Food & Nutrition

REX Bariatric Specialists Quick Recipes

Spice up your meal variety with these healthy, quick recipes recommended by REX Bariatric Specialists!

Ham, Egg, and Broccoli Casserole


  • 12 eggs
  • 16oz low fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups 2% Italian cheese blend
  • 2 cups low sodium chopped sliced ham
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 10oz chopped frozen broccoli
  • pinch of salt and pepper


  • Beat eggs in a large bowl until blended
  • Add remaining ingredients into bowl and mix until combined well
  • Spray 13×9 inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray
  • Pour mix into baking dish
  • Bake at 350°F for 50- 60 minutes

Oatmeal Pancakes


  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 cup rolled oats, dry
  • 2 tsp Stevia (optional)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup low fat cottage cheese
  • fruit (raspberries, blueberries)


  • Combine ingredients into a bowl and blend
  • Spray skillet with olive oil cooking spray
  • Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto medium-low heat skillet
  • Flip batter when it begins to bubble
  • Repeat with rest of batter
  • Top finished pancakes with fruit

Serving size: 4 pancakes

Moroccan Chicken Thighs (slow cooker meal)


  • 1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  •  1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (trimmed of excess fat)
  • pinch of pepper
  • Greek yogurt (for garnish)


  • Blend cilantro through lemon juice in a food processor or blender
  • Add chicken thighs to bottom of slow cooker pot
  • Season with pepper and cover chicken with paste from food processor
  • Cook on low for 3-4 hours
  • Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt

Hummus and Crackers


  • Crackers:
    • 1/2 cup chia seeds
    •  1/2 cup hulled sunflower seeds (unsalted)
    • 1/2 cup pepitas
    • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
    • 1 clove of grated garlic
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1 cup water
  • Hummus:
    • 15oz canned chick peas (drained)
    • 15oz canned chick peas (with liquid)
    • 1/4 cup tahini sauce
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 3 tbsp lemon juice
    • 2 medium garlic cloves (peeled)
    • 1/4 tsp cumin
    • dash of cayenne pepper
    • 1/2 cup kalamata olives (rinsed, pitted and chopped)


  • Combine all cracker ingredients in a bowl and stir mixture until combined
  • Let sit for 2 minutes so water absorbs
  • Spread mixture onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper
  • Bake at 300°F for 35 minutes
  • Remove from oven and cut sheet into squares with pizza cutter
  • Flip squares and bake again at 300°F for 25- 35 minutes
  • While crackers are baking, combine all hummus ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth
  • Pour into a bowl and refrigerate while crackers finish baking (optional)
  • Garnish with additional olives (optional)

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Pumpkin is the New Black

Jayne VecchioJayne is a graduate of Virginia Tech and is currently a Dietetic Intern through Meredith College, working with REX Nutrition Services and REX Diabetes Education Center.

Pumpkins are nutrition-packed vegetables that seem to be underrated for the majority of the year- until fall rolls around. As you may have noticed, pumpkin is currently taking over grocery stores and coffee shops and the smell of pumpkin spice lingers in the air.  It is high in fiber, low in sugar and fat, and contains many micro-nutrients the body requires to function.

Here are some of the main nutrients pumpkin provides:

  • pile of pumpkinsVitamin A – aids in vision (1 cup mashed pumpkin contains more than 200% RDI)
  • Vitamin C – can help boost immune system
  • Beta carotene – a powerful antioxidant that helps fight disease
  • Fiber – keeps you fuller longer and can aid in weight loss
  • Phytosterols – Can reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels
  • Tryptophan – an amino acid that helps calm and relax body

One of my favorite ways to get in the fall spirit is incorporating pumpkin into baking.  Simply adding of a cup of pumpkin puree to recipes is as a more nutritious way to enjoy a sweet treat (in moderation)! Pick up a can of pumpkin (or a pie pumpkin to steam if you prefer the old-fashioned way) at your local grocery store and try this recipe this weekend:

Pumpkin Banana Muffins

pumpkin banana muffinsIngredients:

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¾ cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda


  • Preheat oven to 425° and line a muffin tray with liners.
  • In large bowl microwave butter until melted, about 15-20 seconds, then add the bananas and mash. Add the sugar and pumpkin. Stir well.
  • Stir in the egg and vanilla.
  • Mix in pumpkin spice, cinnamon, flour, salt, and baking soda.
  • Spoon evenly into a muffin tin

Bake for 5 minutes at 425°, then reduce the heat to 350° and bake for 15-16 more minutes. Baking them at the higher temperature at first helps them rise and gives a nice rounded top.  Remove from tin and allow to cool then enjoy!

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Strawberry S’mores

Go fruity with this twist on a summertime favorite! Try this sweet three-ingredient treat without going overboard on the calories. You can also add in raspberries, blueberries or bananas for an extra burst of fruity flavor!


Prep time: 5 minutes
Number of servings: 1


  • 2 strawberries
  • 1 graham cracker (broken in half)
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat vanilla yogurt


  1. Rinse the strawberries in water.
  2. Slice the strawberries.
  3. Add the yogurt and strawberries to half of graham cracker.
  4. Top with the other half of graham cracker.

Nutritional information per serving: 57 total calories; 1 g fat; 2 g protein; 9 g carbohydrates; 1 g dietary fiber; 64 mg sodium.

Recipe courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture,

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Do’s of Safe Grilling

Summer is the most popular time of the year to host outside grilling parties; in fact, two of the busiest holidays for grilling occasions are Memorial Day and Fourth of July! Three out of four households in the U.S. own grills, which means there are lots of tasty meals to go around. At the same time, the growing number of grilling use leads to an increased risk for home fires and injuries. Before firing up your grill this summer, read these recommendations on safe, healthy, and tasty ways to prepare your food this cookout season!


Choice Grilling Foods
Start grilling lean cut meats with a limited amount of visible fat and skin. When buying meats with the least amount of fat, try looking for loin and round cuts of red meat and pork at the grocery store. Different types of fish such as salmon, trout, and herring are a great source for heart-healthy omega- 3 fatty acids and are low in saturated fat. And almost any vegetables can be grilled to add natural flavor to your meal!

Make sure frozen meat, poultry or seafood is thawed before grilling so that it cooks evenly. The refrigerator works best for slow, safe defrosting. You may also place sealed packages of frozen meat in cold water to thaw. Never defrost meat at room temperature, as this can promote bacteria growth and foodborne illness.

shutterstock_404044714A Boost of Flavor
Marinades can boost the flavor of meat and help keep it moist. You can marinate meat for several hours or a day or two in the refrigerator. As with defrosting, the kitchen counter is no place to marinate meat. If you plan to use a portion of the marinade for cooked food, make sure to boil the marinade for at least three minutes to kill any bacteria.

Marinade bonus: Not only can marinades enhance flavor, they may provide health benefits. Marinating meats before grilling may reduce cancer-causing substances that occur when meat is charred over high heat. In addition, some marinades contain antioxidants and vitamins that may offer protection against heart disease and cell and tissue damage.

052814_grill3Be Clean
Scrub the grilling surface with a wire grill brush to remove any charred food. Have plenty of clean grilling utensils and platters on hand, and prevent the spread of harmful bacteria by using different platters and utensils for raw meat and cooked meat. Thoroughly wash your hands with warm, soapy water after handling raw meat.

Prepare Your Grilling Zone
Instruct children to stay away from the grill, and keep pets away from the grilling area. Set up your barbecuing station in a well-ventilated area and only use approved fire starters with a charcoal grill. Let the starter fluid burn off before putting food on the grill, and keep a squirt bottle of water nearby to douse any flare-ups. When heating up the grill and flipping food, wear flameproof mitts and use cooking utensils with long handles.

Reach the Right Temperature
Heat meat to a safe internal temperature to kill bacteria. Use a food thermometer and place it in the deepest part of the meat to determine if it’s done (see chart). Turn meat at least once during the cooking process, and make sure it’s no longer pink inside.

052814_grill1When food has reached a safe temperature, remove the meat with clean tongs and place it on a clean platter. Serve food as soon as possible after cooking. In hot weather, food should never sit out for more than one hour. Immediately refrigerate any leftovers in shallow containers.

Now you’re ready to make grilling season a breeze! By following these health and safety tips, you’ll know your grill has the sweet smell of success.

Ready to Serve?

Food Cook to at least…
Whole poultry and thighs 180°F
Poultry breasts 170°F
Ground poultry 165°F
Pork (all cuts), ground beef hamburgers 165°F
Beef, veal, lamb steaks, roasts and chops, fish and seafood 145°F



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REX on Call Recipe: Green Coriander-Poached Yellowfin Tuna and Cucumber Noodle Salad

Recipe by James Castellow, Executive Chef at  Zest Cafe and Home Art.
Zest Cafe Dish

Follow these instruction’s to make Chef Castellow’s preserved lemon, pistachio & green coriander-poached yellowfin tuna; cucumber noodle salad in avocado lime dressing with Japanese vegetables and black garlic mustard.


  • 4 5-oz. pieces yellow fin tuna, 1 inch thick
  • 2 medium Japanese cucumbers, cut lengthwise, seeds removed
  • 8 cups loosely-packed kale leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, julienned
  • 3 scallions, green parts only, sliced lengthwise
  • 10 snow peas, julienned
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted pistachios, crushed


Set sous vide to 108⁰F. Toss tuna in marinade (recipe below) and place in four separate vacuum bags. Add remaining marinade evenly to bags and seal. Place bags in sous vide and cook for 25 minutes. Remove to an ice bath and chill completely.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water (about one gallon) to a boil. Blanch the kale for 30 seconds and remove to an ice bath. Remove from ice bath, squeeze out all the water and reserve. Next, add the carrots to the boiling water, wait 30 seconds and add the red pepper, snow peas and scallions. Blanch for 30 more seconds and remove to ice bath. Once chilled, strain, pat dry and mix with the Japanese dressing (recipe below) and reserve.

Run the Japanese cucumber through a mandolin to create “noodles”. Mix the noodles with the kale and the avocado lime dressing (recipe below) and reserve.

To Serve

Slice one piece of tuna in six pieces and plate. Sprinkle with ¼ of the crushed pistachios. Place 1/4 of noodle salad on plate and top with 1/4 of Japanese veggies. Add a 1/4 of the black garlic mustard. Repeat for all four plates. Serves 4.

Avocado Lime Dressing

  • 2 large tomatillos
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • 1 scallion
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 jalapeño, seeded
  • 1/2 c. fresh cilantro

Place all ingredients into blender and process until smooth.

Tuna Marinade

  • 2 Tbsp. preserved lemon, minced
  • 1 tsp. green coriander, minced
  • 1 tsp. pink peppercorns, minced
  • 4 tsp. preserved lemon brine
  • 4 tsp. pistachio oil
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt.

Mix all ingredients and reserve.

Japanese Dressing

  • 3 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. chili garlic sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cracked black pepper

Whisk all ingredients until smooth.

Black Garlic Mustard

  • 3 Tbsp. mashed black garlic
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. extra hot Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon verbena syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. cracked black pepper

Mix all ingredients until smooth.

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REX On Call Recipe: Summertime Stuffed Peppers

Chef Ryan McGuire from The Chef’s Academy shows us how to make this delicious summertime stuffed pepper with a coriander-tomato sauce.
Stuffed Pepper Cover


  • Pepper, Poblano- 1 each
  • Buckwheat, cooked- ½ Cup
  • Black bean, cooked- ½ Cup
  • Tomato, slicing, ripe- 1 each
  • Pepper, seranno, chopped fine – 1tsp
  • Coriander, ground- ½ tsp
  • Cilantro, chopped- 1 Tbsp
  • Lime juice- 1 tsp
  • Olive oil- 1 Tbsp
  • Salt, kosher- to taste
  • Black pepper, crushed- to taste
  • Pumpkin seeds, toasted- 2 Tbsp


  • Roast poblano pepper over burner or under broiler until the skin of the pepper is evenly charred. Place pepper in a bowl and cover to allow steam to take place.  After about 5 minutes remove pepper from the bowl and remove the charred skin from the pepper.  Carefully make an incision in the pepper (lengthwise).  Carefully remove seeds from the top of the pepper being careful not to split pepper any more.
  • For the sauce- Make an incision in the shape of an x on the bottom of the tomato just deep enough to go through the skin. Remove the core and discard.  Carefully place tomato in a pot of simmering water. Once the skin from the tomato begins to visibly peel back from the tomato remove from the hot water and place in an ice water bath.  Once tomato has cooled, remove the skin, cut in quarters and remove any visible seeds.  Dice tomato reserving a quarter for filling and place the other ¾’s in a blender with ground coriander, the diced serrano and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Puree the mixture until smooth.  Be sure to not over blend or it will become a lighter in color. Strain any large chunks and push through a sieve.  Reserve sauce for a later step.
  • For the filling- gently combine cooked buckwheat, cooked beans, chopped cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, and reserved diced 1/4 of tomato with a pinch of salt and pepper. Taste for proper seasoning. Carefully stuff pepper, scooping the filling into the cavity of the pepper where the incision was made.  If there’s leftover filling you can place it under the pepper to hold it steady on the plate.
  • For plating, place the sauce in the bottom of a plate and place the pepper over the sauce.

Yield – 1 serving

Note: This recipe has been created to take advantage of the produce that’s in season during the summer in this part of NC.  The peppers, tomato and beans which are all in season could easily be replaced with many other varieties.  Please support your local farmers and visit your closest farmers market.

 Other plating suggestions– an herb oil made from a variety of fresh herbs, or edible flowers and herb sprigs to garnish the pepper. 

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REX On Call Recipe: Pan-Seared Mahi Mahi with Spring Greens Puree

Chef Kim Hunter, owner of  Kimbap Cafe, introduces her pan-seared Mahi Mahi dish.

Mahi Dish

  • Fish 4 -Mahi Mahi fish fillets, 45 ounces each (or other medium firm,
    flaky fish)
  • Salt & pepper
  • Puree 2 cups fresh summer greens such as radish greens or kale, washed and chopped
  • 1 cup fresh whole green peas, such as sugar snap or snow peas
  • 2 medium sized white turnips (about 1/2 lb total), cubed
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 of a jalapeno pepper, sliced
  • 3 cups fish stock or chicken stock
  • 8 oz coconut milk


  • For the puree Blanch the greens and green peas in salted boiling water. Remove from water and place in ice bath.
  • Set aside.
  • In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil on medium heat.
  • Add turnips and onion, saute until tender and a bit caramelized.
  • Add ginger, garlic and jalapeno and saute a few minutes longer.
  • Add stock and gently simmer for about 10 minutes. Add more stock if needed (there should be enough stock in the pan to almost cover the veggies).
  • Taste the liquid, season with salt and pepper to your preference. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool to room temperature.
  • Add the blanched greens & peas to the veggie/stock mixture. Blend mixture on high until smooth.
  • Place a fine sieve or a chinois over another container, and strain the puree, using a ladle to push as much of the liquid through the sieve as possible. This will ensure the puree is smooth and not gritty.
  • To finish the puree, add coconut milk. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Set the strained puree aside.

Prepare the fish

Salt and pepper both sides of the fish fillets. Heat a skillet with just enough oil to coat bottom of pan. When pan is hot, gently place fillets in pan. Sear on first side for about 4 minutes, then flip fish and continue cooking on the other side for 23 more minutes, depending on thickness. Fish should be moist, opaque in color and flaky.
Warm the puree, then place on bottom of plate or bowl. Place the fish on top of puree. Serve with steamed rice and fresh herbs, if desired.

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Simply Snacking & Boredom Busters: The Healthy Way

Kate RudisillKate Rudisill MS, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian with REX Nutrition Services, located inside REX Wellness Center of Raleigh

What do you think of when you hear the word “snack”? A bag of chips during your favorite movie, or a bowl of ice cream before bed? Snacks don’t have to be unhealthy, and can actually serve as an essential part of our diet when chosen wisely. A well-timed, healthy snack keeps us from becoming too hungry and overeating at the next meal. Snacking can also help fill gaps left by our regular diet, and improve intake of micronutrients and essential food groups. Here are some tips for smart snacking:

  • Be mindful: Before reaching for a snack, think about how long it has been since your last meal, and if you’re truly hungry. If the desire for a snack is the result of boredom, frustration or stress, try to fill the void with a hobby or exercise.
  • Portion control: When assembling your snack, portion it out according to the serving size instead of taking the entire package with you. This can help avoid overeating. Also, assemble pre-portioned snacks for the coming week so that you can grab them and go.
  • Choose wisely: When possible, try to include two food groups in your snack. Pairing a high fiber food with a protein choice will be more satisfying and keep you fuller longer.
  • It’s all about timing: Your body needs fuel in between meals, so plan a snack for mid-morning and mid-afternoon. This will help to avoid overeating at lunch and dinner.

Now that you know how, when and why to choose your snack, here are some healthy and tasty snack ideas!

shutterstock_270828476_copy shutterstock_288710747Simple Snacks:

  • Chopped carrots, peppers and cucumbers with 1/3 cup hummus
  • Sliced apple with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
  • 6 whole-wheat crackers with 1 slice of cheese
  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt with berries
  • 3 cups of non-buttered popcorn sprinkled with 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup shelled, steamed edamame
  • 2 slices deli turkey rolled up with 1 slice cheese and 1 slice tomato

Boredom Busters:


  • 6-inch flour tortilla with ¼ cup black beans and 2 tablespoons salsa
  • Toaster waffle topped with ½ cup blueberries and 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • Oven-baked sweet potato fries seasoned with olive oil, chili powder and salt: Chop 1 sweet potato into fries, season, and bake at 425F for 20-25 minutes.
  • Banana oatmeal walnut cookies: Combine 2 medium ripe bananas, mashed, and 1 cup uncooked quick oats in a bowl. Fold in ¼ cup crushed walnuts. Scoop 1 tablespoon at a time onto a baking sheet. Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes.shutterstock_369569879
  • Fruit smoothie: Blend 1 cup fat-free milk, ½ cup frozen strawberries, and ½ frozen banana (or fruits of your choice totaling 1 cup).
  • Protein bites: Combine 1.5 tbsp nut butter, 3 tbsp oats, ½ tbsp. honey and ½ tbsp. dark chocolate chips. Roll into balls. Eat 1-2 protein bites as a snack.
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Love Your Heart Cook-Off Contest


Want to win a FREE dinner to one of Raleigh’s top choice restaurants?

Watch REX On Call LIVE on WRAL, June 20, at 7 p.m. to see three of Raleigh’s finest chefs go head to head to create the tastiest, heart-healthy dish. UNC REX executive chefs will judge and choose the winning recipe.

Leading up to the show, we challenge YOU to make your own heart-healthy dish and enter our “Love Your Heart” Cook-Off social media contest! You will be entered into a drawing to win a free dinner to the winning chef’s restaurant.

To enter the contest, send a photo of your heart-healthy dish and a short list of the ingredients to us via Facebook (post on our page or message us), Twitter (tweet us @RexHealthcare) or email. The winner will be announced during the show on June 20.

Heart-healthy dishWhat Does a Heart-Healthy Dish Look Like?

  • Low sodium
  • Low fat
  • Limited extra virgin olive oil
  • Can include vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, fresh fish, beans, tofu, legumes, fruits, nuts

Try to stay away from:

  • Deep frying
  • Curing
  • Creams
  • Butters
  • High fat cheese


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Grilled Asparagus and Shrimp Quinoa Salad

Enjoy this superfood salad with a refreshing lemon vinaigrette dressing.


Prep time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings


  • 2 cups fresh asparagus, large spears (cut into 1” pieces)
  • ½ yellow or red bell pepper (cut into ½” pieces)
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 14-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts (drained)
  • 12 ounces fresh or frozen large raw shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • 1½ cups dry quinoa (cooked according to package directions)
  • For the lemon vinaigrette:
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh or bottled lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. asparagus recipePlace vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and whisk; set aside.
  2. Cut vegetables as directed.
  3. Heat grill and grilling tray.
  4. Place vegetables and shrimp in a large bowl; add about ⅓ of the vinaigrette (about 3 tablespoons) and toss.
  5. Spread shrimp-vegetable mixture over hot grilling tray.
  6. Grill, turning shrimp and vegetables, until the flesh of the shrimp is an opaque color (about 5 to 6 minutes); remove from grill.
  7. Serve grilled mixture over cooked quinoa and drizzle with vinaigrette.

Nutritional information per serving: 33 g protein; 62 g carbohydrates; 7 g dietary fiber; 570 mg sodium.

Recipe courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture,


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