Friday, December 31, 2010

The New Year's Resolution Battle Royale!

This time every year, companies start pumping out ads pummeling you to make New Year’s Resolutions.  Shave off that belly flab!  Get control of your finances!  Conquer your closet!  It feels like you should mount up, spear in hand, and do battle with your life!

Benjamin Franklin said, “Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.”  The first recorded celebration of the new year was in babylon 4000 years ago, and it seems that we’ve been doing battle with our vices (and by extension, ourselves) ever since.

So, do you need or want to change?  For most of us, the answer is, "Yes."  But how do we do it?  That's the part that trips us up.  After all, approximately 50% of New Year’s resolutions fail.  Why is this?  Well, usually the goals are not realistic or life just gets in the way.  We forget.

All is not lost.  Do not despair.  Change is hard, but it is possible.  It's just tricky.

So here are the FoodWise tricks to making and keeping your resolutions in 2011!

  1. Make your goals measurable.  Use numbers and action words.  Instead of saying “I want to lose some weight", say “I will exercise for 30 minutes 3 times per week".
  2. Get an accountability buddy.  Having a friend or family member who you talk to about your successes and failures makes it more likely you will follow through.
  3. Keep a journal.  If you don’t know which actions are working and which are not, how can you change?  You need specific feedback about your successes and failures.
  4. Don’t be afraid to revise.  If you realize that exercising 3 times per week isn’t realistic, don’t stop.  Revise it to 2 times per week.  Something is better than nothing!
  5. Finally, REMEMBER!  Where March begins in your planner, write yourself a little note asking about your resolutions.

Change has always been hard, but it doesn’t have to be a battle royale.  Take it one small step at a time and soon all those little changes will add up to great things!  Treat yourself kindly, allow yourself to fail -- and then try againYou can do this!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sausage and White Bean Cassoulet

Cassoulet, naturally gluten-free

I adore the holidays.  Have I mentioned that?  The house remains bedecked in twinkle lights and even though Christmas is over, I keep finding bits of ribbon and tissue paper strewn about the house.  With all this festive magic has come a constant stream of guests, dinner parties and food.  There has been food everywhere, constantly. 

Except for when there hasn’t.  Interestingly enough, between bouts of frenzied cooking and baking I let our pantry get shockingly bare.  I usually grocery shop once a week, but during December I let the time between trips stretch to two weeks or longer.  I’ll admit we did a fair bit of eating out, but I also took the empty cupboards as my own personal challenge to create delectable meals without the benefit of fancy ingredients.

Enter: the cassoulet. 


Cassoulet is defined as a casserole of white beans, various meats, vegetables and herbs slowly baked or simmered.

I’d never prepared this dish, but the description seemed straight-forward, so away I went.  Oh. My. Goodness.  The combination of sautéing the aromatics and then slowly simmering the vegetables in wine created a complex, deep flavor.  It tasted of winter and warmth and comfort.  Even though I’d never eaten cassoulet in my life, it tasted like home.

Lightly sautéed chard

As we enter into the darkest days of winter, let this stew keep you warm and fed.  I love that the ingredients are items most of us keep on hand and they are relatively in-season: root vegetables, canned tomatoes and beans, and sausage from the freezer.  Share cassoulet with your friends and family and know that you are home. 

Cassoulet and chard, lightly dusted with parmesan cheese

Sausage and White Bean Cassoulet with Tomatoes and Potatoes

1 lb. chicken Italian sausage
½ Tbsp. olive oil
½ onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
3-4 medium carrots, roughly chopped
1 - 14 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 large red potato, roughly chopped
14 oz diced tomatoes, in juice
1 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp salt

  1. Heat a cassoulet or oven-proof stock pot over medium heat.  Add sausage and brown.  Remove from pan.
  2. Saute onion in olive oil until soft and brown. 
  3. Add garlic and cook until fragrant but not brown, about 15 seconds.
  4. Deglaze pan with wine, scraping bottom of pot with a wooden spoon.
  5. Add carrots, beans, potato, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf, oregano and salt.
  6. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about an hour or until all ingredients are soft but not mushy. 
  7. Serve lightly dusted with parmesan cheese and your vegetable of choice.  I chose lightly sauteed chard.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Sick and Tired

I'm sick. It the kind of sick that's all on the inside. Stomach in knots, limbs shaky and weak, I could throw up at any moment. In fact, I have. I've been laying on the couch and sleeping for the last 24 hours, trying desperately to get better because I have a little community show tonight!

Did you know that I sing? I'm a new singer, as in, I started singing about a year ago with absolutely no musical background but somehow I ended up singing in an ensemble. We are performing tonight. After months of work, our show MUST go on! We are putting on four scenes from operas by Barber and Menotti, as well as some choral numbers, and yours truly is the equivalent of a back-up dancer. I do a bit of singing but mostly I'm on stage supporting our real talent. I love it. Every minute.
Sunshine relaxing on the couch with me

So, what have I been eating to recover from this stomach bug? Carbs. It's all I want. I poached a chicken breast in instant broth, and then added noodles. I was trying for protein, but mostly I picked around the pieces of chicken and ate the noodles and broth. I also cooked yams in the microwave and ate them mashed with a touch of butter. Normally when I'm sick I like poached eggs, but we've been without eggs for days and the store seemed so far away.

What do you eat when you're sick? What makes you feel better!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Scalloped Corn

Ingredients for Scalloped Corn

I’ve lived a lot of places in my life but in my heart, I’m a midwest girl.  Traditionally, holidays have been about how many carbs you can cram into one meal.  Mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, stuffing, the list goes on.  Quite frankly, I can live without every single one of those dishes for my holiday feast as long as I have scalloped corn.

Have you eaten scalloped corn?

Creamed Corn -- the base of the recipe.

I don't have any idea where the recipe came from, but I know that my great grandmothers were making it long before I was born.  Growing up, there wasn't a Thanksgiving or Christmas without it.

Place butter on top before pressing it into the middle of the dish with your finger

So simple it can be thrown together in five minutes, scalloped corn makes an excellent side dish for practically any meal.  Is it healthy?  No, not really.  But if fulfills a certain nostalgia from my childhood and I hope it can grace your table as well.

GF crackers in a ziplock bag being crushed with a rolling pin

In the gluten-filled version, you can use saltine crackers.  The proportions are 1 can creamed corn to one egg and ¼ package of saltines.  Or you can make it gluten-free!

Scalloped Corn!

Scalloped Corn

2 cans creamed corn
2 eggs
2 oz GF crackers (non-flavored work best)

  1. Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl.  Mix in creamed corn.
  2. Place crackers in a sealed zip lock bag.  With a rolling pin, crush crackers until they form a medium-fine crumb.  Add to corn mixture.  Add salt if using unsalted crackers.  Add pepper to taste.
  3. Place in an 8x8 baking dish and dollop butter on top.  With your finger, gently press the butter into the center of the corn mixture.
  4. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the scalloped corn has firmed up but still jiggles slightly.
Serve warm.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Holidays to You!

Oops -- I forgot to put out the veggie tray!

We hosted our Christmas party on Saturday night. Do you have a Christmas party or are you a happy attendee to others' joyful holiday hootenannies?

We used to host an annual party, and even in our smallest one bedroom apartment, our friends would pile in and we’d toast the season while flopped on the floor with pillows and blankets. Life hasn’t changed much. We’ve graduated to a two-bedroom apartment, but the whopping 200 square feet of additional space is mostly office and our living areas have remained distressingly small. Here’s to residing in the city!

Two years ago my father passed away unexpectedly, and for the last couple of seasons I just haven’t had it in me to throw a holiday party. Sure, we’ve hosted birthdays and barbeques and graduation parties, but nothing around the holidays. If you ask me what I’ve done for the last two Thanksgivings and Christmases, I really couldn’t tell you.

Well, not this year. This year we are celebrating in style! I’m not religious but I LOVE the holidays. I love singing carols and creating a magical festival of lights to chase away the mid-winter blues. I’m sure I’m not the only Seattleite to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder!

Other than stringing lights over every available surface, my favorite thing about throwing a holiday party is the food. Tiny plates of hors d' oeuvres, dollops of dip and itty-bitty sweet morsels. Perhaps I love parties because of the cute cuisine?

At my parties, as I do every day, I cook full-fat, full flavor. No lowfat egg-nog or reduced-sugar cookies grace my table. Ever. In a culture seeped in the non-fat myths of the ‘80s, the concept of smaller portions of full-fat food seems novel and challenging. I always work with my clients on food choice and eating out, but around the holidays eating away from home becomes especially difficult... and it's precisely because of holiday parties like mine!

So here's what I tell my clients: Make a choice. You have a choice to eat or not eat something. You have a choice to eat a little healthier throughout the day so you can indulge a bit at the party. Take a plate, choose what you want to eat and how much, and then WALK AWAY FROM THE TABLE. If you want seconds, choose to have seconds. The food does not have control of you, you have control of the food. We live in America; there will always be more cookies than you can reasonably eat. So have one. Then stop.

Of course, deciding to limit yourself and following through on that decision are two very separate acts. This is why I still have a job. My job is to counsel you on how to live and eat for your health, not just tell you what to do or eat.

But I digress… So what did I serve at my party?

This picture was shot as guests were arriving and does not do these cookies justice!

First on my list was GF snickerdoodles.  I adore snickerdoodles and haven't had them since I stopped eating gluten.  In high school we had a snack bar that baked cookies from scratch.  Their chocolate chip cookie was fabulous but their snickerdoodle, as big as a saucer, melted in my mouth like butter.  Yes, I have considered the possibility that butter was the main ingredient in said snickerdoodles.

In my quest for a GF snickerdoodle, I remembered that the Gluten Free Girl was doing a month of holiday cookies and lo, I found a recipe!  She directed me to Irvin Lin.  I followed his recipe exactly, except I used only butter, no shortening.  Oh. My. Goodness.  These are bliss!  Even three days later they are still moist and tender and hold together well.  I've haven't cooked much with millet flour and I believe the millet adds to the chewy goodness.  Finally, I can barely taste the xanthum gum, which is a miracle.  I ALWAYS taste the gums and I find their flavor difficult to tolerate.

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Cranberry Pumpkin Bread
Next on my list was pumpkin bread.  I used the recipe I posted a few weeks ago with only two modifications: I used 2/3 can of pumpkin and added 1/2 cup of dried cranberries.  It turned out lovely, with the slightly spicy bread playing counterpoint to the sweet and tart cranberries.  For the recipe, click here.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Mint Bars

Next on my list were Chocolate Mint Bars.  I tried to make these last Christmas and utterly failed, though not because of the recipe (it's perfect).  No, I tried to double the recipe, and in the process I quadrupled the chocolate.  The entire mess ended up a mass of dense, dark, bitter grossness that was impossible to cut.  I was visiting Michigan at the time and during the holidays we store extra food on the porch when we run out of room in the fridge.  After a night outside in the cold, trying to cut these bars was like trying to chop frozen clay.

Not so this time around!  This time, they were perfectly wonderful and delicious!  The recipe is from Gluten-Free Baking by Rebecca Reilly.  I followed the recipe exactly.  

Goat Cheese Stuffed Mild Peppadews
Peppadews are the brand name of pickled sweet piquante peppers.  Piquante actually means sweet, slightly spicy and pungent.  I stuffed these peppers with goat cheese and displayed them on a bed of lettuce.  It thought they resembled Christmas ornaments!

Bacon-Wrapped Dates

My final creation was bacon-wrapped dates.  Yes, you heard me right -- your dietitian served bacon-wrapped dates at her party!  This was my husband's idea, but I got on board mighty quick and so did everyone else.  This was the only dish that was gone without a trace by the end of the night.  The recipe is insanely simple, but what I learned from the first batch is that you should wrap the bacon so it goes around the date about 1 1/2 times because it (the bacon) shrinks during cooking.  The shrinkage doesn't change the flavor one bit, but does make the final product less cute.  And as I said, I'm all about the cute cuisine.

Bacon Wrapped Dates
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Wrap the dates in bacon so the edges are overlapping
  3. Place the dates crease side down on a baking sheet
  4. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the bacon is crisp


These weren't the only dishes we served, but they're really the only ones worth mentioning.  We had a selection of cheese and crackers (gluten-free of course), bread and olive oil, veggies and hummus, and chips and salsa.  Whew!  We had enough food.  

What are you serving at your party this year?  What have you had at friends' and relatives' parties?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Don't Get Mad, Get... Hangry?

From iStockPhoto

Hangry: When you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both.
~The Urban Dictionary

Do you get hangry?  I know I do!  For years I suffered the emotional ups and downs of low blood sugar, getting pissy at the drop of a hat and taking out my frustration on inanimate objects.  Now, in the year 2010, there’s a word for this phenomenon: Hangry.  I've been hearing it, using it, and it's about time I wrote about it.  So here's the skinny on hangry.

Some symptoms of low blood sugar are:
  • Irritability if a meal is missed
  • Fatigue or a weak feeling if a meal is missed
  • Dizziness when standing suddenly
  • Frequent headaches
  • Poor memory or concentration
  • Tiredness an hour or so after eating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Occasional shakiness
  • Afternoon fatigue
  • Occasional blurry vision
  • Depression or mood swings
  • Overweight
  • Frequent anxiety or nervousness
  • Craving for sweet
Source: Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine by M. Murray and J. Pizzorno

Typically, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is diagnosed with a glucose tolerance test, but most people who report suffering from low blood sugar have never had this test.  Is it really necessary?  The answer is no, as long as other diseases (including diabetes) have been ruled out as a cause of your symptoms.

Treating low blood sugar is very, very simple and you can do it all with a few basic modifications to your diet!

Step 1: Eat a planned snack between meals
To prevent your blood sugar from dropping too low, EAT!  Consuming food every 2-4 hours will prevent the fatigue and frustration that comes with getting too hungry.  In fact, if you suffer from hypoglycemia daily, you may consider switching to 5-6 smaller meals.

Step 2: Carry a bag of trail mix or a bar with you at all times
Nip your "hanger" ("han-grrr"?) in the bud by always having food available.  This way, if you need to wait for an hour to be seated at a restaurant you'll be prepared!

Step 3: Include protein, fat and carbohydrates with all meals and snacks
You need ALL the macronutrients.  Really.  Fat will keep you full longer.  Protein will prevent your blood sugar from rising too quickly.  Carbohydrates will feed your brain.  A mocha and a scone do not a complete snack make, gentle reader.

Step 4: Eat fiber -- lots of it
Fiber slows digestion and absorption of carbs, thereby preventing your blood sugar from rising rapidly (and falling rapidly).  Plus, fiber will keep you full longer!

Step 5: Be careful when drinking alcohol
Alcohol can wreak havoc on your blood sugar because it is always metabolized first over food, and this causes a rapid increase in insulin secretion.  Insulin takes glucose out of your blood, which leads to a rapid drop in blood sugar.  When you drink, consume alcohol in moderation and always eat a well-balanced meal or snack with it.  Drink slowly and (if possible) avoid sugary drinks.

The easiest way to avoid a drop in blood sugar is to eat frequently.  My favorite snacks are:
  • Peanut butter with crackers/toast/apple
  • Hard boiled egg on toast or with fruit
  • Nuts and fruit
  • A small serving of a well-rounded meal
  • Hummus or bean dip with veggies or corn chips
  • Quinoa salad that includes pines nuts and veggies
  • Cheese with fruit
  • Yogurt with granola and nuts
  • One protein bar (keep it between 100-200 calories)

With a little bit of planning, you can save your friends and loved ones from your "hangrrr".

What do you do when you get hangry?  How do you avoid it?

Source: Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine by M. Murray and J. Pizzorno