Sunday, December 26, 2010

Beef Wellington

About 2 months ago Ryan saw a recipe in the Wall Street Journal for Beef Wellington.  We decided to try and make it for our Christmas Day Dinner.  The recipe was adapted from Tyler Florence's show 'Tyler's Ultimate'.  He uses mustard instead of truffle butter.  We were fortunate enough to have my mom staying with us for the holiday and partake in this extravagant meal.

Step 1:  I made the duxelles, a finely chopped and then sauteed mixture or mushrooms, garlic, shallots, and thyme.  Thank goodness for the food processor, otherwise I would have been chopping those mushrooms all day.
Step 2: Making the 'veal stock' for the mushroom gravy.  I couldn't find any veal bones at the grocery store, so ours was doctored up beef stock.  I still chopped the carrot, onion, and celery and roasted them and then simmered it all in (no salt added) beef stock and red wine.  We keep a container of leftover red wine in our freezer for times when recipes call for it, but we don't want to open a bottle.

Mom and I also made brownies

Step 3:  Ryan seared the Beef tenderloin.  (Our cut of meat was not quite what the recipe called for and it still had the silver skin on it.  I highly recommend you get it cut off if you attempt this recipe).

Step 4: We shingled the prosciutto onto cling wrap, and spread the duxelles on-top.  The beef was then slathered in black truffle butter and rolled up inside the prosciutto.  This was then set to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile... I was also making roasted potatoes.

Step 5:  The beef came out of the fridge and was wrapped in puff pastry.  We thought we might not have enough, but with a coaxing we stretched it out.  The whole thing went into the oven for 45 minutes and came out looking and smelling incredible.
Step 6:  I finished making the mushroom gravy by sauteing mushrooms and shallots in the pan used to sear the beef.  I added the stock I made Friday and simmered it for 10 minutes.  I'm not a huge gravy fan, but after one bite decided I could eat this for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  I might even embrace our current southern situation and try it over biscuits...  I could drink it, it's that good.
We topped our dinner off with steamed green beans, which were tasty on their own, but even better with a little gravy on them.  Overall this is probably the finest meal we have ever created, and one of the best I've ever eaten.  I thought about figuring the calorie content, but decided I would drive myself nuts trying.  According to a serving of Beef Wellington has 354 calories, 22g fat, 11g carb, and 25g protein.  But they do not give a recipe so it's hard to say how that compares to ours.

This was a good instance of how cooking at home can save you money.  Overall, this meal cost between $75-$100 to prepare. (I added in a few cents here and there for all the oil, salt, pepper, potatoes, green beans...)  Per person that is $12.50-$16.60 figuring that it serves 6 people. in an upscale restaurant this could easily have cost $21 or more.  Ryan found a restaurant in NYC that will serve a three course meal for $75, but adds $8 if you want the Beef Wellington.

We all agreed that we would make Beef Wellington again, but not for quite some time.

Friday, December 10, 2010


"Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy marshmallows; and that's kind of the same thing."

Being the ex-girl scout that I am, I have a soft spot for properly toasted marshmallows.  I fully realize they are completely devoid of any nutritional value, even more so than ice cream which at least has some protein and calcium in it.  But for me they bring back sweet memories of camping with my parents and tossing them to the raccoons.  And sitting around a fire with 24 other campers on the verge of a mass sugar rush.  There is an art to properly toasting a 'mallow' and I am about to walk you through it.

1.  Make a fire and let it burn until there are red/white coals at the bottom with very few flames.
2.  Find a 2-4 foot stick with the diameter of a small knitting needle.  If the end is round or blunt, use a pocket knife to sharpen it.  This will make poking the marshmallow and then removing it much easier.
3.  Push the marshmallow onto the stick until 1/4th of an inch of the stick shows through the top.  This will make it harder to accidently loose your mallow as it becomes soft.
4.  Begin roasting.  Keep the marshmallow high enough above the coals that it does not brown immediately.  The idea is to slowly turn it (like a spit) so that all sides get evenly brown. 
5.  The mallow is done when the outside is golden and it starts to melt off the stick.  Quickly pull the  delicate marshmallow off the stick and proceed to eat it, or place it between two graham crackers with a square of hershey chocolate AKA: S'more 

The perfect marshmallow takes time, but it's worth the wait.  
Ryan at the Thomasville Christmas Festival

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sports Nutrition Workshop

This weekend I had the very exciting opportunity to meet Nancy Clark MS, RD, CSSD, FACSM and William (Bill) Evens PhD, FACSM.  For those who do not know, Nancy wrote one of the most widely used books concerning the topic of Sports Nutrition, Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook.  She and Bill have collaborated on other works and research.  Bill is the Adjunct Professor of Medicine, Senior Research Fellow Dept. of Medicine at Duke University Medical Center and has specialized much of his research in the area of aging and has also written several books.  The workshop started Friday afternoon at St Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta, GA and continued Saturday morning.

Much of what Nancy spoke about I already knew from reading her book and just keeping up on the topic of sports nutrition.  However, it did reinforce the fact that I probably need to do a better job of refueling after my own work outs.

Bill presented on Saturday and the information he gave was extremely interesting.  He certainly makes the case for encouraging more physical activity especially in the aging population.  What I found most intriguing was the study he did on the use of NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs).  During exercise muscle fibers are damaged causing inflammation which actually helps in the rebuilding process.  He and his colleagues found that both Tylenol and Ibuprofen inhibit the inflammation (which decreases muscle soreness) however, this also blunts the muscles ability to repair itself.  He recommends icing, heat, massage, rest, and proper refueling/rehydrating as ways to decrease muscle soreness caused by exercise.

Chocolate milk seemed to be brought up quite frequently during the weekend as a an excellent food to use for refueling instead of pricy protein supplements.   It go me wondering if patients in hospitals might be more likely to drink a glass of chocolate milk vs the standard Ensure or Boost?  Personally, I think I'd rather have the milk.  Plus it would be more cost effective when the main concern is calories and protein in a patients diet and not their micronutrient intake.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I have never eaten a persimmon.  But apparently they are in season and there were two varieties at Publix this past weekend.  Being the curious person I am, I picked up two.  I chose the larger ones since they were a little softer than the small round ones.  After doing a little wikipedia research I found out that this is normal, and that I unsuspectingly picked up the bitter variety.  I had them sitting on the counter for a few days, but happened upon an article that said to put them in the freezer and after thawing to use them in persimmon pudding. So that is what I did.  The flesh didn't taste like anything too special.  It had the consistency of a soft kiwi fruit and did leave my mouth feeling a bit funny.  I made a small batch of pudding this morning, it certainly doesn't look very delectable.

The flavor and texture of the pudding is similar to spongy french toast.  There is nothing that screams "PERSIMMON" but it is warm and sweet and gooey.  With a little vanilla ice-cream I can understand why people might enjoy eating it during the holiday season.  I'm finding that it's kind of addictive and I need to put it in the fridge before I eat the whole batch and give myself a bad case of McTummy.

I was hoping that because of it's bright orange color the persimmon would be a super-food (low in calories, high in fiber/vitamins/minerals), but I'm a bit disappointed. One 2.5" fruit contains 118kcals, all from carbohydrate of course, and 6g fiber.  It is very high in Vitamin A and C, but not much else.

Persimmons originated in Asia and are staple in many oriental countries.  In the United States they are indigenous to Texas and Florida, but can be found in the South Eastern half of the country and a persistent farmer may even be able to grow them as far north as Iowa.  There is a variety grown in Mexico that actually turns black when ripe.  As I mentioned above there are two main varieties, the astringent variety which must be mushy soft and ripe before consuming, and the non-astringent variety that can be eaten like an apple.  The astringency comes from it's high tannin content (organic compound also found in under-ripe bananas and dry red wine) and tastes very bitter.

Some people who eat persimmons on a regular basis may develop a bezoar.  First off, I thought bezoars were something that J.K. Rowling made up in one of the first Harry Potter books.  Not until my internship did I find out that a bezoar is a mass of undigested material found in the stomach...aka a hair ball.  The gelatinous consistency of un-ripened persimmons along with the fiber and tannins causes some people to develop diospyrobezoar.  Sometimes they have to be removed surgically if they become too large to pass through the intestines however, doctors have had excellent success in treating patients with Coca-Cola.  That's right, patients drink 1000 ml of soda each day to help dissolve the mass.  This does not make me want to drink a coke, if it can do that to a mass of undigested material, what is it doing the rest of me?  Note: There is even a FaceBook group dedicated to persimmon induced bezoars.  

In conclusion... if you have never tried a persimmon it might be worth doing so.  Just make sure it's very ripe before you eat it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Goat Cheese Pizza

After being gone for two days and getting home late to a refrigerator with very little food, Ryan and I were in deep need of some groceries.  Unless we wanted to eat mac & cheese for the second time in 4 days.  While meandering the aisles it dawned on me that we had no idea what to fix for super.  Thankfully Ryan remembered an episode of 'Just Cook This' from Fit TV.  We do not have cable, but when he's traveling Ryan likes to watch Sam the Cooking Guy.  Apparently he made an amazing looking goat cheese pizza in 20 minutes from start to finish.  Traditional pizza is good, but for a little more variety I highly recommend this recipe, and copied it from the website.

1-10" ready made pizza crust (Boboli)
1/2 cup softened goat cheese (Chevre)*
1/2 pound shiitakes, sliced thin
4 oz fresh spinach (1/2 bag)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil
2 Tbs water

1. Pre-heat oven to 425*F
2. Spread goat cheese on pizza crust.
3. Heat a large pan over medium high heat, add oil and saute the mushrooms until soft.
4. Add garlic and stir for a minute- add the spinach and water, cover to allow the spinach to wilt.
5. Top pizza with mushroom and spinach mixture.
6. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

For the most part we followed the recipe, except we used pre-sliced baby portobello mushrooms and added a few sun dried tomatoes.  It was so good, but next time we are going to double the amount of spinach and mushrooms.  

1 slice of pizza contains(1/6): 258 kcals, 8.8g fat,4.5g sat. fat, 34g carb, 11g pro, 1.8g fiber, 436mg sodium.

While this may not be a low fat, low carb, low sodium food; at least you can feel good knowing it uses real ingredients.  If you were not pressed for time, you could always make a homemade pizza crust.  This would be an excellent appetizer for upcoming holiday parties.  It would also pair well with a fresh arugula salad for a wine and dinner night.

Cost wise we spent $11.50, if you tried a similar pizza from...

Papa John's large spinach alfredo $14.99 
1 slice-280 kcals, 10g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 25g carb, 11g pro, 1g fiber, 690mg sodium

Papa Murphy's Large Veggie DeLite $13.99
1 slice-160 kcals, 9g fat, 4g saturated fat, 13g carb, 8g pro, <1g fiber, 250mg sodium

 Kashi Frozen Thin Crust Mushroom Trio and Spinach (1/3) $6-8.00
(1/3)- 250 kcals, 9g fat, 4.5g sat fat, 28g carb, 14g pro, 660mg sodium

I think Papa Murphy's may beat our pizza nutrition wise, but ours was less expensive and we enjoyed making it together.  

*Chevre (Chevrie) Is a soft goats milk cheese, eaten frequently in other parts of the world.  Lately it has been gaining popularity in the US; mostly thanks to top chefs and foodies.  According to my 'Flavor Bible' chevre pairs well with nuts, herbs, and fruit.  You could make countless combinations of this pizza using pairings such as:
Roasted Beets + Red Onions + Basil 
Sauteed Fennel + Asparagus + Orange zest
Fresh Blackberries + Sliced Figs + Honey
Cranberry Relish + Chopped Walnuts + Balsamic Vinegar 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Great Pumpkin

It's rather unfortunate how little pumpkin people eat, excluding the mounds of pumpkin pie ingested at Thanksgiving.  Pumpkin is a super food; chock full of vitamins and minerals.  Even though pumpkin is a starchy vegetable, 1 cup of canned pumpkin contains only: 83 kcal, 1g fat(mostly omega 3), 20g carb, 7g fiber, 3g protein.  But it does have: 763% DV of vitamin A, 49% DV vitamin K, 17% DV vitamin C, 13% DV vitamin E, and 19% DV Iron.

While you might think that canned and home cooked pumpkin would have similar nutrient profiles, they are actually quite different.  1 cup of home roasted/steamed pumpkin contains: 49 kcal, trace amounts of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, 12g carb, 3g fiber, 2g protein.  245% DV of vitamin A, 2% DV vitamin K, 19% DV vitamin C, 10% DV vitamin E, and 8% DV Iron.  I have a feeling the major diferences come from the fact that canned pumpkin is probably more concentrated than home cooked pumpkin.  Also, some vitamins and minerals will be lost in cooking water if you choose to boil it rather than roast, steam, or sauté.  Besides making pie and jack-o-lanterns, there are infinite possibilities of what a pumpkin can become.  

Yesterday I made pumpkin oatmeal for a post 5K race breakfast.  Start by cooking 1/2 cup of old fashioned oats and 1 cup of water/milk in the microwave for 2 minutes.  Stir in 2 heaping spoonfuls of canned pumpkin, a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Microwave 1 minute more.  Top with chopped pecans or walnuts, and a drizzle of real maple syrup.

My biggest accomplishment in the kitchen yesterday had to be my homemade pumpkin butter.  While it was a little labor intensive, it was for the most part, much easier to make than I would have imagined.  I found the recipe on this website, scroll down the page to November 2005.  While my pumpkin was roasting I prepared the seeds by soaking them in water to help remove the stringy pith.  After draining them, I sprinkled some 'garlic & herb' Mrs. Dash over them.  When the pumpkin came out, I roasted the seeds at 350* F for 20 minutes on a lightly greased pan; stir every 5 minutes.  Unfortunately the seasoning got slightly burnt, but the seeds are nice and crunchy.

Even-though I try not to eat lots of added sugar, I refuse to eat Splenda or aspartame.  However, if you insist on using it, I'm sure it would work fine in the recipe.  Ryan helped me can one jar of the delicious mixture, the rest is going to work for a "pumpkin cook-off" later this week.

Nutrition Bites:
pumpkin pie 1 slice (1/8 of 9" pie): 323 kcal, 13g fat, 310 mg sodium, 41g carb, 25g sugar, 2g fiber, 5g protein.

pumpkin butter 1 Tbs: 30 kcal, 8g carb, 7g sugar,   

roasted seeds 1 oz: 146 kcal, 12g fat (mostly unsaturated), 4g carb,    1g fiber, 9g protein
Starbucks tall pumpkin spice latte skim milk, no whip: 216 kcal,     216 mg sodium, 41g carb, 38 g sugar, 13g protein (contains no real pumpkin)

Cold Stone like it pumpkin ice cream: 385 kcal, 22g fat, 99 mg sodium, 41g carb, 36g sugar, 6g protein (contains canned pumpkin)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Healthy Vending

Last week the Wall Street Journal published an article called 'The Great Banana Challenge.'  The article discusses how a vending machine company in Des Moines, Ia is tackling the problem of dispensing healthy snacks from vending machines.  They have taken the idea of healthy vending one step further than just promoting granola bars and crackers instead of chips and candy, Written Group Inc and Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc, have partnered together and are now creating vending machines capable of dispensing bananas and pre-cut fruits and veggies.  The machines are very high-tech with tightly controlled temperature zones and elevators that help prevent fruit from bruising during their fall to the bottom.

Unfortunately, these machines cost $2000 more than regular vending machines.  The cost of a fruit snack can be as much as $2.50 compared to $0.75-1.50 for more traditional options. That is a bit pricey for a  snack, but companies need to cover the costs of operating the machine.  If people find this too expensive, there is always the option of bringing fresh or precut produce to work from home.  Also, many people do not even glance at the new healthy options, they habitually choose their favorite high fat, high calorie snacks.  As we know, old habits die hard.

This article was a great follow up to hearing about the carrot vending machines in Ohio Schools.  Even though there are critics of the healthy vending machines, no one can deny that they are a step in the right direction.  For companies that do not have a cafeteria they could be a great way to give employees a chance to make a healthy choice.  In the two hospitals that I work at, we are currently working with our foodservice and vending machine companies to implement a healthy vending program.  While we do sell fresh fruit and vegetables at all meals, the cafeteria is not always open.  We currently have no plans to bring in a fruit and veggie machine, but our program will make it easier for employees and patients to choose the healthier options.

What do you think?  Would you buy bananas from a vending machine?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Leggo your Eggo

 Our mothers and grandmothers have been telling us for years, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  They were right.  A substantial breakfast gives you  energy to get your day started and helps prevent high calorie late night snacking.  Many dieters think that by giving up breakfast they are saving calories and well on their way to weight loss.  WRONG!  Breakfast should consist of 400-700 calories depending upon your calorie needs.  This does not mean you want to indulge in biscuits & gravy each morning, but it does mean that wimpy bowl of Special K won't cut it either.

Not everyone likes typical breakfast fare, which is fine since a lot of typical breakfast foods are worthless. Foods such as pop-tarts, eggo-waffles, and white toast with margarine are almost exclusively refined carbohydrates that will leave you running on empty within an hour or two.  If you like foods such as chili, beef and bean burritos,  turkey sandwiches, stir-fry, or lasagna, have them for breakfast.  They all contain a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.  By having a substantial breakfast you may soon find yourself better able to concentrate at work and needing less coffee to keep yourself awake at the office meeting.

While eggs may be a typical breakfast item, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower certainly are not.  Twice this week I made a protein packed veggie scramble for breakfast before work.
1/3 cup frozen mixed vegetables
1/3 cup MorningStar Farms sausage crumbles
1 egg
1 Tbs catsup

In a nonstick skillet heat a small amount of olive or canola oil over medium high heat.  When the pan and oil are hot, add the frozen vegetables and sausage crumbles.  Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables and "meat" are cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.  Crack an egg over the mixture breaking the yolk.  Move the mixture around in the pan, making sure all of the egg gets cooked.  When the egg is cooked move to a plate and top with a sprinkling of shredded cheese or catsup.
Nutrition: 189 kcal, 8.8g fat, 14.5g carb, 14g protein, 591 mg sodium

Add a slice of whole wheat toast or in my case 1/2 of a sprouted grain english muffin with a smear of low-fat cream cheese and blackberry jam.  I also had a banana and 2 cups of coffee with just a dash of 1/2 and 1/2.  Total my meal came to:
456 kcal, 16.4g fat, 60g carb, 21g protein, 711 mg sodium (that's a little high, mostly from the sausage crumbles and catsup).  This breakfast is high in vitamins B6 and B12, copper, phosphorus, riboflavin,  and thiamin.  All of which are important in normal cell function and metabolism.

So the next time you want to reach for a Nutrigrain bar while running out the door, grab the leftover chicken casserole instead and reap the benefits of a high quality breakfast.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

turkey and more turkey

Last weekend Ryan and I hit the poultry jackpot, a 20# turkey at 99 cents/pound.  Thanksgiving may be less than 2 months away, but that price was too good to pass up.  Food sales and "buy one/get one" deals can be a great way to eat for cheap.  Figuring we had 30-50% waste, we still only spent $1.42 to $2.00 per pound of edible portion. There are approximately 32 4 oz servings for a 20# turkey, which means that one serving costs between 50 and 63 cents. Even with the trimmings, this is still a cheap meal.

After a mini turkey feast complete with mashed red potatoes, homemade gravy, steamed broccoli, and stuffing from a box we had approximately 5 Tupperware full of turkey.  Sorry, I did not make stock with the carcass or fry up the giblets.  The rest of the potatoes and stuffing along with a thigh were eaten over the next day or two.  Some turkey ended up on a giant salad for supper Tuesday night.  Now what to do with all those left overs.

On Wednesday I sauteed a diced onion and about 2 oz of chopped crimini mushroom in a little butter.  I mixed it with ricotta cheese and frozen spinach (thawed and drained).  I layered this with about a cup of diced turkey, 9 lasagna noodles, 1 jar of marinara sauce, and topped it off with about 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese.  It was pretty good, and Ryan was very excited when he found out we were having lasagna for supper.

This morning I woke up and started making what I'm calling Wild Turkey Soup:
In a medium stock pot saute over medium high heat sautee in 2 Tbs canola oil: 2 small onions diced, 3 medium carrots and 2 parsnips cut into thin slices.  As the onions start to soften add 2 cloves of garlic finely minced or pushed through a press.  Also add 0.25 oz of diced dried porcini mushrooms, a large dash of black pepper and thyme.  Continue to cook until the carrots just start to soften.  Pour in 32oz of low sodium chicken broth/stock.  Bring to a boil.  Add 2 cups roughly chopped leftover turkey, 3-4 cups of warm water, and 1 bay leaf.  Decrease the temperature and  back to a simmer for 5 minutes.  Just before serving stir in 1tsp of apple cider vinegar.  Ladle soup over cooked wild rice or other favorite whole grain.
-The porcini mushrooms will add a rich flavor and depth to the soup.  They may need to be reconstituted in warm water to make mincing them easier.
-Do not cook rice into the soup unless you plan on eating all of it at that time.  Otherwise the rice will turn to mush when you reheat it later.

Why eat turkey?  As long as you are not eating highly processed turkey products, and avoiding the crispy skin, Turkey is a great source of lean protein.  A 4 oz portion supplies 65% of your DV for protein.

1 oz of dark meat contains: 56kcals, 2g fat, and 8g protein
1 oz of light meat contains: 44 kcals, 1g fat, and 8g protein

Along with tryptophan the amino acid attributed to bringing on post turkey feast sleepiness, turkey is an excellent source of Selenium.  Selenium is a mineral which has strong antioxidant properties and plays an important role in keeping the immune system strong and the thyroid functioning properly.  While selenium deficiency is rarely seen in the united states it is still prominent in rural China where soil concentrations of selenium are very poor.  Studies show that low selenium levels may increase a person's chances of developing certain types of cancers and make them more susceptible to disease.

We still have about 4 tupperware full of turkey in the freezer.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Food Habits

As a dietitian I quickly learned that people do not want to be judged on what they eat; they already know that candy bars are not ‘healthy’ snack choices.  Dietitians are around to help people learn what a better choice might be and how they can still fit that occasional Snicker’s Bar into their new healthy eating plan.  It’s a form of 'don’t ask, don’t tell;' minus the religious and political controversies.  If you do not ask me how to eat, I will not tell you how to eat.  If you sit down next to me and my salad with your French fries and cookie-dough blizzard, I promise not to judge.  Some days I need a little ice-cream in my diet too.  Food habits are extremely personal and deeply engrained into our lives.  They start when we are born and are influenced by many different factors including but not limited to: religion, social/economic status, family, friends, education, transportation, food availability, season of the year, and disease or medical conditions... the list goes on.

I find it interesting how many nutrition savvy people like to push their food beliefs on other people.  I was scolded the other day for eating baby carrots, and told that I really ought to know better, and that I should just buy the big ones on the weekend to peel and chop up.  For a minute I forgot which one of us was the dietitian.  I explained that I already cook enough on the weekends as it is, and that peeling carrots was about the last thing I wanted to add to my to-do list.  By the way; there is nothing wrong with eating pre-cut baby carrots.

The past couple weeks I've had a few of my new co-workers ask me questions about food/diets. I think my favorite came this week when I was asked if it was true that people should never drink cold liquids, nor should we drink any liquids 20 minutes after eating; apparently it will cause the food in your stomach to gelatinize or solidify.  What?!!  I explained that this is not how the body works and that food in the stomach is digested by stomach acid and enzymes.  However, if not drinking liquids with their meals works for them, and no harm is coming from it, why not...  But lets make sure our science is right and that we are not spreading false information.

It's also amazing how people will eat certain foods even though they hate them, just because they have heard that it is good for them.  I had a woman thank me when I told her she no longer had to eat yogurt everyday (she hated the texture).  Food should be enjoyable. If after several tries you still dislike something, don't eat it.  Of course, this does mean you actually have to try foods and not just assume you do not like them.

Contrary to what some people might have us believe, there is no one diet that is right for everyone, people are different and so are their eating habits.  Until you find out why they eat the way they do, or have solid scientific proof to back up your statements, you probably have no business giving them advice.  

Friday, September 24, 2010

eggplant and lentil curry

Until about 2 years ago I think I had eaten eggplant approximately 2-3 times in my life.  That all changed when I lived with Lindsay during our dietetic internship.  She loves eggplant.  So each week we would split an eggplant and use it however we needed it.  I quickly discovered that unless it was battered and fried (eggplant parm.) I really didn't like it.  So after a couple weeks of trying to cover up the flavor of eggplant in my stir-fry, I finally admitted to Lindsay that I did not like it.

Fast forward to this spring.  Being the RD that I am I decided to give eggplant a second try.  (FYI-sometimes you have to try something 10 times before you learn to like it.)  This time I grilled it on the george-foreman.  It was wonderful! If ever you want to try a new vegetable but do not know what to do with it, grill it.  Olive oil, salt, pepper, and 10 minutes; that's all it takes to make a great side dish.

Last weekend we obtained 5 small homegrown eggplants from a friend's garden.  We grilled three of them with dinner earlier this week, but today I noticed that last two were getting a bit soft.  My Cooking Light cookbook provided me with a wonderful recipe for a vegetarian curry that would not only use up the eggplants, but also some leftover lentils.  The basic recipe goes like this:

Ingredients: 1 Tbs olive oil, 1 medium onion diced, 2 tsp curry powder (garam masala), 2-3 small eggplants peeled and cut into 1" pieces, 2 tsp grated fresh ginger, 2 cloves garlic minced, 1 can diced tomatoes, 3 3/4  cups water, 1 cup dry lentils, 2 bay leaves, 1 large zucchini cut into 1" pieces, 1tsp kosher salt.

1.  Heat oil in a large dutch oven or big skillet.  Add onion and curry powder, saute for 3 minutes on medium high.
2. Add the eggplant, ginger, garlic, and tomatoes, cook for 7 minutes until the eggplant begins to soften.  3. Add the water, lentils, and bay leaves, simmer partially covered for 15 minutes.
4. Add the salt and zucchini, simmer covered an additional 10 minutes until the zucchini softens.  Serve as is or ladle over your favorite cooked whole grain.  Serves 4-6.

I didn't really expect much for this dish, but wow is it good!  The eggplant gets nice and soft and the lentils make it really hearty.  The flavor is excellent as well.  For anyone wanting to experiment with lentils or eggplant, this would be a perfect first dish.  Plus it's fairly easy to put together.  I have a feeling this would be a big hit at a fall/winter dinner party or family gathering.  Try freezing it in small batches and take them to work for a filling lunch.

Without serving it over a grain, and if serving 6 people, the nutritional values are as follows:
200 kcal, 3g fat, 35g carb, 16g fiber, 11g protein,  (sodium is <400mg, but will vary depending upon the type of canned tomatoes, I use no salt added).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

corn sugar coat it

The corn sugar farmers want to change the name of 'High Fructose Corn Syrup' to 'Corn Sugar.'  Why?  Because people heard all the bad press about HFCS and stopped buying products containing it.  Even if this legislation does go through, I really hope the people who made the healthful choice to abstain from HFCS are not fooled by the corn growers sneaky tricks.

Sugar is sugar, from corn, beets, or sugar cane, it's still sugar.  And guess what? Contrary to popular belief, you do not actually need any in your diet.  That's right, none.  While the American Dietetic Association says that consuming 10% of you daily calories from refined sugar is just fine and considered "in moderation," I disagree.  And to let the corn grower's association try and cover up and change the name from HFCS to Corn Sugar is very dubious.

For more on why HFCS is such a nasty product, refer back to one of my previous posts on moderation.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Goal setting is very important when it comes to changing behavior.  There are good ways to set goals and there are not so good ways.  As a dietitian I often try to encourage patients/clients to set goals in order to help them lose weight, control their blood glucose, or just eat healthier.  Many books give the example of SMART goals as the best way for people to change their behavior.  SMART goals are:
Action based

Instead of setting the goal to "eat more fruits and vegetables" a SMART goal would state:
"I will eat at least 1 fruit or vegetable with each meal 4 days a week."
"I will ask for a side salad instead of french fries when I eat at restaurants."
"I will choose a fruit or vegetable for snacks instead of granola bars and crackers while at work."

Sometimes you might have to do a little research in order to create a SMART goal.  Maybe you want to loose 20 pounds before your class reunion, but it's only 10 days away.  This is not realistic or timely.  So  change your goal to Losing 2 pounds before your class reunion by getting 30 minutes of physical activity each day before the party.  Then, if losing the remaining 18 pounds is still important, learn about other healthy ways to lose the weight by talking with a dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or reading reliable books and articles.

Of course the next step is to keep yourself accountable in meeting your goals.  It's easy to cheat on goals when you do not track them.  One of the best ways to do this is by using a chart or log book.  I recently set the goal to meet more people at work and be more personable.  I tend to clam up a bit when first meeting people, and don't consider myself a great conversationalist.  So to break out of my shell I set several small goals that were all related to my big broad goal:
1. Smile at every person I see in the hallway at work.
2. Say 'Hello' to as many people as I can.
3. Have at least one non work related conversation with someone each day I'm at work.

Currently I only work part time, so I created a chart with slots for each day I work and lasting 6 weeks.  Each day that I met my goals I put a sticker in that slot. (Yes, those are fruit stickers)

It's also important to reward yourself for meeting your goals.  I've been wanting a Vera Bradley bag for about 2 years now and decided this would be my reward, especially when I found out that the bag I wanted was 1/2 price.  I bought it early, and Ryan hid it from me so I wouldn't be tempted to open the box.  I met my six week goal on Monday and found my new messenger bag hidden in a suitcase in our closet.
 This brings me to a second point about holding yourself accountable.  Many people find it helpful to have a "cheer leader."  Some one who can help encourage you if you are having difficulty staying motivated, or someone to report your successes to.  Many days after work during dinner, Ryan would ask me who I talked to and what we talked about.  It's also important to be honest with yourself.  If you do not meet your goal for a day, don't give yourself credit for it.  This happened to me one day, so I got an X in my box instead of a sticker and then added an extra day at the end.  However, don't give up!  Setbacks happen, but they do not mean failure.  If you do not meet your goal for a day or two; regroup and remind yourself of the why goal is important, talk to your support person, and get back on track.  This may happen several times, and that's ok as long as you learn from your mistakes and continue to make progress.  On days I was having difficulty thinking of good conversation starters I imagined my friend Lucy who is very friendly and never seems to have difficulty talking to new people.  Actually, during my internship we would joke about how she was always coming home from the grocery store or coffee house having made a new friend.

The best part about setting goals, is that they will slowly become habit.  I found myself wanting to talk to more people even on my days off.  While running errands around town I tried chatting up the grocery store cashier, meeting new people at the gym, and even conversing with our waiter whenever Ryan and I went out to dinner.

So the next time you want to change your life, or just a small area of it; try setting a SMART goal and reach for the stars!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I ate my very first sardine (or should I say tin of sardines) on Tuesday.  As an RD I know that they are a good source of omega 3s, protein, and calcium but I'd never been overly interested in trying them. My grandma used to feed them to my cousin, but never offered them to me....I'll have to ask her about this. Earlier this summer I came across several recipes using sardines, and even heard an episode of Splendid Table where they were discussed.  So naturally I figured it was time to get over my fear of tiny fish and try them.  I did a little research and figured that the oil packed ones were the best way to go for the first time.  I also read several recommendations to stay away from the "cheap" brands and be willing to spend a couple $ on a tin. (King Oscar cost about $3.50 per tin)

While Ryan was away this week I mustered up the courage to make something with my sardines.  For some reason I thought they still had heads and couldn't quite picture myself eating them on crackers while they were staring up at me; which is apparently the most popular way to eat them.  Surprise! they don't have heads.  But below is the basic recipe I followed in order to create a sauce to cover up my now headless fishies.

1 tin sardines packed in olive oil
1 small onion diced
1 clove of garlic minced or pressed
1 tbs flour
Salt, Pepper, Chili flakes, Fresh parsley or dill, oregano, thyme
1/2 cup milk
1 tbs panko bread crumbs
1 tbs grated parmesan cheese
Favorite crackers or toast triangles

Heat a small skillet over medium heat, when hot add the oil from the sardines.  Sauté the onion until translucent.  Approximately 8 minutes, add the garlic and continue to cook for 2 minutes.  Add the flour and cook till lightly brown.  Stir in the milk and bring to a simmer until the sauce thickens.  During this time add any other seasonings you like.  Place sardines in an oven safe dish and pour prepared sauce over them.  Top with the bread crumbs and cheese.  Broil in an oven until the top is browned.  Serve with crackers or toast triangles.

This recipe can easily be doubled and serve approximately 6 people.  This would actually be a very good appetizer if you were hosting a dinner party.  I didn't use all of the sauce, and since it was my dinner I ate the whole tin of sardines along with some leftover potatoes.  I used my leftover sauce to make some salmon salad today and served it over a bed of romaine lettuce and leftover onions and peppers from Thursday night's dinner.  Sometimes the best way to save a dollar is to combine several leftovers into one meal.

 Nutritionally speaking the whole dish (minus crackers or toast) contains 360 kcals, 12g fat (9 of which is unsaturated), 30g carbohydrate, 32g protein, 2g fiber, and 660 mg sodium.  Amazingly it also provides more than 100% of your daily value for vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and selenium.  This is great since for the most part, almost every American is vitamin D deficient.   Vitamin D deficiency is now being linked not only to osteoporosis and other bone diseases, but also to diabetes, heart disease, and several types of cancer.  This dish is also a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, copper, magnesium, iron, manganese, niacin, phosphorous, riboflavin, thiamin, and zinc.  These little fishies pack quite the nutritional punch.  If you like tuna and/or canned salmon, you will more than likely enjoy sardines.  So eat up!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Networks and knives

I am now the proud new member of the Nutrition Blog Network created by Janet Helm who blogs on Nutrition Unplugged.  NBN is a network of blogging RDs, so you know the information, topics, and advice posted is most likely good and accurate.  When reading anything, even if posted by a fellow RD, I still take my one of my college professors favorite sayings and put my 'critical thinking cap' on and delve a little deeper into what is being said (or typed).  I've only looked at a few different blogs so far, but it's funny how similar many of our views are on food and nutrition...and yet so different at the same time.  Much of it depends upon where we live and what stage of life we are in.  I encourage anyone who is interested in nutrition, health, or well-being to check out some of these blogs.

In other news I received my very first Wustof knife last week.  It's a 7" Classic Santoku and is the first really nice knife I have ever owned.  For those who do not know, Wustof is a German made brand of knives that even great chefs get giddy about.  Santokus are Japanese style knifes:

one to five inches shorter than the traditional chef’s knife, which typically measures between 8 -10” in length while the santoku is traditionally 5-7”.  Its shorter length equates to a lighter knife and a reputation for nimble movements and swift chopping on the cutting board. The santoku’s blade is also straight and is level with the handle instead of dropping down as is so commonly found in traditional chef’s knives, which also happen have curved blades. Finally, santoku knives made of harder steel than their Western counterparts.

click here to read more and learn what kind of knife is right for you.

 I cut up a watermelon last Thursday and thought it was going to take forever like it does with our other knives.  Boy was I wrong.   I had that mellon sliced, diced, and put away in about 15 minutes.  My point here is that sometimes it's worth it to spend a little extra on kitchen gadgets if they are going to make your life easier and make cooking more enjoyable.  You do not have to spend a fortune, somewhere between $70-150 will buy you a fabulous knife.  Just remember to take good care of it, store it properly and have a professional sharpen it for you every once in a while.  Otherwise, even a $300 knife won't last too long.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ginger Cookies

Normally we do not keep sugary treats around the house; except for the occasional pint of ice cream.  But those can take more than a month to finish off some times.  However... about a month ago I was at the gym and had the TV turned to Food Network(what an oxymoron, gym time and food tv).  Of the three shows that aired while I was there, every one of them made cookies.  This of course gave me a massive craving for COOKIES!  But not just any cookie, Ina Garten's ultimate ginger cookie.  I printed off the recipe and planned to make it that weekend, but no local store carried the 'crystalized ginger' that the recipe calls for.  So I waited till my trip to Jacksonville where I picked some up at Whole Foods Market.  Of course it was just my luck that the day I planned on making them we went to Publix and wouldn't you know it, they reorganized the store and put in a bulk foods bin where they now carry candied ginger.  Candied/Crystalized ginger are the same thing, it's raw ginger that is sliced thinly or into chunks and boiled till soft in simple syrup.  It is then rolled in granulated sugar to keep it from sticking to itself.

The batter gets quite stiff.  I was glad to have my trusty kitchen aid mixer around.

The recipe is very easy, and surprisingly there is no butter involved.  Ina apparently makes very large cookies, because her yield is only 12, where as I made smaller ones and ended up with 24.  
These are some of the best cookies I've ever had.  My other top favorites are my mom's snow ball cookies that we only make at christmas time, and Ryan's mom's white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.  The double chocolate chip cookie from Panera is right up there too.  But these truly are the ultimate ginger cookie.  Crunchy around the outer perimeter, and still soft in the middle.  The bits of candied ginger are not over powering, but keep the cookie moist.  They also work well as a palate cleanser after a very garlicky meal.  I made these in the afternoon, and that night I couldn't help but walk to the gas station and pick up some vanilla ice cream.  It was heaven!  The crunchy cookies and creamy vanilla goodness were just perfect.

This past week Ryan told his coworkers about these amazing cookies and I have now been entrusted to bake up a double batch for their summer BBQ.  So here I am baking away, and just happy that as the cook I'm always allowed a little nibble.  It's a good thing we canceled cable at the apartment and that I can no longer watch food network on my days off, otherwise we might be run over with cookies, pies, and egg soufflés.  I might be an RD first, but my inherited sweet tooth and inner foodie are not far behind.

So here is the nutrition information whether you wanted to know or not.  If not, stop reading now.
1 cookie (Batch of 24)
120 Kcals, 2.7g Fat, 1.5g Protein, 23g Carbs, 0.4g Fiber,  250mg Sodium

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Purple Cabbage

Ryan and I are having dinner with friends tomorrow night and volunteered to bring a side dish.  So after much deliberation we decided to bring cole slaw.  Unlike the southern slaw that many of the locals make (finely shredded white cabbage with mounds of mayo dressing) I whipped up what I'm hoping to be something fabulous.

1 head purple cabbage shredded
1/2 cup raisins (dark or golden)
1/2 cup diced dried papaya, about 3 strips
1/4 cup store bought poppyseed dressing (trying to keep it extra simple)
*Mix all ingredients together and let sit 30+ minutes, may be made a day ahead.  It will serve between 6-8 people depending upon the size of your cabbage.

After fighting with our new food processor for about 15 minutes I finally figured out how to shred the cabbage.  I think a group of engineers had a hay-day figuring out how to put all the pieces together.
Not only is this recipe healthy, but it's also very affordable.  I'd say the whole recipe cost less than $3 or 0.375 cents a serving  It's hard to figure since I did not buy the raisins or papaya today.  Nutritionally, a serving(1/8) of a batch contains about: 130 kcal, 3.7g fat, 24g carb, 4g fiber, 2.5g protein, 95 mg sodium
Compared to the average cole slaw which contains on average 200 calories, 15g fat, and 356 mg sodium, I'd say my recipe is quite the improvement.  

Why use purple cabbage instead of green/white?  Antioxidants of course!  Anthocyanin to be precise, is what gives the cabbage its distinctive color and is believed to help prevent/fight cancer.  As well as the fact that it's low in carbohydrates and high in fiber; making it a perfect food for people with diabetes or those who are watching their weight.  This is as long as the cabbage is not covered in butter or salad dressing.
1 cup of raw red cabbage:
5g carb, 7g fiber, 3g protein, 68% RDA for Vitamin C.

The next time you head out to a BBQ or potluck, think about adding red cabbage to the menu.  For more reasons to eat cabbage, check out the links below.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rice Cooker

Rice cooker given to us as a wedding present.

This has to be one of my new favorite kitchen gadgets.  For the past year we could never get our rice to cook properly.  Yes, I was following the directions on the bag, but no matter what I did it always ended up over cooked and mushy.  But thanks to our new rice cooker, we may never have to endure another bowl of mushy rice again.  However, it has burnt our quinoa twice.  I think we just need to turn it off a little sooner than the directions say.  Other than that, it's been nice being able to focus on cooking the rest of our dinner instead of worrying about the rice on the stove.

To add a little pizzaz to your whole grains, try substituting up to 1/2 of the liquid with salsa, diced tomatoes, or pizza/pasta sauce.  Other nice additions after cooking include, lemon juice, minced garlic, and any freshly chopped herbs.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Kids=picky eaters

I recently read an excellent article in the NY Times that interviewed chef Nicola Marzovilla who thinks, "Children’s menus are the death of civilization."  He recognizes that “expectations are different at a restaurant where a plate of handmade pasta costs $24. But even if he were running a pizza joint, he would never offer children what he considers a “dumbed down” menu on the side."

While Chef. Marzovilla has 3 children who will eat just about anything, his technique of getting them to do so is not one I necessarily agree with.  He essentially forced his children to try new foods.

“There wasn’t a time we didn’t end up trying it,” said Domenico, the 17-year-old. “Sometimes it took longer than others.”
“You know, I’m their parent, I’m not their best friend,” Mr. Marzovilla noted. “I have a duty to mold and teach.”...
“If you don’t ask your children to try things, how will they ever know what they’re capable of?” Mr. Marzovilla said. “And isn’t the same true of us?”
For most parents a gentler approach will probably have better results and lead to a more peaceful mealtime.  I read a blog or article several months ago, and cannot find it again.  But the writer gave good advice that went something like this, "Parents choose the what and when of food, kids get to choose how much."  This means that the parents get to choose what is being served for meals and snacks and at what time.  Kids get to choose if they are going to eat what is being served and how much they want to eat of it.  Instead of putting food on your child’s plate, let them tell you what they want and how much.  This technique also helps prevent over eating and/or wasting food.  If kids ask for seconds encourage them to choose a fruit or vegetable instead of seconds on the dinner rolls.  

Young children have very sensitive palates, what tastes delicious to an adult can easily overwhelm a child’s taste buds.  If your child doesn’t like a food, ask them why?  Is it too hot, too crunchy, too bitter or salty?  This way you can try preparing the same food in a different fashion that may appeal to them more. 

How does this relate to the restaurant world?  When eating out instead of instinctively ordering from the children’s menu, have your child order something from the adult menu.  If there are leftovers it’s ok.  Take them home and save them for a snack or another meal.  Or, split a meal with your child.  Most restaurant portions are larger than what they average adult needs anyway.  Also, many upscale restaurants will probably be happy to offer a smaller portion to accommodate you as well.

 Kids already eat too many chicken fingers and French-fries at school, lets make sure that when parent’s and caregivers are around they are eating real food.

Monday, July 26, 2010


I attended a certified personal trainer review course this weekend and had the chance to put some of my own advice to the test.  On Friday I drove down to Jacksonville, FL.  I packed our medium sized cooler with my weeks left over salad mixture, ½ a peeled grapefruit, 1 can of tuna, small Tupperware of carrot sticks, and 2 soyjoy bars.  I got into town early so that I could take a trip to Whole Foods market, something that is a luxury for me.  Since the review course lasted 3 days I grabbed 3 apples, 2 Kashi frozen dinners, 3 cliff bars (they were on sale!) 3 Wallaby yogurts(also on sale!), Chicken salad sandwich & side salad, and then had to come up with something creative for a vegetable.  I knew my hotel room had a kitchenette, but didn’t want to buy a whole head of broccoli or cauliflower and cut it up, and even I can only eat baby carrots for so many days.  Amazingly, Whole foods has a fresh stir-fry mixture of pre cut red,yellow,orange,and green bell peppers and red onions in what I’m guessing to be about 1# packages, it was a little pricey at $4, but lasted me for 2 meals. The amount spent on all these items came to roughly $25-30 for 4 meals.  Had I eaten out for each of those I probably would have spent close to the same, but most likely I would have spent more.

I planned on checking in to my hotel before going over to the YMCA where the course was being held, but google maps gave me really bad directions and by the time I figured out where everything was I didn’t have time.  Thankfully the Y had a refridgerator/freezer that I was able to stash my purchases in. For lunch that day I had my salad, grapefruit, and a soyjoy.  I was going to add tuna to my salad but didn’t have a good place to drain it.  During our dinner break I had enough time to check into my hotel and heat up a Kashi dinner. 

Saturday morning I utilized the hotels complimentary breakfast and packed my lunchbox with my chicken sandwich, side salad, yogurt, bell pepper mixture, and ½ a cliff bar.  (I ate the other ½ before my workout that morning and did the same on Sunday.  Most hotels these days have workout room or pool, remember to utilize them.) The nice part about bringing my own lunch was that I didn't feel gross, stuffed, or greasy from a fast food lunch.  Since I still had to sit through 4 more hours of review, this was a definite plus.  That night I took myself out for dinner and got a hot roast beef sandwich from an organic cafe in the fancy pedestrian mall near my hotel.

Sunday morning I again had breakfast from the hotel, and confiscated some wheat-berry bread, pb, and jelly to make a sandwich that I saved as a snack on my drive home that night; along with the rest of the sliced up bell peppers.  For lunch I brought my second kashi frozen dinner, apple, and yogurt. Thankfully the Y also had a microwave that they let me use.

My point with all this is that yes, as I admitted to Ryan last night, it is easier to just eat out when traveling for business and even for pleasure.  However, when you can actually stay awake for your afternoon meeting because you didn't eat a greasy burger and extra large coke, it's worth it.  Also, had I gone out for lunch both days I never would have made a new friend.  Meet Lou and read about his amazing transformation on his website.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


In the past couple days I've read a several different quotes that are in the process of dramatically changing the way I think.

"You learn to smile, even in your liver?... This smile will make you beautiful woman."  -Ketut; Eat, Pray, Love

"The wisdom of life is to do what we do not like but makes us better, and not to do what we love but it makes us worse." -Jerzy Gregoric; The Happy Body

"Pay attention to what is going on.  Resist unnecessary distractions." -my mom

It's dawning on me how my patients must feel when I tell them they must change the way they eat and live.  It can be very daunting and is currently causing me a bit of an identity crisis.  More to come on these thoughts in the next couple weeks.