Tuesday, October 25, 2011

You Can Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too

Last week, I spent some time at College of the Canyons working with SNAC - the Student Nutrition & Wellness Advocates at COC - for their Healthy Student BODY Fitness Walk. This amazing group of students, led by Registered Dietitian, Sheri Barke, organized this fitness walk on campus with six stations set up along the way to deliver their unique messages about body image and real beauty. 

I felt so fortunate to be part of this day with them because promoting healthy body image is something which resonates deeply with me. 

I realize as a society, we spend countless moments thinking about our appearance and criticizing our imperfections when we could be using those moments doing so much more. I want the people I care about to spend their time pursuing what makes them happy rather than chasing after an unattainable image or someone else’s ideal. Our brain cells, time, energy and passion deserve to focus on living a healthy, active, fulfilling life. Our time is meant to be spent with people we love, eating good food, eating real food, traveling, laughing, hiking, sweating, dancing, swimming, surfing, picture taking, reading, writing, cooking, baking, singing, snowboarding, skiing, painting, organizing, gardening, being happy, and doing so much more–than obsessing about food or perfection. And my theory is once you learn to appreciate your body and everything it allows you to do, you’re much more likely to take care of it. 

As a dietitian, I think eating well isn’t about perfection. Some days, you’re going to eat too much. Some days, you’re going to eat too little. And some days, you’re going to have a piece of cake simply because the occasion calls for it. And, that’s OK. There’s room for every type of food in a balanced diet. If you don’t eat the most nutritious one day, try not to stress about it. Go to bed and wake up in the morning with a fresh perspective. View the new day as an opportunity to take care of yourself. 

 As for the body perfection part - I know I’m just one person when I say this, but when someone is comfortable in his or her own skin – they radiate and I love it. 

 So, you really can have your piece of cake and eat it too. And enjoy it! Because tomorrow morning you can treat yourself to a nutritious breakfast. 



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Friendships for Health

It’s true what they say. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

With Lisa on the East coast of the country over the next few weeks and McKenzie holding down the fort on the West coast – we have to admit it: we miss each other. And we’ve only been apart for about a week. It’s hard to believe after spending as much time together as we do, not to mention the additional amount of time we talk on the phone, text, Tweet, Facebook, and blog together as much as we do – we still aren’t sick of one another. As a matter of fact, we really like each other. From a health perspective, this has its benefits! Studies have actually shown that developing lasting friendships and having a happy workplace are good for your psychological well being, your ability to manage stress AND your life span. We came across this article last week which praises best friends on their ability to decrease levels of the stress hormone, cortisol during unpleasant times.

You can read the whole article here.

This made us dig a little deeper. A 2009 article outlining some of the extensive research on the benefits of friendships showed having friends was linked to improved brain health, increased longevity and fewer incidences of the common cold. One of the most interesting points in the article? Thirty-four students from the University of Virginia were fitted with weighted backpacks and taken to the base of a steep hill. The participants that stood with friends at the bottom reported the hill being less steep than those that were asked to stand at the base alone. Well, Mount Everest – bring.it.on.

In case you were wondering, you can read the entire article here.

Until we're reunited again, we'll keep the stories and blogs coming as we tackle both ends of the country!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Eating for Real

Sometimes you have to splurge a little. 

That’s what we were thinking when we tried to score one of the elusive reservations at The Willows Inn on Lummi Island The chef in the dining room, Blaine Wetzel, has been making waves in the culinary world for his innovative farm-to-table creations, even recently participating with other illustrious chefs in Le Grand Fooding in New York City in September.  The 24-year old superstar has put Lummi Island on the map, with the New York Times naming the Inn one of the ten restaurants in the United States worth a plane ride.  And, he’s cute.

We reasoned, if other food lovers are willing to fly across the country to dine at The Willows Inn, the least we could do was take a 10 minute ferry ride.  It’s our culinary duty.

Easier said than done.  To get a reservation, you have to call at 8:30 a.m. exactly two weeks to the day before you want to have dinner.  We struck out several weeks in a row before finally being placed on a waiting list.  The day before our anticipated dinner, we got the call.  We’re in.

First, the setting is spectacular.  The ferry ride across Lummi Bay from Bellingham sets you on a winding tree-lined road that, at this time of year, has turned golden and is littered with fallen leaves.  The Inn, perched on the water, boasts spectacular views at dusk, the broad expanse of sky turning golden-pink behind the dusty gray, shadowed horizon outline.

We arrive half-an-hour before dinner to take advantage of the social hour—a chance to enjoy the front living room, have a cocktail, meet other guests and tour the inn.  At the allotted hour, the hosts gently usher all of the awaiting guests to our tables.  One by one, we settle in to relish the next three hours. 

The staff immediately makes us feel special, pouring Prosecco into our glasses as we take our seats in the dimly lit dining room.  Through the glass-paned door separating the dining room from the kitchen, we see the chefs busily plating the first courses, looking efficient yet completely at ease.  The whole place feels serene.

The menu lists only five course, but we were served eight—yes eight—small bites even before the first course arrived.  We won’t go into detail on each and every one, we’ll just post the pictures here.  The presentation speaks for itself. 

We will say, one of the highlights was this basket of baby greens and vegetables—still attached to their leafy stems—served with a sprinkling of hazelnut and beer dirt and a creamy, tangy dip colored a verdant green from fresh herbs.

It’s fun to eat with your hands.

Another highlight (no surprise to our readers) was the bread basket.  Made from only four ingredients—Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill whole wheat flour, sugar, water and yeast—the bread was moist with a delicate crumb, crusty and delicious.  We ate our fair share, and then packaged up the rest for our morning toast. 

That seems to be part of Chef Wetzel’s brilliance, serving real food—fresh from the garden, farm or sea—in such a way as to remind you of the perfect simplicity of nature’s pure flavor.  Every dish was created so as to highlight the range of textures and flavors of the food’s perfect form—either raw, lightly pickled or smoked, or barely roasted or cooked.       

As the planned courses started to arrive—along with several more complementary small bites between each course—we almost clapped our hands in delight at the beauty of each plate.  While we didn’t always love the temperature or texture of everything served, we overwhelmingly appreciated the chefs’ commitment to the ingredients and the integrity of the preparations.  Each and every plate arrived with one of the chef’s passionately telling the story of either the source of ingredients or inspiration for the dish. 

For both of us, the whole night underscored our path in life—eat real food with those you love, and you’ll be happy.  And healthy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

NourishRDs -- The New Nutrition Contributor to Parent Network!

We’re excited at NourishRDs! 

We are the newly-appointed nutrition expert contributors for the Parent Network, an online parent source for knowledge, news, inspiration, entertainment and project BABY! International Film Festival.    Home for both women and men, Parent Network provides a forum for sharing information and expertise about parenting, families, bonding, and family life milestones.

NourishRDs will be sharing information with parents on a variety of topics—providing them with information to help make good food and nutrition choices for themselves and their children.  We’ll be covering topics on how to make time for the family dinner, choosing healthy foods on a budget, making your own baby food, tips for picky eaters, recipe ideas, and much, much more!  Read the first installment of our nutrition series, A Healthy Body Image – for You AND Your Child.

Here’s to a healthy, body lovin’ future! 
L & M

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

More Comfort Food

We’re a little ashamed to admit this, but we want to be honest with our readers (and, let’s face it—we’re only human, and sometimes-irrational women) -- this week has been filled with quite a few tears followed by uncontrollable spurts of laughter.

Waking up on Sunday morning, we plopped ourselves on the sofa in our PJ’s with our morning cups of coffee in hand, turning on something that makes everything right in the world again.  CMT’s country music videos.  Don’t judge us.  And we also cuddled with the cats.  Thank you, estrogen.

So, with that out of the way, let’s talk about food, shall we?  

Comfort food has continued to play an essential role in our menu this week.  With our emotions running high and the weather taking a sudden turn from sunny and glorious to rainy and overcast, we’ve been in need of some meals to nourish the soul.  With Lisa being a southern girl from Kentucky and McKenzie being a northern girl from Canada, our ideas of comfort food are different, to say the very least. 

When McKenzie’s feeling homesick for Alberta, she craves steamed carrots from her Grandma’s garden, paired with good old-fashioned meat and potatoes.  When Lisa envisions a meal at Granny’s house in Kentucky, it’s a big bowl of pinto beans with a hearty serving of warm cornbread.  McKenzie’s first taste of cornbread wasn’t until about four years ago when she sampled it at Big Sky CafĂ© in San Luis Obispo (and Lisa doesn’t even consider it cornbread – cornbread shouldn’t be sweet!), and her first taste of biscuits and gravy wasn’t until about three months ago at Emmer & Rye in Seattle.  Shocking, right? 

For McKenzie’s fellow Canadians, probably not.  For Lisa’s fellow Southerners, it’s appalling.  So, for a special comforting Sunday brunch, Lisa cooked up her own version of biscuits and gravy.  While it may not sound like the kind of meal dietitians would normally recommend, it was just want our bodies needed – and our portions were reasonable too.  For extra nourishment, the biscuits were made with whole grain flour and flaxseeds.  See, we really are dietitians.

Whole Wheat Biscuits

Makes 6 large biscuits

1 cup whole wheat bread flour
1 cup white bread flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup kefir or buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, flax seed and salt.  Pulse a few times to blend.  Add the putter and pulse until the butter is in pea-sized pieces.

Pour the flour mixture into a mixing bowl and add the kefir or buttermilk.  Gently stir with a wooden spoon, just until moistened.  The dough will be loose.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 3 – 5 times, just until the dough comes together.  If you knead the dough too much, the biscuits will be tough.

Press the dough out into a disc, about 1 inch thick.  Cut the biscuits to your desired size (we use the rim of a drinking class to do this).  Place the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet.  Brush the tops with melted butter, if desired. 

Bake the biscuits until golden brown, 15 – 18 minutes.  Serve warm, with sausage gravy.

As if that comfort meal wasn’t enough, we’ve been giving Martha Stewart a run for her money in the baking department.  Nothing is quite as comforting as a house that smells of freshly baked cookies or a warm pie out of the oven.  We love baking at home because we know exactly what we’re putting into the recipe, and subsequently, our bodies.

These are our favorite cookies.

Chocolate Cherry Walnut Oatmeal Cookies

Make 12 large cookies or 24 small cookies

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon sea salt
10 tablespoon (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
½ (packed) dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or the seeds from 1 vanilla bean)
1 cup old fashioned oats
½ cup dark chocolate chips
½ cup chopped dried cherries
¼ cup chopped walnuts (or other nuts of your choice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. In a large separate bowl, beat butter and both sugars until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture and oats and stir until blended. Stir in chocolate chips, cherries, and walnuts.

Drop batter by rounded tablespoons onto the baking sheets.  Bake cookies until edges are light brown, about 16 minutes. Cool on the cooking sheet for about 5 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool completely.

Another great thing about baking at home is you can portion out an appropriate serving and freeze the rest or give the extras away.  What neighbor or friend doesn’t appreciate homemade goodies? 

Lastly, we’re firm believers in allowing yourself to have a treat now and then. If you banish all indulgences from your diet completely, you’ll be more likely to binge on them when you finally give yourself the go-ahead.

Our social calendar continues to stay busy this week, including fish tacos and chicken tortilla soup later tonight.  Hopefully, we can maintain our composure long enough to share more of our healthy tips and stories with you.