Experiment In The Kitchen For Health, New Flavors

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Dried apricots may not appear especially appealing, but combined with oats and other ingredients and you can create a tasty breakfast bar that is a healthy way to start the day.

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Metro Services photo

Dried beans or their canned versions provide the base of healthy and filling soups for the cooler temperatures of fall.

This collection of recipes comes from the American Institute for Cancer Research, which focuses its efforts on studying the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk.

To learn more about its programs and projects, visit the Web site www.aicr.org.

With autumn in the air, this recipe is a perfect addition to lunchboxes and briefcases alike. A nutritious, delicious and convenient breakfast bar, it’s packed with dried fruit, grains and nuts.

Apricot Pecan Cereal Bars

3 cups quick cooking oats

1/2 cup pecans, chopped (almonds or walnuts may also be used)

3 cups unsweetened grain cereal (try Cheerios or Shredded Wheat)

2 cups dried apricots, chopped (may use dried cherries or cranberries)

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour

12 ounces silken tofu, drained

1 large egg

1/2 cup applesauce

1/2 cup canola oil

3/4 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon lemon zest, freshly grated

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread oats and pecans on large, 15-inch-by-10-inch baking dish. Bake until lightly brown and fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes.

Transfer to large mixing bowl and add cereal, apricots and flour, stir to combine.

Puree tofu, egg, applesauce, oil, honey, vanilla and lemon zest in a blender until smooth. Make a well in the center of the oat mixture and fold in the tofu mixture until combined. Coat a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and spread the mixture uniformly in the dish.

Bake until firm in the center and golden brown, approximately 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely in the dish before cutting into bars with a sharp knife.

Makes 24 servings.

The next recipe is a new twist on the old favorites of potato salads and chicken salads and a unique take on Buffalo Wings.

Buffalo Chicken Salad

2 medium red or white potatoes

2-1/2 cups skinless roast chicken breast, in 1-inch pieces

1 large celery rib, cut in 3/4-inch pieces

1/2 cup diced red onion

4-inch piece seedless cucumber, peeled

1/4 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons canola-based mayonnaise

5 to 6 drops hot sauce

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Salt, to taste

4 cups chopped romaine lettuce

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (1 ounce)

Place potatoes in deep saucepan and cover to a depth of 2 inches with cold water. Cook potatoes over medium-high heat until thin knife easily penetrates center of potatoes, about 15 minutes. Drain and set potatoes aside until cool enough to handle. Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Place potatoes in mixing bowl. Add chicken, celery and onion. Cut cucumber lengthwise into 4 pieces. Cut each piece crosswise into 3/4-inch chunks and add to salad.

For dressing, whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, hot sauce, black pepper and salt. Pour dressing over salad and toss with fork to combine.

On serving plate, arrange bed of lettuce. Mound salad on top of lettuce. Sprinkle on blue cheese. Mix well and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

The words below are “pasta and beans” and together they form the base of a traditional Italian soup.

Pasta Fagioli

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 medium stalks celery, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

1-1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Salt, to taste

1, 15-ounce can reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

1, 8-ounce can, reduced-sodium tomato sauce

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 cup uncooked whole-wheat rotini pasta

1/2 cup packed fresh spinach, chopped

1, 15-ounce can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 teaspoons dried parsley

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in large saucepan. Cook onion, garlic, celery, Italian seasoning, red pepper and salt until onions are tender. Stir in broth, tomato sauce and tomatoes. Reduce heat to low and simmer approximately 20 minutes.

Add pasta and cook until tender, according to package directions. Add spinach, beans and parsley. Stir gently for a few minutes until spinach wilts and mixture is heated through. Serve with grated cheese on top.

Makes 6 servings.

This recipe combines the nutrition powerhouses of garbanzo beans, cannellini beans and tuna into a salad that stands on its own or can be eaten on a whole grain baguette. It can be prepared in advance and refrigerated up to 24 hours.

Tasty Tuna and Bean Salad

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup natural rice vinegar

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 can unsalted garbanzo beans (about 8 ounces)

1/2 can unsalted cannellini beans (about 8 ounces)

1 dozen Kalamata olives, pitted

1/2 medium red onion, sliced lengthwise into thin slivers

2 tablespoons fresh mint, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped

1, 12-ounce can solid white albacore tuna in water, drained

1/4 cup chopped red pepper (for garnish)

In small bowl whisk together oil, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, gently toss beans, olives, onion, mint and parsley. Add tuna and sufficient dressing to coat. Gently toss and drizzle with additional dressing, if needed to thoroughly coat. Add chopped red pepper and mix well. Cover and place in refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes before serving (can be refrigerated up to 24 hours).

Makes 4 servings.

Our days are still warm, but evenings are beginning to cool. Now may be the time to try a different soup or two. This is a basic lentil soup enhanced with the addition of Moroccan herbs and spices.

Moroccan Lentil Soup

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cups water

3 cups reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

1 cup red lentils

1, 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

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