Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Road Eats

It's nearly Christmas and many of us will be hitting the road to visit family and friends.

Cakewalk and I will be doing a LOT of driving over the next week or so.

As you know, faithful readers, I am trying not to buy food outside of the home (with reasonable exceptions of course.) Which led me to post about how to eat well when traveling.




First, you need to plan ahead. Make a list, check it twice and hit the grocery store. Don't do this 10 minutes before you need to leave. Give yourself enough time to get what you need without making rash decisions. And give yourself time to get it home, prep it if needed and get it packed appropriately.

Next, you need to think about things that hold up, can handle only a moderate amount of refrigeration (or none), and can easily be eaten driving down the road. Yogurt, por ejemplo, is not a good choice unless it's for the passenger and you have a very good cooler.

If you think you will need caffeine, I would consider purchasing sodas now and putting a few on ice. This will save you time and money at gas stations.

Finally, and this should be obvious by now, you should have a good cooler on hand. If you don't have one, you can always purchase one of those styrofoam ones from the store. I know it isn't the greenest option and I know it adds to your bill, but in a pinch it's a decent solution and still preferably to purchasing every snack and meal at a fast food joint.

So what should you pack? Here are some suggestions that I have found work well, but I'm always open to others:
  • Cut up celery, carrots, bell peppers, etc into sticks for easy munching. Carrots and celery are obvious, but try other raw veggies too like red peppers or snow peas.
  • Fruit that isn't too messy: bananas, apples, pears, etc.
  • Or have fruit already cut up into pieces in a tupperware type bowl. This may only work for the passenger. Don't try to spear fruit with a fork while driving. But some you could eat with your fingers if they aren't tooooo juicy.
  • Muffins are one of my favorite travel foods. You can make a bunch at a time, they don't have to be kept cold, they hold up for days, and they can be very filling and healthy. I made oatmeal and cranberry muffins with a touch of brown sugar for a recent trip and was glad I did when the breakfast options were sparse.
  • Bagels are pretty easy to eat in the car, unless you require a truck load of cream cheese on them. But who needs that, right? There are a few different types you could try. First, try buying "day olds" from your local bagel shop. These will be cheaper and already packaged in a bag so you can toss them in the car. Or, you can buy a bag in the freezer section or bread section at your grocer. But remember that not all bagels are made the same. They can have 100-400 calories each. And some have HFCS and some do not. I really like getting cinnamon raisin because I know they taste great plain.
  • Make sandwiches such as PB&J or turkey and cheese. Try making variations of the originals. Try a different type of cheese than American. Or try a spicy turkey meat. Try a different nut butter. Or use an unusual jelly/jam. One of my favorite sandwiches was a PB&J made with natural peanut butter and my boss's peach and rosemary jelly. You can also vary the type of bread you use. Try rye or pumpernickel. Or make sandwiches using pita bread. Hummus with spinach on pita is tasty and different. Make them ahead, and wrap them individually. Of course, these will need to be in the cooler. I would recommend putting them on top so they don't get smashed or soggy.
  • Dry cereal makes a good snack. I've especially like eating shredded wheat without milk. It's perfect finger food. They now have a bunch of different flavors, including chocolate. While these do have sugar, they also have a decent amount of fiber, making them a better snack choice than combos from the gas station. (Although I do love me some combos now and then.) You can really eat just about any cereal with your hands, even flakes. Try mixing cereals in individual baggies for a fun treat. I like mixing a sweet one with a healthier one like frosted flakes with kashi.
  • Make your own trail mix. I know I posted about this somewhere, but I can't find it to give you the linky. Sorry dudes! But basically, to make your own trail mix toss together some nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts, soy nuts, etc), some dried fruit (raisins, cranberries), a bit of candy if you like (chocolate bits), pretzels, coconut (if you like that junk, I certainly do not), or whatever you like. Just try to make sure you have some nuts for protein and not too much sugar or salt. I would recommend putting this into individual baggies too. It will make it easier to eat and will help with portion control.
  • Make your own peanut butter (or nut butter) crackers. Buy some saltines and make little peanut butter sandwiches. These don't have to be cold and can be eaten easily for a little protein on the drive. You can purchase saltines with less salt or you can even try the "whole grain" ones, although I don't know how whole grain they are and I kinda have my doubts. Check the fiber content. If they have more than regular crackers, give them a try. Otherwise, I wouldn't worry about it. Of course, you can use whatever crackers you want, they don't have to be saltines.
I hope this list gave you some good ideas. Even if you only pack some snacks and still eat your meals out, you will have saved some money and calories. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. But do remember that if you stop at a fast food establishment or a convenience store, you can still make wise choices. It doesn't have to mean you have to throw in the towel and overindulge. At gas stations you can usually find nuts, peanut butter crackers, milk and juice, pretzels, and even cheese sticks, fruit or sandwiches. But if you do eat Combos once in awhile, I won't scold you. ;)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Saving Money The Realistic Nutritionist Way

I just posted about goals. Here is another goal idea for ya that I recently imposed on myself.

After examining my bank statements for October and November, I realized (DUH!) that I spend a lot of money on food and drinks away from home. This included a coffee while meeting friends at the coffee shop, a diet coke from the machine at work, a bagel from Mickey D's, a lunch from Noodles, some candy, etc etc etc.

I made an excel file and looked at exactly how much I had spent on legitimate groceries (TJ's, Harry Peet, Papa Spuds, etc) and how much I had spent on food from all other sources.

I didn't think it would be that much, but it was! And I bring my lunch most days. And I don't ever order anything too pricey. But all those small charges really added up.

Plus, let's be honest, it was all stuff I could live without. I mean, there are some days when I don't have a lunch with me and I need to get food, but otherwise it was extra junk and neither of my bottom lines needed it, if ya know what I mean. ;)

So I decided that for the month of December I would not spend money on food, drinks, snacks, etc outside of grocery shopping unless I really had too (ie when I traveled for work and had no kitchen or fridge). And so far I've stuck to it. It's been hard at times. Some days I didn't feel like packing a lunch. But I did. Some days I really wanted a diet coke, but if I didn't bring it from home, I didn't get one. Some days co-workers went to get coffee and I...ok, I did break down and get one cup of coffee. It was one of those bone chillin' days a few weeks ago and it smelled so good and I only got a small cup of black coffee. But otherwise, I've stuck to it.

And I know I've saved a lot of money. And I know that I'm eating better because of it. True, I wasn't usually eating anything that bad, it adds up.

I'm not saying that we should all forgo our beloved, overpriced coffee from the shop that shall not be named, our lunches out with friends or treat now and then. But if decide to cut back just a little, I think you will see some more money in your pocket, more than you think, and you may even be able to cut some calories without even missing them.

So why not make this one of your new year's goals?

  • You could go cold turkey for a set amount of time like I did (with reasonable but enforced exceptions, of course.)
  • Or you could set a dollar amount limit for each week.
  • Or you could specify the one thing you will allow yourself and cut out the rest. Although I would encourage to TRY to cut out that one thing or try to find other ways to get your fix, because that is probably the one thing costing you the most.
Get creative! You may find you like cooking at home or bringing your lunch. You may feel better without all that caffeine. Or you may find you like homebrewed coffee better. Or you may find you feel better without as many diet cokes each day. Or you may find you don't hit that afternoon slump quite as hard when you don't hit up the snack machine. Or you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack. You may find yourself in another part of the world. You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile. You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife. You may ask yourself: well... how did I get here?

11 in 2011: Goals for Another Year

As another year rolls in, we are all starting to look at our waistlines and shake our heads.

So we join gyms and buy fancy ipods and new shoes and set super high, pie-in-the-sky nutrition/diet goals.

You may (or more likely may not) recall that I am not a fan of drastic lifestyle change (or attempts at drastic lifestyle change.) Setting your sights too high or approaching change unrealistically sets you up for failure.

Instead, I like the idea of setting an achievable, specific goal (or goals.)

For instance, I have a friend who is not a runner and who wants to lose some weight. Instead of jumping on the latest diet bandwagon or killing her at the gym BL style, she decided to set goals for walking a certain number of miles. Now that she is close to achieving that goal she has set her sights on a half-marathon. But she is giving herself time to properly train and prepare for it....she's looking at one next fall. As she trains she will get stronger, she will lose weight and she will feel better overall....as side effects. I think this is a great goal for the year and I admire her for it!

So I've decided I need to set a goal for myself. This year (2010) my goals were to PR on the 5K and finish a half marathon. I did both. I also completed a 10 miler with Sir Cakewalk, and trained with weights to get stronger so I'd look good in my strapless bridal gown.

What now? I could work on getting a faster half marathon time or I could train for and run a full. I'm also thinking about doing 11 in 2011, meaning 11 races or physical activities. That would mean a lot of races, but they could be of varying distances.




What do you think?
What should I do?
Any races/activities you'd recommend?

What will YOUR goals be???

Monday, December 20, 2010

Psychedelic Fruit Salad

Last night I went to see TRON. I thought the movie was ok. The soundtrack was awesome.

I share this because it meant I didn't have enough time to do my usual lengthy shopping trip, dinner cooking and lunch-for-Monday prepping. I had to come up with something quick.

I knew I had just picked up some brown rice pasta that a friend recommended from TJ's. I also knew I had some discounted kiwis that I had bought several days before and that were probably bad or going bad quickly. Discounted produce is a great way to get stuff way cheap. You just need to use it before it goes bad. I usually head there first when I hit the produce section because I'll try to make a meal around whatever bargain I find.

I knew I also had some real feta (we usually have it on hand) and some olives.

So I decided to make a pasta salad and a fruit salad.

For the pasta salad I cooked the pasta. I had never cooked brown rice pasta before so I wasn't sure what the consistency would be like. When I thought it was done I drained it, cooled it a bit and tried a piece. OOPS! It wasn't cooked all the way. I started a new pot of boiling water and cooked it a few more minutes until it was tender.

The noodles were tasty. They are actually a little firmer and chewier than regular pasta. It was a nice change. I didn't buy them because they are "healthier" than regular pasta or because I'm jumping on the gluten free band wagon. I just wanted to try something different and they were the same price ($1.99) as the other stuff. They would be a great option for those who are gluten intolerant/celiac. But if you are just looking for a lower calorie pasta option, keep looking.

Anywho, I cooked the pasta, chilled it down and then tossed it with the olives, a minced green pepper ($0.99), some celery I had on hand (I always have celery), some pimentos I had in the pantry (aka red pepper pieces), a can of garbanzo/chickpeas, a little EVOO, vinegar, tabasco, S & P. I didn't mix the feta directly in but just put a little on top of each serving once in the bowl.

This was sooooo good!

And it made a great lunch for me today along with some psychedelic fruit salad.

When I hit the store I was in a hurry. So I looked to see what I could toss with those kiwis. Mangos and persimmons were on sale. I got one of each along with the green pepper and some milk.

While the water was boiling for the pasta I chopped up all of the stuff for the salad and all of the fruit.

It made a very bright orange fruit concoction. Man was it tasty!

You can try making your own pasta salad and/or psychedelic fruit salad.

For the former, chop up whatever raw veggies you like or have on hand and toss them in with any kind of beans. If you have fresh herbs, toss those in. If you have a oil based dressing you like (like a good Italian), use some of that. It's quick, filling, cheap, tasty, and refreshing.

For the latter (not ladder), chop up whatever fruits you like and gently mix together: apples, berries, pears, bananas, mango, kiwi, persimmon, grapes, etc. It may end up looking something like this:


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Secret Santa Recipe & Random Thoughts


I just got a gift from my Secret Santa. He/She/It gave me a recipe that is right up my alley! I can't wait to try it!!!

It uses curry, veggies, couscous, chickpeas, ginger and feta....all some of my favorites! Thanks Santa, whomever you are.

Hopefully I will get to make it soon and then I'll officially share the recipe.

But tonight I'm making Shrimp n Grits n Greens since I didn't make it last night. Last night was a leftovers night.

Now I just have to decide if I'm also going to try to run tonight. Do you run in the snow? My sidewalks are slushy and might get icy tonight. But I am overdue for a run.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Healthy Mexican Cuisine

In response to a recent post which was in response to a post which was in response to a comment to a post, I got the following question regarding making recipes healthier:

"ooohhhh..mexican food. we love mexican and eat it probably 4 times a week. Are there healthy alternatives to common mexican foods (like fajitas, enchiladas (my fav), quesadillas and tacos)??"

I think healthy Mexican food is easy. True Mexican cuisine usually IS healthy (or healthier than our Americanized version) because it involves fresh ingredients.

If you make your own Mexican food at home, it ain't hard to make it healthy and tasty.

I already posted once about making healthy veggie tacos with peppers.

Here are some other suggestions:

Fajitas:
  • Saute or grill fresh veggies or saute frozen veggies like peppers, onion, carrot, mushrooms, etc.
  • Grill a chicken breast and shred it or grill a steak and slice it thin (or leave out the meat all together.)
  • Use corn tortillas instead of flour because they are smaller AND have less preservatives AND a lot less calories.
  • Use low fat sour cream or greek yogurt.
  • Add chopped lettuce and tomato
  • Make your own guacamole to top each fajita. Or use avocado slices. Avocado is packed with healthy fats. Plus it's goooooood.
  • Make your own pico de gallo or use prepared salsa and add liberally. Salsa is very low calorie.
  • Get a block of part skim cheese and shred some. (This is MUCH cheaper than using the already shredded stuff, but if you are short on time that is fine too.) Or try using feta cheese, Mexican cheese or make your own cheese.
Enchiladas:
  • I would start by cooking up some fresh veggies. Try using broccoli in addition to peppers, onions, carrots, etc, for example.
  • Cook and shred some chicken or beef.
  • Make your own enchilada sauce. I don't have the recipe at my fingertips that I've used before but there are a ton out there and they all seem to be similar. Here is one from Emeril. It isn't hard to make.
  • Wrap up your enchiladas filled with fresh veggies and meat, place them in a baking dish, pour the sauce over top, then sprinkle with low fat cheese and bake.
Dang kay-suh-dill-uh:
  • I don't have much for ya here. I mean, it's cheese and tortilla, essentially. However, you could add some meat or veggies or salsa or fresh avocado and be sparing with the cheese to cut back on fat and calories.
  • Also, if you don't saute it in butter like they do at the restaurants, it will help. You can make them in a pan with non-stick spray or try making them on a George Forman type grill.
Tacos:
  • I think I already addressed some ideas for this one in the previous post previously referenced.
  • But I would add that you could add ground meat. Ground turkey or low fat ground beef, sauteed with some taco seasoning would be tasty.
  • Or try making fish tacos with fresh tilapia and then go lighter on the toppings.
Burritos:
  • I used to make burritos when I was in college and didn't have much money for fancy food.
  • Get some big tortillas, but try to find some that are whole wheat.
  • Make some rice. You can use instant or a steam fresh bag of white or brown rice would work great.
  • Cook up whatever you have on hand or have easy access to. Burritos can be more creative than the other foods. You could all sorts of veggies or meats and top them with all kinds of crazy sauces. For instance, I used to saute veggies and tofu with teriyaki sauce and put that in my burritos with rice. Or, at a friend's house I recently had a sweet potato and black bean burrito that was delish. She made them up then baked them so they would be crispy on the outside. It's really up to you, based on your preferences and what you have.
Sides and other things:
  • You can make black bean soup for an appetizer or for a great, easy meal.
  • You can add an easy salad to any of these items. Just chop up some romaine, a little onion or pepper, and top with avocado slices or pico de gallo. Or use a healthy dressing, preferrably homemade. At the same friend's house that made me the sweet pot burrito, I also had a salad such as this that used pico instead of dressing. It was spicy and a nice change from the dressing laden salad.
  • Black beans and pinto beans are a great side that are super healthy. Lots O fiber and protein. You can add cumin or chili powder or salsa to them for some extra flavor.

Buena Suerte!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Recipe Makeover: Cauliflower Soup

This week I will be making the following meals:
  • Monday: Stir fry with one batch having tofu and onions and one half having chicken (to please onion hatas in the household)
  • Tuesday: Shrimp & Grits with Greens. I will use my standby skrimp and grits recipe and will saute swiss chard on the side. Then I'll top the grits with the greens and the srimps. Yes, I know I misspelled "shrimp" twice in this bullet. I did so because while working at a seafood restaurant for 10 years I heard it prounounced all three ways. I also got saLmon, till-A-pee-A, maui maui, and key-babs.
  • Wednesday: Cauliflower Soup. I got a head of the veggie from my produce box last week and haven't been able to decide what to make....roasted cauliflower? casserole? mashed? But soup sounds good and I found a recipe that looks great, although it needs a few healthy tweeks. And that is the subject of this post!
  • Thursday: No clue...leftovers or potluck.
  • Friday: Indian food at one of the best restaurants in the triangle. It's on the house as a wedding present!
So the recipe for cauliflower soup calls for the following:
  • Broth
  • Whole Milk
  • Half and half
  • Butter
  • Sour cream
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Flour
  • S&P
  • Herbs

And the instructions are basically:
  1. Saute the carrot, celery and onion in some butter. (Bonus points if you know what this is called.) Then add chopped cauliflower and saute. Allow to simmer.
  2. Add the broth and simmer some mo'.
  3. In the meantime, melt more butter in another pot. Add milk and flour to it and whisk.
  4. Then, add half and half to this white sauce before pouring the sauce into the simmering soup pot.
  5. Toss in some herbs and S&P and allow to simmer even mo'.
  6. Finally, add sour cream to the soup.
Now, I am all for enjoying a homecooked, whole fat meal once in awhile. In general, you are still better off eating something with whole milk and cream and butter that you've made at home than you are eating out because you can control the ingredients and the portions.

But, in regards to my last post about substitutions, I thought I'd propose a recipe makeover.

Here is what I suggest to change to still make a delicious soup but that cuts some fat and calories:
  • Broth --> Broth is fine or buillon or homemade stock
  • Whole Milk --> 2% milk. It's still rich tasting but cuts out a lot of fat and calories. I wouldn't suggest skim milk, because it will make the soup more watery and you will lose some flavor and richness. I suggest local and/or organic milk if at all possible.
  • Half and half --> Omit. Use more milk instead.
  • Butter --> I would suggest using less butter overall. Or, you could saute the veggies in a little olive oil in the beginning and use a little butter to make the white sauce, just less than in the original recipe.
  • Sour cream --> Plain greek yogurt will have the same taste and richness but will cut fat and calories and add protein
  • Cauliflower --> No need to change
  • Carrot --> Ditto
  • Celery --> Ditto again
  • Onion --> Ditto again again
  • Flour --> I would keep this the same rather than switching to a whole wheat. You may be able to use less. But you have to use some or your sauce won't thicken.
  • S&P --> Use sparingly or to your own taste.
  • Herbs --> If possible, use something you grew. If not, try to find some fresh herbs at the store. But, alas! if you don't have fresh herbs at your disposal, use dried, but don't be afraid to use a good amount. Just add some, taste, add more, taste, etc until you find what you like. Most poeple don't use enough.

So I didn't do anything drastically different. But if you follow these changes, you will still produce a yummy soup. But you will have cut out a lot of saturated fat and reduced the overall caloric total.

Do you have a recipe you'd like me to makeover? Email it or comment on this post. I'll feature it on another post.



Dorky math sidenote:

Check out the picture. Note how it is almost a pentagon in outline. Look closer and you can see a center point, where the florets are smallest. Look again, and you will see the florets are organized in spirals around this center in both directions. How many spirals are there in each direction?

Take a look at a cauliflower next time you're preparing one:
  1. Count the number of florets in the spirals on your cauliflower. The number in one direction and in the other will be Fibonacci numbers.
  2. Take a closer look at a single floret (break one off near the base of your cauliflower). It is a mini cauliflower with its own little florets all arranged in spirals around a center.
    If you can, count the spirals in both directions. How many are there?
1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reader Question: Healthy Substitutes

No, I don't mean sexy temporary teachers.

I recently got this question:
"I have some friends who bake using alternative, healthier ingredients for a similar taste... ex. apple sauce instead of oil and whole grain wheat, etc, etc. I'd be really interested in a post about other alternatives like this if you know about them."

Here are a few suggestions:
  • Applesauce for oil in just about any baked good
  • To cut down on calories or sugar, replace half with splenda or stevia. I don't typically recommend this because I'm not a huge fan of sugar substitutes. But it's a nice tip for the diabetic.
  • Instead of sugar, use honey. However, do remember that honey is still sugar and has calories. But you typically need less of it, comparatively. It is not a one-to-one substitution. And also remember that very young children should not eat honey.
  • Instead of mayo or sour cream, use plain greek yogurt. It can be used to make a ranch dip, or as a topping, or in any recipe that you would use mayo or sour cream. You will cut down on a LOT of fat and calories and add protein.
  • You can bake and cook with wheat flour instead of white flour. But it will affect the items. So you might want to try it in a few different recipes to see if you like the end result and flavor. You can also do half whole wheat and half refined/white flour.
  • Nufchatel cheese sounds fancy, but it is low-fat cream cheese. If you've ever bought cream cheese labeled low fat, you've bought nufchatel. It works just the same as the full fat version but with less calories and fat, duh. And it tastes about the same. Stay away from fat free cream cheese though. It tastes horrible and has a ton of added junk. This is generally true of fat free items. They often have MORE preservatives and chemicals than the "unhealthy" full fat item. But low fat choices typically just have some fat removed and taste just as good.
  • Instead of instant oatmeal, try using regular oats or steel cut oats. The package will give you cooking instructions, which may vary. It may take longer, but these are much better for you.
  • Brown rice for white rice is always a good choice. But it isn't a free pass to gobble down a full Pei Wei serving of it. It has more fiber and will make you feel full longer. It does take longer to prepare if you buy it au natural. But you can buy the instant versions or it even comes in steamable frozen bags.

I think that's all I have for ya right now. But I'm sure more will come to me!

Thanks for the question!

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's Almost That Time Again: Will YOU Accept the Krispy Kreme Challenge?

The date is set!

Registration is open!

Will you accept the challenge?

In about 2 months, several thousand people will try to eat a dozen donuts....while running a 4 mile race!

Will you be among us?

That's right, I said "us." I plan to register as a casual runner (not a challenger) because I love Krispy Kreme donuts, and do not wish to make myself sick of them, literally. I may try to eat one during the race. But I can't barely keep down Gatorade when I'm racing. Sir Cakewalk, who cannot back down from a challenge, (Boys!), plans on attempting the full feat of eating a dozen donuts, running the race, and not up-chuckin.

For complete caloric information on this event, see my earlier post.

Who's in???

Locally Inspired

I've already read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle once. But I wanted the Hubster to read it too. Lately he's been talking about wanting to buy a small farm someday where we can grow our own veggies, have a few chickens, and maybe even have a cow for milk. So I knew this book would be right up his alley.

On our recent trip to an out of town 10 mile road race, we began listening to the audio book. We both love audio books and I felt like we needed a break from our current one, The Mists of Avalon.

I love this book and I love hearing the author narrate. Her voice is calm and reassuring but you can feel her passion for the subject matter...eating locally.

So now I am re-inspired to eat more local items. I'm not espousing an all or nothing philosophy. I cannot embrace a lifestyle devoid of olive oil, chocolate, coffee, and international spices. But I do think we can all make better choices and buy some items locally. And, as I believe I've stated in a previous post, local, fresh food tastes soooooooo much better than conventionally grown posers.

I just put in my weekly order with Papa Spuds. This week we will be getting chard, kale, oyster mushrooms, black walnuts, flour, and cauliflower.....all local and pesticide free.

This week I plan to make:
  • Kale chips. These are super simple and delicious. You just toss chopped kale leaves in EVOO, S&P and bake until crispy.
  • Chard and mushroom quinoa. I found a recipe online that I'm gonna try.
  • Roasted cauliflower casserole
  • Oatmeal and fresh cranberry muffins (with local oats I already have, the new flour, and fresh cranberries that are not local but are worth the splurge once a year.)
This weekend, after I return home from yet another trip out of town (my 3rd weekend OOTer in a row), I plan to purchase some local eggs and maybe some goat cheese.

Sunday I think Cakewalk will make us some homemade dough for pizza. I also may try my hand at cheese again for the pies. I have local buttermilk ready to be cheese-ified. (This is the easiest cheese EVER to make....you simply heat up buttermilk to a specific temp that I cannot recall right now and then scoop out the cheese as it develops. It ends up looking and tasting a bit like crumbled feta.)

I'm so excited! I'm even asking for two related books for Christmas: Local Flavors and Home Cheese Making.

Do you buy any local foods? Does your area have a local speciality?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Don't Be A Turkey: Thanksgiving Food Safety

I just read an informational sheet entitled "Keeping Poop Off the Plate During A Holiday Meal." Hilarious title, serious topic.


Do YOU know how to properly prepare a turkey?


To avoid making people sick remember to:
  • Thaw your turkey in the fridge, microwave, in cool water, or on the counter. Make sure the center of the turkey is thawed.
  • Clean utensils and work surfaces after preparing raw turkey for roasting.
  • Wash your hands after getting the turkey ready.
  • Cook your turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F.
  • Don't wash your turkey. When washing, the pathogens can contaminate the sink, the faucet, other parts of the kitchen and your hands.
  • Refrigerate leftover turkey within 2 hours of taking it out of the oven. Turkey should be cooled to 41°F within about 14 hours by putting the sliced up leftover turkey in a 1 quart zip-lock bag and laying the bags flat on the shelf in the refrigerator.







Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Sound of Silence and Shoes on Pavement

Sir Cakewalk and I have now been running together for a few months. We are currently training for a 10 miler the first weekend of December. It has been an awesome experience. I've never been able to run with another person so consistently before. It's motivating and it makes the whole task of running more fun.

But we are now up to running 3-4 times a week and logging more than 8 miles on our long runs. That's a lot of time to spend together, even for newly weds. We often talk about work and what not, but that usually only lasts a few minutes. When we run out of something to say, we can hear our own breathing, feel every ache more distinctly and my brain starts yelling that it is time to stop this madness and do some chillaxin.

Being bored during a run hasn't been a problem for me before. When I'm training by myself I try to mix it up by running different routes, different terrain, etc and by either listening to music or audio books or watching tv shows like Gossip Girl while on the treadmill. But putting on headphones defeats the whole point of having a running partner.

So now we are in search of conversation topics.

Last week we did 4 miles in the rain and discussed our first memories of food. That was fun.

Anyone have fun ideas for conversation? The more random, the better. Ideally it would be something open ended that we can keep rolling while we hit the pavement for 45+ minutes.

What else do you do to keep your workouts interesting?

PS I totally need a cool pic of us running together. I don't think I have a single one. I have plenty of myself at races or running events. And those are just soooo flattering. ;) But I need to share a picture here, don't I? I mean, blogs need pictures....


Turkey Day Menus


What are you having for Thanksgiving dinner?

This year I won't be cooking like last year. I'll be with some of my family who don't exactly share my proclivity for homemade, local, and healthy food. (Not that I think holiday meals should be healthy, necessarily.) And my Dad still doesn't understand that being a vegetarian means I don't eat ham OR turkey. Silly Dad. ;)



It's not that I need anything special for holiday meals. I don't need a tofurkey or some elaborate vegetable assortment. And I may even eat a little meat if I'm so inspired. But really, I just need GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE and a few decent side items. I mean, we all have those one or two things we HAVE to have on Turkey Day, right? (What your must-have item?)

YUMMMMMMM

This year, Sir Cakewalk is making Greek Celebration Bread and my Dad has invited me to make a dish as well. So I am on the hunt for a tasty, indulgent, but vegetable-centered dish.

Suggestions???

A co-worker recommended a cauliflower casserole of some sort.

I'm gonna do some hunting but would love suggestions for recipes that fit my criteria but also are not too hoity toity and will please the average American (aka my family including two teenage siblings.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Reader Question: Improving Pasta

I just received this question from a loyal reader:

"My husband and I have bought a TON of pasta since it's super cheap and has even been on sale lately. We typically either make:

baked ziti
pasta with a sauce (canned - vodka, 5 cheese, etc etc)

So...any pasta recipes that are still simple but a little more versatile (so pasta doesn't get boring) and maybe includes some healthy stuff?"

Why yes, yes I do have some suggestions for you. But first, kudos for stocking up on a staple while it is on sale! The key to making delicious dinners with limited time is having a well stocked pantry!

First of all, one "recipe" I often recommend for a quick, healthy, cheap meal is to take a canned or pre-made pasta/tomato sauce and beef it up (no vegetarian pun intended) with vegetables and/or fresh meat. I personally HATE eating boxed pasta with canned sauce. Blah! By just adding a few ingredients you can take something simple by ho-hum and make it tastier and better for ya.

I usually add whatever I happen to have on hand. Or if I know I'm making pasta (which I may be doing tonight since I have a long run tomorrow am) than I might pick up a few additions at the store.

You could add:
  • Olives (from the olive/salad bar or canned)
  • Spinach (again you can get a few leaves from the salad bar at the store or buy a bag of baby leaves)
  • Onion
  • Bell pepper
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Ground beef or turkey
  • Zucchini/Squash
  • Mushrooms
  • Broccoli
You can use fresh produce or frozen or you could use discounted produce that is starting to go bad. You can even use something leftover from the night before. The great thing about adding items to pasta sauce is that they get incorporated into the flavor, so they don't have to be the most awesomest or freshest. You can add them directly to the sauce and let them stew a bit or you can saute them separately, then add the sauce and allow it to heat through (my preferred method.) Then you can top it with a sprinkle of fresh cheese if you so desire.

I also recommend playing with non-tomato based pasta dishes.

I like to saute some veggies (usually spinach, olives, onion and maybe capers) and then toss them with EVOO and cooked pasta. You could add fresh herbs to for an extra fancy touch.

I also LOVE pesto. You can buy a small jar at the store. It's usually a bit pricey compared to the tomato sauces, but you only use a tiny bit at a time, so it lasts for several meals. OR, you can try making your own with fresh herbs, pine nuts or walnuts and EVOO. This is the basic recipe, courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa. The only pesto I would not recommend is the kind that comes in a seasoning packet. It isn't real pesto, it's pesto flavororing and it's kinda weird both in taste and consistency.

Finally, you can play around with Asian inspired pasta dishes....think Lo Mein. There are many recipes out there, but basically something like this. You can use regular pasta and simple ingredients to make something "exotic."

I encourage you to play around and try different recipes. Pasta is one of those dishes that is hard to mess up and even if you do, it's so cheap it usually isn't a big deal. Take a look at eatingwell.com for some healthy suggestions.

Do you have a pasta recipe to recommend?

Do you have a question for the Realistic Nutritionist?
Email me or post your question as a comment and I promise I'll answer it!

Aren't you glad I didn't start this post with "I just got a letter, I just got a let-ter. I just got a letter, I wonder who it's from!"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Twinkie Diet

Three days ago a co-worker sent me an email entitled "This made me think of you" with a link to an article about the "Twinkie Diet."

The next day my father sent me an email that stated "This is interesting! What do you think?" with a link to the exact same article.

Then, yesterday my husband (Sir Cakewalk) sent me an email with just a link to an article. The same article. PS the word "husband" still sounds weird to me.


So what is this Twinkie Diet?


Don't get too excited yet. It isn't quite what you might expect...

Basically, a nutrition professor wanted to make a point with his students. He wanted to emphasize something that credible nutrition professionals already know but fad diet gurus love to ignore and the public loves to believe. He wanted to show that it doesn't really matter where your calories come from, that to lose weight you have to cut calories, period. In regards to weight loss only, it does not matter if your calories come from protein, carbs or fat. It DOES make a difference, however, in regards to overall health.

SIDE NOTE (because I cannot emphasize this enough): Your brain runs on carbohydrates, DO NOT eliminate them from your diet or you will face significant health consequences.

Back to the article. So the professor ate only twinkies, chips, and convenience junk foods for 6 weeks. And he lost weight. Why did he lose weight? Because he restricted his caloric intake. The interesting side effect was that some of his other health markers (cholesterol levels, for example) as improved. However, this can easily be explained because losing weight, even just a moderate amount, can have significant effects on your health. Your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar may all show improvement when you lose just 10% of your weight.

What this mini and very unofficial experiment supports is that the type of diet you choose makes no difference (in regards to weight loss only) as long as it requires caloric restriction. And nearly all, if not all, diets do utilize caloric restriction, even Atkins. Other, more official studies have shown that while there is some variation in the success of specific diet plans in the short term, over the long term they all show the same results. Additionally, studies have shown those who are most successful at weight loss chose a plan that works well for them.

So the overall point is this: If you want to lose weight pick a plan that works well for YOU and that you can maintain for the rest of your life. As a nutrition professional who is truly concerned about your health not just the reading on your scale, I would prefer that that diet emphasize fruits and vegetables and whole grains and lean meats (if any) and not include anything radical or expensive. I know that "moderation" isn't sexy, but it works. Anything or anyone that tells you something else is trying to pull the wool over your eyes and/or sell you something.

And, please, eat something besides JUST twinkies for dinner tonight. ;)

Persimmons & Baby Food

A friend and reader just shared this link with me which discusses using persimmons to make baby food.

Very cool!

If you are a parent, do you/have you/will you make your own baby food?
Will you encourage your children to try new fruits and veggies, even at a young age?

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Magical Fruit Makes a Perfect Meal

I don't want to make a habit of talking about what I cook and/or eat on here. There are many other websites/blogs that already do that. Instead, when I talk about a food or meal I've prepared or eaten, there is a point to be made or a lesson to share. I will also share simple, quick, healthy recipes, when appropriate, I just don't want the recipes themselves to be the focus, but you understand, right?

So I'm going to lay out my objectives for this post now. By reading this post you may learn that:
  • Beans are nutritional powerhouses that are cheap, easy to prepare and make great meals.
  • When you get bored with your recipe collection, all ya gotta do is a little cookbook reading or internet searching and be willing to try something new.
  • Homemade bread, real butter and mulled wine are all delicious and perfect on a cold day.
  • Easy meals can often be made with simple items you already have (or should have) in your pantry.
  • Herbs make all the difference.
And now, the post:

Last night I made a new dish, White Beans with Tomatoes, Garlic and Sage. That is actually the title of the recipe. Apparently it is a traditional Italian meal, according to my trusty Best Recipe Cookbook. It was simple, quick, healthy, cheap, and delicious.

I came about the recipe because I've been in a cooking rut and wanted to do something new. So I busted out some of my cookbooks and flipped through. In the Bread Baker's Apprentice (the bible of bread making and a GREAT book for anyone that likes bread or wants to learn how to make bread), I found a few recipes for Sir Cakewalk to attempt. (He is the baker in this relationship.) He agreed to try Christopsomos, a Greek celebration bread that has a hint of sweetness.

Here is the bread from above:

In the Best Recipe Cookbook I was actually looking at souffles when I passed a recipe for White Beans with Tomatoes, Garlic and Sage. It had such a long title and yet sounded intriguingly simple! I read about the history of the meal and how best to prepare it. I did a few modifications, of course, but pretty much stuck to it. The best part was, I already had almost everything I needed: a few cans of white beans, canned diced tomatoes, fresh sage (which I had to buy for $1.99), garlic (I used my elephant garlic which I will post about next), and a little S&P. I also added a bit of diced onion and celery, because I had them on hand and needed to use them up.

I highly recommend stocking your pantry with cans of beans and tomatoes. These are the two canned vegetables that I allow in my pantry. I do also have dried beans, which are much cheaper and have less sodium, but they do require a bit of forethought, of which I often have none. Canned tomatoes are useful in soooo many ways. You can make a pasta sauce, use them in soup, stew them with some veggies like ratatouille, use them in Mexican dishes, etc etc. Buy them on sale and stock up. I usually keep diced on hand. I also always have garlic and onions in my pantry. They add flavor to anything and everything and they last a very long time. I buy both in bulk.

I did not have the sage on hand, as fresh herbs are out of season. But it was readily available at the local HT. If you haven't tried cooking with fresh herbs, I highly recommend you try it. It adds a lot of flavor to a dish without adding calories, cholesterol, fat, etc.

Anywho, to make this recipe I:
  1. sauteed the diced garlic, onion and celery in my new awesome stainless steel skillet with EVOO.
  2. After it cooked a bit I added the chopped sage.
  3. Then I added the tomatoes and beans (both well drained) and allowed it all to simmer for about 10 minutes. It became thick and stew like and made the house smell wonderful.
This pic should be horizontal, but you get the idea. ;)
We served it along with a slice of Cakewalk's bread and fresh butter. We also enjoyed a glass of mulled red wine with the meal. This we made while the bean concoction of was stewing by adding mulling spices from Williams-Sonoma to a bottle of cheap red wine and allowing it to simmer. Then we poured a glass for each of us and added a teaspoon of sugar to each. (The spice container recommends adding sugar to the wine while it cooks, but the amount seemed a bit much to me, so we waited and only added a bit to our personal liking and avoided extra sugar and calories.)



The meal was warm and filling. Beans are particularly filling and satisfying because of their fiber and protein content. The real, fresh butter added a bit of richness to the meal and the bread was slightly sweet, as was the wine. It was the perfect meal for a cold Sunday, especially after a long, hard run (Cakewalk and I are training for a distance race together!).

So, did ya learn something?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Definitely Persimmons


I made the persimmon salsa. I served it with tuna, brown rice and veggies. The fruit tasted a bit like papaya. The salsa was great with the fish, which I browned in a skillet after peppering both sides.

I will definitely do this again!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Perhaps Persimmons

I've been bad. I got a couple persimmons in my Papa Spud's box last week and I still haven't used them in anything. In fact, I had no idear (intentional "r") what to do with them and kept forgetting or getting to busy to do some recipe research...

...until today! I just checked out some of my fav websites to get the low down on this cute little fruits and how to eat them. I mean, I know most fruit is obvious, but who would know how to handle a pomegranate unless someone showed you? (PS I can totally tell you how to handle a pomegranate.)

So persimmons are packed with Vitamin C, Fiber and have some Vitamin A.

They apparently can be traced back to ancient China. Can't everything be traced back to ancient China?

There are two types of persimmons: astrigent and not astrigent. The former need to be allowed to ripen before eating or they apparently taste like sour patch kids without the sugar. The latter do not need to be ripened to be enjoyed. The former look like hearts and the latter look like small pumpkins. I believe I have the latter, so I could have eaten them last week if I wanted to. Oh wellz....



<---Former Latter--->




You may have also seen "Fuyu" at the store or in recipes. These are one type of the non-astrigent persimmon, associated with Japan but now widely available in the US. Again, I think I may have this type.

So what do you do with them?

I'm going to make a salsa. When in doubt, most fruit make a yummy salsa that can be put on grilled seafood or eaten with pita chips, etc.

I did some searching and found a recurring recipe for persimmon salsa that I'm going to try tonight served with tuna steaks and broccoli.

It goes a little something like this:
  1. Peel and cube 3 persimmon (I only have 2, but it will still work...don't worry so much about quantity of ingredients with something like a salsa, and remember that you can always switch things around to, depending on what you have on hand.)
  2. Mince one small onion
  3. Mix with ~1T of lime juice
  4. Mix in some chopped fresh herbs (you can choose basil, mint, or cilantro to name a few)
  5. If you want it spicy, add a bit of minced chili pepper
  6. Finally, add a bit of fresh, grated ginger. Remember that fresh ginger is actually pretty cheap. A little bit goes a looooooong way. It's offerred in most stores in gnarly clumps. Don't be afraid to break off a small bit if that's all you need (which is usually the case.) It should cost less than a buck and it adds a lot of fresh flavor and dimension.
  7. Allow the salsa to chill until serving.
I'm going to make the salsa and then toss into the fridge. While it's totally chillin like a villian, I'm going to saute or grill my tuna steaks. These will be about 4 ounces each. They are on sale right now at HT! Then I'm gonna toss a steam fresh bag of broccoli into the microwave and then season it with some S&P. All in all I expect this dinner to take less than 30 minutes. It will be light and healthy and cheap. You can make it to your liking by using any seafood or even chicken breast and any frozen veggie. You can also add a little brown rice to beef it up a bit if you like.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Weekly Meal Plan

Preparing meals at home is key for enjoying a healthier diet. It also saves money.

But it takes too much time, true or false?

FALSE.

If you take a little time to plan your meals in advance, it will actually save time in the long run. If you plan ahead you will have the foods handy that you need to make healthy, quick, easy meals that will also save you money.

Spend a few minutes considering what you would like to eat for the week. If you are nice, like I am, you will ask for input from the other folks sharing the meals. Consider if you will have leftovers, and whether some of the ingredients can be used in more than one recipe. For instance, if you are going to buy some veggies but you only need a small amount maybe you can use the rest of them in a meal the next day. Then make up a list and hit the store.

This week we are making:
  • Vegetablarian stuffed peppers. I got green peppers on sale. Since they came in packs of 2, and there are three of us, we have an extra for using in other recipes. We will stuff the peppers with Norlins style rice and beans and bake with a little cheese and tomato sauce on top. There will probably be rice and beans leftover, which I will eat for lunch along with some fruit and some type of easy veggie.
  • Vegetable Soup from the crock pot. We will put stock (bouillon + water) in the crock pot tomorrow morning along with carrots, celery, leftover green pepper, red pepper, red potatoes that were on the discount shelf, local cabbage, bean sprouts (cost $.16 in bulk), a few shrooms, onion, some canned, chopped tomatoes we have leftover from a previous recipe, and frozen corn. You can use fresh, frozen or canned veggies when making a simple soup like this. I don't recommend canned in general, but use what you have! And use what you like. You can put in whatever veggies you like and leave out the ones you don't. I wanted to put in some broccoli, for example, but was overruled by my sis who doesn't like it. I also could've put in some peas, but ewwwwwwwwww!
  • Homemade pizza. Will will use the same sauce from the stuffed peppers and some of the same cheese. Sir Cakewalk is making enough for us each to have our own pizza so we can add whatever we want. For his, he will be adding some sopressata I got from the deli section. You can ask them for just a few slices and it won't cost very much. And it tastes so much better than packaged pepparoni. I will be adding sliced tomato, spinach leaves (from the bag that I also use for lunch salads), and olives. My sis will probably keep it simple with some spinach and green pepper. Again, you can add whatever you want and you can control the amount of sauce, cheese, etc. So much cheaper, healthier and tastier than anything you can get from a delivery guy or frozen.
That's all we have planned so far. We have been going with three solid meals a week because we know we will have leftovers and to account for possible social plans revolving around food.

I'll let ya know how they turn out!

What are you planning on making?
If you aren't planning your meals but you'd like to, what's holding you back?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Breaking the Habit: Diet Soda

I am not a perfect eater. I eat well and make smart decisions most of the time. But I also don't deprive myself of tasty delights like the occasional Mickey D's fry or KK donut.

I do have one nutritional vice. It is the one thing that I enjoy every day that I depend on when I need something sweet, when I'm bored, when I need caffeine or when I'm trying to squash cravings for other calorie laden items.

Hello. My name is the realistic nutritionist. I am addicted to diet soda.

There are a lot of mixed thoughts out there on diet soda. It is calorie free and sugar free. But it also has some sort of artificial sweetener and a load of other chemicals.

Some studies have linked diet soda with overweight. But it is undetermined as to whether it is a correlation or causation. In other words, we don't yet know if drinking diet soda causes /contributes to folks being overweight (or stay overweight) or whether it just so happens that those who are overweight drink diet soda.

Soda consumption has also been linked with osteoporosis due to the phosphoric acid content which may lead to bone loss.

Additionally, there are studies out there showing the negative health effects of excessive caffeine consumption.

Personally, I realize that diet soda isn't the healthiest option and it shouldn't replace water. But I also think it is ok in moderation and can be used as a transitional tool when folks who only drink regular soda are trying to lose weight and cut back on calories/sugar.

Unfortunately, I don't drink it in moderation.

But before I get on with my story, a note on regular soda. I often here comments from regular soda drinkers that diet soda is worse for us. This is simply not the case. Regular soda contains caffeine, phosphoric acid, and just as many chemicals as diet. True, it does not contain artificial sweeteners. But it does contain high fructose corn syrup. Have I posted about HFCS yet? If I haven't, I will. For now, I will simply say that it is bad for you in many regards and IT IS NOT THE SAME THING AS SUGAR!!!

Ok. So, where was I? Ah yes. Diet and regular soda can be ok in moderation, as an occasional treat. But I don't drink it in moderation. Now, I don't down it by the gallon. But I do drink at least 3 a day. I use it as a crutch. I depend on it. The thought of not being able to drink it stresses me out. (And I've been able to justify it to myself since I otherwise eat so well.) When I realized how emotionally connected I was, I accepted that I had a problem and that I needed to cut it out and then gradually re-introduce it as a sometimes food.

After discussing this with a co-worker and fellow diet soda drinker, we decided to make an office pact. We invited those in our office to join us in a Healthy Habits Pact. Each person who decides to participate will pick up to 3 specific healthy habits they want to rei-nforce in their lives. We will share our goal habits with the group and vow to practice them for one month. At that time we can re-evaluate. In this way, we will have support and accountability.

Do you have a habit that you would like to change/break/add to your life? You will be probably be more successful if you tell others about it. You should also make it specific and give yourself a definite time line. For instance, don't just say "I want to work out more." Instead say "I will work out for 30 minutes three times a week." Or you could say "I will eat 3 servings of fruit a day" rather than "I will eat more fruit." Figure out what you most want to change, make it specific but reasonable, give yourself a timeline, and tell someone. You can even start your own office or family Healthy Habits Pact.

If you would like to use this blog as a means of sharing your goals publicly, please feel free to do so. You don't have to share your name unless you want to.

Today is Day 2 for me. My plan is to avoid diet soda until Thanksgiving. By then I'm hoping I can add it back in but only a few times a week.

This just in!: I just received a recommendation from my cousin. She reminded me about fizzy water. This is a good option for those who want something bubbly but without all the chemicals and calories as soda. I love the stuff...I just drink diet soda too. :( So I'm gonna go get some. But I'm going to be careful not to let it become my new addiction!

Ok, ya'll. Wish me luck and help me stay on track!

Runny Butternut Squash Soup: Opps I Did It Again

Grrrrr! I made butternut squash soup for the second time last night and it still came out thin!

I sauteed some onion and garlic. Then I added TWO butternut squasheseses that we had roasted in the oven. Then I added 6 cups of water and some bouillon cubes. Every recipe I looked at says 6 cups of water for one large squash. And I used two! It looked thick enough until we started blending it with the stick blender. Within a few seconds it was basically water.

I added a bit of garlic salt and pepper and some nutmeg and clove. It had a great flavor even though the texture was less than desirable.

We also made homemade croutons to go with it. I typically don't like sweet squash dishes, I prefer savory. So when Cakewalk brought home a crusty loaf of walnut raisin for the croutons I wasn't happy. But, it actually turned out pretty tasty. We just cut the loaf into chunks and baked it at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. (Be sure to flip them and watch for burning if you have a conventional oven.)

It was an ok dinner, but it left me wanting something more. So I turned to the leftover wedding cake. Yes, we STILL have wedding cake. There was about one large slice of each type left. But they had finally gone bad. Instead I had some fritos my sis bought. Reminded me of the silly yo mamma frito joke that I probably shouldn't repeat here. ;)

In other news, Wednesday was DAY 1. More on this momentarily.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Purslane Was For Dinner

Ok, I forgot to take pictures. But I'm still not used to having a smart phone at my fingertips, and I was hungry, dang it!

Last night, after going for a short run around the 'hood, I made Mexican't Eggs with Purslane. Unfortunately, I did not take a picture, but it wasn't all that purty anyway. It was tasty though!

What is purslane? Good question! I am still trying to figure it out myself. It popped up as a choice in my weekly produce box and since I had never heard of it, I ordered it. This is an awesome way to try new things!

From my weak google searches, I have since learned that Purslane is considered a weed by many in the US but is eaten around the world. I found Indian recipes with it, Mexican recipes, Greek recipes, etc. I decided to go with a simple sounding Mexican recipe since I knew I wouldn't have much time to cook after running and before trivia and because I had all of the ingredients already on hand (I even added a few extras.) I'm sure it's good for you, although I don't trust Wikipedia to be accurate, so I will not repeat that information here. But come on, it's green, it can't be bad. ;)



So what did I make?

  1. I chopped half an onion that I had leftover from making tuna cakes the night before.
  2. I chopped one piece of elephant garlic, which also came in my produce box. It was HUGE! But it was very mild. You can use regular garlic, minced garlic, garlic powder, or leave it out.
  3. I chopped a banana pepper from my garden that I needed to use.
  4. I chopped a hot pepper that one of Sir Cakewalk's co-workers gave to us to try.
  5. And I picked the leaves off the purslane and rinsed them to remove any dirt.
  6. I heated about a T of real butter in our BRAND NEW STAINLESS STEEL ALL-CLAD PAN that came yesterday as a belated wedding present. (Can you tell I'm excited about it???)
  7. Then, when the butter was melted and slightly frothy, I added all of the chopped goodies except the purslane.
  8. I stirred everything around and allowed it to cook for a minute or two and then added the purslane. I continued the sauteeing for a few more minutes until the leaves were slightly wilted and the rest of the items were a little soft and browned.
  9. In the meantime, I cracked eggs and put them in a bowl with S&P and a dash of milk. I beat the eggs rapidly to mix and add a bit of air for fluffy scrambled eggs.
  10. Then, we added the beaten eggs to the pan and carefully stirred to combine. Remember, don't overstir your eggs. Be gentle!
  11. When the eggs still looked a little moist but weren't runny, we plated them and ate along with a piece of toast. (Toast was prepared in our new toaster, also a wedding present. It's nice to make toast without worrying about the house burning down, as was the case with our previous device.)

Note: In the above description, I said "I" when often it was really Sir Cakewalk or the both of us. We worked together to make this dinner so that it would be on the plate quicker. Plus, it's fun cooking together! I just said "I" to avoid confusion and wordiness. But props to Cakewalk, I gotta give him his due.

The eggs were tasty. They were a little spicy but light and fluffy. The purslane was very mild and not obtrusive at all.

My take home message for this post is this:
  1. Don't be afraid to try something new. Just get it, google it, make something that sounds good to you and give it a try. If you don't like it, no worries. Don't eat it again (although I do advocate trying something with different preparations before you totally rule it out.) But you may find something new (and hopefully healthy) that you enjoy!
  2. Eggs make an easy dinner. You can put whatever you want into scrambled eggs or create an omelet in a few minutes. I just wouldn't recommend eating them every day. And you can always use egg whites or egg beaters as a lighter alternative.
Have you tried something new lately???

Monday, October 18, 2010

Update: I Survived the Fair...Food

I ventured to the State Fair yesterday and I didn't make myself sick eating deep fried nastiness/goodness (depending on your point of view.)

I did not try a Krispy Kreme hamburger. Nor did I try a kool-aid pickle. I was tempted to try whatever they were selling at the Wisconsin Cheese Stand. (I really have no idea what it was. Was it just a block of cheddar? Was it cheese sticks? Cheese straws? It didn't say anywhere!) But the line was way too long to find out.

What I did have was an ear of corn and some homemade hushpuppies. The hushpuppies were delish. I got to see the grind the corn and fry them right in front of me. Plus, it was the best deal at the fair! I got a HUGE serving for only $4. So the three of us shared and it was just the right amount.

As seen at one stand:
No, just because it says "fresh" and "veggies" and the chef is a "Dr." does not make it healthy! ;)

If anyone DID try one of the deep fried monstrosities and lived to tell about, please share! Was it good???? Did it make you rush to the port-o-john?

Almond Joy

I was recently asked for almond recipes or ideas for different ways to incorporate almonds into the daily diet.

I admit that I don't eat almonds. I don't really care for them. I'm more of a walnutty kinda gal. (Insert joke/pun about being nuts or going nuts here.)

But I have enjoyed them in a few dishes and I do have some good food resources at my fingertips (cookbooks, websites, other RDs, and fellow foodie friends.) So I did some searching and came up with these suggestions:
  • Add them to oatmeal for a hearty and filling breakfast. You can add some dried fruit too.
  • Mix them into a trail mix. Put almonds, other nuts if you like, seeds, pretzels, dried fruit, chocolate bits, etc into a bowl and shake thoroughly (with a lid please). This makes a great afternoon snack to get you over the 3 o'clock hump.
  • A friend recommended adding them to couscous with dried cranberries. This sounds good and since he generally knows his food, I'll take his word for it that it is. Thanks for the suggestion!
  • Toss them into a salad.
  • Eat them plain.
  • Put them into muffins. You can even use a pre-made mix and just toss some into the batter.
  • Homemade almond ice cream, if you were wondering what to do with that ice cream maker you got at your wedding. (No, we didn't get one, nor did we get a waffle iron.)
Finally, I found the following recipe from one of my favorite healthy food websites, eatingwell.com. I haven't made it or tried it. But I generally like their recipes and I have had almonds with green beans quite a few times and it's a good pairing.

Orange and Almond Green Beans

Ingredients

* 1 pound green beans, trimmed
* 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* Freshly ground pepper, to taste
* 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Preparation

Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan, add 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Put green beans in the basket and steam until tender, about 6 minutes. Toss the green beans in a large bowl with oil, orange zest, salt, pepper and almonds.

Note: To toast sliced almonds, place in a small dry skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.




Now, can anyone tell me how big a serving of nuts is? Hold our your hand flat, palm up like your asking for money. Imagine you had nuts in your palm. You can't cup your hand, you can only hold as many nuts as you can in your palm with your hand flat. That's about a serving. So beware of this if you find yourself mindlessly munchin on some nuts or trail mix. Yes, they are good for you. But they do contain a good deal of calories, so keep your portions in check.

What's For Dinner This Week?

In an effort to save money and get our eating habits back on track after the wedding, we are cooking and eating at home again. For awhile cooking at home meant cereal or sandwiches or restaurant leftovers.

But now we are back on track.

Over the past week or so we've:
  • made two different homemade chilis (one spicy with meat and one mild with TVP)
  • grilled out hamburgers/chicken breasts/veggie burgers
  • made homemade split pea soup in the crock pot (DID YOU KNOW? Split pea soup is not made with garden peas. Otherwise I would not eat it because peas are EWWWWW. ;) It's a lentil soup and it's very good for you...lots o fiber and protein.)
  • made homemade super simple pasta sauce (can of tomatoes, butter, one onion cooked for about an hour)
  • used the leftover noodles for baked spaghetti
  • eaten wings (ok, these were not made at home or eaten at home, but they were half price)
This week I plan to make:
  • tuna cakes with tatsoi and wild rice or brown rice
  • scrambled eggs with purslane (I just got purslane in my Papa Spuds order. I ordered it without a clue as to what it was so that I could try something new. Apparently it's a weed that can be added to soups or stews or eaten raw in salad. I found a cool recipe for Mexican eggs with purslane that I'm going to try.)
  • butternut squash soup with homemade croutons
And that's all I've got so far. Any other suggestions?

If you need further information about any of the recipes or ingredients I have mentioned here, please let me know!

I'll be sure to post pics and let ya know how the purslane turns out!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Holiday Treats for Kids

I was recently asked to post about sugar free Holiday treats for kids. First let me say, I don't think "treats" necessarily have to be sugar free or healthy. I think treats should be eaten in moderation. And since you only eat them once in awhile I don't see any harm in allowing some treats to have some sugar, fat, etc, especially if they are homemade or include fruits and veggies. But I certainly don't think we should deluge our kids with sugar or let them eat whatever they want in the name of holiday spirit. And there are some fun, healthy recipes out there that most kids will enjoy.

Here are a hodepodge of recipes, suggestions and ideas for parents this holiday season:

As you will see in an upcoming post concerning healthy snacks, I'm a big fan of homemade trail mix. Instead of giving your kid/allowing your kid to devour a bag of M&M's (for example), put the bag of candy in a bowl and add dried fruit (craisins, raisins, pineapple bits, banana chips, etc), nuts, seeds, pretzels, etc for a tasty snack/treat. This stretches out the refined sugar and adds fiber and protein. You can even put some into small baggies and send with your kid to school for lunch or a snack.

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What about homemade muffins? Muffins are easy to make and something kids can help with. Here is a recipe I just came across that is certainly seasonal:

PUMPKIN MUFFINS

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Sift together
  • 1¾ cups whole wheat pastry flour (or half whole wheat and half all purpose flour)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
3. Beat together:
  • 2 eggs
4. Add to the eggs:
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup low-fat milk
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
5. Combine the wet and dry ingredients with a few swift strokes (don’t over mix).
6. Fill greased muffin cups two- thirds of the way full and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes a dozen muffins.

I also have a recipe for berry muffins with jelly in the middle that are fun for kids to make but, of course, I don't have it with me now. Remind me and I'll post it later. ;)

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While I have pumpkin on the brain, let me recommend another recipe that uses one of my favorite foods...yogurt.

PUMPKIN DIP

1. Mix the following ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice concentrate (use 100% juice)
  • ½ tsp of cinnamon(optional)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup(optional)
2. Dip with fruit slices or graham crackers.

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Ohhhh....I just saw this recipe. This would be fun:

WITCH’S BREW
  • 1 24 oz. bottle cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1 can frozen orange juice
  • ½ gallon apple cider
  • Grenadine
Mix first 3 ingredients together in a cauldron (or punch bowl) and serve in clear plastic cups, with Grenadine ‘blood’ dripping down the inside of the cup!

For added fun, float funny face ice cubes in the brew: Half-fill & freeze ice tray (or muffin cups) with water, garnish each cube with blueberry eyes & a mandarin orange smile, & then fill rest with water & freeze again.

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Finally, when I first got this question the first thing I thought of was baked apples. I LOVE baked apples and I think they are a great Holiday treat. You don't have to use a lot of sugar and butter for them AND you can even make them in the microwave!

"BAKED" APPLES

You will need:
  • 2 apples
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (or you can even leave this out or use less)
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons butter
To make:

1. Core the apples, leaving the bottom intact.
2. In a bowl, mix the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spoon the sugar mixture into the apples and set a teaspoonof butter on top of each apple. Place the apples in a deep casserole dish and cover.
3. Microwave for 3 1/2 to 4 minutes or until tender. Let the apples sit for a couple minutes before serving.

Super easy, right?!?

Ok, I hope that is enough suggestions for now! Stay tuned. I will keep my eye out and do a little searching on some of my go-to websites for other fun holiday treats for kids (and kids at heart).

Beer Bread

Want to make your own, warm, homemade bread but don't have a machine or the know how?

Try beer bread! It's easy!

All you need is:
  1. 12 ounces of the beer of your choice
  2. sugar (about 3 tablespoons)
  3. 3 cups of self-rising flour
You can then add extra spices, seasonings, etc to achieve a myriad of flavors.

You can try adding:
  • Herbs
  • Cheese
  • Spices (I got the idea for this post from the post about pumpkin-ness. I think adding a bit of pumpkin pie spice or similar spices would make a nice holiday type beer bread.)
  • Dried fruit

The final flavor will also depend on the beer you use. Darker beers will produce a richer, more pungent bread while lighter beers will leave it with a more mild flavor. Got a few extra, cheap-o beers chillin in your fridge from that last house party? This will put them to good use. Even beer you may not normally enjoy will probably taste good as bread. You can even try using pumpkin beer and adding pumpkin spices.





No kneading or rising necessary. Just mix the ingredients until combined and bake at 375 degrees for about 50 minutes, or until browned and a toothpick comes out clean.





Now, go make bread and be happy!

And remember I'll even allow you to put butter on it, as long as you don't bathe the bread in the stuff and as long as you use REAL butter. Is anything better than fresh, hot, homemade bread and real butter?!?



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What Does A RD Know Anyway?

Today I served as a judge for the state fair in the "cookies, candies, cakes and breads" category. This was my third year. If you think it sounds like an awesome job, think again. It's fun, yes. At first, it's a nice treat. But after 50 cookies, even the cookie monster himself would fall into a sugar coma!

When I told some folks I was judging again this year I received a comment about my ability to judge fatty, sugary things that taste good but aren't good for you. It wasn't a personal slight of any kind, and I didn't take it personally. But it did get me thinking...

I know I've posted on here before about what a RD or registered dietitian is and how we differ from a nutritionist or nutritional counselor, etc. But I think many people don't realize that the extent of our education and training goes beyond the topic of "healthy" or "proper nutrition."

Yes, we take classes on medical nutrition therapy and nutrition throughout the lifecycle (what a baby should and shouldn't eat, breast feeding, how our needs change as we age, etc), and learn all about counting calories and measuring BMI. And during our internship rotations we work at hospitals calculating the needs of those receiving tube feeding and educating newly diagnosed diabetics.

But a large portion of our training is also based around food science, food service and food safety. I took some classes that were basically in-depth cooking classes and had to learn the proper way to tenderize meat, the best fat to use in a pie crust, how to make a souffle, etc. (Basically a class Alton Brown could teach.) In such classes and others we learned about the chemical structure of foods and how this determines proper preparation. I can look at a muffin and tell you if it was overmixed or undermixed, for example, or why chocolate seizes when water is added. I even learned about all the cuts of beef and the best cooking methods for each.


Now, I'm not trying to say I know everything there is to know about food. Far from it. We all have our specialized topics, especially after we graduate and find our niche in the nutrition field. (I refer the difficult sports nutrition questions I get to a close friend and often have to ask my boss or co-workers about things like canning and gardening.) But we do have a much broader understanding than some realize.

I think RDs are not only misunderstood, I think sometimes we get a bad rap. We aren't just here to tell you you are fat and force carrots down your throat. Nor do we all work in hospitals (although I sincerely admire those of us who do!) Some of us are thin and some not so much. Many of us are ardent foodies and love fresh bread with real butter, or french fries, or full fat ice cream as much as the next person. Some of us espouse a more holistic approach to food (local, organic, vegetarian, etc) and some can put together a whole meal plan using convenience/processed items common in most American households. But I think the one thing we all have in common is wanting to help others be as healthy as possible.

How did I get off on this tangent? Sheesh! Why do ya'll let me do this? ;) I think this post ended up being a combination of responses to two recent comments I received...the one about the judging of unhealthy foods and a comment about how registered dietitians are all alike and only possess a certain kind of knowledge/skill. So please pardon the rambling and the soapbox preachin'. I won't let it happen again....for awhile. ;)

Now you might be asking why there is a picture of a fluffy white dog dressed as a pumpkin in the middle of this post. And, being an all-knowing RD, and the author of this blog, I have an answer...because I couldn't find another picture that went with what I was saying and I know how ya'll prefer posts with blogs, especially wordy ones like this one and I wouldn't want to disappoint my few loyal readers so I decided to include one of my puppy all decked out for Halloween. Isn't he cute? ;)