Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New found love...

Who would have guessed that I would ever say goat cheese?! It's true, the soft, rich, deeply creamy, slightly tangyness of it has won me over. I had tried it in the past and remember enjoying it but for some reason had stopped buying it. Well, it's back on the shopping list again because after I paired it with sauteed spinach, fish, and my garlic, onion balsamic reduction I am again hooked. The flavors and textures together were like a symphony! Salty, sweet, creamy, tangy, and so rich. What a wonderful complexity it added to my meal. Perhaps I'll start swapping out my crumbly blue in salads for goat cheese now and try adding it to my roasted butternut squash! Back to the drawing board but a quick recipe for the back pocket...

Sauteed Spinach with Balsamic and Goat Cheese

2 handfuls of fresh spinach
1 T olive oil
1/4 of an onion, julienned
3 cloves of garlic sliced very thin
1 ounce of goat cheese
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Sautee garlic and onion in oil on medium until golden and soft.
Pour in 1/4 cup balsamic and let reduce to half.
Once reduced, add spinach and season with s and p and sautee just until wilted.
Remove from heat, plate, and crumble goat cheese all over.

Delicious as is or perfect as a bed for chicken, fish, etc.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Healthy, Holistic living.....Me on my Soap Box

Reading about healthy living is a no-brainer for me, especially when I feel like I'm learning about the benefits of eating well. As an early-riser, I usually have some free time before I go to work and it's in these wee hours that I will sit and read through nutrition articles online. I'm always amazed by how ridiculous some of the nutrition information is, though I am even more shocked by what people are willing to do to lose weight. No, I'm not a doctor or a registered dietitian yet, but what I do know is that the most basic of all the theories is the best... keep it simple.

There is no magic to weight loss. If you want to lose weight, feel better, live a longer and healthier life, than eat a diet that consists of vegetables, fruits, lean meats and healthy fats. Yes, yes we've heard it all our lives, but maybe that's because there is such validity to eating this way. Free your bodies of all the chemicals, preservatives, additives and refined foods that you're consuming, on a daily basis, and eat the way nature intended. Foods that work with our bodies, rather than against them, provides nutrients with each bite rather than yellow-5, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated soybean oil.

Not only are these highly-processed foods filled with artificial preservatives, but are addicting and nutrient-deficient. The added sugars, fake flavors and complete lack of vitamins and minerals trick your brain into making you want more. That's why it's easy to finish an entire box of Cheeze-Itz without blinking an eye. Now, not only have you consumed all of those laboratory-created ingredients, but you've just put away 2000 calories of nothing but junk. Now guess where those 2000 calories are headed... Yup, right to your fat stores.

Try eating some apples and see how many you actually can eat. I have yet to hear about someone being able to consume a thousand calories worth of apples. Why? Because it's real food. Your body is satisfied when it is given nutrients and will signal you to stop before you can polish off no more than a couple hundred calories. 200 is a lot fewer than 2000 and that apple packs more nutrients in that amount than the monstrous amount from the junk food.

Think of it this way... WE ARE WHAT WE EAT. Would you rather have your body creating cells from preservatives and artificial ingredients or from foods straight out of the earth; wholesome and pure? The sad part is that most people would rather keep eating poorly and be worse off than eat holistically and live a longer, healthier life.

Let me leave you with one thought... You're worth it!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday Farmer's Market Trips

I love Saturday mornings. For one, I wake up for nothing. Even though I'm a very early riser naturally, I crawl out of bed and relish in the fact that I don't have to go into work. It is truly my day to do whatever I want, whenever I want. One thing in particular is the quaint farmer's market downtown. Although small, it is filled with a bounty of local produce, meat, and eggs, handmade crafts and jewelry. It opens at 8 am and you better believe that I am one of the first ones there. Noodle and I hop in the car, windows open, the new day's cool air swirling around us and make the 12 minute drive downtown.

I love being there early because I get first dibs on everything. My favorites there are the red bell peppers and farm fresh eggs and I am sure to load up on both of them. While I am a fan of all the vegetables there, these two go very quickly and cannot be purchased in the grocery store. The red bells are gorgeous, nothing like the ones out of grocery stores. Their flavor is so concentrated and sweet and their imperfect shapes make them even more beautiful. The eggs are so fresh that most were just collected off the yard the day before. After I started eating these, tasting an egg from the grocery store was almost flavorless. It is evident from the flavor and color of these golden yolks that the birds are fed well, roam free, and are cared for well.

I usually leave the farmer's market with bags hanging all over filled with butternut squash, spaghetti squash, zucchini, onions, tomatos and my eggs and peppers. It looks as though I'm feeding a family of four for the next two weeks when really... it's just me! Amazingly I'm right back there again in a week ready to collect yet again!

The best part is bringing them home and creating delicious, healthy, fresh meals from them all week long. Stuffed peppers, zucchini pasta, roasted butternut squash and so on. My mind spins with all the ideas! One of my absolute favorites that I could truly subsist on daily is my butternut squash recipe with walnuts and sage. If you're not a fan already you soon will be after this!

Roasted Butternut Squash with Herbs, Walnuts and Parmesan Cheese

1 large butternut squash 2 T dried sage
1 t dried thyme
1 t onion powder
1 t garlic powder 2 T olive oil 1/3 cup chopped walnuts 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese 1 t salt

Skin, seed and cube squash. Toss with 1 t salt, sage, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, and olive oil. Roast at 375 until tender, about 45 minutes tossing half-way through or until squash begins to golden. Add nuts and cheese and let sit in oven five final minutes minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool for three minutes. Makes a perfect side dish or meal on it's own.

Serves 4

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Incredible, Edible Egg!

I haven't met many people who don't like eggs. Sure, we all have our favorite ways of eating them, scrambled being the most popular nationwide (last I heard), but it's rare to find someone who doesn't find Eggs Benedict or a big, fluffy, cheesy omelet irresistible.

The egg may seem like a simple food but really and truly, it's incredible! Eggs have been celebrated in many different forms since the dawn of civilization. Not only have they served as a source of food since their discovery but they have been used to symbolize everything from fertility, the creation of life, friendship, love, and religion by people of all statuses worldwide.

Aside from the history, the nutrient profile for eggs is just as impressive. Yes high in fat and shunned by many, this incredible food is jam-packed with nutrients. Inside that bright yolk lies more than just cholesterol. Vitamins such as A, D, and B, Heme iron, folate, carotenoids, calcium, essential fatty-acids, amino acids and about a dozen more minerals fill the contents of the delicate shell. The protein in egg whites is 99% digestible, which is the highest percentage of all other protein sources available.

Incredible but simple, delicious and versatile the egg is an amazing little gem. Make it savory, make it sweet, eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner but overall just make sure to eat it!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ooo, ooo, ooo I love you!

I say fa-hi-ta, my husband says fa-jy-ta but either way I love fajitas! I can remember always begging my mom to let me order them when we went to TGIF's for dinner as a kid and even then I never had a problem polishing them off. Whatever it is about this delicious dish has me hooked and in all honesty, I could eat these everyday. Any time of the day. Yes, even breakfast.

Who doesn't love peppers, onions and chicken sauteed up in smoky southwest flavors, wrapped up in a warm tortilla and covered in salsa and sour cream! I'm salivating! I make these at least once a week and only because I'm doing too much other experimenting to make them everyday. Trust me, I would.

Everyone makes fajitas differently. Even I change things up sometimes in an attempt to explore different flavor combinations. What I don't stray from though is the basic ingredients. Well, I lied. I have been known to top them with peanut butter instead of sour cream or guaca mole but that's a different post!

My Fajitas! Ole!

1/2 pound chicken breast, sliced into strips or small chunks
1 lime
1 t cumin
1 t chili powder
1 t onion powder
1 t garlic
1 t sugar or honey
1 t salt
2 T oil
1 medium onion
1 large red bell pepper
1 large green bell pepper

Combine chicken through 1 T oil in a large resealable bag and let marinate at least 1 hour.

Thinly slice onion and peppers and add to a medium-high heated pan coated with 1 T oil. Let vegetables brown 1 minute before stirring around. You want to let them sear rather than mixing them to create that carmelization.

When vegetables are beginning to soften and brown slightly (5-8 minutes) add chicken reserving marinade.

Let chicken brown as well and once cooked through pour marinade plus a splash of water (2-3 T) into pan and cover. This will deglaze the pan and get all the yummy bits off the bottom.

After 30 seconds remove lid, give the chicken and veggies one more mix and then serve.

Eat like a salad or put into a warm tortilla with whatever you desire. Guacamole, sour cream, cheese, salsa, etc.

Variations of this dish are endless but this seems to be my favorite. The touch of lime and sugar take this to a whole new level and really help to balance out the smokiness from the cumin and chili.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Spaghetti Squash

I started playing around with spaghetti squash years ago but was never really impressed with the end product. It always turned out mushy, soggy and when I would scrape it out of the skin it never really came out stringy but rather in big chunks. I eventually gave up on trying to like it and stopped buying it.

Years later brings us to today and I again decided to give this guy another shot. I was seeing recipes including it that sounded wonderful so I went and bought myself a nice big one from the farmers' market. Eureka! I just made a dish that is an absolute keeper with just one little change... cooking the heck out of it! I put it in the oven for about two hours at 375 degrees F and it came out PERFECTLY! The flavor difference from what I remembered was night and day and the texture was just as I always thought it should be. I let it cool for about 45 minutes and began the scraping process; perfection. No mush, no sogginess and no chunks. Just beautiful al dente strands of squash.

I tested the taste of it with a sprinkling of salt and knew I had found a new staple ingredient for my kitchen. It was flavorful, slightly creamy with just a bit of firmness in the center. I used this in a new recipe for lunch and absolutely loved it! Didn't miss the pasta one bit!

Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Mushroom Sauce

1 1/5 cups spaghetti squash, cooked
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/4 large onion julienned
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 ounces ground turkey
1 ounce parmesan or asiago cheese
1/2 c tomato sauce, unflavored
1 T oil
1/4 t each, salt, dried rosemary, sage, thyme

Sautee onions and mushrooms in oil pan set at medium heat.

Once veggies begin to brown and liquid has evaporated lower the heat to medium low and add garlic.

Once garlic has softened and lightly browned add ground turkey and season with salt and herbs.
Once turkey is fully cooked pour tomato sauce into pan and coat entire mixture.

Add squash to pan to re-warm and toss with sauce.

Plate and top with tons of freshly grated asiago or parm!

This serves one!

Friday, August 21, 2009


Lately, I have been experimenting with "stuffed" recipes. I have always been a fan of stuffed red bell peppers so when I stumbled on a recipe that included baked eggs in peppers I had to give it a try. Two of my favorite things that I had never put together in such a way turned out to be excellent and I am happy to add yet another new recipe to my book of keepers.

Egg stuffed peppers

2 large red bell peppers, halved and seeded

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

5 ounces of cooked and drained spinach

1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes and roasted until soft and golden

Salt and pepper

4 large eggs

1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese


Set the oven to broil. Place the bell peppers skin side up on a baking sheet in the oven for 8 minutes or until skin starts to blacken. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan sautee the onion until translucent. Add in the spinach and squash and begin to mix together, mashing the squash. Add 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese and season mixture with 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. When peppers are beginning to blacken remove from oven and reduce oven heat to 350 degrees F. Spoon 1/4 of the squash mixture into each pepper half. Using a spoon, make an indentation in the center of each stuffed pepper. Crack an egg into each indentation; season with salt, pepper, and remaining parmesan. Bake until the eggs are just set, about 20 minutes.

Something totally different but surprisingly delicious. I give the credit to Rachel Ray who inspired me with her variation on this.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Product Review- Truvia

I started using stevia once again a few months ago in an attempt to cut out just the little extra I was using in my morning coffee. It's the only replacement I will consider as it is 100% natural. Stevia is actually a plant and when the leaves are dried and finely ground you get a sweetener.

I certainly wasn't going to buy a box of any other artificial sweetener so after hearing so many commercials about stevia's comeback I thought, why not. To my surprise, I really liked it. The makers have done an awesome job softening the blow of sweetness one would usually find when consuming this product. I didn't realize how great of a substitute it was until I decided to try Stevia in the Raw and Damn! That stuff was way too sweet. Even when I used just a little it had a very overpowering, not-at-all-like-sugar taste that I didn't enjoy. It reminded me of the stevia I used to use a few years ago and why I finally stopped using that.

I am a big fan of Truvia and I highly recommend this product to anyone looking for a natural sugar substitute. At $3.99 a box for 50 packets it's not too bad of a deal. I know a five pound bag of sugar can be bought for $1 but I think there's a reason for that. Your call!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Protein Pancake

Seeing that it's before six in the morning and I'm already up I figured that I should give some credit to my favorite breakfast recipe! The thing that gets me up and out of bed and gives me the energy I need to get through the morning. The breakfast pancake! There are probably several variations to it but this is how I make it. This recipe makes one big pancake that I top with peanut or almond butter. It's my biggest meal of the day and it powers me through my morning workouts.

1/2 cup egg whites
1/4 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 pinch of salt
1 packet/teaspoon of stevia or more if you'd like it sweeter
1/2 t vanilla
2 T almond/peanut butter (no pb if you're allergic!)

Heat a pan over medium heat while you mix the ingredients. Using a blender, add all ingredients besides peanut/almond butter and pure until mixture is creamy.

Coat the hot pan with oil spray and pour mixture into pan and cover.

After about four minutes, flip the pancake and cut the heat. Let sit in pan for at least three minutes then flip out onto plate. Cover in peanut/almond butter!

Y-U-M! This will have the power to pull you out of bed no matter how early!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Parmesan Baked Eggs with Spinach and Tomatoes

This recipe was concocted from another recipe I found and because it was so different than anything I've ever made I was excited to put it to the test. I always look at other recipes for inspiration and then tweak them just enough to make them my own. This was one that sat in my recipe binder for months but after preparing it, it got starred and put right under the "YUM" category. I made it once last week and have again four more times since! This dish makes a light lunch alone or can be eaten with a raw side salad for a more substance.

Here goes!

Parmesan Baked Eggs with Spinach and Tomatoes

Four eggs 1 10 ounce package chopped frozen spinach 1/2 large onion 2 cloves garlic 1 15 ounce can stewed tomates 1/3 cup parmesan cheese olive oil spary 1/4 t salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F. Sautee onions and garlic in pan with oil and let carmelize. Drain stewed tomates and spinach of all liquid and add to mixing bowl. Add onion/garlic mixture to spinach and tomatoes season with salt and pepper and add half of the parmesan cheese. Mix until combined evenly. Put veggies in a eight inch baking dish sprayed with olive oil and carefully crack four eggs over top trying best to keep them whole. Top with leftover cheese and bake in oven for 22-28 minutes depending on preferred doneness of eggs. Makes 2 servings.

Let's talk about food, baby...

Let's talk about my most recent adventures in the kitchen! With my husband out of the country for the next six or seven months I have been experimenting to my hearts content with several fabulous concoctions of recipes. With him home I tend to stay a little more conservative when I cook as he seems to have a less than adventurous palate. That said, I told him that one of the FEW perks of him being gone is my freedom to throw caution to the wind and get a little wild in my kitchen. I told him, babe, I'm having an affair with my kitchen while you're gone!

From here on out it's all about cooking, healthfully, but with a little bit more experimenting. Here's to my newest recipe that has already become a staple meal. It's loaded with ALL the good stuff and low in carbs!

Salmon with Zucchini Ribbon Sautée

2 6 ounce salmon fillets

1 small onion

1 large zucchini

1/2 red bell pepper

1 t minced garlic

salt and pepper

2 T oil

2 ounces parmesan cheese or however much you want!

Rinse and thoroughly dry salmon fillets. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat for about five minutes. Add 1 T oil to pan at five minutes and place salmon skin side up into pan uncovered. Turn heat to medium and let the salmon sear for five minutes.

Meanwhile, julienne bell pepper and onion and add to a separate oiled sauté pan set at medium heat. Spread veggies out to form a thin layer over bottom of pan and let caramelize for about three minutes.

Flip salmon and cover for another three minutes. Add garlic to veggies after three minutes and sautée for two minutes. Using a vegetable peeler, peel ribbons of zucchini into sautee pan with veggies until you reach the seeds. Sautee all veggies together and season with salt and pepper for another 3 minutes.

Pile veggies into two separate planes and place salmon fillets over top (I take the skin off of the salmon but feel free to keep it if you'd like). Grate fresh parmesan cheese liberally over salmon and veggies and dig in!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Raw Food Living

It is no secret that I love everything about health and nutrition. I am constantly trying to learn more everyday about what I can do to better myself mentally, physically and spiritually. I am absolutely passionate about taking care of my body by eating the best foods I can and exercising regularly. I yearn for the buzz of energy and peace of mind I get when I eat quality, whole foods straight from the earth.

In my most recent exploration of healthy eating I began reading and researching Raw Food Living. It started after I was approached by a gentleman at the farmers' market who was offering a raw food cooking class at a local church the following weekend. After speaking with him and looking at his website and was excited to learn more.

Through reading, I was amazed by how many people follow this painfully strict yet totally pure diet and rave about its life changing abilities. While at the cooking class I spoke with a few people who literally started glowing when they began telling me about the positive changes in their bodies from following this diet. Eating raw, fresh foods straight from the earth certainly doesn't sound gimmicky to me; it's the same way of living that I profess. My hold-up was just as obvious as anyones though; NO cooked food? That's just too extreme for me.

Raw foodists don't cook anything over 118 degrees. Rather these raw folk rely on dehyrators, blenders and food processors to create many of their dishes. They claim that cooking kills all of the enzymes and nutrients in food and therefore leave us humans void of these essential nutrients. During the raw food "cooking" class the chef went on and on about the food we eat is dead. He held firm to the belief that our bodies are constantly renewing and creating cells, trillions of them but for the typical american we're creating cells out of dead food. This really made me think. He continued on about whenever heat is added to any food we create chemicals that are toxic to our body. Now I agree with him that cooking veggies does kill nutrients, some methods more so than others, but on a side note, adding heat to tomatoes or carotenoids actually increases their nutrient capacity. Hmm, let's review another of his points. Adding heat to food creates toxins? Well when food is charred over a grill yes, there are some carcinogenic theories behind those black crispy spots that appear but just simply cooking food normally? No proof there. His third point worth talking about really made me think and goes against anything I've ever learned about science. Mr. Chef tried to convince us that when we eat any food that is cooked our stomach goes into paralysis because it believes we are poisoning it. Seriously? I don't even need to go on about this.

While I did disagree with the majority of what the chef discussed I did agree with him 110% that the standard american diet is killing our nation. Americans need desperately to clean up their eating and eat more fruits and veggies, no doubt. I've made mention of this a couple other times but I stand firm on my belief that americans bring on their own fate. Obesity levels are astounding in children and adults and cancer, heart attack, and overall illness percentages are increasing steadily. Our nation runs on highly processed, nutrient voided, empty calorie-rich food and WAY too much of it. I could go off on a tangent but I think I've made my point.

While I enjoyed the cooking class and loved hearing another's perspective on eating I was certainly not converted. Yes, It can only benefit anyone to add in more uncooked veggies and fruits to their diet but never cooking again? Even cavemen cooked! While converting to a raw food diet will never happen for me I applaud those who care so much about their health that they are willing to do so.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Carbs. Love em or hate em, lose em or keep em....

Carbs. Even just saying the word out loud conjures up thoughts of lust, guilt and temptation. Carbs have become the centerfold of the nutrition world over the past decade forcing the majority of the nation to shun potatoes, bread, pasta and rice. Thousands jumped on the Atkins diet band wagon consuming bacon and cheese smothered bun-less burgers for lunch and dinner. Snacks became pork rinds, cartons of heavy cream whipped with sweet-and-low, and sticks of butter sprinkled with nuts. Amazingly people were losing weight! Swearing that Atkins was the greatest thing that ever happened to them and that they were never going to eat carbs again.

Then it happened. Those individuals who were living a life full of decadent, fatty foods and breaking out their skinny jeans went weak in the knees for toast! Like a roller coaster effect, all those new svelte bodies started to fatten back up to their old sizes and then some! Why? Duh, because it's an impossible lifestyle to maintain.

Cutting out any food group is only going to cause you to crave it ten fold. The problem here is not that carbs are evil but it's the amount of carbs we eat and the type of carbs we eat. No kidding you'll lose weight when you cut out cookies, bagels, jumbo sized backed potatoes and piles of macaroni salad. Our cells literally suck up sugar when we eat it and store it for survival purposes. Our bodies don't care what they look like in a bikini, rather they simply want to pack as much away so they always have back-up fuel!

So, forget Atkins and all the other diets that shun carbs. Carbs are essential for our bodies to operate. They supply the brain with glucose to help you think and function, refuel glycogen stores in the muscle and liver after a workout and provide dozons of nutrients and fiber to meals. The key here again, how much and what kind! Eat your carbs in the morning! This is the best time. But make sure they're the right kind. Oatmeal, WHOLE GRAIN bread or cereal. Look at the serving size and eat one serving! One, not three! Pair it with some healthy fat and protein and your set. Throughout the day taper your carbs so much so that by dinner you are carb free! Most people don't need carbs that late. Our bodies begin to slow down and need less fuel as the day goes on. Avoid all sugar and processed carbs like the plague! The higher the sugar content or the more processed the food the faster it gets sent to the reserves. Number one. Choose carbs that are full of fiber which will keep blood sugar steady and allow for a slower release of them into the bloodstream. Number two. PORTION CONTROL! Buy a food scale. Number three. Eat them as straight from mother nature as you can get. I'm talking fruits and veggies here. If you can't pronounce it, don't eat it!

Don't fear the notorious carbohydrate. Rather embrace it in it's whole state a little at a time.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Salads, salads, galore!

I love salads, always have. Not only are they a healthful start to lunch or dinner but they're a great meal in-and-of-themselves! I eat at least one big salad, if not two per day! And I'm not talking about a bowl of iceberg topped with sliced radishes, a couple carrot slivers and a teaspoon of fat free italian dressing. My salads are loaded with nutrients and flavor! To enjoy a salad it has to be satisfying! By that I mean adding a touch of indulgence that makes my tummy feel content after eating. Not as though I ate a bowl full of raw veggies with no staying power setting me up to devour something else. What does it for me is about an ounce of crumbled blue cheese, a tablespoon or two of dried fruit, and of course, a serving of homemade lower fat salad dressing. For a meal I add a beautifully grilled, juicy chicken breast or a portobello mushroom which takes the salad to another level! When I'm starving both the chicken and mushroom are added and it becomes a meal so good it's hard to believe it's healthy!

To many, salad just means lettuce. They think that as long as they have a bowl of greens whatever goes on top is fair game and healthy. WRONG! People take this to the extreme and load their "salads" with bacon bits, croutons, cheese, eggs, nuts and globs of rich, fatty salad dressing which usually ends up being worse than eating a double whopper! In their minds though, they ate a salad and they're eating healthfully. Again the trick is to be choosey! Pick one or two decadent options and sprinkle them sparingly. A half ounce of nuts and a half ounce of cheese, perhaps. Or try adding in substitutes that may replace the fattier ones. Use as many veggies as you can to cover as many different textures as possible. Being creative and experimenting will eventually lead to discovery! One should utilize these tips when making his or her own and when ordering out. Restaurants certainly aren't concerned about your health despite their claims. Take the Caesar as one example. Sure it looks rather simple and innocent but at most restaurants it's a gut buster! Traditional caesar is loaded with dressing and then piled with croutons and parmesan.

Salads are my go to meal. Not only do I love them but I know they make a healthful lunch or dinner that will never let me down. The key is how to order them! First and foremost I ask for dressing on the side. This allows me to dip my fork and use just enough dressing for one serving. I'm then selective about my toppings. I have a weakness for cobbs and boy can they do some damage to the mid-section! I also ask for my cobb to be free of bacon which is a great start. Once served I analyze how much blue cheese, avocado, and egg are served. Usually it's a conservative amount of each but in an attempt to keep the calories lower I try to push off some of the blue cheese, eat only the egg whites and allow myself all the avocado. Since it's an expensive fruit most restaurants only give you about three slices and becuase it's one of the healthiest fats in the world I figure I better eat it all!

Again, salads can be one of the greatest, healthiest meals or one of the worst. For me it's all about adding in just the right amount of little extras that leave me feeling satisfied and not deprived! The tablespoon is a much needed ally and will never let you down.

My perfect Salad!

3 cups organic romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small carrot peeled into strips of ribbon
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1/2 large roma tomato or one small tomato
2 T dried cranberries, organic preferably
3-4 ounces grilled chicken
1 ounce high quality blue cheese, crumbled
2 T balsamic salad dressing. All natural (No soybean oil, preservatives, additives) or make your own.

Toss veggies with salad dressing and top with grilled chicken, crumbled cheese, and cranberries!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Breakfast of Champions

No, I'm not talking about Wheaties. What I am talking about is breakfast period. Your rocket fuel for the morning (alongside coffee, of course)! Personally, Wheaties doesn't do it for me but I am a huge breakfast eater as well as a huge advocator of eating a big, balanced breakfast. One that provides whole grain carbs, fiber, protein and healthy fat. A breakfast like this will start you off strong and keep you going for hours. The balance of nutrients gives you energy and prevents you from crashing from a sugar rush like you would after Fruity Pebbles.

Study after study reveals that people consume breakfast regularly weigh less. Although the stats differ from each study the logic remains the same. When you wake and feed your body you kick-start your metabolism and get everything going. Most importantly you replenish glycogen (sugar) storage in the liver and muscles after a long night sleep which will set your energy tank to full a give you a boost to make it through the morning. Breakfast is where you want to consume the bulk of your carbohydrates and the most calories per meal because your body will use them right away and throughout the course of the day.

When one waits to eat for a couple hours the body will set itself to a slight starvation mode because it's not receiving the energy it wants. Then when you do eat you are more likely to store those calories as fat for "survival purposes" rather than burning them as fuel (The body is an amazing thing and is created to take care of itself). Secondly, people who wait are more likely to eat more because they either waited too long and are now ravenous or they think, "Hey, I skipped breakfast so I can eat more!" WRONG. Too many calories at any one time will be stored as fat. Period.

To eat, or not to eat, that is not the question. Eat! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it doesn't have to be eggs and toast. While those two are a staple for me I have been known to consume leftover spaghetti and meatballs bright and early. To each his or her own!

Example breakfast:

Two large eggs, fried in a light spray of cooking oil
One piece of good whole wheat bread, I use ezekiel
1 cup berries

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Back on the Wagon...

Did I indulge over the fourth? Yes, of course and I enjoyed every bit of it. I gave into some bruschetta, a couple of my skinny margaritas and oh, even some of the Original Pancakes famous Apple Pancake! I'm sure there were a few more in there but every once in a while I allow myself these indulgences... I am only human. I certainly don't throw caution to the wind and devour every morsel of food I want by any means. Rather, I strategize. Before I decide how I'm going to indulge I figure out where I can balance it out with the rest of what I'm going to eat. For instance, I knew I was eating bruschetta! Tiny toasts topped with tomatos, basil and olive oil. Can I get a yum! I swear they were calling my name. Therefore, in an attempt to find some balance I skipped the bread for a chicken sandwhich and the tortellini salad and made a big, chicken salad loaded with veggies instead. I did end up having the tortellini salad for breakfast the next day too! I figured why not, eat the carbs in the morning, burn them off all day long!

Splurging is okay every once in a while and I find that if I don't let myself have those every so often I end up bingeing and go crazy! If I eat as well as I do the majority of the time then I don't feel so bad about giving in to oh let's say Scoops tortilla chips and salsa a couple of times a month. Again, I just find a way to balance it out.

As of Saturday night I hopped back on my healthy wagon and went right back to my chicken salads, grilled veggies and whole grains. I have to say that I love eating healthfully and while it is nice to cheat every once and again I always look forward to getting back to eating what nature gives us!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Portobello mushrooms

I have a new love.  Big, fresh portobello mushrooms are being added to my list of favorites!  I just seasoned and grilled one up for a salad and I tell you what, it is the best meat replacement ever!  They cook up so juicy, flavor-FULL, and meaty and in my opinion taste better than any steak I've ever had.  Then again, I don't eat steak so I'm sure many would disagree with me; especially my husband.  I just started playing around with them after searching for something new to create and wow, I have a major crush.  And what's even better is the fact that they are loaded with nutrients and fiber, they are low in calories and have no fat.

Throw on into a bag add some italian dressing, dijon, garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper and gently rub the marinade all over the mushroom.  Place on a hot grill set to low flipping every five minutes until it begins looking soft and juicy!

Whoa delicious!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A few of my favorite things...

Every lover of cooking has favorite ingredients that are on hand in the cupboard or fridge consistently. Throughout the past couple of years, I have definitely discovered mine but they came to me sorf of indirectly. I began to noticing that I was often reaching for the same few ingredients on a regular basis and sometimes even sneaking them into receipes when they weren't even called for. They go into almost everything I make as they all have their unique qualities that lend that special something to certain dishes and sauces.

Okay first we'll start with the basic. Lean poultry and eggs. They are beautiful blank canvases that you can turn into award winners given some high quality seasonings. Second, the freezer goods. My go to veggies that never let me down and are a screamin' bargain! Frozen spinach and sweet bell pepper mix. They are stocked in my freezer at all times. I use them in egg dishes, meatloafs, fajitas, veggie burgers, etc. Thirdly, onions and garlic. What can't you put those in? They truly complete a meal. Next up are two favorite condomits that add tang, acidity and brightness. I'm talking about red wine vinegar and dijon mustard. Two must haves for homemade salad dressing. Add to those good quality olive oil for healthy omega-3s and a must have for whatever you're making. Following is onion powder, sea salt and freshly ground black peppercorns. Onion powder gives whatever I'm cooking a great hit of flavor without tasting overwhelming. Beans! I've made vegetarian "meatloafs" out of lentils and veggies alone. They are so versatile, so nutritious and they lend a creamy, rich mouthfeel to whatever you put them in without the fat. And what can't you do with beans. Close behind on the creamy train, butternut squash. Mmmm... Sweet, buttery, butternut squash. Mash it into meatloafs, puree it for a soup, eat it straight out of the oven kissed with golden flecks from the oven and toped with sea salt. Finally, if I must bring this to a close.... Freshly grated parmesan cheese. It delivers flavor like nothing else! I treat myself to good quality cheese on a regular basis. The better they are the less you use and all the more satifying. No pre-shredded, processed, cellulose coated crap that doesn't even taste like cheese.

It's really hard to pick and choose favorites but given the ingredients above masterpieces are created!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Beans, beans, the magical fruit....

Beans are one of those magical foods. They are as old as dirt, cheap as dirt and still a staple ingredient if not the main ingredient in cuisines all over the world. They are a food that can savory or sweet. A main course, a side, a soup, a salad and beyond. Beans are a power house when it comes to nutrients as they are packed with fiber, protein, vitamin b, folate, magnesium, iron, and on and on. Pure and simple yet so satisfying and familiar beans should be a mainstay in every home.

My favorite? Chick peas! I could eat them straight out of the can! They compliment any salad, puree up into delicious hummus and are awesome mixed into a pasta salad.

Roasted Butternut Squah Meatloaf!

This is my newest and favorite meatloaf recipe that I just had to get down on paper before I forgot it! The addition of the butternut squash makes this absolutely delicious! It adds moisture and a creamy texture while contributing to a sensational buttery-sweet flavor!


8 ounces of lean turkey breast
10 ounces frozen spinach warmed and drained of all water
1 small butternut squash
1/4 parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 T olive oil divided
1 t dry basil
1 t dry oregano
1 t dry marjorum
1 t onion powder
1 t salt divided
1/2 t fresh ground pepper
1/2 15 ounce can stewed tomatoes

Peel and chop the butternut squash into bite size pieces and scatter over a baking pan. Rub 1 t of olive oil all over and sprinkle with 1/4 t salt. Place in oven and roast at 400 for 40 minutes of until lightly golden and very soft, turning every 10 minutes.

Add onion and garlic with 1 t olive oil to sautee pan on med-low until translucent and slightly browned.

Once squash is done add to a mixing bowl and mash until it looks like mashed potatoes. Add all remaining ingredients besides stewed tomatoes to mixing bowl with squash and combine until all ingredients are consistent throughout.

Place in meatloaf pan and top with stewed tomatoes. The juice will give some extra moisture and flavor to the meatloaf as it cooks and the tomatoe pieces will carmalize!

Place in 375 degree oven for about 45-60 minutes depending on your over. I highly recommend using a digital thermometer for best results.

Let cool for about 15 minutes when done. Cut into four servings and top with FRESHLY grated parmesan cheese!


Friday, June 12, 2009

A step in the meatless direction....

I swear there have been days where I've eaten more than a pound of turkey in the course of 16 hours. I was astonished when I realized it and certainly didn't feel too great about it. Sure, it's lean, high quality stuff and loaded with nutrients but no person needs that much protein in one day.

Of course there are So many more terrible foods to consume over poultry and I'm sure many would think I was nuts for even thinking this. Although, for the sake of my kidneys, the high price of organic poultry and the overall mntal satisfaction of decreasing my animal intake I decided to trim back.

Protein to me is just so satisfying. It makes me feel complete after a meal, physically speaking. Stabalizing my blood sugar and giving my belly something to grab onto and slowly break down. When I don't have protein at meals I often feel hungier sooner and not quite as satisfide. I won't go 100% vegetarian because I know my body needs that animal protein but lately I have cut back about 30-50%. It's just a matter of focusing more on plant based foods and adding more of those into the foods I make. Instead of a full pound of turkey when I make a meatloaf I now add half-a-pound of ground turkey to half a pound of sauteed veggies. Any veggies I have one hand. Herbs, salt and pepper and an ounce of high quality parmesan cheese complete it and it is awesome. I enjoy this new approach to food and feel better about eating this way. And who could ever feel guilty about eating more veggies, bean and whole grains.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Stoneyfield Farms organic plain yogurt!

In an attempt to add more calcium and probiotics into my diet I decided to start eating Stoneyfield lowfat plain yogurt. Although it doesn't have much flavor by itself it has become my favorite blank canvas from which to create dozons of new recipes. Of course I started out making the classic tzatziki sauce with garlic, dill, cucumber and lemon juice and I loved it! I found that I preferred it lemon free b/c the natural tang from the yogurt itself was engouh. From there I went wild. Cilantro based yogurt sauces with cumin, garlic, and chilie powder was amazing over grilled chicken, onions and peppers. Pesto flavored sauce with fresh basil, garlic and onion came next and was terrific over meatballs. For a snack I sweetened a cup with stevia and farm fresh strawberries and blueberries. The longer it sits with the fruit in it, the better.

One trick when using it in savory recipes is to let it drain for about an hour over a fine mesh collander lined with cheese cloth. I have left it drain for 24 hours and that's even better. It makes it so rich and thick and gives you that mouth feel like you're eating something decadent when it's basically fat free. My current blend combines fresh cilantro, green onions, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper! It's wonderful over anything and perks up lean chicken breast fabulously! I'm always thinking of new creations and am feeling great about eating something so good for me.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Great talk...

After several in depth conversations that I was having with myself about my decision to go back to school I decided to call my alma mater; good old Ohio U. Certainly there would be someone there who could give me advice about contiuing my RD degree and whether or not it was worth it. I dialed the dietetics department and within two rings it was answered by the overlly helpful and cheerful head of Dietetics, Dr. H. I laid it out for him telling him every thought I had about going back and why I had convinced myself that maybe I was making the wrong decision. His answer was uplifting and clarifide each and everyone of my concerns. He first informed of the many, many alternative avenues that RDs have now-a-days apart from the typical hospital career. Secondly, he reminded me of the importance of having that license if I really wanted to get serious in the nutrition field. I would need credentials and education that would only come from an RD degree. He erased all my fears and I am rejuvinated once again. When in doubt call someone who knows.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Skinny Bitch

I just read the book Skinny Bitch and I have to say that it is honesty in it's most brutal, almost insulting form. While I enjoyed the jplethora of information and breakdown of every aspect of food and eating I felt almost as though I was a child being punished. A lot of the information I agree with and in all honesty I feel as though I eat as a purist. I pride myself on buying the best foods I can get my hands on and limit my exposure to as many processed foods, preservatives and pesticides as possible. I don't know if I buy into everything in the book nor will I follow it 100% but I do think it's a quick, informative and somewhat entertaining book that provides a lot of information in a way that can keep people interested. While I only eat fish and fowl giving them up completely is not something that I can do. There isn't enough proof to convince me that eating organic, farm-raised chicken will wreck havock upon my body. Could I cut back on my protein intake? Sure, I will attest to that. My caffeine? I will never give up coffee but I can certainly cut back and buy only organic. I could go on and on and continue to cut out more and more but honestly, where does it end? Where do you draw the line between be OCD and healthy. There needs to be some wiggle room. Unfortunatly the majority of Americans take this wiggle room to the extreme.

I do have a lot of respect for this book because it is trying to shake our nation out of this obesity epidemic and wake us up to the severe health risks of the American diet. It is the brutal honesty that people need to hear. Most americans are terribly overweight and unhealthy. Most people subsist on fast food, pre-packaged meals and highly processed foods. Yes there are a lot of people who don't have the education to know what is truly good or bad for them but come on, you know that a salad is much better for you than a burger and fries. And that it takes just as much time to eat a turkey sanwhich as it does to eat a double whopper. As a personal trainer I have heard ALL the excuses and they are truly pathetic. What it comes down to is how much people really care about themselves. I cannot sit in front of anyone and make them want to eat healthfully. All I can do is educate. The rest is up to them.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

To be or not to be...

Home for the weekend! Buffalo, NY and home of WEGMANS! The greatest grocery store known to man. After my dad picked me up we headed straight there for a dynamite lunch of perfectly grilled chicken, broccoli rabe, grilled veggies and veggie soup! Then of course a quick stroll around the store to pick-up some healthy eats for the weekend. After Egg whites, ww bread, omega-3 eggs, all natural sparkling water, tuna and some chicken breasts we were on way! Beautiful sunny skies and NO HUMIDITY! It feels good to come home!

Everytime I think that I'm sure I'm making the right decision about going back to school of a dietetics degree someone or something seems to change my mind. I've been unsure for a year but now I am really thinking that going the RD route just isn't right. In an attempt to dive deeper into the nutrition/health field I thought the best way to do that was to simply become an RD. Although the more research I do and the more people in that field to whom I speak the less certain I feel. Truth is, I don't want to work in a hospital, clinic, nursing home, etc. and that seems to be the career path of an RD. I want to write, represent, or promote and of course somehow fit cooking into that! I'm getting dizzy! I guess coming home this weekend, taking time away from my day-to-day life really allows me to sit and think about what I want to do with my future. With already a year under my belt towards an RD degree I think I better cut my losses and explore other options.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My love of cooking and health

Food is everything to me. Healthy food that is. Not only does it fill my belly and give me the fuel I need for the day but it gives me the nutrients I need to function at my best; mind, body and spirit. I eat foods that provide the biggest "bang for my buck" so that I can squeeze out every nutrient I can to give to my body. Clean, unprocessed, all natural food. My motto, if you can't grow it, don't eat it. Eating this way makes me feel great physically but also mentally because I know I'm doing all I can to be as healthy as possible. Okay, okay truth be told I am known to purchase few ingredients that do have to processed but it's things like bread, dijon mustard, teriyaki sauce, and tomatoe sauce but if you notice they're all pretty pure ingredients. And I gave up on trying to make bread months ago. I'm so not a bread baker! I think I've had one loaf turn out perfectly but 99% of the time I get little bricks of flour that go right into the trash (well, composter). I've tried all the tricks to make perfect bread and for some reason it's just not working!

Anyway aside from eating a clean diet the even better part is cooking with all these fabulous, fresh ingredients. I could spend hours (and I sometimes do) in the kitchen cooking! Trying a new blend of fresh herbs for my turkey/veggie meatloaf. Making salad dressing and yogurt sauces with fresh herbs, olive oil right from Greece and roasted garlic. I love creating new recipes and experimenting with new flavors. Cooking is theraputic to me and I find that even after a long day on my feet I come home to my kitchen and relax with cooking. It's great "me" time and it makes me happy. What's better than being happy?