Friday, April 18, 2014

A Yoga Confession & A Recipe for Fruit Leather

I was beyond excited to write a blog for friend and fellow Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, writer, and blogger, Caroline Kaufman.  Since she moved to Los Angeles this past winter, Caroline and I have been busy crossing things off of our Southern California bucket list. So far, we’ve made our way through the Rose Bowl Flea Market (wear comfortable shoes!), strolled through the Venice canals (I can't believe I haven’t done that before), and enjoyed some delicious meals at Lemonade and True Food Kitchen. Next up, we’re enjoying a cocktail on a rooftop. We’re using this list as our guide.

But, back to Caroline's blog. Here, I offer some thoughts about fitness, reveal my "big" yoga confession, and also share a recipe for my super easy (two ingredients, easy!) recipe for Homemade Fruit Leather.

Hope you enjoy! And stay tuned for a blog featuring Caroline, too!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Raspberry Coconut Smoothie

Aren’t there some foods that instantly transport you to a happy place? The smell of homemade cinnamon rolls, for example, transports me straight to my grandma’s house where I’m surrounded by family (and often in my yoga pants and free of make-up). The taste of spicy black beans reminds me of my 5-week adventure in Central America a few years ago with some of my very best friends. And, raspberries and coconut? Doesn’t that just shout “warm weather, sunshine, and beach.” Those are all very happy things. 

We think that warm weather and the fun that comes with it calls for a celebration.

Today, we’re sharing our recipe for a Raspberry Coconut Smoothie. We hope it makes you happy.

1 cup frozen raspberries
½ cup coconut milk
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
½ cup ice

Combine raspberries, milk, and coconut in a blender. Blend until smooth and add ice as needed. 

Enjoy, preferably with someone you love (and with a little tiny umbrella in your drink).

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Dietitian Is In: Live & Active Cultures

When we meet someone for the first time and share what we do, it often seems to open the gateway to a game of 20 questions. “What do you think about the Paleo diet?” “It’s a good thing to give up gluten, right?” “Is a banana bad for me?” “So, do you always eat healthy?” When we’re asked these kinds of questions, we’re happy to answer them. We feel grateful that people feel comfortable enough to ask. Here's a recent question we were asked...and here's the answer!

Question: What does the “live and active cultures” seal mean?

Answer: The “Live & Active Cultures” seal is restricted to yogurt products, according to the California Dairy Research Foundation. Developed by the National Yogurt Association, the seal is intended to help consumers distinguish between products containing live cultures of bacteria and those that have been heat treated, subsequently killing all bacterial strains. The seal is available to any refrigerated yogurt or frozen yogurt manufacturer and requires products to contain a standard amount of lactic acid bacteria per gram at the time of manufacture. While helpful to consumers, the seal is limited in that it does not differentiate from added probiotics—those beneficial bacteria that populate our intestinal tract and have been linked to specific benefits, such as improved digestion and immunity—and the starter culture bacteria (Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles) used in the fermentation process for producing yogurt. As for other products containing probiotics (that may not carry the seal), such as granola bars, cereal, and chewing gum, additional research is required by the consumer to investigate whether the products contain adequate quantities of probiotics, whether they are alive at the time of manufacture, and whether research has determined that the probiotics listed in the product are beneficial.

Greek yogurt (with Live & Active cultures) topped with blueberries

This Q & A was written by McKenzie for the December 2013 issue of Environmental Nutrition.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Whole Wheat Pizza with Caramelized Onion, Roasted Fennel and Tomatoes & Goat Feta

Last week, a young friend of mine came over to hang out for pizza night and a movie. (Cloudy with a Side of Meatballs, if you’re wondering).  She loves to cook and is always thrilled to learn something new.  Last time she came over, we made butter.  Her Dad said she kept talking about that for days.

This time, we made pizza, including the dough.  She was thrilled when kneading the dough suddenly made sense, and it started to “look like pizza dough!” as she put it.  You can find our recipe for whole wheat pizza dough here

When it came time to bake the pizzas, I set out a variety of toppings—caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes, roasted fennel, spinach, fresh basil, basil pesto, kalamata olives and two different kinds of cheeses—so she could make her own.      

She was a little wary of the onions at first, until she tried them.  “Those are delicious!” she said.  It’s a good strategy if your kids don’t really like vegetables—cook them until they become sweet and caramelized.  This means cooking onions for a very long time over low heat, until their sugars develop.  Or with other vegetables, roast them in a hot oven until they become brown and delicious.  Kids (and adults!) will eat them like candy.

You can’t beat pizza and a movie (or pizza and games) for spending time with kids.  It’s an easy way to get them in the kitchen with you, and is sure to make dinner time a fun experience for everyone.

What are your favorite ways to get kids in the kitchen with you?  We’d love to hear your ideas! 

Here’s a basic recipe for caramelizing onions.  You don’t actually need a lot of fat in the pan, just low heat and a long time, stirring occasionally.  If you need a little help cutting the onions, McKenzie wrote a great tutorial here.

Caramelized Onions

2 onions, thinly sliced
1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes

Place a cast iron skillet (or heavy bottomed skillet) over medium-low heat.  Add the olive oil to the pan and let it get hot.  Add the onions, salt and red pepper flakes.  Cook stirring occasionally, for about an hour, or until the onions are very soft and very brown and taste sweet.  If the pan starts to get too dry, you can add a little water, chicken stock or wine.  The onions will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 4 days.    

You can also add any other herbs you like.  Thyme is delicious.

Basic Recipe for Roasting Vegetables

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Cut all vegetables to the same size.  Toss with olive oil, salt and any spices, if you like.  Spices like smoked paprika and cumin are delicious.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place seasoned and oiled vegetables on the baking sheet in a single layer.  Don’t let them overlap or they will steam and not brown. 

Roast for between 20 and 30 minutes, depending upon the type and size of the vegetables.  Your nose will tell you when they are done, as they will start to smell sweet.  Take them out of the oven when they are caramelized to your liking. 

Something like broccoli might only take 20 minutes, while sweet potatoes may take 30 or more.

If you are roasting tomatoes, don’t put any other kind of vegetable on the baking sheet, as the juice from the tomatoes will prevent the other vegetables from browning.

Roasted vegetables will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 4 days.  They are great for snacking, salads and side dishes!

Basic Recipe for Cooking the Pizza

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven to preheat for at least 30 minutes.

If you are making the dough from scratch, divide the dough into three equal pieces.  Each of these dough balls will make one large pizza or two to three individual pizzas.

Stretch the dough to the desired thinness and size.  Place the dough on a pizza peel that has been generously dusted with flour or cornmeal (so you can slide the pizza from the peel to the pizza stone).

Top your pizza with desired toppings.  For this pizza, I topped it with caramelized onions, roasted fennel, roasted tomatoes, some spinach ribbons and goat feta cheese.  Try not to add too many wet toppings, as this can make for a soggy pizza.

Slide the pizza from the pizza peel to your pizza stone.  If you don’t have a pizza stone, just place the pizza on a baking sheet and put in the oven.

Bake the pizza for about 10 – 12 minutes, or until the crust is browned and the toppings are bubbling.

Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes.

Enjoy, preferably with people you love!  And a movie is great, too.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How To Cut An Onion

“It’s hard to imagine civilization without onions.” ~Julia Child

Julia is so right. Onions can make their way into any meal of the day –whether it’s a breakfast omelet, an afternoon salad, or a dinner stew.

And while we can sometimes take this kitchen standby for granted, the health benefits of onions are worth noting. Onions are abundant in sulfur-containing compounds, such as quercetin and allyl sulfides, which have been linked to lowering the risk of some cancers and maintaining a healthy heart. And those sulfuric compounds are also the reason we cry when we’re cutting an onion. To cut down on the crying, chill the onion. Also begin cutting at the top, leaving the root end uncut as long as possible as it contains the highest concentrations of sulfur compounds.
Photo courtesy of Alice Henneman on Flickr
And cutting an onion takes some practice. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide for how to cut an onion:
1.      Cut off the top/stem of the onion. Peel off the outer layers of skin.
2.      To dice, cut the whole peeled onion in half, from root end to stem end.
3.      Lay each half cut side down on a cutting board. Make multiple, evenly spaced cuts from root end to stem end of onion, being careful not to cut through the root end. Adjust the space between each cut to obtain the desired dice size.
4.      Hold the onion together and make horizontal cuts parallel to the cutting surface. Again, be sure to leave the root end in-tact.
5.      Make multiple cuts across the onion, adjusting the number of slices for desired dice size. Dispose of the hard root end.
6.      Add onion pieces to recipes!

You can view this entire step-by-step guide from the National Onion Association here.

Or watch Cynthia Lair of Cookus Interruptus show how to cut an onion in this instructional video here.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Healthy Travel Tips: How to Pack Your Snack Bag

We get this question all the time:  I’m traveling for vacation/work by car/plane/train/bus and I don’t know how to make good food choices while I’m traveling.  Do you have any tips?

It’s a great question!  Eating well on the road (or in the air) can be very challenging.  I travel quite a bit, both for work and for pleasure, and the key is to plan ahead. 

Whether I’m travelling by car or by plane, I always take enough food with me to get me to my destination.  Food in airports and on the road tends to be not-so-nourishing and expensive!  When I’m traveling, I pack foods that provide a combination of protein, good fat and good carbohydrates, but won’t spoil or weigh me down.  I try and sneak in lots of vegetables, which satisfies the urge to snack, without a lot of extra calories.  Here’s what’s in my snack bag:

  • Sturdy salads, like pasta salad, potato salad (without mayonnaise), grain salads or kale salad are great, because they won’t wilt and they just get better as they sit.  Load them up with vegetables to add crunch and a nutritional punch.  Top the salad with an olive-oil based vinaigrette.  My favorite travel combination is whole wheat penne with sliced grape tomatoes or oven-dried tomatoes, olives, steamed kale, fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh herbs, or brown rice (or farro) with roasted vegetables and shredded chicken with lemon and olive oil.  If you’re not going to eat the salad within two hours, you should pack it in an insulated container or lunch bag, to keep it cold (at or below 40 degrees).  I love these lunch bags, because they keep food cold for six hours.

  • Nuts and nut butters are always in my bag.  Individual pouches of peanut butter or almond butter (like Justin’s Nut Butters) are perfect for spreading on bananas, apples or whole grain crackers.  Because they are individually sealed, they won’t spill, and you can take them through airport security.  You also can’t go wrong with an old fashioned PB&J, on whole grain bread.  
  • On long trips, I also pack non-perishable cheeses, like aged manchego or gruyere, for when I get tired of nut butter.  They do need to stay cold, or the oils will start to release.    
  • Single-serving fruit, like apples, pears or bananas, as well as cut vegetables sticks, like carrots, celery and bell peppers are perfect for travel.  Fruits and vegetables can satisfy that need to snack when you’re bored of the long flight or drive.  If you have a cooler, you can pack a container of hummus for dipping.  Just don’t try to take a large container of hummus through airport security—it won’t fly.
  • Homemade granola is another staple.  It’s great for snacking on its own.  And if you’re on a plane, you can always ask for milk and turn it into a breakfast cereal.  If you’re travelling with a cooler or insulated bag, pack individual servings of plain Greek yogurt, and you have a perfectly satisfying breakfast or snack.

  • Instead of high-sugar protein or snack bars, make fruit- and nut-filled whole grain muffins, like these or these.  Spread with nut butter, these make a great breakfast or snack.

  • Dark chocolate, for when I’m craving something sweet. 
  • Water, water, water.  When you’re travelling, it’s important to stay hydrated, so keep filling up that water bottle.       

What do you pack in your travel snack bag? We’d love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Recap of #ExpoWest

A few weeks ago I attended the world’s largest organic, natural, and healthy foods event, The Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California. It was so fun to start the day off by listening to a live performance from Michael Franti on my way to the expo hall.  I’m such a fan and it started the day off on such a happy note. Gourmet food trucks and vendors surrounded the stage, leaving me with the decision of where to begin! I grabbed a healthy breakfast which gave me just the boost of energy I needed before entering the expo hall.

Inside the convention center was a maze of booths featuring a variety of products – food, beauty products, pet supplies, and even household items. To be completely honest, it was a little bit of sensory overload! I was most excited to sample some of the delicious, nutritious foods available and meet the masterminds behind all these products, so naturally, I grabbed the first bag I could find and hit the foodie aisles. It was soon after I entered the expo hall that I realized my “little goodie bag” wasn't so little. It almost hit my knees. I hope you can visualize this accurately. So funny.

First stop, Yogi Tea! The table was decorated with colorful tea leaves and the representatives were dressed as yogis which made this booth a must-see. Plus, the samples were just what I needed. I’ve been a huge fan of Yogi tea since I took my first sip of Egyptian Licorice Mint about seven years ago. While that flavor is still my absolute favorite, you’ll find a variety of several kinds of Yogi tea in my pantry at all times.  My favorite flavor at the expo was the Cinnamon Vanilla. Tea definitely has a calming effect, even in the middle of this busy crowd. And equally as wonderful of as their flavors of tea, are the messages on their tea tags. You can see what I mean if you take a peek at the Yogi Tea Instagram Account

Next, CLIF Bar & Company! Lisa and I have openly spoken of our admiration for the LUNA and CLIF teams and their line of products. I absolutely love what the company stands for and they’re one of my go-to products when I need something to hold me over until meal time. The CLIF MOJO Coconut Almond Peanut Bars or Kit’s Organic Lemon Vanilla + Chia Seeds are on my current list of personal favorites.

La Croix is a sparkling water brand that is manufactured right here in the USA.  Their display was simple and refreshing – much like the product! The beverages come in a variety of flavors such as peach pear, coconut, and lime. Grapefruit is my favorite. There are no artificial colors, flavors or additives used in this carbonated water which makes it the perfect substitute for soda.

The SoDelicious Booth!

“Say yes to what you love.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. There is most definitely room for the foods you love in a healthy, well-rounded diet. 

Fresh berries always have a way of capturing my attention. They were the perfect topping for these yogurt cups and the perfect pairing for granola!

After a long day of taste-testing, it was finally time to have a sit-down dinner. That large bag I grabbed at the beginning of the event quickly filled up and my shoulder was ready for a rest! The OrganicCenter hosted their 11th Annual VIP Dinner at the Natural Products Expo and I was so lucky to be able to attend. The tables were decorated with a beautiful flower arrangement and a fresh salad was placed at our seats. A buffet-style dinner included grouper, steak, roasted root vegetables, roasted potatoes, and jasmine rice. Everything was presented impeccably and was most importantly, delicious! During dinner, Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs at The Organic Center spoke of the significant accomplishments the center has made in the past year as well as the exciting research they are currently conducting.

After dinner, it was time to go home, although I admittedly got lost in the parking lot and considered walking across the street to Disneyland to go play with Mickey and the rest of the Disney crew.