Culturally, food is what grounds us to our deepest roots. Our grandmother's special dish, family's traditional holiday menu and our favorite home cooked meals shape us as we develop food preferences and lifestyle choices into adulthood.
Working with people from across the globe, it’s important to me to have a strong understanding of their background so I can seamlessly help them establish healthy habits to reach their highest potential.
This summer I had the opportunity to explore the Dominican Republic and learn more about Latin culture and cuisine. The trip allowed me to connect and build trust with those I work with in an elevated way, by developing a true understanding of what it’s like to transition into American culture and make healthy food choices.
Here are three meals I enjoyed, including seasonal pumpkin recipe inspiration you can easily prepare and enjoy at home.
Boiled Yucca, Plantains and Red Onion. Yucca is a good source of potassium, vitamin C and folate. Like other starchy vegetables, boil them on med-high heat for 20-25 minutes. Add red onion in last for only a few minutes until tender.
Avocado. This plant-based,heart healthy fat adds rich flavor and creamy texture to any dish. Think of it like earth’s butter. Skip the cream cheese or butter that are rich in saturated fats and spread it on toast or enjoy it sliced on eggs. I typically recommend ¼ - ½ of an avocado per serving due to the fat content.
Baked Plantains. They are a powerhouse of nutrients rich in vitamins C, A, B6 and potassium, magnesium and iron. You can find them at your local grocery store often near bananas. They are larger and green in color. Traditionally they are also boiled or fried, but to bake, slice them lengthwise, place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Season them with salt and spices as desired.
Wild Mushroom Rice. Rice is heavenly in the DR. If it’s not cooked right, anyone will tell you! Traditionally they add flavor by roasting vegetables, pureeing them, then adding the vegetable puree to the rice while it cooks. This version had savory marinated mushrooms and herbs which was absolutely to die for!
Pumpkin Beans. Low in calories and rich in vitamin A, C and fiber, pumpkin is used in the Dominican Republic in several dishes. In this recipe the pumpkin was baked until almost tender, then added to the beans for the last 15 minutes of cooking in its rich broth. It created a creamy texture and sweet flavor. Try adding cinnamon, nutmeg and sage for a robust fall side dish.
Blackened Shrimp with Mango Puree. Adding fruit purees to proteins provides more flavor without added sugar, fat or sodium. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines suggests "strong evidence supports eating seafood is associated with reduced risk of heart disease, and moderate evidence indicates that these eating patterns are associated with reduced risk of obesity".
Moro. Whole grains have endless amount of health benefits and are vitamin and mineral rich. This traditional dish is simply rice and beans prepared together. Try brown rice cooked in vegetable broth with black beans. Add a touch of chili powder and cilantro to season.
Roasted vegetables. Studies show 7 servings of vegetables per day drastically reduces the risk of disease and death from heart disease, stroke and cancer. Slice your favorite veggies and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes until tender. Here I had a half of a tomato with spices of red pepper.