Monday, December 19, 2011

What's the best medicine for overall health?

Thank you to Fanatic Cook for finding this amazing and informative video.

So, what's the best medicine?  Exercise at least 30 minutes per day.  That exercise can just be walking!  Seriously, watch the video.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Caribbean Baked Chicken with Pineapple Pilaf

I've been in the mood for quick, gourmet food, and when that particular craving strikes, I pull out my Cook's Illustrated magazine and America's Test Kitchen cookbooks.  Often, the recipes are too complicated for quick meals and I end up tweaking them to suit my needs.  Frequently I combine their versions with similar ideas from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman or my trusty red-and-white-checked Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

As though in answer to my prayers, America's Test Kitchen has started publishing seasonal 30-minute supper magazines... and I've become obsessed.  I haven't purchased every single one, but I have read them while sitting in my local bookstore.  America's Test Kitchen books and magazines are my new go-to guides on all things meal-related! 

Yet now it's December, and summer seems like a distant memory.  What I have left of summer is my 30-Minute Suppers Summer Edition, and just because I'm unwilling to stand in the frigid air over a grill doesn't mean I'm going to plop one of my favorite cooking resources back on the shelf until June.  We're baking instead of grilling, and I use pineapple instead of mango, but this dish lets me pretend I'm on a tropical beach soaking in the sun!

Caribbean Baked Chicken with Pineapple Pilaf
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers, Summer 2011

1/2 cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and Pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 6 oz can pineapple chunks
1 1/2 cups white rice
~2 1/4 cups water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, cumin, chili powder, allspice, cinnamon, salt and pepper.
  3. Place chicken in a small, oven-safe dish and pour half of marinade in, turning chicken to coat. Cover with tin foil and bake 30-45 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
  4. Preheat saucepan over medium heat and add remaining marinade, sautéing about 30 seconds or until garlic starts to brown.  Add rice and sauté about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Drain pineapple juice into a large measuring cup and add enough water to equal 2 1/4 cups liquid; add to rice.  Add pineapple chunks to rice, stir, cover and bring to a boil.  Turn down heat to low and simmer ~25 minutes, or until all the water is gone and the rice is soft.
  6. Serve the chicken sliced with a bit of the marinade drizzled on top.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Chinese Black Rice and Bibimbap

I received my January/February Cook's Illustrated about a week ago and in the Notes From Readers section, there was a question about black rice.  Here's what CI had to say:

Like brown rice, black rice is unpolished, meaning that the hull of the grain--a rich source of insoluble fiber--is still intact,  But only black rice contains anthocyanins, the same antioxidant compounds that make blueberries and blackberries such a valuable addition to our diets.  These compounds are what turn the rice a deep purple as it cooks.

Many varieties and brands of black rice are available; we cooked up Forbidden Rice by Lotus Foods, adding 3 1/2 cups of water and 1 teaspoon water to 2 cups of rice and cooking it covered over low heat.  The grains were tender in just 30 minutes (about half the time it takes to cook brown rice).  The cooked grains remained distinct and firm to the bite, with tasters describing the flavor as pleasantly nutty and slightly sweet.  As an even more nutritious, quicker-cooking alternative to brown rice, what's not to like?

With such a ringing endorsement from CI, what could I do but try black rice?

I found my rice in the bulk food section of the grocery store, and I cooked it according to the directions provided: 1 cup of rice to 1 3/4 cup water.  The rice was done in about 35 minutes and lived up to expectations--chewy, nutty and flavorful!

So, what did I serve with my black rice?  Why, bibimbap, of course!

Every Saturday, I crave Korean food.  I'm not sure what what started it, but ever since we began taking Duncan to doggie classes on Saturday mornings back in July, when lunchtime rolls around, I'm ready for Korean BBQ and all its accompanying fermented garnishes.  To make matters worse, in October I experienced Revel for the first time.  It's an incredibly addictive Korean/French restaurant down in Fremont, and just thinking about their egg bowls and BBQ pork sets my mouth to watering, even after a hearty breakfast!  Seeing as how it's the holiday season and we just shelled out $1100 to fix my little white Saturn, we're experiencing only home-cooked meals for awhile, so I needed to re-create that tantalizing pork and those crunchy-spicy veggies at home.

It's not grilling season, and even the temptation of crispy grilled pork couldn't get me to huddle over my BBQ, so instead I used a basic slow-cooker recipe.  The arugula salad is an inspiration from Revel, and tastes amazing slightly wilted with the egg on top.

The best part of my Korean food experiment is that it fed us for days.  I'd say this one pot of pork and accompanying ingredients lasted Ben and I and a couple of our friends for 7 meals!

Here are the parts of my Korean-inspired egg bowl. 
To assemble, pile it on in whatever proportions you like!

Black rice: See above for cooking instructions

Kimchi: Purchased at my local Asian food store

Egg: Fried sunny side up in a bit of butter

Salad: Arugula tossed with a light dressing made of champagne vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, salt and sugar

Pickled veggies: 1 shredded carrot, 1 cup bean sprouts, 1 cubed cucumber, mixed with 1 cup seasoned rice vinegar and left to sit for at least 30 minutes

Peppery Asian Ribs
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes

3 1/2 pounds country-style pork ribs
6 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup GF tamari
1/4 cup molasses
2 T brown sugar
2 T hoisin sauce (I used 1 more T of brown sugar instead because I have yet to find GF hoisin)
2 T white wine vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp hot pepper oil
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp white pepper
  1. Place pork ribs in a slow cooker.
  2. In a small bowl, combine all other ingredients and pour over pork ribs, turning to coat.
  3. Cover and cook 8 to 10 hours on low, or 4 to 5 hours on high.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A great ring of pure and endless light

Seattle in the fog is beautiful, the possibility of mystery around every bush and tree.  Some days the foggy world seems magical, like around any corner I might meet a pixie or wander onto a tropical beach.  Some days the fog is ominous, and mail boxes become demons stalking you through the mist. Today the fog is dark.

My friend has lost her child, her baby, her joy.  He was to come into the world a Thanksgiving baby, beautiful and brave, but instead died without taking in one breath of air.

This is my friend's story to tell, a private story and a private grief, but in this moment, I don't understand how the entire world isn't mourning her loss of this perfect soul.

I'm reminded of the last stanza of "Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone" by W.H. Auden:

The stars are not wanted now: put every one out;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

When I was a younger, I read "A Ring of Endless Light" by Madeleine L'Engle about 100 times.  I loved the idea of swimming with and talking to dolphins, and for many years I wanted to become a marine biologist until I learned I'd have to dissect sea creatures and not just bask in their presence.  I've learned a lot from Madeleine over the years: how to appreciate poetry and literature, and a deep awe of science and the mysteries of the universe.  As an adult, I see she was also teaching me about loss and death and the ability to re-emerge, somewhat battered, into the light.

The death of anyone, the old, the young, the sick, is tragic and heartbreaking to those left behind, and we must find a way to blunder through the tears and darkness.  We find solace in the words and warm embrace of others until we can again walk with the living world.

The earth will never be the same again. 
Rock, water, tree, iron, share this grief
As distant stars participate in pain.
A candle snuffed, a falling star or leaf,
A dolphin death, O this particular loss
Is Heaven-mourned; for if no angel cried, 
If This small one was tossed away as dross,
The very galaxies then would have lied.
How shall we sing our love's song now
In this strange land where all are born to die?
Each tree and leaf and star show how
The universe is part of this one cry,
And nothing loved is ever lost or perished.
                                                  - Madeleine L'Engle

A great ring of pure & endless light
Dazzles the darkness in my heart
And breaks apart the dusky clouds of night.
The end of all is hinted in the start.

When we are born we bear the seeds of blight;
Around us life & death are torn apart,
Yet a great ring of pure & endless light
Dazzles the darkness in my heart.

It lights the world to my delight.
Infinity is present in each part.
A loving smile contains all art.
The motes of starlight spark & dart.
A grain of sand holds power & might.
Infinity is present in each part,
And a great ring of pure & endless light
Dazzles the darkness in my heart.
                                     - Madeleine L'Engle

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pie, Pie, Me-Ohhh-My...

There's a new pie shop in town.  Truly, how often do you get to say that?  Only in Seattle is there a specialty pie shop next door to the speciality ice cream shop Bluebird, both of which are down the street from the speciality cookbook shop, The Book Larder.

In celebration of Ben teaching his final day of classes at the community college this quarter, we ate pie!  I'd stopped into Pie a couple weeks back and had a discussion with their head baker about how they prepare their gluten-free pie and he told me that they make their GF pie crust once a week or less and before doing so, they clean all the equipment.  I felt safe eating there, but as always, it's up to you to make sure you won't get sick.  I never take somebody else's word that a restaurant is safe, I always ask lots of questions.

Just to illustrate my point: I was at a business lunch the other day at The Cheesecake Factory, and boy am I glad I didn't order the Mexican chicken salad, because somehow they'd managed to put gluten into the chicken, black beans, or salad dressing.  Yet to find out, I had to badger the waiter, then the chef.  I'm not sure how they're processing their foods, but it made me want to save my lunch for another venue. (Seriously--black beans!?!)

But back to pie...

At Pie, they have a GF sweet pie everyday, but if you want a GF savory pie you need to order half an hour ahead of time, and they'll bake it on the spot.  They change up their flavors daily.  After checking their menu, I had my heart set on an English meat pie, or possibly roasted turkey with sweet potato.  Unfortunately, not all their fillings are GF, and my choices were vegetable curry, broccoli cheddar and egg and potato, none of which sounded as appetizing.  Far be it from me to look a gift pie in the mouth, but wouldn't it be great if they made ALL their fillings with rice flour?  That would make dining out for us poor GF people an absolute delight.  I can't remember the last time I had too many choices instead of too few.

I chose the vegetable curry pie, and they were pulling it out of the oven just as Ben and I walked in the door.  The pie shop smells amazing!  I mean, all they do is bake pie.  Chocolate pie.  Apple pie.  Meatloaf pie.  Even mac n' cheese pie!  Ben ordered the non-GF English meat pie and an apple-blackberry pie.  Sadly, they were sold out of their sweet GF pie du jour, so I didn't try dessert.

Ben reported his pie was delicious: flaky crusts, well-spiced meat, and his apple-blackberry pie wasn't "too damn" sweet.  My curry vegetable pie had a nice blend of flavors, but it was too salty for my tastes and I couldn't finish it.  The crust was lovely; not exactly flaky, because you can't get the same layers with GF pie, but crumbly in just the right way, and it melted in my mouth.

Is Pie a novelty?  Yes.  Will it stick around?  I sure hope so!  My first dining experience at Pie wasn't perfect, but it wasn't horrid either, and I think they'll get better.  And you never know, maybe I can talk them into gluten-free banana cream pie.  A girl can dream, right?

GF Vegetable Curry Pie

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chicken Fried Rice

On Thursday nights, Ben hangs out with the guys and I usually relax with the ladies.  We call it craft night but really we get together, drink wine and enjoy each other's company.  Sometimes we go out but mostly we gather at someone's house and the host will make a main dish while the rest of us bring sides, dessert and wine.  I tend to prepare spicy chicken soups and robust stews, but I recall one memorable evening when one of the girls' made carne asada.

Unlike the ladies, guys' night almost always involves take-out and the dregs of the pizza, Chinese or Indian appear in our fridge the next morning.  Recently Ben brought home pork fried rice, and while it was delicious, it made both of us horribly sick!

Now, I love fried rice and wasn't going to let that take-out disaster define my fried rice experience, so I decided to make my own.  This recipe is a concoction of what I had in the fridge and is a bit fresher than traditional restaurant fried rice.  I use high-heat safflower or sunflower oil for any cooking above medium heat, because unlike olive oil, high heat safflower or sunflower oil doesn't oxidize at those temperatures and still provides healthy polyunsaturated fats.

Try this recipe as I've written it or make your own additions!  I bet this would be lovely with fish sauce instead of soy sauce--and lots more veggies!

Chicken Fried Rice

1 cup brown rice, 2 cups water

2 tsp high heat safflower oil
1 chicken breast, thinly sliced

1/2 onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, diced
1/8 tsp chili flakes
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 cup pineapple, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce or wheat-free tamari
Hot chili oil to taste

  1. Bring water to a boil, add brown rice, cover; reduce to simmer and cook until tender.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat 1 tsp safflower oil until shimmering and add thinly sliced chicken.  Cook quickly, stirring frequently until cooked through.  Remove chicken to a bowl and cover.
  3. In the same pan, heat the remaining 1 tsp safflower oil over medium heat and add onion and carrots, cooking until tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add chili flakes, garlic, and ginger and cook until fragrant but not burned, about 20 seconds.
  5. Add rice, peas, cooked chicken, pineapple juice, soy sauce and hot chili oil.  Turn the heat up slightly and let cook until slightly fried.

Serve with sake or warm jasmine tea.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Neighborhood Gardens

Since I got Duncan the dastardly dachshund, I walk a lot.  It's common for us to take three walks a day, meandering through our neighborhood greeting dogs and children and squirrels and crows.  I've always loved walking, and I do my best thinking while on the move.  If Ben and I need to discuss something serious, we walk or drive, using the physical momentum to propel us forward in decision making.

Our neighborhood isn't great, but it isn't horrid either.  We live in the city and as a city community it has all the usual characters, from the homeless to the conscientious home owner.  The streets around my four-plex are filled with apartments and town homes, but just a few streets west there are neatly kept single family dwellings, the new money that came into the 'hood during the housing boom.

Something that stands out about my neighborhood is that we love dogs and we love gardens.  As fall turns to winter and I walk these same streets again and again trying to tire out my 11 month old puppy, I'm amazed by the variety of gardens, in parking areas and in pots, in side yards and in the small strip of grass bordering the street.  We love growing things to admire and provide food for the table.

In Seattle we're blessed with year-round produce from our gardens, community-supported agriculture (CSA) and farmer's markets.  I've planted my winter kale in the tiny plot dug out under the fuse box below the kitchen window.  I don't grow much because I don't have the space, but what my garden does produce is a wonderful supplement to my CSA.  On Thursday nights when I've used the last vestige of green food and am eagerly awaiting my Friday morning delivery, I can go to my garden and gather a bit of kale for a pasta dinner or stir-fry.  I feel closer to the food, and judging by the number of small gardens and potted plants in my neighborhood, I'm not alone.

What does your garden grow?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Do you eat beans with your pasta?

I love beans, don't you?  I know they cause gas but the more you eat them, the more accustomed your digestive tract will become and the less gas you will have.

Pasta e fagioli is a traditional Italian dish translating to pasta and beans.  It's one of the simplest dishes you can prepare, full of fiber, and is a nice vegetarian meal for meatless Monday. 

The last couple of weeks have been a blur of activity with promoting classes and giving talks and of course, networking.  Seeing patients is, hands down, my favorite part of running FoodWise Nutrition but you don't get patients unless you get to know other providers.  Last week I attended 4 networking events and this week three events and boy am I tired of talking about myself!

Given all my running around, meals have been quick affairs.  Often I'll have time around lunch but not dinner so I'll prepare a quick meal in the middle of the day that Ben and I will then eat again for dinner.  One of those meals is pasta and beans.

My pasta e fagioli is made up of rice pasta, blanched zucchini, cannellini  beans and a 10 minute tomato sauce.

What do you use in your pasta e fagioli?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Canyon Bakehouse

Have you heard of Canyon Bakehouse?  I hadn't until I noticed their burger buns next to Udi's in my local grocery store.  See that picture up there?  The buns actually look like that, and they don't fall apart when confronted with ketchup or pub sauce.  And you know what?  They taste fantastic!  I may be risking blasphemy in the GF community when I say I like these buns better than Udi's, but... I like these buns better than Udi's!

Lately I've been living off the San Juan 7 Grain Bread.  It stays moist over several days, enough so that I can just make a sandwich without toasting the bread.  The nutritional profile is similar to Udi's whole grain bread and though they're both a little low in fiber for my taste (2 g per slice for Canyon Bakehouse, 1 g per slice for Udi's Whole Grain Bread), both companies are doing their best to get us GF folks a tasty, nutritious bread.

Thus far, the only Canyon Bakehouse products I've seen in the store are the bread and buns, but I'd be interested to try more of their products.  

Have you tried Canyon Bakehouse?  What do you think?

* Picture above from Canyon Bakehouse website,
** I have no affiliation with Udi's or Canyon Bakehouse and I am not paid to endorse either company.  The opinions expressed above are my own, as a consumer of their products.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chicken Taco Salad

Cooking is certainly more of an art than a science in my household, and I look at recipes as general guidelines that I'm free to change.  Actually, if you ask Ben, I never follow a recipe exactly.

Why is this?

I think recipes are one person's way of doing things based on taste preferences and what food is available.  I don't like mushrooms and Ben doesn't like bell peppers, so I eliminate them or substitute other vegetables.  I don't have broccoli rabe, but I have three tons of kale, so guess what?  I use kale!  It's a rare day that I go to the store and buy all the food I need for an exact recipe because more often than not, I've spontaneously decided to make something based on the ingredients in my fridge.  I consider it a win if I have even 50% of the recipe's original ingredient list.

Which brings me to chicken taco salad.  Chicken taco salad is my ultimate spontaneous meal.  I generally need lettuce and chicken (though I've used ground beef, making it just taco salad) but the rest of the ingredients are up for grabs.  We usually have canned corn and some type of canned or frozen beans.  Tomatoes?  Often.  Salsa?  Usually.

We tend to use salsa for the dressing but if we don't have any AND we don't have the ingredients to make it, I'll whip up a lime dressing using lime juice, flax or olive oil with chili powder, smoked paprika, salt and sugar.

What else can you put in your taco salad?  Avocado, carrots, tomatillos, a little cheese and/or a touch of sour cream.  If I give you an ingredient list, can you whip this up on your own?

I bet you can!

Chicken Taco Salad

Mix and match ingredients based on what you have available in your home and what you love!
  • Chicken breast, cooked and seasoned to taste (in summer I grill, but in winter you can poach, pan sear or bake)
  • Lettuce, washed and chopped
  • Tomatoes, chopped
  • Beans (black, pinto, or kidney) rinsed and heated
  • Corn, heated
  • Avocado, chopped
  • Cheese, shredded
  • Sour Cream
  • Carrot, chopped
  • Salsa
  • Tomatillos, chopped
  • Dressing (any type you love)
What else would you add to this taco salad?  Leave a comment!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Environmental Tricks for Weight Loss

What can you do to help yourself loose weight if you don't want to count calories?

Find out in under 2 minutes?

Give this podcast a listen and tell me what you think!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Coconut Chicken Soup

Have you caught the first cold of the season yet?  I know I have!  I caught mine while traveling to Michigan last month, and the dang thing keeps hanging on.  While I’m not sick sick, I’m sure I’ll have sniffles for the rest of the winter.

When I’m sick, there is one soup I crave above all others, though really, I make this soup almost every week in the winter because it’s so tasty: Coconut Chicken Soup.  This is the meal I bring to my friends after they give birth or if they're suffering from a cold.  This is the soup that I make on a chilly fall night or when I’ve had a bad day or when I’m feeling pressed for time.  My family eats this soup a lot!

The best part about Coconut Chicken Soup is that while my base remains essentially the same, the ingredients vary with what the CSA delivered or what’s left in my fridge.  If the directions seem vague, I apologize, but really--it’s soup!  Throw in what sounds tasty to you.

Now, why is this soup so great when you have a cold?

I add a little chili pepper and I swear it helps burn the snot right out of me (admittedly, ewww).  The well-cooked chicken and rice are easy to digest, and the bit of lemon adds antioxidants.  Carrots and greens add vitamins and minerals, and the coconut milk is a great source of medium-chain fatty acids that your body can absorb directly without its lymphatic system or bile salts. That means it's an easy meal to digest when you're not feeling tip-top.

My favorite garnish for this soup is salty ume plum vinegar, made from umeboshi plums.  In Japan umeboshi plums are a folk remedy for colds and are thought to combat fatigue.  

 Basically, coconut chicken soup is easy on the tummy, packed full of nutrients, and delicious to boot!

Coconut Chicken Soup

½ medium onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, put through a garlic press
¼ teaspoon of red pepper chili flakes (adjust to personal taste)
1 quart chicken broth (homemade, canned, or bouillon)
2 medium carrots, diced
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (or use skinless thighs or skinless bone-in chicken breast)
½ cup white rice, any type
1 bunch greens, roughly chopped (I recommend kale or chard)
1 T lemon juice
1 can coconut milk
Ume Plum Vinegar
Spicy Sesame Oil

  1. Sautee onion 5-10 minutes, or until soft.  Add garlic and chili flakes and cook another 30 seconds until garlic is fragrant, but not burned.  Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  2. Add carrots and chicken breast, reduce heat and simmer covered 10-15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.  Remove chicken and let cool on a plate.  Shred or chop.
  3. Add rice and cook 15-20 minutes.  In the last few minutes of cooking, add leafy greens, chicken, lemon juice and coconut milk.
  4. Garnish with ume plum vinegar, spicy sesame oil and cilantro.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mini Blackberry Muffins (Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free)

Gluten-free dairy-free mini blackberry muffins
Can you believe it's October?  I know I can't.  Everything has been just a little bit crazy here in FoodWise land and the poor little blog has suffered for it.  My love and I went on vacation for a week, then to two weddings in two weeks.  And then my office flooded.  And then off to Michigan for a family visit.  Somehow it went from August to October, and I didn't notice.  Yeesh!

It's raining here in Seattle and I miss summer.  I miss the warmth and the sun and the fruit.  Usually I love fall (my name is Autumn, after all) but the summer was so cool in the Pacific Northwest that I'm not ready for the bone-chilling damp of fall, winter and spring.

But like it or not, it is fall, and that means it's time for muffins!

I'm going to admit a little secret: I baked these muffins at least a month ago with blackberries fresh from the bushes.  We take Duncan the dastardly dachshund to Magnuson Park several times a week to play with the other puppies, and once you leave the dog portion of the park, its 350 acres are covered in blackberries!

Muffin Reason #2

I know it's no longer blackberry season but I guarantee these muffins will be lovely with frozen berries of any sort.  I had great fun creating these muffins and I know you'll love eating them!

What resources did I use, you ask?  I started with Ratio by Michael Ruhlman and looked at his Basic Quick Bread/Muffin Batter recipe.  The theory behind Ratio is that these recipes work, no matter what, because they contain the correct ratio of fat to to liquid to flour.  Now, GF baking is its own special beast, so I used Gluten-Free Girl's flour mix ratio: 70% whole grain, 30% starch.

Easy peasy.  Get to it!

Mini Blackberry Muffins (Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free)

3 oz sorghum flour
3 oz brown rice flour
1 oz tapioca flour
1 oz potato starch
4 oz sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon xanthum gum
8 oz almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)
4 oz eggs (2 large eggs)
4 oz grapeseed oil (or any neutral oil)
1 1/2 cups of blackberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine flours, sugar, salt and baking powder.
  1. Whisk together eggs, milk and oil and combine with dry ingredients.  Gently mix in blackberries.
  2. Fill prepared mini-muffin tins to top and bake 14 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  3. Cool and serve with tea or coffee.

    Sunday, August 7, 2011

    Sneaky Veggies

    Do your children eat vegetables?

    I don't have kids, but I know a lot of 'em and they all eat some veggies.  A 4-year-old I know loves baby tomatoes, carrots, snap peas, and bell peppers.  Another little boy of the same age is obsessed with salad.  These kids developed a taste for veggies by sitting at the table with their parents and grandparents and eating the same food that adults eat.  Sometimes it took awhile to try a particular vegetable, and sometimes they didn't like it when they tried it, but these kids eat veggies!

    So when did it become normal to start sneaking pureed veggies into our kids' food?

    A new study done at Penn State (discussed here in the NY Times) fed kids "veggie-enhanced" foods and then asked them to rate the taste.  Turns out most of them found the food palatable and increased their daily vegetable intake as a result of the hidden ingredients.  Does this mean ambitious moms should make pureed sweet potatoes a regular part of their kids' mac n' cheese?

    Do you remember when Deceptively Delicious (by Jessica Seinfeld) came out a few years ago, followed by a rush on food processors and blenders?  Since Ms. Seinfeld's chef debut, there have been numerous other books and cooking shows dedicated to deceiving your kids in exchange for the perceived heath benefits of two tablespoons of zucchini.

    But here's the thing: when you sneak vegetables into your kids' food, you're teaching them that others are responsible for their food choices, and that lesson has real consequences.  There won't always be a dedicated parent around to blanch and puree hated greens, and in your absence, what guidelines will they have to go on?

    Instead, teach your children to enjoy spinach (or any other vegetable) in its own right, then separately help them learn to enjoy a moderate portion of brownie as a treat.  These are both key elements of learning to eat wisely, and that's a skill that will serve them well the rest of their lives.

    An estimated 20% of American children are overweight or obese. We absolutely must teach our children to enjoy fruit, veggies, and whole grains, and to take part in their own health and well-being--only then will we start to decrease our soaring rates of adult obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

    Don't hobble your children by lying to them about their food.  Instead, help them learn how to apply good judgment when they eat, whether it's edamame and jicama or brownies and hot dogs.

    Sunday, July 31, 2011

    Gout on the Rise in the US!

    Did you know that gout, a type of arthritis, effects 4% of the US population?  A disease once thought of as the disease of kings plagues an estimated 12.5 million Americans.  True, some cases of gout are genetic but it has been associated with opulence for centuries for a reason: lifestyle plays a huge factor!

    Gout is characterized by the painful build-up of uric acid in the joints due to either trouble eliminating uric acid (90%) or by making too much uric acid (10% of cases).  Uric acid is the break-down product of alcohol, especially beer, red meat and refined sugars so the easiest way to prevent a gout attack is to cut down on those offending foods.  You may even loose weight in the process!

    NPR recently did a study on the rising rate of gout in the United States.  Click here to listen.

    I hope you find it as fascinating as I did!

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    2011 Meat Eater's Guide from the Environmental Working Group

    2011 Meat Eater's Guide from the Environmental Working Group

    Do you eat meat and dairy?  Do you eat it occasionally, or for every meal?  Where does your meat come from?

    The 2011 Meat Eater's Guide from the Environmental Working Group examines the impact of meat and dairy production on the environment and provides guidelines on what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.  There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint and everyone seems to have a different opinion; the Environmental Working Group's is just one perspective.  A quick internet search reveals organizations criticizing the EWG... and organizations criticizing those organizations!  The dairy council, beef council and tobacco industry are not pleased with the EWG's opinion, and many call it flat out wrong.

    So, assuming you choose to accept the Environmental Working Group's findings, do you need to become a vegetarian?  In my opinion, no.  You can eat less, and in this country of plenty it turns out we need to eat less of just about everything. Why not eat less of those foods that appear to damage the environment and our health?

    The bottom line seems to be this: eat meat and dairy, but perhaps eat a little less, and choose grass-fed and organic over CAFO-raised animals.  (CAFO: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or industrial factory farms)

    Here are the highlights for those of you who want them:
    • Over one year, if everyone in the US ate no meat or dairy 1 day a week, it would be equivalent to taking 7.6 million cars off the road.
    • Production of lamb, beef and cheese generates the most greenhouse gases.  In fact, beef production creates 13 times the emissions of vegetarian protein sources, such as lentils and beans.
    • Cheese, pound for pound, created the third highest greenhouse emissions, so reducing meat consumption isn't enough.
    • Humans are exposed to toxins, hormones and antibiotics through meat and dairy consumption, which are associated with cancer and antibiotic resistant infections.
    • High red meat consumption is associated with cancer and heart disease.

    What can you do with this info?  Here are three additional suggestions:
    • Use dairy as a garnish rather than a main dish and switch from cow's milk to rice, almond or soy milk for your morning breakfast and latte.
    • Eat meat for one meal a day instead of all three.  Eat no more than four ounces at a sitting, and make up the difference in calories with legumes, veggies and nuts.
    • Purchase grass-fed meat and dairy.
    If you have the opportunity to play around on the 2011 Meat Eater's Guide website, they've created some amazing graphics to illustrate exactly how greenhouse emissions are created and what you can do to improve your carbon footprint.  Check it out, come back here, and let me know what you're going to do with the information--if anything!

    Friday, July 15, 2011

    Healthy Breakfast using the MyPlate Model

    Scrambled Eggs on Corn Tortillas with Avocado and Peppers

    Over a month ago, a request came in from a loyal reader to do a post on what a healthy breakfast looks like.  With little fanfare and a slightly red face, I finally bring you the MyPlate breakfast!  My only excuse is that life has been busy at FoodWise Nutrition and next month (barring natural disaster or spontaneous vacations), I hope to unveil super secret project X!

    Scrambled Eggs on Corn Tortillas with Avocado and Peppers (MyPlate View!)
    Enough about me, on to breakfast.

    The basic principle of creating a healthy breakfast is to pair a fruit and/or veggie with a protein and carbohydrate.  Choose foods you love that you know you can put together in the time you have.  Breakfasts on weekends may look very different than breakfasts during the week, and that's OK.

    Bob's Red Mill GF Cereal with Strawberries and Walnuts

    So, why should you eat breakfast?

    Our metabolisms don't get going until we put food in our bodies.  It's the equivalent of filling up an empty gas tank: the car isn't going to move until it has something to burn!  We can all function (sort of) without breakfast, but until you actually eat, your metabolism is going to stay depressed and burn fewer calories.  That's especially bad news for weight maintenance.

    Egg and Avocado on Udi's Whole Grain Bread with Apples

    Why should you eat protein with breakfast?

    We use protein to build our bodies, and protein (along with fat) keeps us full longer.  Have you ever noticed how quickly you get hungry if you just have a fruit smoothie for breakfast?  Eating protein also allows us to eat fewer carbohydrates.  We use carbs for energy (and you need to eat them, despite what Atkins disciples say), but eating too many carbs leads to sluggishness and weight gain.  Do you feel better if you have a breakfast of eggs and toast with fruit, or waffles with strawberries and whipped cream?

    Poached Egg with Chard and Steamed Potaotes

    Finally, how do you include veggies with your breakfast?

    Despite popular belief, breakfast doesn't have to be made up of special breakfast foods.  You can eat your leftover dinner for breakfast.  Really!  If that doesn't sound appealing quite yet, try sauteed greens or a veggie scramble.  If I have leftover chard or kale, I often throw a poached egg on top.  Or if you're making scrambled eggs, just throw in some diced zucchini and peppers.

    Poached Egg with Chard and Steamed Potaotes

    You'll notice these photos are egg-heavy because I ate all the food after taking pictures, and I eat a lot of eggs!  So, what didn't I take pictures of?  Well...
    • Peanut butter on whole grain toast with fresh berries
    • Eggs scrambled with mushrooms and peppers with melon
    • Cream cheese and lox with tomatoes
    • Yogurt with granola and nuts
    • Cereal with milk, nuts and berries

    Bob's Red Mill GF Cereal with Strawberries and Walnuts

    It's important to note that like any other meal, breakfast requires a touch of your mental energy and a bit of preparation time.  I can prepare a poached egg with toast and fruit in about 5 minutes and that's my standard, quick breakfast.  Another trick is to prepare a big batch of breakfast food, say hot cereal, and then reheat it in the microwave.

    What are you favorite breakfasts?  How do you incorporate vegetables into your first meal?
    What's your breakfast challenge?

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Grilled Ratatouille

    Summer in the Pacific Northwest has been elusive, but the sun is out NOW so we’d best break out the grill while we can!

    Since my previous post oh-so-long ago on the new MyPlate model, I've been working on getting half my plate full of veggies.  I know that the federal government's picture shows part fruit and part veggies on one half of the plate, but I don't think fruit belongs at every meal. To shore up the difference, I fill up the entire side with delectable vegetables instead!

    Grilled Ratatouille (with Carne Asada from Trader Joe's)
    You may notice that this particular plate doesn't have a grain or starch.  I chose to have wine with my meal and used that as my carbohydrate.  It's important to remember that booze has 7 calories per gram (protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram) and tons of sugar.  In the context of a healthy diet it's reasonable to eat a whole grain with your meal, but remember to drink a reasonable portion when consuming liquor as well. 

    How does alcohol fit into your meal plan? 

    In the Beginning...

    We've been doing a lot of our shopping at Trader Joe's for the price and variety.  I love seasonal, fresh produce, but a girl can only eat kale and cabbage for so many months without going a little bonkers! We'll start going back to the farmer's markets again now that the selection is improving, but we're going to continue to do some of our shopping at Trader Joe's because fresh produce can be expensive!  Just because you can't afford the organic everything doesn't mean you shouldn't eat enough fruits and veggies.  Wash your produce well and enjoy the bonanza of colors and textures vegetables have to offer, wherever you buy them!

    Where do you like to buy your produce?

    Grilled Ratatouille

    Grilled Ratatouille

    1 large eggplant
    3 medium zucchini
    1 large fennel bulb
    ½ pound cherry tomatoes
    Olive Oil
    Salt and pepper
    3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
    1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
    1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
    1 clove garlic, crushed

    1. Cut eggplant into ¾-inch thick rounds and zucchini into ½-inch thick rounds.  Chop the bottom off the fennel bulb and cut vertically into ¼-inch thick slices.  Thread tomatoes onto a wooden or metal skewer.
    2. Lightly coat all veggies with olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. 
    3. Grill over medium heat, turning vegetables once during cooking.  Grill eggplant 8 to 10 minutes, zucchini 8 to 10 minutes, fennel 7 to 9 minutes and tomatoes 3 minutes.
    4. To make the sauce combine balsamic vinegar, basil, thyme and garlic.
    5. Remove veggies from grill, cool slightly, and cut into bite-size pieces.  Toss with sauce and serve warm.

    Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated July & August 2011

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    MyPlate and Tortilla Casserole

    Is this a healthy meal?
     Take a look at the picture above and really think about the questions I'm going to ask.  Does this look like a healthy meal to you?  Does any of it look unhealthy?  Why or why not?

    With the release of the new MyPlate to replace MyPyramid, many Americans are now examining their plate to see if it stacks up.

    Do you think MyPlate makes it easier to tell if you're eating a healthy meal?  I do!  No, this government model isn't perfect, but it's a giant leap in the right direction.  In my practice I use the healthy plate model with almost every patient, and it's remarkably similar to the government's new guidelines.  Typically, I ask my patients to fill half their plate with vegetables, a quarter with protein and a quarter with carbs.  If fruit makes it onto the plate, that's fantastic, but not required.

    The first thing I dislike about this plate is that dairy is off to the side in a glass, implying that you should have a glass of milk with every meal.  I realize there was no way the dairy lobby was going to allow new guidelines without including milk, but it seems silly to imply every American should drink it when many adults are lactose intolerant. The enzyme that digests dairy (lactase) typically declines with age, even in people of European descent!

    The second idea that I dislike about this new model is that your plate has to look like this:

    Please, if you ever eat like this, come see me immediately!  Is that pasty blob where protein is supposed to be chicken or fish?  And why would you eat a plain piece of bread with your dinner?

    You should love what you're eating.  Period.  What MyPlate does well is show that we need to eat a lot more veggies and a little less protein.  Pizza can still fit on a healthy plate, but I hope you're adding a healthy dose of salad.

    One night last week I was going to make tacos for dinner, but that meal plan wasn't thrilling me.  In the last couple of months I've been bored with my standard meals and so I've been scouring cookbooks in search of new and fabulous recipes.  I've made fancy items like pineapple chicken, skillet chicken pot pie and Thai steak salad.  It's been fun.  So, instead of preparing a meal I didn't want to eat, I looked through my cookbooks and found a recipe for tortilla casserole.  At first blush, it doesn't seem appropriate for a dietitian to make a meal with tortilla chips, but seeing as I had salt-free chips and it was chock full of beans and tomatoes, it was a healthy meal!  Based on the ingredients I had on hand I made several changes from the original recipe, and so I give you... tortilla casserole with chard and sliced melon.

    Tortilla Casserole, gluten-free
    Chicken Tortilla Casserole

    1 T safflower oil
    1/2 onion, chopped
    2 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
    2 tsp adobo spice blend
    1 cup chicken broth
    1 can (15.5 oz) kidney beans, rinsed
    1 can (14.5 oz) fire-roasted tomatoes
    1 cup shredded chicken
    2-3 cups tortilla chips (unsalted if desired)
    1 cup grated cheddar cheese
    1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
    2. Poach the chicken: Boil enough water to cover the chicken in a shallow pan.  Poach the chicken for approximately 10 minutes or until cooked through.  Remove and let cool on a plate and then shred with your fingers or two forks.
    3. Saute onion in the safflower oil until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add garlic and adobo spice blend and cook for 30 seconds.  Add chicken broth, kidney beans, tomatoes and chicken.
    4. In an 8x8" baking pan, spread a layer of tortilla chips, then half the chicken-bean mixture and then 1/3 of the cheese.  Add another layer of chips, the rest of the chicken-bean mixture and 1/3 of the cheese.  Top with a final layer of tortilla chips and the remainder of the cheese.  
    5. Bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese is golden-brown.
    Adapted from The Best 30-Minute Recipe


    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    What have you learned?

    As the movement project draws to a close, what have you learned about yourself?  Were you able to move everyday?  Most days?  What ideas worked for you?

    Here are my take home messages:

    What's good for the goose is NOT necessarily good for the gander.  Exercise routines that work for one person do not necessarily work for you.  That's OK.  I hope throughout this month of movement, you found exercises that you both enjoy and actually do!

    An excuse is an excuse is an excuse. There are lots of reasons not to move, but you do not get to use them to rationalize your lack of exercise.  Either you do it or you don't.  Don't feel guilty and abuse yourself for NOT moving, just make a different choice next time!  It's that simple.

    Just do it!  Don't you feel fabulous after all this movement?  Have you gotten into a routine that you love?  The best part about doing all the work figuring out movement activities you enjoy is that you've set yourself up for success.  Now you can just do it!

    Bravo to all The Movement Project participants!

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Kettlebell

    If you’ve read my posts from a few weeks ago, you know that I keep mentioning kettlebells.  There’s a reason for that, of course: I love the things. 

    I’m writing this post because I want to mention an alternative to the standard gym grind.  I keep meeting folks who have never seen a kettlebell, much less used one, and I’ve gotten too much good out of mine not to praise it.

    But before I wax rhapsodic about the virtues of kettlebell training, I should lay out some basic info:
    1. A kettlebell is essentially a cannonball with a handle.  They come in a wide range of weights: 18 lbs. is the starting weight for an average woman and 35 lbs. is for an average man.  Because of its shape, a kettlebell’s center of mass moves relative to your hand as you swing it, and this makes it very different from using a barbell.
    2. Kettlebells are not new, despite the latest Jillian Michaels fad.  They got their start during the 18th century in Russia, where the kettlebell is called a girya.  They were so influential that the Russian word for “strongman” is girevik: “Kettlebeller”.
    3.  Kettlebell training is not really a beginner’s exercise.  It involves coordination, ballistic swinging motions, and overhead elevation of significant weight.  While not necessarily dangerous, it is certainly riskier than the Stairmaster™.
    I started swinging ‘bells because I was never a great fan of weightlifting.  I gain muscle slowly, and the grind of the gym was terribly unappealing, although I tried it for years on and off.  Three years ago I recognized my deteriorating physical condition and decided to buy a kettlebell.  It seemed interesting if nothing else.
    When I finally got it and tried it, I was floored at the intensity of the work and the coordination it required.  My heart pounded after just a minute of swings.  My legs shook after two minutes.  This relatively light ball of iron forced me to attend to a whole host of physical relationships that I had ignored for years.  I had to coordinate everything just to swing it back and forth!  It felt athletic in a way barbells never had.

    I started out using it twice a week, then bumped it up to three.  I started walking straighter as my hamstrings and adductors (inner-thigh muscles) became strong enough to balance out my quadriceps.  My grip strength improved vastly—I was quite unkind to a smug missionary who made the mistake of offering me his hand, a fact of which I am not proud.  Sort of.

    I lost fat.  Turns out that swinging 35 lbs. forward and backward burns a lot of calories per minute—far more than more traditional cardiovascular exercise like jogging.  The more advanced kettlebell swing, called the snatch, is so intense that it’s used as a gauge of overall fitness by the U.S. Secret Service: 200 snatches in 10 minutes with a 53 lb. kettlebell gets you high marks.

    Most strangely, my general athletic ability improved.  I have never been a strong swimmer, but last summer my wife and I took an impromptu swim across Green Lake here in Seattle, which is about ¼ mile of open water.  That is (conservatively) three times as far as I have ever swum in my life.  In the kettlebell community, this sort of global improvement is often referred to as the “What the hell?” effect.  Enthusiasts blame it on the whole-body nature of the movements involved in all exercises using a ‘bell.

    I should tell you that my affair with the girya has not been without its challenges.  I have congenital shoulder problems that have required me to modify some of the exercises to prevent tendon pinching.  Excessive kettlebell training has sometimes required a trip or two to the chiropractor—after all, weight must be transmitted through the spine.  That said, my experience has been overwhelmingly positive.

    Enough about how awesome they are.  If you’re interested in learning to swing ‘bells, you have a lot of resources.  If you play well with others, Crossfit centers are usually very serious about their kettlebell work and teach it correctly.  If you prefer to fly solo, YouTube is a great source for “how-to” technique videos once you have a girya of your own.  Pavel Tsatsouline has made a career out of kettlebells, and has a number of books and videos of varying quality available through his “Russian Kettlebell Challenge” company.  Beware: his marketing approach can be rather… enthusiastic.

    And while kettlebells are popular enough that sports stores often carry them, I can’t recommend any that I’ve seen.  Most of those ‘bells are made with a handle that is too wide; it works great for two-handed swings, but it just gets in the way with most other exercises.  I’ve bought five from and I’ve been happy with them all; websites selling very similar ‘bells abound.

    Have you had an experience with kettlebells? Have you never tried them?  Is this the first you’ve ever heard of them?  Let us know by leaving a comment!