Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

“Tricked Out” Veggies For Your 4th of July Table”

Monday, June 30th, 2014

For many, the 4th is a favorite holiday, what with no obligatory gift giving or main event meal requiring days of advance preparation. But every holiday has its celebratory foods – and why should the 4th be any different?

Holiday foods ARE fun, but they tend to include choices you may not make on a regular basis. With a typical 4th food lineup boasting pounds of barbecued meat, gallons of alcoholic beverages, and loads of frozen desserts, “balanced nutrition” can be pushed ever so slightly out of balance.

It’s important to remember that one meal, heck, even one day of eating “out of balance” doesn’t make or break a healthy diet; it’s the choices you make day in and day out that matter over the long haul.

Even still, it never hurts to offer healthy choices, for yourself and your guests; they’ll appreciate it, and you’ll feel good about it.

Since there’s often a dearth of vegetables on the 4th table – so sad considering this is the time of year when they’re plentiful and at their peak – here are a couple to consider, tricked out to taste delicious and deliver an explosion of flavor.

Roasted Carrots and Garlic w/Honey Drizzle and Sea Salt: Stop by your farmer’s market for fresh carrots, garlic, and local honey. Clean, peel and chop carrots into 2 inch pieces. Peel several large cloves of garlic. Drizzle the carrots and garlic with olive oil and roast at 450 degrees for ~ 30 minutes. When they’re fresh out of the oven, toss with honey and sprinkle with sea salt.

20130501_131701

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sauteed Cabbage Ribbons: While you’re at the market, pick out a heavy, green cabbage. Use a food processor attachment or sharp chef’s knife to make thin “ribbons”. Saute the “ribbons” in olive oil with a sprinkle of sugar and kiss of sea salt until buttery soft and translucent in color. Delicious as a side dish, or piled high on a veggie burger. Cabbage dscn07301

 

 

 

 

 

“Putting Out The Fire”

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

I recently did a lecture on the topic of inflammation, and thought I’d share a few of the highlights here.

Although there are a number of nutrition books based on the anti-inflammatory idea, there is a lot that we don’t yet know for certain. That being said, the following are things that we DO know:

  • Guidelines reporting specifics are premature (individual foods, dose, frequency).
  • For many diseases of aging (i.e. cancer, heart disease), inappropriate inflammation is the common root.
  • Growing evidence links eating patterns with lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers.

Inflammation Facts

  • Body’s defense mechanism.
  • Body’s healthy response to injury and infection.
  • Increased blood flow sends immune cells and nutrients to injured area.

Chronic Inflammation

  • Constant, out of control production of immune cells.
  • Leads to irreversible tissue damage.
  • Triggers chronic diseases over the years.

Are you familiar with the following causes of inflammation? Luckily, there is much you can do to eliminate these culprits, such as eating a healthy diet, increasing activity, and quitting smoking. These are all lifestyle behaviors that you have the ability to change!

  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Inactivity
  • Lack of sleep
  • Smoking
  • SAD Diet (Standard American Diet)

Not sure where to start? Below is a list of delicious foods that just so happen to also help reduce inflammation.

Fight Inflammation with Food

Tempeh

Tempeh

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Spinach

Baby Spinach

 

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Good fats
  • Walnuts, and other nuts and seeds.
  • Fatty fish
  • Plant-based protein
  • Whole grains versus refined
  • Herbs and spices
  • Minimize saturated animal fats and trans-fats
  • Limit full-fat dairy
  • Soy
  • Tea

Small But Mighty – Almond Quinoa Muffins

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

I may have mentioned this before, but for me, cooking, and especially baking – is like therapy. I’ve given this a lot of thought, trying to figure out why it’s so relaxing and satisfying to create something delicious. My musings have made me realize that one of the most therapeutic things about cooking and baking is that there’s a definite beginning and a definite end; you get a final result every, single time. Absolute completion.

Much of my work week revolves around things that are open-ended; they simply never get finished. When you own a business that comes with the territory, but honestly, sometimes I just like to start and finish something.

So there’s that, and then there’s the fact that I’m actually spending time in my kitchen – which always grounds and centers me. I work a lot, and miss spending time puttering in my “small but mighty” creative workspace.

That’s where muffins come in – sort of “small but mighty” in their own right. They don’t take a lot of time, you typically have the basic ingredients on hand, it’s easy to start up a recipe, ending with a delicious product, you can load them up with nutritious powerhouse ingredients, and last but not least, muffins are multi-purpose, serving as breakfast, a snack or dessert.

What could be better? I know. An easy way to clean muffin tins.

Those Hard-To-Clean (but orderly) Tins

Those Hard-To-Clean (but orderly) Tins

Muffin Batter

Adapted from Veganomicon cookbook. My changes/additions/substitutions are in italics.

1 cup vanilla soy milk (or use plain, and increase vanilla extract to 1 1/2 teaspoons)

1 tbsp ground flaxseeds

1/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup agave nectar or pure maple syrup (used maple syrup)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup almond meal almond flour (or omit and use 1/4 cup more quinoa – haven’t done this, but for those with nut allergies it’s worth a try)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon (increased to 1 teaspoon)

1/2 tsp cardamom (used 1/2 teaspoon cloves and 1/4 teaspoon allspice)

1 1/4 cups cooked quinoa

1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots or currants (used golden raisins, no chopping required!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a non-stick 12-cup muffin tin. In a medium size bowl, whisk together the soy milk and ground flaxseed.  Allow to sit for 1 minute, then whisk in oil, agave nectar and vanilla. In a separate large bowl, stir together flour, almond meal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing until just incorporated.  Gently fold in the cooked quinoa and the dried fruit and mix until only the large lumps are gone. Pour into the prepared muffin tin and bake for 20 to 22 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Photo: It's the second week of "Feed Me Friday!". I promised recipe for Almond Quinoa Muffins. It's coming via my blog in time to whip up over the weekend; just a little behind this week. Thx for your patience. . .trust me, they're worth the wait!

Finished! “Small But Mighty”

Feed Me Friday!

Friday, November 8th, 2013

I am a huge fan of cooking on the weekend for the week ahead. It saves time, money, energy and YOUR SANITY!

That said, I know how easy it can be to get into a cooking rut, making the same dish over and over and over; many of my clients struggle with this. Because my mission is to provide nutrition solutions to my client’s nutrition dilemmas, I thought a “Feed Me Friday” theme, featuring a new plant-based recipe each week could help.

I don’t have an actual pic of my dish, simply didn’t get it done, so I’m using “other” photos. I’ll be better in future – promise!

The photo below is one I took while dining at a Persian restaurant in San Diego. My dish is similar in appearance, so this gives you an idea of the finished product.

Here’s my inaugural post, I hope you enjoy the delicious results.

Curry-Kissed Lentil Millet Soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 tablespoon curry powder

3 tablespoons black mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 can pumpkin (not pie filling)

1 can tomato paste

8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

3/4 cup green lentils

1/3 cup millet

1. In a large stock pot, saute onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons water until soft (add more water as needed to prevent sticking).

2. Add turmeric, curry powder, black mustard seeds and kosher salt, mix well with the onion and garlic. Cover the pot; the mustard seeds will begin to pop and jump and you don’t want them to escape. When the popping stops, remove the cover and stir the spices again, adding a bit of water as needed to prevent sticking. Cook the spices and vegetables ~ 5 minutes.

3. Stir pumpkin and tomato paste into the spice/veggie mixture, blend well and cook for 5 minutes.

4. Add broth, lentils and millet, stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down so the soup simmers gently. Partially cover the  pot and let cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally until lentils are soft.

NutriTIPS

* Add more water if you like “soupier” soup.

* Find millet in grocery stores sporting a bulk section that includes a variety of grains, dried beans, etc. Whole Foods, of course, but also check co-ops and other nutrition-forward locations. If you can’t find (or don’t want to search for) millet, don’t let it stop you from making this soup; it’s delicious even without it. However, this small yellow grain is a good source of fiber and protein, vitamins and minerals. It also contains the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, beneficial in promoting eye health. Learn about millet.

millet-raw

Raw Millet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* This particular collection of spices is common in Indian cooking. As a whole, this combination adds a rich, satisfying layer of flavor; individually these spices contribute important vitamins, minerals and strong antioxidant properties.  About this link: I haven’t used this particular company to purchase spices, but the founder is a fellow Chicagoan (solidarity!). I ran across her work one day and was smitten, partially because I love Indian food, but also because I found her story fascinating! Indian Spice Selection.

Indian Spice Collection

Indian Spice Collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Well Dishes

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Early in 2013, my father-in-law was diagnosed with bladder cancer. If that wasn’t startling enough, tests to determine whether the cancer had spread revealed lung cancer; different from the bladder cancer. Which turned out to be a good thing, in the hierarchy of cancer goodness that is.

Needless to say, it’s been a long, bumpy ride. As we head into fall, I’m visiting my in-laws to help as best I can with recovery from a radical surgery (fingers crossed, the final major medical hurdle in his journey back to health), one that hopefully has kicked this unwelcome visitor to the curb.

We’ve got a recovery team in place, with each of us playing to our strength. As the dietitian/nutritionist/chef/personal trainer, I’m in charge of meals and walks. I confess, the opportunity to cook up nutrient-rich, plant-powered and delicious meals each day has me giddy.

A long-time follower of a vegetarian/vegan diet (with fish rotating through on occasion), I’m a huge advocate of plant-based meals for preventing and managing disease. Not that my cooking will be the ultimate cure, but it certainly can’t hurt. For the last 90 days or so, I’ve been experimenting with a 100% vegan diet, so I’ve packed those principles along for this trip.

Several days into my stay, we’re raving about the taste and the EFFECT of my cooking. My father-in-law is gaining strength daily, experiencing a perkier appetite, has color returning to his cheeks, and a small but perceptable pep to his step on our daily stroll. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not running a marathon any time soon – but by his own account and what we’re observing, he’ll be tough to hold back!

John Enchilada

I’m featuring one of my “get well dishes” here; vegan enchiladas. I made a huge batch, which with leftovers makes it easy to simply reheat and eat (they’re just as delicious the next day)!

EnchiladasVeggie Enchiladas

1 medium red onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 red bell peppers, diced

1, 6 ounce bag organic baby spinach

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

8 ounces extra-firm, water-packed tofu, drained and crumbled (I used sprouted tofu)

2 cups cooked pinto beans (I cooked my own, but you can use 1, 16 oz. can, rinsed and drained)

1 cup cooked quinoa

12 whole wheat tortillas

2, 12 ounce jars low-sodium salsa

1. In a large skillet, saute onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons water (add more water to prevent sticking/burning). Cook and stir 10 minutes, or until onion is soft.

2. While onion is cooking, place the sweet potato and 3 tablespoons water into a glass bowl; microwave 8-10 minutes, or until soft. Mash with a fork or potato masher, set aside.

3. Add bell peppers to the pan, stir and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the sweet potato, mix well. Tear the baby spinach leaves in two, toss them into the pan with the other vegetables. Stir and cook until spinach is wilted. Remove the cooked vegetables from the heat.

4. In a large bowl, mash the tofu and beans together (it’s ok to leave some of the beans whole). Stir in the quinoa.

5. Combine the vegetables with the bean/tofu/quinoa mixture; mix well.

6. In a 9 x 13 glass baking dish (larger if you have one), spread enough salsa to cover the bottom of the dish (save some for topping). Place ~ 1/4 cup filling on the long side of a tortilla, then roll tortilla around filling and place in the pan (I used an additional smaller dish, 12 enchiladas won’t fit into a 9 x 12 pan).

7. Spread remaining salsa over top of filled tortillas. Cover pans tightly with foil, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.

8. Serve topped with chopped green onions, fresh cilantro, and sliced avocado, or if you’re feeling ambitious, the following avocado “cream”.

Avocado Cream

In a food processor combine 2 large avocados, 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 cup packed fresh cilantro, 1/8 cup water. Blend until creamy, adding additional water as needed to thin into a pourable consistency (from “Oh She Glows” food blog).

Enchilada Avocado Cream

 

Cooking My Way Through “Forks Over Knives” – Better Late Than Never

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Though “The How-To Companion” to the feature documentary “Forks Over Knives” has been out for a couple of years, I’ve only recently picked up a copy. The reasons for only now getting to this small but mighty book are many, but primarily, I didn’t know it existed.

Yum Yum!

Yum Yum!

I did, however, know about the documentary, and this past weekend I actually viewed it. What can I say? It’s a “must-see”, even if like me you’re a little late to the party. As a nutrition professional, my radar is always up for the latest on the health and nutrition frontlines, but it can be a struggle to keep up with it all. I mean, even though I LOVE my field, there are times I want to simply absorb a great foreign film and give my professional brain a (temporary) break.

That said, I highly recommend both the documentary and the book (you can check out both from your local library to sample, then purchase your own copy). The great thing about the book is that parts 1 and 2 illustrate the connection between a plant-based diet and health (in a reader-friendly way), and highlight some of the folks featured/profiled/starring in the film, while part 3 is all about the recipes. The bonus? Part 3 is bigger than parts 1 and 2 combined! Why is that so exciting? Because the recipes offer so much in the way of variety that I can’t imagine my taste buds ever getting bored. Oh, and every, single recipe that I’ve prepared has been surprisingly DELICIOUS.

It’s not that the actual deliciousness of plant-based recipes surprises me. On the contrary. I’m a longtime vegetarian/vegan constantly on the prowl for new plant-based recipes and ideas. The surprise comes from discovering such a strong consistency of deliciousness. Sometimes cookbooks have a handful of stellar recipes while the remainder merely fill pages. I’m five recipes into this cookbook and haven’t found that to be the case – so for me, it’s a winner.

I’m including a soup recipe here, along with the changes I made. Unfortunately there’s no photo – we ate it before I snapped a pic! Even though summer is in full swing here in the Chicago area, my husband and I love soup. Any time of year, really. It’s easy to tote to work, quick to re-heat for lunch, and is typically a meal-in-one-bowl. Love soup’s simplicity and utter satisfaction, especially this one.

 Yellow Split Pea and Leek Soup

2 cups yellow split peas

6 cups water

2 carrots, cut into small dice (I had no carrots, so I used a large sweet potato, peeled and diced)

1 red onion, cut into small dice

3 leeks, white and light green parts, cut into small dice

4 celery stalks, cut into small dice

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons low-sodium tamari

1. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil and add the peas. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the peas are soft (start checking them 45 minutes into the cooking time; it will vary).

2. When the peas are soft, add the carrots, onion, leeks and celery. Cook for 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add salt and tamari, stir to blend well.

** I used an immersion blender to produce a smooth, creamy textured soup. I also added a cube of vegetarian bouillon (can’t remember the brand) along with the vegetables. Although I used water as the base, a good vegetable stock would also work nicely.

 

 

 

Shedding “The Shoulds”

Friday, June 28th, 2013

This past week I sort of felt like I was in a nutrition therapy session loop (nothing to do with my Chicago loop office, just a rather continuous conversational loop).

Repeatedly my clients used the word “should”, like this: “I SHOULD not have ordered that sandwich, but I did anyway”. “I thought I SHOULD have eaten less of that, but it tasted so good”. “It was my birthday/anniversary/golf outing, so even though I didn’t think I SHOULD eat X, I told myself it was ok”.

See what I mean? Over and over and over. The theme of “should”.

There’s nothing wrong with “shoulds” when they’re used to keep you safe, healthy or happy, or make things convenient. For example, you should brush, floss, and shower daily (healthy, happy – you and others). You should keep gas in your car’s tank (safe), and extra toilet paper under the bathroom sink (convenience). Outside of that, where else does “should” serve you, or serve the process of eating intuitively and mindfully?

That’s the thing about “shoulds”. They don’t allow you to intuitively listen to, nor honor, the subtle signals that your body constantly sends you.

Your body will tell you what you’re in the mood for (maybe you actually DO want a sandwich). It will tell you how much to eat (maybe the amount you ate was adequate, instead of too much). And, your body will tell you when you’ve had enough (we all eat “celebratory” foods at celebratory occasions – your body will signal you to stop).

You can’t out-think, out-analyze, out-rationalize, or outsmart your body’s wisdom. . .don’t even try. Yet when my clients employ “shoulds” based on outside information (plate size, occasion, menu items), that’s exactly what they’re trying to do.

Speaking of “shoulds”, I frequently remind my clients that exposing themselves to foods they feel they should avoid lessens the power of that particular food. The food becomes less scary, and they’re less frequently confronted with, “I should not have eaten that entire batch of cookies”.

To that end, I’m sharing one of my favorite oatmeal cookie recipes; cookies regularly top the “should not eat” list.

I respectfully disagree.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

OATMEAL RAISIN COOKIES (Vegan)

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

1/3 cup soy milk

2 tablespoons ground flax seeds

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh is best)

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 quick-cooking oats

1/2 cup raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, use a fork to vigorously mix together the soy milk and flax seeds. Add in the sugar and oil and mix until it resembles caramel, about 2 minutes. Mix in the vanilla. Sift in the flour, spices, and salt, mixing the dry ingredients as they are being added. Fold in the oatmeal and raisins.

3. Drop dough in generous tablespoons, about 2 inches apart, onto the baking sheets. Flatten the tops a bit (use a spoon dipped in warm water) since they don’t spread much. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

4. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in a tightly covered container.

From “Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero

 

 

Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 3

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

48 hours from now, I will have completed my half marathon. I can’t believe it’s so close!

Essentially, I’m finished training – completely. At this point, there’s nothing else physically that I can do to get stronger, faster, or fitter. I follow a religious foot, Achilles, and calf stretching and strengthening routine that I’ll do tonight and tomorrow; can’t really ever overdo that, and it’s helpful, even in this final hour.

Today I walked 1/2 mile to warm up, then ran an easy two miles. By easy, I’m referring to intensity. I followed that up with a yoga class – it felt really good to fit in some extended total-body stretching. The instructor’s emphasis for today’s class was on stretching and opening the sides of the body; loved it! Yoga is a wonderful antidote to running and strength training, and I try to fit it in as often as I can – unfortunately, I’ve been neglecting it because my training has taken precedence. It’s ironic that we offer Vinyasa yoga for beginners here at the NutriFit studio http://www.eatwellgetstrong.com/yoga.html, but since I’m working when class is in session, I never get to reap the benefits. Too bad. . .it’s an awesome class!

A couple of days ago I was kicking around the idea of bringing food along so that once we check into our hotel we’re not held captive by over-priced, underwhelming restaurant food. It’s rare that food bothers my digestive system, but now would be a ridiculously horrible time for it to be one of those rare times. . .bringing my own food just makes more sense, especially since we’re driving. My brother likes the idea as well, so that sealed the deal and I decided to go for it.

In advance, I’ll cook up a big pot of whole wheat pasta (extremely difficult to find at a restaurant), saute’ veggies and vegan meatballs for me, and bring shrimp or chicken for my brother, nephew and husband. I’ll toss a huge salad of spinach, mushrooms, and strawberries, mix up my special olive oil-based dressing, and bring fruit and dark chocolate for dessert. When it’s time to eat, I’ll simply plug in the wok, heat the pasta and toppings, and serve up the rest. Cheap, delicious, nutritious, and smart. Well, except for the dish washing; bathtub? Nah. . .just kidding.

I’ll take pics and let you know how it works out in my post-run follow-up blog.

For now, here’s the recipe for the salad dressing – it’s divine!

VERSATILE VINAIGRETTE

1 tablespoon orange juice

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 small garlic clove, smashed

½ teaspoon ground, black pepper

In a small glass jar, combine orange juice, vinegar, olive oil, mustard, garlic and black pepper. Put the lid on the jar; shake contents vigorously until thoroughly mixed.

This salad is actually tossed with this dressing. Yum!

This salad is actually tossed with this dressing. Yum!

 

 

 

 

Fun Nutrition Presentation!

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

This morning I was privileged to be featured as a speaker at our local cozy, cute bookstore aptly titled, “The Bookstore” http://www.justthebookstore.com/. Two women from my community are participating in the AVON Breast Cancer walk and were interested in bringing folks together over healthy food in support of their fund raising efforts. I came in to speak about nutrition and cancer prevention, and eating to fuel activity (like a 2-day, 30+ mile walk!).

A few points that I made during the program were 1) focus on REAL food, 2) choose food that is as close to its original form as possible, 3) focus on a plant-based diet.

I prepared energy bars made with wheat germ, nuts, dried fruit, and oats, and whipped up soy smoothies made with vanilla soy milk, frozen strawberries, and orange juice concentrate. I wanted to share these easy recipes and tips to show just how simple (and inexpensive) it is to make your own energy bars.

I find that many of energy/meal replacement bars on the market are glorified candy bars. Preparing them yourself allows you to control the sweet, salty, and fat components of the flavor profile. You can even customize with your favorite dried fruit and nut combo – recipes are really just a guideline.

We had a great turnout, everyone loved the food, and we had an interesting conversation about the power of “real” food. As I like to say, make your kitchen your medicine cabinet!

Here’s the recipe for the smoothie we sampled; enjoy!

Fruit and Soy Smoothie

  • 2 Tbs. orange juice concentrate
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries, unsweetened
  • 1 cup vanilla soy milk

In a blender, puree all ingredients until creamy. Serve immediately.