single handheld meal1

Note: I seasoned my pulled chicken with assorted sliced peppers, garlic, pepper, crushed red peppers, and some smoked paprika.

Topping ideas and inclusions:

Taco shell or whole wheat wrap, you choose! Mission® Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas are a good source of fiber and contain 22 grams of carbohydrates per wrap. Taco shells offer less fiber but only contain 15 grams of carbs per shell. If you are counting your carbs, both will work in a carb-conscious meal plan.

Avocados are phenomenal. I use them in all my burrito, taco, or wrap concoctions. Avocados offer monounsaturated fat (helps lower your cholesterol), fiber, folate, potassium, vitamins B6, C, and E.

We can’t forget to mention the benefits of black beans! These are a good source of vitamins and minerals and are packed with fiber. You can even add them to your slow cooker with the chicken to keep them warm.

Broccoli slaw is a low-calorie food and an easy way to add one more veggie to your plate—meaning eat as much of it as you want!. Broccoli slaw is crazy versatile and it makes this taco look fancy.

Your salsa choice is a personal preference. I recommend the Taste of Inspirations Peach Habanero!

As for health benefits? Pulled chicken tacos are going to have less saturated fat (and calories) than our typical tailgating fare like burgers and hot dogs. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people should consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats.

Adding rice or cheese is optional, but not necessary. I usually rock burritos, tacos, and wraps without rice, leaving more room for veggies and protein items.

In the inspirational words of Julia Child, "The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking, you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude." Go for a Hail Mary touchdown and win big at your next tailgating event with pulled chicken slow cooker tacos!

Recipe inspiration

Grilled Chicken Tacos with Black Bean Corn Salad

Chicken Tacos with Cabbage, Avocado Salsa and Lime Cream

Buffalo Chicken Tacos

George Baldwin is a registered dietitian and in-store nutritionist for Giant Food who is all about showing guys how to fall in line when it comes to cooking and their health. As a father of three and former paratrooper, he knows the trick to inspire men to cook easy, hearty, and secretly healthy. George will show you the basics on how to train your loved ones to come to the table hungry, whether it’s 0700 or 1900.

Soup’s On! Warm Up for Around $1 a Serving

I definitely consider myself a summer person. But if there is one thing I look forward to as the weather cools, it’s soup. It's perfect for a family meal or made over the weekend for a convenient workday lunch.Not only are soups a great budget-saver for mealtime, but they are also super easy to stretch into larger, heartier meals. Just add a can of beans, frozen veggies, or leftover odds and ends in your fridge or pantry to boost your recipes.

For last-minute soups I try to keep low-sodium bouillon cubes in my pantry and carrots, onions, and celery in my freezer. Then I boost those with ingredients I have on hand or find on sale. To get you started, here are three family favorites that I rely on to keep my budget in line and to shake off the chill in the air. I've also included a few Savory inspirations I’m adding to the rotation this fall.

Chicken Soup

Chicken soup has long been promoted as having healing powers for those with a cold or the flu. It has even been coined "Jewish Penicillin" thanks to a 12th-century Jewish physician named Maimonides. He prescribed chicken soup as a remedy for multiple ailments in his book The Cause of Symptoms. It turns out that he wasn’t entirely wrong! A handful of scientific studies have shown that chicken soup really could have medicinal value. None of the research is conclusive, but we’re sure of one thing: chicken soup is delicious. And my chicken soup go-to recipe is ready in about 15 minutes!

Chicken Noodle Soup (Serves 8)
Inspired by Savory's Quick Chicken Noodle Soup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small carrots, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat shredded or chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 5 cups (40 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 6 oz wide egg noodles, uncooked
  • 1 1/2 cup of water

In a large pot over medium-high heat, sauté carrots, onion, celery, and garlic in olive oil until soft; about 3 minutes. Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Add noodles, cooking as directed on package. When noodles have reached desired softness, add shredded chicken. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, 5 minutes and serve.

Total Cost: $5.93 (Cost per serving: $0.99)

Note: Egg noodles are just one choice, but check out all your options – fresh, dry, or even frozen!

Chicken Soup Inspiration from Savory

Protein-powered Vegetarian Soups

Vegetable soups are a great way to get that half plate of vegetables but when you add pulses, you're also getting a good serving of protein. If the word “pulses” sounds new to you, it's likely just the word and not the ingredient that's unfamiliar. You probably already eat more pulses than you realize! Pulses include all varieties of dried beans, including kidney beans, lima beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and all types of lentils. Lentils are popular around the world and they make a great addition to any soup! Here's a favorite, Lentil Kale, which I make for lunch as soon as the weather takes a turn.

Lentil Kale Soup (Serves 8)
Inspired by Savory's Lentil Soup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 16 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cups dry lentils
  • 8 cups water or vegetable stock (I use 4 cups of water and 4 cups of stock)
  • 4 cups of kale, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In large soup pot, lightly sauté vegetables in olive oil until tender-crisp. Add diced tomatoes, lentils and water or stock and cook on medium heat until lentils are soft, about 45 minutes. Stir in chopped kale and cook until kale is tender, about 10 more minutes.

Total Cost: $4.84 (Cost per serving: $0.64)

Note: I am ruthless when it comes to adding vegetables to my soups, so much so that they often look more like stews than soups. In the recipe above, I added an extra two cups of kale after the picture! Keep this in mind when you are trying a new recipe–add all the veggies if you want!

"Pulse" Soup Inspiration from Savory

Hearty Stews and Chowders

For certain people in my family (ahem, my teen-aged boys) soup doesn’t look like a hearty, filling meal. To appease them, I pull out a stew or chowder full of “manly” ingredients like beef, potatoes, and even bacon. The trick to keep it healthy-ish and affordable is to ramp up the fiber and reduce the meat. This keeps all the flavor but also keeps my budget and health focus on track. When you see shrimp or a beef roast on sale, snatch it up and get cooking!

Beef and Barley Stew (Serves 8)
Inspired by Slow Cooker Beef & Barley Stew
  • 1 lb beef stewing cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 small parsnips, diced
  • 8 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (32 oz) low sodium beef broth
  • 2 cups water
  • ¾ cup pearl barley

Trim excess fat from the beef and cut into 1/4-inch chunks. Season with salt and pepper and brown in a skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Transfer beef to slow cooker. Meanwhile, chop the onion, carrots, parsnips, and garlic. Halve any large mushroom slices. To same skillet, add remaining 1 tbsp oil and sauté vegetables until soft. Add ½ cup water to the skillet, stirring and scraping up any browned bits. Transfer to slow cooker, along with mushrooms, garlic, broth, and barley. Add ½ cup water. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or until barley and beef are tender. Add water as needed to get desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Total Cost: $10.44 (Cost per serving: $1.30)

Chowder and Stew Inspiration from Savory

Soups are perfect dinners or lunches for one or many! Try hosting a “Stone Soup" party (you remember that children's book) and have everyone bring an ingredient to throw in the pot. Here's to a hot steaming bowl of soup, comfy sweaters, and crisp fall evenings.

Mandy is a registered dietitian and in-store nutritionist for Giant Food who is passionate about showing people how to eat healthy (and deliciously) on a budget. As a mom of two teenage boys, she knows firsthand how difficult it can be to stay on budget, keep it interesting, AND keep it healthy-ish. Let Mandy check prices and create a plan that will satisfy your taste buds, wallet, and schedule. In her series “Healthy on a Budget,” she will convince you that it’s NOT “too expensive” to eat healthy.