100 Foot Journey… Create Food Memories!

What was the first thing you remember eating? What’s the first thing your remember cooking? When we talk about favorite, comfort foods the conversations almost always turns to foods from our childhood. Those yummy dishes that our mom’s and grandmothers, use to make for us. These food memories shape our path’s as eaters and predict where our stomachs will lead us in the future. This past month this idea of food memories was brought to light for me in both in film and a cooking class.

Yesterday afternoon I saw 100 Foot Journey a film produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey. Let’s call it, what it is, a feel good food movie! It doesn’t hurt that it was set a in picturesque French countryside, with gorgeous food shots, from bubbling, spicy Indian delicacies to perfectly composed French plates of pigeon and truffles and an all star cast. The plot was simple, but the beautiful food shots and message is what made me fall for this movie. In the end adding mom’s special spices to traditional dishes proves to be a sensation and where all food memories begin and end.

Chef Edward Lee at Stonewall Kitchen

Chef Edward Lee at Stonewall Kitchen

I am a huge Iron Chef, Top Chef and Stonewall Kitchen fan, and recently attended Chef Edward Lee‘s New American Cuisine cooking class at Stonewall KitchenChef Lee is self described, one part Southern soul, one part Asian spice, and one part New York attitude. He embraces this concept food memories in his cookbook Smoke & Pickles. His recipes, restaurants and cookbook reflect that overlapping flavors and techniques from his Korean background and combined with traditional yet unique southern cuisine, this unlikely combination is a winning one. Chef Lee is not just an amazing cook, he also has a knack for story telling. All his recipes are combined with entertaining stories of his life and culinary journey.

(1) Top Left: Braised Beef Short Rib Kalbi with Soft Grits and Scallions Collards with Country Ham and Kim Chi (2) Top Right:  Buttermilk Affogato: Creamy Buttermilk Ice Cream with Warm Espresso (3) Bottom: Chilled Yellow Squash Soup with Sour Cream and Salt and Sugar Cured Strawberries

(1) Top Left: Braised Beef Short Rib Kalbi with Soft Grits and Scallions
Collards with Country Ham and Kim Chi
(2) Top Right: Buttermilk Affogato: Creamy Buttermilk Ice Cream with Warm Espresso
(3) Bottom: Chilled Yellow Squash Soup with Sour Cream and Salt and Sugar Cured Strawberries

 

Chef Lee left a mark in me with one piece of advice and one recipe that will become part of my food memories.  First his advice is a simple, sarcastic and straight forward as he is. Good food is meant to take time.

Finally the food! The Yellow Squash Soup with Cured Strawberries brought back a flood of memories for me. Chef Lee described the dish as a refreshing soup that tastes like Summer in a bowl and for me that is exactly what it was.

Lake winnipesaukee

Lake Winnipesaukee

Yellow summer squash is the first vegetables that I can remember that I truly loved and enjoyed. Part of that comes from my summers spent at lake Winnipesaukee. My mother would always be taking us for walks and you could guarantee ever morning she would be walking “the loop”  that would end at Melvin Village’s Country Store or Hansel & Gretel’s gift shop. We usually would be buying a treat, or a staple food item like milk for our cereal or marshmallows for the S’maores. On our walk back was a small, rickety vegetable stand set up in someone’s front yard. It was an old red wagon with a tattered green and white awning shading the fresh vegetables.  The stand was self serve. You would drop your money in the tin jar and pick out the best looking summer squash and pattypan to enjoy with dinner. As a kid I was fascinated by the idea of trusting everyone to pay and not swipe the jar, but the system worked summer after summer! My mom would prepare the squash so simply. Thinly sliced, salt, pepper and a touch of butter, wrapped in tin foil and cooked on the grill. This Yellow Squash Soup with Cured Strawberries is simple just like my mom’s summer squash and it perfect on a hot summer night.

Simple ingredients, bold flavors, spices, stories and people are the key ingredients in making food memories.

 Yellow Squash Soup with Cured Strawberries

Ingredients: 

Soup:SUMMER SQUASH SOUP AND CURED STRAWBERRIES

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 pounds yellow squash, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

 Strawberries:

  • 1 lb fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Steps:

 1) To make the soup: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the yellow squash and thyme and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until the squash is soft all the way through. Take off the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

 2) Transfer the soup to a blender, add the sour cream and salt, and puree on high until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Check the consistency; if the soup is a little gritty, strain it through a fine mesh sieve. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.

 3) About 1 hour before serving, make the strawberries. Slice the strawberries into 1/2 inch slices and place them in a glass bowl. Sprinkle the salt and sugar over the strawberries and gently toss them with your fingers—making sure not to crush them. Let them cure for about an hour at room temperature; no longer; or they will get too soft.

 4) To serve, ladle the chilled soup into bowls. Top each one with a few cured strawberries. Crack some fresh black pepper over the top and serve immediatelySUMMER SQUASH SOUP AND CURED STRAWBERRIES

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“Nature’s candy in my hand or can or a pie”… PEACHES!! Quick & Healthy Grilled Peach Salad

Movin' to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches

Movin’ to the country,
gonna eat a lot of peaches

Think all the way back to 1995… what was your favorite song? As 7th grader my music taste was impeccable and a great alternative rock band named The President’s of the United States of America, released a song entitled PEACHES! This was way before I knew I wanted to be a dietitian but even back then my obsession with yummy health food had started in song. If you don’t remember this amazingly talented band, who had a knack for catchy, meaningful lyrics, I suggested you watch their video below. But let me warn you, once you do you will be humming this tune and thinking about peaches all day long!

 

I have to say my favorite line from this song is “Peaches come from a can, they were put there by a man“!   That may be true for many of us during the cold northeast winters, but summer is the perfect time to pick sweet, fresh, juicy and flavorful peaches. Not only are they natures candy but they are full of vitamin C, potassium and fiber!

The newest way I have been enjoying peaches is grilled, which intensifies their natural sweetness and color. You can serves grilled peaches as a dessert with fresh whip cream and  a sprinkle of cinnamon or enjoy them first thing in the morning for breakfast with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, a touch of honey and fresh sprigs of mint. However my go to way to serve grilled peaches is in a salad.  This Grilled Peach Salad is perfect dish to make ahead of time and dazzle all your friends with, with hardly any work at all!

Grilled Peach Salad

Ingredients:Movin' to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches

  • 5 ripe peaches, cut in half, pits removed
  • Fresh baby kale (about 5 cups)
  • Fresh arugula (about 5 cups)
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup silvered almonds
  • 4 Tbps extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

 

Steps:

(1) Make dressing by whisking together olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, honey and salt and pepper. Grilled Peach Salad

(2) Pre heat the grill and brush the peach flesh with the dressing.Grilled Peach Salad

(3) Place peaches, cut side down, on the hot grill. Grill for about five minutes, or until the peaches are soft and have grill marks. Let cool and then slice.Grilled Peach Salad

(4) While peaches are grilling toast the almonds in a cast iron skillet until golden brown and let cool.Grilled Peach Salad

(5) In a large bowl or plate combine baby kale, and arugula. Sprinkle salad with blueberries and toasted almonds and add your yummy grilled peaches. Grilled Peach Salad

Grilled Peach Salad

Movin’ to the country,gonna eat a lot of peaches!

 

So you don’t have to move to the country to eat a lot of peaches, just throw them on the grill and enjoy!

 

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Spring into Spring Salad… Quick & Healthy!

Spring has Sprung!!

Spring has Sprung!!

Finally you can sense spring is in the air, and if you lived in the Northeast it is has been a long time coming! Spring is all about renewal and for many of us the winter might have put us in a funk around making time for our wellness and caring for our bodies. Maybe you have woken up from your winter haze and the scale has tipped in the wrong direction, or you’ve stopped exercising, or your spring wardrobe is all of a sudden a little snug or ice cream and cookies are a daily occurrence rather than a once and awhile treat. This is not the time to panic, beat yourself up and dwell on the woulda shoulda coulda of this past winter. Spring is about looking forward.

Sometimes the first step to pull yourself out of that winter haze is baby steps.  There is no need to take a huge overhaul of your wellness, rather to start making small changes. Many of my clients have come into my office, overwhelmed with their goals and are paralyzed because they just seems so impossible. I tell them the only way to move forward is to take small steps, so we pick one maybe two small changes to work on for 3-4 weeks. Those small changes serve as an entry point back to wellness and create momentum for them.Spring Salad

And there is actual research to back the importance of small steps or changes. Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that participants who made one small, potentially permanent change in their food choices and/or physical activity each week (such as drinking one fewer can of soda or walking 5 more minutes each day) lost more than twice as much belly fat, 2½ more inches off their waistlines, and about 4 times more weight, never mind all of benefits of feeling great and confident when you care for yourself.

So what is going to be your entry point back into wellness? For many of you it might be starting off with making a very simple and healthy meal for yourself. May a suggest my Spring into Spring Salad.  This is a fantastic salad because it requires no cooking at all, but the flavor combinations “pop” in your mouth and leave you nothing but satisfied. 

Challenge for this week is to think small and make one change or one meals to start to create momentum back towards wellness! 

Spring into Spring Salad
Spring Salad

 Serving Size: 4 salads     Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 container of Spring Mix Greens with herbs
  • 3 Baby Cucumbers – sliced
  • Scallions/Green Onions – chopped
  • 2 avocados – cubed
  • 1 quart of Blackberries
  • 1/2 cup Whole Almonds
  • 4 oz soft goat cheese
  • 15 oz can of Cannellini beans
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp Light House Fresh Herb Blend – Salad (any fresh herb blends)

Step 1: Prepare beans with dressing to allow to marinate. Strain and rinse Cannellini beans. Combine olive oil, lemon juice and fresh herbs, whisk until combined. Add Cannellini beans and allow to marinate for 15 minutes.

Spring SaladStep 2: Chop baby cucumbers and scallions. Cube the 2 avocados.Spring SaladSteps 3: Create an assembly line of all ingredients to create salads. Combine lettuce, cucumbers, scallions and avocados.  Add blackberries, almonds and crumbled goat cheese.

Spring SaladSpring SaladStep 4: Top with marinated Cannellini beans and enjoy!

Spring Salad

 

 

Posted in Lunch, Meatless Mondays!, Planning, Quick & Healthy, Self Care, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Herbs & Spice Make Everything Taste Nice!

Fresh Herb & Lentil Salad This past weekend I attended my Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Alumni reunion. It has been 8 years since completing my Masters and Dietetic internship. I cannot say enough about the opportunities Tufts has provided me over the years, from networking, mentor-ships, inspiration for career aspirations and amazing friendships.  These events always inspire me because I get to see the amazing things my peers are accomplishing to change the world we live in and the way we eat.

The reunion weekend featured a fabulous event hosted by the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) called Talk and Taste. I started my reunion weekend off with Talk and Taste: Cooking with Herbs and Spices  which included Dr. Mohsen Meydani of the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA)  , who spoke about the nutritional properties of herbs and spices and Victoria Taylor, MBA, Founder and President of Victoria Gourmet, Inc. who performed a cooking demonstration.

Talk & Taste Event at the HNRCA

Talk & Taste Event at the HNRCA

After seeing Dr. Meydani list benefit after benefit of herbs and spices, as the fragrance of fresh dill, basil and parsley filled the room while Victoria prepared her Fresh Herb Lentil Salad, I thought “what more could you need to convince you to throw the salt shaker out and add fresh herbs and spices to your diet!” Here are a few fun facts that I learned about Dill, Basil and Parsley:

Dill: 

  • Contains many anti-oxidants, vitamins like niacin, pyridoxine, etc., and dietary fibers, which help to control blood cholesterol levels.
  • Contains properties which may improve digestive functioning.
  • The essential oils in dill may have a calming effect on the body.

Basil:

  • Used as a supplemental treatment for stress, asthma and diabetes.
  • It’s known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
  • Basil leaves are an excellent source of iron, contains 3.17 mg/100 g of fresh leaves (about 26% of RDA).

Parsley: 

  • Know to be protective against Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Eating parsley can reduce the risk of cancers such as breast, digestive tract, skin and prostate.
  • Parsley offers protection from a wide variety of diseases – from atherosclerosis, diabetes and colon cancer to asthma.

After tasting this amazing salad and know the benefits of the herbs, the first thing I did when I got home from the reunion was to purchase some fresh herbs and to start cooking. My challenge for you this week, it look where you can add fresh herbs to your meals to add that pop of flavor and excitement to you meals!

Fresh Herb Lentil Salad

Makes 8, 1 cup servingsFresh Herb & Lentil Salad

  •  2 cups French Lentils
  • 2-4 cups water
  • 1 cup bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup snow peas, finely diced
  • 24 grape tomatoes chopped in 8ths
  • 3/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup red onions, thinly sliced
  • 25 basil leaves, cut fine
  • 1/4 cup dill
  • 1 cup parsley leaves chopped

Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  •  1/8 cup olive oil

Steps:

Step 1: Lentils- rinse lentils, cover with 4 cups water. Bring to boil. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until just tender. Set aside cool.Fresh Herb & Lentil Salad

Step 2: While lentils are cooking and cooking, prepare all the vegetables and herbs.Fresh Herb & Lentil Salad

Step 3: In a small bowl combine lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil to make the vinaigrette.Fresh Herb & Lentil Salad

Step 4: Toss vegetables and herbs in a bowl, add the cooled lentils. Pour the vinaigrette over the mixture and toss.  Enjoy!Fresh Herb & Lentil Salad

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Quick & Easy… Bruchetta Chicken Served Over Spaghetti Squash

Bruschetta Chicken Served Over Spaghetti SquashWith the arctic temperatures this past weekend, and a rainy 8 mile long run on Monday, all I wanted to eat was a big bowl of spaghetti. For me pasta can be a slippery slope.  I tend not to be able to stick with the 1/2 cup recommend serving size, and have yet to find anyone who can. My dilemma with pasta is always volume vs calories. When it comes to pasta my stomach is like a bottomless pit!

Now there are some fabulous whole wheat versions of pasta out there like Dreamfields, Ronzoni and 365 Everyday Value Organic Whole Wheat Pasta. These types of whole-wheat pasta are made from “whole durum wheat” or “whole semolina.” Both described as coarsely ground whole durum wheat, which is rich in protein and gluten and fiber. These whole grain pasta still were not going to solve my desire for a large volume of food at my meal, while keeping my calorie count low. What’s a girl to do?

Well I took a hint from my gluten free eaters out there and gave spaghetti squash a try! It is the prefect solution to my volume vs calorie dilemma.  Each cup of the cooked squash contains only 42 calories and 10 grams carbohydrate (3g fiber)  compared to my 1 cup of Dreamfields, pasta where 1 cup (2 oz) is about 190 calories and 41g carbohydrate (5g fiber).  That is 150 calorie save per cup!

There was a recipe on my Pintrest board that I was dying to try and to “lighten” up from Menu Musings of a Modern American Mom, that goes prefect with spaghetti squash.  This has to be one of my favorite creations, comfort food that I can eat larger volumes without going over board on calories, a dream come true! And for all my vegetarians out there, the sauce is so good so just skip the chicken, you could add white beans for a little extra protein.

Bruschetta Chicken Served Over Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients:IMG_6376

  • 1 Spaghetti Squash
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium white onion chopped
  • 3/4 cup basil chopped
  • 1 container of Cherub/grape tomatoes
  • 3 boneless chicken breast
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 cups Baby Spinach
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Step 1: Cook Spaghetti Squash

a. cut spaghetti squash in 1/2 length wise (I microwave for 3 minutes prior to soften the skin)

b. place facedown on cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes

c. remove from oven and let cool slightly

d. remove seeds

e. scrape the flesh from the squash into wonderful, stringy “noodles” with a sturdy fork and place into a small serving bowl

 Bruschetta Chicken Served Over Spaghetti Squash

Step 2: Using a mallet/meat tenderizer, pound the chicken breast. Season with salt & pepper.  Place in hot skillet with 2 Tbps olive oil.  Cook chicken about 4 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Bruschetta Chicken Served Over Spaghetti Squash

Step 3: Add onion, and tomatoes to skillet. Cook until tomatoes start to blister.Bruschetta Chicken Served Over Spaghetti Squash

Step 4: Add Basil and Garlic. Add 1 Tbps olive oil to create more sauce.Bruschetta Chicken Served Over Spaghetti Squash

Step 5: Remove from heat and combine with Spaghetti Squash.IMG_6417

Step 6: Incorporate baby spinach and enjoy.  Bruschetta Chicken Served Over Spaghetti Squash

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Americans are getting less than 2 servings of vegetables! Are you one of them?

The latest dietary guidelines call for us to get 10-13 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Did your jaw just hit the ground? Yeah that tends to be the common reaction when I tell my clients that! Yet we know no matter what you are trying to improve, you can’t go wrong with getting more fruits and vegetables.

median-daily-vegetable-intake-600x400

But is getting 10-13 servings per day impossible?  Well lets say even if we don’t get 10-13 serving per day, we certainly have lots of room for improvement! The CDC reports adults are averaging less than 2 serving of vegetables per day and less than 1.5 servings of fruit per day!

First let us understand what a serving is and then lets figure out how you are going to get more! A serving is 1/2 cup cooked and 1 cup raw, or as I like to say a fist full (because who is measuring everything they eat).

How are you going to get more in your day? 

  • Your new motto: A meal is not a meal without fruits and vegetables present!Meal is not a meal
  • Pre-plan using Prep-day, having them ready to use means you will chose them
  • Add fruit/vegetables smoothie to your day
  • Add vegetables to your breakfast, eggcellent muffins 
  • Keep them in sight… keep a bowl on the counter or when you open the refrigerator
  • Try baked apples 
  • Roast vegetables with some balsamic vinegar
  • Celebrate Meatless Mondays, make 1 day per week vegetarian
  • Make lots and lots of soups!
  • Dip veggies in hummus/Greek yogurt dip
  • Add salad to a meal
  • Play with new recipes
  • Busy week but them pre-cut and prepped!
  • Make them the main event, like my 3 Step Crockpot Vegetable Soup

What does a days worth of Fruits and Vegetables look like? So 10-13 serving a day may seem like a great deal, but it is actually just about 6 cups. If you had a 3 cup salad each day, you have already hit the 1/2 way mark.  When you see it below it may not look that bad or impossible to get!

  • 1 cup of berries with breakfast (2 Servings)
  • 3 cup salad at lunch (3 Servings)
  • 1 medium orange after lunch (1 Serving)
  • 1 cup carrots/cucumbers with hummus for a snack (1 Serving)
  • 2 cups roasted vegetables with dinner (4 Servings)
  • Total of 11 Servings for the day 

The way I look at this, is we all have room for improvement, so don’t get overwhelmed by the numbers.  Rather take on the challenge with small steps by adding a salad here and there, finishing meal with a piece of fruit, swamping a yogurt for some carrots as a snack, making vegetables the main attractions rather than a side dish. One of my quick way to get more vegetables in, especially during the winter is crockpot vegetables soup. This soup is so easy and it only takes 3 steps… 3 Step Crockpot Vegetable Soup!

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Hidden Sugar Detox…. Should that be my New Year’s Resolution?

It is a New Year and for many of us it is a time for new beginnings, especially for health and wellness. I always go back and forth about if I should make a New Year Resolution and if I should promote them with my clients. Traditionally I have not been a big believer in resolutions,  I am more of a lifestyle change kind of gal. But after watching Dr. Mike Evan’s New Year’s Resolution video, I might have a change of heart.

But no matter what you call them or what time of year it is, it’s still a problem if you can’t adapt and make that permanent lifestyle change. Recently the biggest problem I see with my clients and even myself is that battle with Hidden Sugar and the food industry. Hidden sugar, is sugar that has been added to food products that you probably don’t even notice and often consider some of your healthy and favorite foods.  Our bodies were only meant to consume 5 tsp of hidden sugar a day and most of consume 22 tsp or more!

Here take my little quiz, you might be shocked…

hidden-sugar-quiz-1For the answer go to UltimateBootcamp.com

One of the best lifestyle change or New Year’s Resolutions I think anyone could make, it to kick out all the hidden sugar and get back to clean eating. Well that is easier said then done, so I teamed up with Ultimate Bootcamp  and created My Nutrition Upgrade’s Hidden Sugar Detox.  The program is perfect for busy people who want a sane approach to cutting sugars/ The program is starting Monday 1/14/2014.  So start the new year off right and make a permanent change in your eating and health and join me in the Hidden Sugar Detox.

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