Blueberries & Seasonal Eating.

Every time blueberry season rolls around, I swear I’ll turn those yummy little berries into jams and jellies.

And blueberry cobbler.

And blueberry icecream.

But then.

Instead?

I just plop myself down and I eat.  As in, I eat pounds and pounds of those little blue berries, until the very thought of eating another makes me cringe.  (Which, come to think of it, has never actually happened.)

I’m all about loading up on the seasonal fruits and veggies these days.

Which is why I’m currently loading up on blueberries and peaches and things like that.  My freezer is stocked (absolutely stocked!!!) with frozen blueberries, which should hopefully carry us through at least the fall.  And then it’s on to crispy apples, which comes right along with the colors of autumn.

Eating seasonal is fun, delicious and healthy.  Produce picked at its peak of ripeness and then eaten straight away (or frozen for later use) is a great way to make sure those nutrients “stay alive” (so to speak.)

Seasonal foods are also usually cheaper (score!)

Ever notice how expensive fresh strawberries are in the middle of December compared to now?  Go for seasonal produce (e.g., forget eating apples in May!) and save on your grocery bill.

So, as I was saying previously, I don’t think I’ll be turning these beautiful blueberries into jam any time soon.  But I most certainly do plan on making plenty of blueberry pancakes and muffins.  And you can bet your berries that I’ll be topping my morning yogurt with handfuls of ’em too!

Yup.  Seasonal eating.  It’s a wonderful thing.

QUESTION: Do you try to eat seasonal?  What seasonal item are you loving right now?

On The Shelf.

As part of the “On the Shelf” series, I’ll be featuring different products that I find at the grocery store.  Products that sound interesting (and HEALTHY)…but are they really?  And are they worth the cost?  Most importantly, how do they taste?

All product reviews will be my own thoughts.  I’m not being endorsed by any company and I will let you know ahead of time if I receive any sort of promotional item versus paying for it myself.  If you have questions on any products that YOU have seen on the grocery shelf recently, let me know and maybe I’ll feature it in the series. 

Chobani with Oats

Chobani? Love!

Oats? Love!

So how about chobani and oats together??

Chobani has been coming out with all kinds of new products lately.  I’ve been a fan of their yogurts, but Fage Yogurt has been making more of an appearance in my fridge lately.

I was pretty excited to try this new product.  I like that there’s a boost of fiber (3 grams versus <1gram in most yogurts) and I would probably choose this yogurt if it was part of my breakfast on the go.  I would also choose it if I was at a hotel and needed a quick, all-in-one kind of snack or breakfast.

That being said, I wasn’t crazy for the taste of the yogurt.  This one was a little…gritty.  The chew from the oats was FUN but I wanted the yogurt to be smoother and completely creamy.

Overall?

I liked it but will stick to my 2% pineapple chobani and 2% plain Fage yogurt!

QUESTION: Have you tried this product?  Yay or Nay?

Old Country Pie.

It was a rainy afternoon, just starting to clear up.  Birds were singing.  Leaves were dancing.  And the smell of lilacs was wafting through the open kitchen window.

What a day.

What a day to bake and cook and throw some flour around the kitchen.

I used to be the girl who had a lunch everyone seemed to envy.

“Oh, what do you have today, Sarah?”

There was homemade sushi, homemade curries, and stuffed cabbage leaves.  New flavors, new trends, new ideas.

These days, it seems that I’m the one envying the other lunches, as I pull out a sandwich or salad.  Again.

Time often gets the best of me, and creating a meal from scratch hasn’t been a big part of my life.  Yes, I still cook on the weekends.  And I love getting creative with leftovers or making myself a special breakfast to celebrate any ol’ day of the week.  But more times than not, I’m relying on quick and easy and healthy convenience meals.

On this particular day, however, I got my hands dirty (so to speak,) and made the Old Country Pie from Moosewood Cookbook.  It was filled with cabbage, broccoli, mushrooms, and DILL (my new favorite herb addition to everything and anything.)

This recipe was a little time consuming from start to finish.  I’d recommend having someone chop while someone else makes the crust.  But when all is said and done, you’ll be sitting down to a delicious meal that everyone else will be envying.  Well worth the effort.  Enjoy!

Old Country Pie – adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook

Serves 4

  • 1 unbaked 9- or 10-inch pie crust (recipe below)
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1-1/2 cups minced onion
  • 1 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms, chopped or sliced
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 medium stalk broccoli, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp. dill
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 cup lowfat cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 medium scallons, finely minced
  1. Prepare pie crust (recipe below.)  Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Heat oil in a medium-sized skillet.  Add onion, caraway and salt; saute over medium heat until the onions begin to brown (10-15 minutes.)
  3. Add mushrooms, cabbage, broccoli, carrot, and dill; saute until everything is just tender – about 8 more minutes.
  4. Stir in pepper, garlic, and flour; cook, stirring, for just a few minutes more.  Remove from heat.
  5. Beat together the cottage cheese and eggs.  Add this to the saute along with the scallions and mix well.
  6. Spread into the unbaked pie crust.  Sprinkle with paprika (optional) and bake for 40 minutes or until set.  Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Pie Crust

  • 6 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • about 4 Tbsp. cold water (may need a little additional water)
  1. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, or a food processor, cut together the butter and flour until the mixture is uniformly blended and resembles coarse cornmeal.
  2. Add just enough liquid to hold the dough together.  Roll out the dough and form a crust in a 9 or 10-inch pie pan.

NUTRITION NOTES (per serving): 450 calories, 5g fiber, 15g protein

QUESTION: Do you cook a lot during the week?  On the weekends?

Currently Eating.

I slept like a baby last night.

All this fresh air and gardening has me plain tuckered out.  Thank goodness for HUMP day!

Thank goodness, also, for larger than life salads, which fills me up and helps me get all my veggies in.

I always layer the usual lettuce, tomato, cucumber.  But lately, I’ve also been adding…

  • avocado
  • broccoli
  • vidalia onion
  • fresh salsa
  • feta cheese
  • big ol’ scoop of hummus!!!

Eaten like so…

I’m a fan of these trader joe’s whole wheat pita breads.  They do get a bit crumbly by day 4 or so, but they honestly don’t usually last that long in this house anyways!

QUESTION: What are you eating a lot of these days?

Post-Midterm Relaxation.

It’s honestly slightly frightening, how much information I’ve forgotten since going to school for my undergrad.

Things like the “cephalic” phase of digestion.  And phospholipid bilayers.

Oh, and organelles.

Hello,nucleus and mitochondria.

I suppose I can console myself with knowing that this memory refresher course might actually help me remember things for the long term.  Although, that probably isn’t likely.  Next year, you’ll probably mention ribosomes and I’ll look at you as if you have two heads.

Needless to say, this exam was a doozy, as I found myself having to study all of this material that I once knew but had now forgotten.

I strategically planned a “vacation day” around when I knew my midterm exam would be.  In between going to the ocean and soaking up all that beautiful sunshine, I also needed to do some last minute studying prior to taking my midterm exam yesterday.

Yep.

This girl needed some relaxation after a very full week of studying and working!

My form of relaxation involved going for a quick morning run followed by going plant shopping with my mom!!!

Our eyes may have been a little larger than our garden, so to speak.

We came home with 12 big beef tomato plants, 6 cherry tomato plants, 6 kale plants, 6 pepper plants, 3 butternut squash plants, 6 cucumber plants, and 6 hot pepper plants.  Not to mention the lettuce, spinach and beet seeds!!!

Oh.

And the flowers, which my mom was pretty excited about.

We followed up the day with some good ol’ Panera.

I had my usual.  Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with a whole grain baguette.  It hits the spot every time.

Back to work tomorrow!!!

QUESTION: How do you like to spend your days off from work/school/etc.?

3 Labels That Drive A Dietitian Crazy.

1. “Gluten Free.”

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye (and most oats which have been cross contaminated with wheat.)  Unless one has celiac or a wheat allergy, in which going strictly gluten free is imperative for one’s health, foods containing gluten do not need to be completely avoided.

Some people state that they feel better since going gluten free.  That they bloat less, have more energy, etc, etc, etc.  Then, by all means, go for it!  But be warned of the placebo effect, which can can be caused by expecting to feel differently with a certain diet.  And don’t expect that going gluten free will cure all that ails you.

The simple truth is that many gluten free products contain little fiber and less nutrients than their wheat containing counterparts, which is not helpful for weight loss/maintenance.  Unless going “gluten free” is due to health implications (e.g., celiac,) enjoy your whole wheat sandwich at lunch.  Guilt free!

2. “All-Natural.”

From eggs to crackers to salad dressings.

People everywhere are looking for “all natural” products.  Have you ever wondered what this really means?  Yeah.  Me too.

There’s actually no formal definition for this term.  The USDA and the FDA allow the term to be stamped on packages as long as there is no “misleading” information and is “minimally processed.”  If the product has no “artificial ingredients” or “added color,” it will probably have an all natural stamp next to its name.

The simple truth is…this tells you nothing.

For example.  An “all natural” package of eggs does not tell you what the chickens are eating or how they were raised.  An “all natural” package of chicken breast does not tell you if the chickens were treated with hormones or injected with saline solution.  An “all natural” flavoring in your salad dressing could very likely have been made in a factory by a group of scientists.

Don’t let yourself buy into the “all natural” craze.  If you’re looking for “all natural,” know where your meat comes from and get to know what those ingredients are in your products.

3. “Fat-Free.”

This is my favoritest of my least favorite label list. 😉

Crackers, breads, cookies, you name it.  They all have this stamp of approval (FAT FREE,) as if to lure you in as being “healthy.”

The simple truth is what we’ve known for quite some time…that there are good fats and bad fats.  If a salad dressing is made with canola or olive oil?  Good fat!  If a box of cookies has trans fat (or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list)?  Bad fat!

Many products that boast being fat free are loaded with sugars and funky ingredients in order to make up for the lack of flavor.  This tends to bring the caloric level right up to the same level (or more) of its full fat friend.  Yikes!

Do yourself a favor and include a little fat in your life.  We all need a little fat in our diets for nutrient absorption and for overall health.  Not to mention flavor.

QUESTION: Do you look at labels on the outside of packages?  What lures you in to buy a product and what turns you off?

The beginning of summer.

Say hello to the newest addition in our garden.

Way back in January, when New England was still underneath a tower of snow and ice, I began dreaming of sunshine and warmth and gardens.  My dad began dreaming with me, as we discussed the idea of having raised beds.

Raised beds are the golden standard for any gardener.  They offer a much needed seat.  They hold in moisture.  They allow ample space for roots to dig down deep, deep, deep.  They’re convenient, resourceful and (when done correctly,) they promise less weeding time (huzzah!!)

We both spent a good, “non-stop” kind of 3 hours putting this together yesterday.  My back and arms are sore today and it feels absolutely delicious.  I love that natural feeling of being achy and tired after a day of physical work.  I love getting my hands dirty.  I love watching those winter dreams become a summery reality.  And now, thanks to dad’s guiding expertise, I love using power saws (who knew?)

Here’s to the beginning of something great.  Here’s to the beginning of summer.

QUESTION: Will you be growing a vegetable and/or flower garden this year?

I Could Eat It By The Bowlful.

Dear Granola, I could (I can, I do) eat you by the bowlful.

Granola is just one of those foods that makes me swoon with utter delight.  Yep.  It’s right up there with lemony garlic olives, medjool dates, sourdough bread and smoked salmon (preferably not all in the same meal…although, who knows?)

Unfortunately, most of the commercial granola’s lining up the grocery isles are packed to the brim with more than just flavor.  Granola is oftentimes a very dense source of sugar, fats, and calories.

So, long story short, if you’re like me and think granola is just the next best thing since sliced english muffins, then you’ll be happy to cook up this recipe!

My brother’s girlfriend shared this recipe on her blog No Gluten, Yes Vegan.  I knew I had to try it as soon as she posted it.

The recipe is completely up my alley.  (She had me at the word “crunchy!”)

And I liked the nutrition side to this granola as well.  Very little sugar.  No added oils (just whole foods in the form of nuts, flax and peanut butter.)  High in protein and fiber.  Flavor galore.

I couldn’t wait until breakfast to test out the granola, so I poured a little into a bowl, sliced up some bananas and poured on some unsweetened almond milk.

First thought: crunch.

Second thought: subtly sweet.

Third thought: addicting.

Final thought: granola, as always, I love you.

Homemade Granola – as seen on No Gluten, Yes Vegan

Kelsey recommends serving this with fresh fruit and almond milk in the morning for breakfast.  I like her thinking and plan on doing just that!  This would also be delicious served with warm milk and mixed berries.  The options are endless!

  • 4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (original version calls for brown rice syrup but I improvised with what I had on hand!)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 6 Tbps. unsalted peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup flax meal
  • 1 cup millet (uncooked)
  • 1 cup almonds (original version calls for slivered; I used whole, as this is what I had on hand)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Line one very large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl combine dry ingredients.
  4. In a small bowl, combine wet ingredients.
  5. Combine wet and dry ingredients.
  6. Spread mixture over the parchment paper and place in preheated oven.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring once half way through.
  8. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving/storing.  Store in an airtight container.

Nutrition notes: Makes about 9 cups.  A 3/4 cup serving size provides 320calories, 10g protein and 7g fiber.

Weight Maintenance: The Incredible, Edible Balancing Act…

…Or…

“How To Say Goodbye to Diet Monday.”

You know the drill.  You plan on eating “good” all week, but then someone rolls out the birthday cake and you tell yourself you’ll give in just this one last time (and then you’ll be “good” once again on Monday.)  This is what we, of course, know as Diet Monday.  Before you know it, the scale starts creeping up and you find yourself wondering why maintaining your weight is just so gosh darn hard!

Let me introduce you to what has worked for me.  What I fondly refer to as The Incredible, Edible Balancing Act.

First an explanation of what this roughly drawn map of my life actually means…

The middle line represents absolute, 100% balance.  The place where I am eating exactly the same amount of calories that I burn (through exercise and/or just my average, daily activities.)

The middle line is, actually, a totally unrealistic place.

No two days are ever exactly alike, after all.  Some days I eat cookies and pizza (note: the dotted line goes up.)  Some days I forgo dessert in favor of orange slices (the dotted line goes down.)  The important thing is balance.  If I eat a lot for a couple of days, I’ll make it a point to eat a little less for a day or two afterwards.  If I know a party is coming up and I’ll be enjoying some wine and appetizers, I might skip my nightly chocolate for a couple days ahead.

I mentally try to keep myself as close to the middle line as possible, but since the middle line is (in all actuality) completely unrealistic, I allow myself to veer off now and then.  As long as I have a few low days to make up for the high days, everything evens out.

How to make this work for you…

  • It’s important to never let the dotted line go so low that you find yourself entering starvation mode.  Starving = overeating.  The point is just to shave off some excess calories here and there.  Repeat after me:  Do NOT enter diet mode.
  • Don’t use this concept so that you can binge one day and under eat the next.  The underlying principle is balance, health, and happiness.
  • In figuring out which excess calories to shave off on “low” days, cut out calories that you could care less about.  For example, use 1 Tbsp. dressing on your salad instead of 2.  Have 1 medium scoop of potatoes with dinner instead of 2.  Etc, etc, etc.  Don’t let yourself feel deprived!
  • Don’t focus on the logistics of this principle.  Just understanding the idea behind it and then implementing those ideas will go far in helping you maintain your weight.

QUESTION: What are some tips that have worked for you in maintaining your weight?

A “Healthier” Cookie.

I had a hankering to bake today.

To blend and mix and whip.

With butter and sugar and that kind of thing.

I think people are often surprised to learn how much many dietitians enjoy baking (and eating said baked goods!)  Many of us are foodies by nature, and so we jump at the chance to bake whenever we can.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that we add a gazillion calories to every single baked good that we make (although there is a time and place for that too!)  I often like to put recipes to the test with some of these subtle little tweaks.

My Top 4 Ways To Make a “Healthier” Cookie:

1. Cut the sugar in half.

Unless your recipe is already “healthier” to begin with (say, from Cooking Light or Eating Well), you can easily cut the sugar in half without noticing any changes.

2. Substitute half of the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour.

Whole wheat flour has a nice nutty texture that pairs perfectly with many cookies (especially chocolate chip!)  You can try different proportions of all purpose to whole wheat, but I’ve found that simply cutting it 50/50 gives the best texture without taking away any fluffiness!  By doing this, you’re instantly adding a little fiber and good-for-you nutrients.

3. Cut the butter in 1/4 to 1/2.

Different recipes will lend different results.  Try different proportions and see what works for you.  If you find that it results in a dry cookie, try adding in an equal measurement of unsweetened applesauce (e.g., if the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup applesauce.)

4. Shrink the portions.

This needs no explanation.  Shrink the size of your cookies and suddenly having two with a glass of milk isn’t such a big deal.  I have a special tablespoon cookie scoop that automatically keeps my portions in check!

Ingredients you shouldn’t be be worrying about…

  • Eggs.  Yes, they’re high in cholesterol, which is why they get such a bad rap.  But most reliable research has shown us that the cholesterol in eggs does not effect our blood cholesterol.  I’m not saying go out and eat a dozen eggs every day.  But there’s also nothing wrong with using a couple in your favorite recipes.
  • Chocolate.  Don’t go for cheapo chocolate that leaves you feeling unsatisfied.  My personal favorites are Ghirardelli and Godiva.  Also, if you’re following #4, you won’t be eating a ton of chocolate in one sitting anyways.  May as well enjoy it!
  • Nuts.  Walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc.  They’re all full of good for you fats.  And, again, going back to #4, as long as the portions are being kept small, these are a healthy cookie addition!

After all is said and done, enjoy a couple of your favorite cookies!  There is always room in a healthy diet for a cookie or two.

Just keep an eye out.

You never know who may want to steal them. 😉

Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe – with subtle “healthy” changes

The important thing to remember in “healthifying” a cookie recipe is that we’re talking dessert.  You want the final result to remain rich, satisfying, sweet, delicious.  The moment you cross the border of it being dry and tasteless is the moment you’ve gone too far.  Have fun and tweak your recipes slowly to see what works!

  • 2 cups semi-sweet ghirardelli chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened (or 1/2 cup butter with 1/4 cup applesauce)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 375ºF.
  2. Stir flour with baking soda and salt; set aside.
  3. In large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color. Add eggs and vanilla, one at a time. Mix on low speed until incorporated.
  4. Gradually blend dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.