Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Big Traveling Potluck

McKenzie and I don’t get to spend much time together in person anymore. 

That first summer over three years ago when Nourish RDs was born, McKenzie had a permanent bedroom at our home, complete with a duvet of pale yellow—her favorite color.  Over hours perched cross-legged on the sofa with laptops and coffee and long walks around Bellingham Bay, we laughed hysterically and shed equally as many tears as we planned and dreamed, bravely (but not fearlessly) creating the business and life we wanted.

When we wrote that first blog post, we knew we wanted the Nourish blog to be an extension of our business, a virtual place where people could come for encouragement and inspiration, a place supporting our heartfelt wish for everyone to stop making food so complicated already and to just eat real food and share it with those you love.  We’d share the truth (as we see it) about nutrition, and how to love yourself from the inside out—and stop being so hard on yourself.  We’d share recipes that make it less intimidating to eat well, with an emphatic assertion that food that’s good for you should taste good. 

And no, you don’t have to give up bread.

Have we succeeded?  We keep working on it.

This past weekend, I flew to California to meet McKenzie and we arrived together at The Big Traveling Potluck, a weekend of community and inspiration and sharing meals with like-minded food lovers—other food bloggers.  We wanted to see if we were doing this whole blog thing right.  And maybe make a few friends in the process.

The Big Traveling Potluck |
scenic view from Plateau Edge
Since we didn’t know anyone else at the event, that first night was a little overwhelming at the beginning.  However, we quickly found friendly faces among the crowd at Callaway Winery, and ended up having dinner with Dre and Renee from Earthbound Farm and chatting with Amelia from Eating Made Easy, who has a really great nutrition blog debunking nutrition myths.  You should read her blog, too.

The next day—unseasonably cold for an April day in the California dessert—found everyone seeking warmth in the sun at the scenic Plateau Edge.  Over a breakfast of chilaquiles, hot coffee and an amazing array of sweet offerings from Potluckers, we discovered Karen’s fascinating search for the truth behind her grandmother’s death, in the mountains of western North Carolina.  There’s more to food bloggers than just food.

The Big Traveling Potluck is not a structured, stiff conference.  It feels more like a casual weekend with friends who share a common passion.  But, there are speakers.  And the speakers were amazing and brave and moving.

Aron of Cannelle et Vanille spoke poignantly about the perils of striving for perfection—in blogging and writing and photography and life.  And how, perhaps giving up (at least some of) the pursuit for perfection and realizing the juxtaposition of beauty and imperfection frees us to see—and be or write—our truth.

Ashley of Not Without Salt persuaded us to date our blog, just like we would court a loved one.  To give it attention and kindness and heed our intuition when we sense our direction should shift, change, as our relationship—with our blog, with our readers—changes.  It's like anything else in lifewhatever we give our attention and energy to flourishes.

Cheryl of 5Second Rule gave both an insightful workshop and inspiring talk on the craft of writing, reminding us of the power of storytelling.  She explained when we take our readers on a journey of discovery, we all gain something in the process.  For it's really the stories that matterstories make blogging different from reading a cookbook, or even a magazine. Through our stories, our shared experiences, we grow together.

Hearing those three speakers talk about the struggle between privacy and authenticity, art and convention, striving forward or holding back reminded us of the power of the words and photographs we use to reach people, and to hold that sacred, both for ourselves and for our readers.

There were lighthearted workshops, too.  

Jordan and Jocelyn from This Girl Walks into a Bar showed us how to bottle cocktails, which we are so doing in a post coming soon.  Maggie from Eat Boutique graciously shared how to give love by personally packaging simple food gifts, like the citrus sea salt and lavender sugar we bottled.  And Deb and Rod from Smith Bites held a three-hour workshop on shooting (professional-looking) videos for our sites.  What could have been an awkward team experience with strong-minded entrepreneurs was warm and supportive and continued to build new friendships.  

The Big Traveling Potluck |
Jordan and Jocelyn from This Girl Walks Into a Bar
The Big Traveling Potluck |
citrus sea salt and lavender sugar, ideas from Maggie from Eat Boutique 
The Big Traveling Potluck |
Rose from Our Lady of Second Helpings, at our video demo
Did I mention we ate well?  Really well.

The Big Traveling Potluck |
ice cream break
The Big Traveling Potluck |
whole roasted cauliflower and flatbread at Saturday night's dinner
The Big Traveling Potluck |
brunch on Sunday
At the end of the weekend, we walked away with two things.  Okay three.  First, being a food blogger isn’t just writing about food.  It’s about creating an authentic conversation between us and our readers that is beneficial to both of us.  You know, like a relationship. 

We hope you feel that way.  We feel that way about you.

Second, food bloggers are really nice.  We met some really lovely people—people we were drawn to and hope we continue to get to know better. Our reading list grew, too.

Lastly and most importantly, McKenzie and I got to spend a weekend together, nourishing our friendship and remembering why we started this whole crazy game in the first place.

The Big Traveling Potluck |
best friends and business partners
A great big Thank You! to all of the sponsors who gifted us with so many goodies and helped make the weekend possible.  Gourmet Garden, Sabra, Earthbound Farm, KitchenAid USA, OXO, California Ripe Olives, Kerrygold and Fork in the Road.  These are all companies with outstanding products we love and use.  And we’re not being paid to say that.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Dietitian Is In: Aflatoxins

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: Are mycotoxins, such as aflatoxins, a real risk—and why?

Answer: Mycotoxins, toxins produced by certain fungi in and on food, do pose a threat to humans and animals. Aflatoxins—the most recognized and researched mycotoxins in the world—are detected occasionally in milk, cheese, almonds, figs, spices, and other sources, though peanuts, corn, and cottonseed are at highest risk for contamination. Aflatoxins are produced by the fungi Aspergillus flavus, which can occur in crops both before and after harvest due to high humidity and temperature. When ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin, aflatoxins can cause acute sickness, such as aflatoxicosis, a disease primarily of the liver, and even potential death. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has also placed aflatoxin on the list of human carcinogens. Most countries, including the U.S., have adopted regulations that limit the amount of aflatoxins in all food designated for human consumption to not exceed 20 micrograms per kilogram. For example, the USDA maintains a comprehensive program of proper processing and destruction of high aflatoxin content in raw peanuts. So there’s no need to avoid eating wholesome foods, like peanuts or corn, for fear of contamination in the U.S. Even so, it’s a good idea to store your grains and nuts in a dry, cool environment.

This Q & A was written by McKenzie for the January 2014 issue of Environmental Nutrition.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fiber, Beans and a Recipe for Roasted Vegetable Rice & Bean Salad

We know, we know.  We talk a lot about fiber.  

Why?  Because fiber is just so good for you!  Over and over again, studies show diets high in dietary fiber help you to maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease.  Research has even shown that increasing fiber intake improves our mood!

Roasted Vegetable Rice & Bean Salad, Recipe Below
Both children and adults need 25 – 35 grams of fiber a day, depending upon age and gender.  However, most people get much less fiber than that!  You can increase the fiber in your diet by following a Mediterranean-style diet, one rich in whole grains, beans and legumes, and fruits and vegetables.

Beans happen to be a particularly great source of fiber, with about 15 grams of fiber per half-cup serving!  Recently, I've had a lot of people asking me how to cook with beans.  Here are a few thoughts.  

Canned beans and cooked dried beans are equally good, although I think home-cooked beans taste better.  It depends on how much time you have.  Canned beans are a great convenience food.  Just rinse them before using in your favorite recipe.  Aside from the taste, cooking dried beans can save you money.  Soaking beans before cooking helps the beans cook faster.   If you have time, soak them, either with an overnight soak or using the quick soak method.  If you don’t have time, skip the soaking, and cook the beans longer.  Fresher beans need less soaking time than beans that have been on the shelf for a while.

Overnight Soak
Rinse the beans and place them in a large bowl with enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Let the beans soak for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain and then re-cover with water to cook.

Quick Soak
Rinse the beans and place them in a large pot with enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 1 hour.  Drain and then re-cover with water to cook.

Place the drained, soaked beans in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 to 2 hours.  Wait until beans are tender before you add salt or acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes, vinegar or molasses, as these will make the beans tough.

Here are some ideas of how to eat more beans at breakfast, lunch dinner and for snacks:

At breakfast...

-      Breakfast burrito with whole wheat tortilla, scrambled eggs, beans, leftover veggies (any kind) and salsa.  You could also leave out the egg and still have a good source of protein.
-      Breakfast bowl with stewed beans (homemade would be best here), topped with a poached or fried egg, salsa and a sprinkle of cheese. 

At lunch and dinner...

-       Bean soups.  There are so many to try!  Look at and for some great bean soup recipes.  Some of my favorite combinations are kale, chicken sausage and white bean; black beans and stewed tomatoes; and tomato, swiss chard and chickpea soup. Or McKenzie's Game Day Chili.
-       Bean and grain salads.  Combine beans and whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, barley) with roasted vegetables and drizzle with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
-       Bean and corn salad.  Combine beans with fresh or frozen corn, halved cherry tomatoes, diced avocado, diced feta and toss with lemon or lime juice and extra virgin olive oil.
-       Bean wraps.  Make a wrap with a whole grain tortilla filled with a bean spread, spinach, shredded carrots and avocado.
-       Bean tacos.  Corn tortillas filled with the beans of your choice and topped with salsa, cheese or other taco toppings.  Serve with cabbage salad.
-       Bean burritos.  Stuff a whole wheat burrito with beans, brown rice, and vegetables.  Roll, top with cheese and put in 350 degree oven until the cheese melts.
-       Bean enchiladas.  
-       Bean bowls.  Fill a bowl with braised beans (either homemade or canned), a whole grain (like brown rice), braised greens (like kale), and top with an egg and either pesto or a romesco sauce.  Good for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

For snacks...

-       Make your own high fiber bean dip using whatever canned beans you have on hand—chickpeas, black beans, white beans, etc.  Then dip with veggies, whole grain crackers or pita chips.
-       Crispy oven-roasted chickpeas.  Rinse canned chickpeas and dry well.  Toss with olive oil and desired spices.  Place on a baking sheet and roast in 400 degree oven until browned and crispy, about 30 minutes.

Roasted Vegetable Rice & Bean Salad

Makes about 10 – 12 servings

4 cups cooked brown and wild rice blend
2 cans cannelini beans (or any beans you like), rinsed and drained
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, roasted*
1 large summer squash, sliced ¼” thick, roasted*
2 large zucchini, sliced ¼” thick, roasted*
1 red onion, sliced and roasted*
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 – 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Seas salt, to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Toss and let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving, to allow flavors to blend.

*To roast tomatoes and vegetables:  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Toss vegetables in extra virgin olive oil (about 1 – 2 tablespoons) and sea salt.  Place in single layer on baking sheet.  Roast for about 20 – 25 minutes or until browned and caramelized.  Let cool.  Do not roast tomatoes and vegetables in the same pan, as the juice from the tomatoes will prevent the vegetables from browning.

Monday, April 21, 2014

{Recipe Redux} Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

Everyone has an activity that calms them, centers their mind and takes away the stress of the day.  Some escape through the pages of books, some garden, some sweat it out.  I cook.

Okay, I sweat it out, and then I cook.

Cooking is my meditation.  I can spend hours in the kitchen chopping, stirring and tasting while praying, planning, reflecting, and letting my mind wander around the present and to the past.  Either through a recipe or an ingredient—or a cast iron skillet—cooking has a way of connecting me to family and friends who may be separated by miles or by spirit.  

This month’s Recipe Redux challenge was to share a recipe inspired by treasured family cookware.  Looking around my kitchen, I’m blessed to be surrounded by the energy of the other women in my family who shared their love through food—the wooden spoon my Mamaw used to churn butter, the petite etched green juice glasses from my Granny Dixon, my Mom’s first Cuisinart stand mixer, my Granny’s gravy boat.  But, the piece I use almost every day—from frying an egg to caramelizing onions—is my cast iron skillet.

When I graduated from college and had a house of my own, my Granny gave me my Mamaw’s (her mother’s) cast iron skillet.  There are a lot of family meals secreted in that pan—brown gravy, cornbread, fried eggs, bacon, country ham—made in a Kentucky farmhouse kitchen.  My Mom and my Granny tell me I’m a lot like Mamaw.  She used to sit on the front porch swing and read cookbooks, and she loved to cook for people.  I like that connection.

In the spirit of Kentucky cooking and the history of my cast iron skillet, here’s my recipe for Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits.  Smother them with gravy, sandwich a piece of country ham between the halves or slather them with homemade rhubarb-strawberry jam (like I did).  They taste like home.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Add the flour, baking powder and salt to a large mixing bowl and whisk until combined.  Add the butter and rub into the flour, either with a pastry cutter or your fingers, until the butter is combined into the flour and you have pea-sized pieces.

Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the buttermilk.  Stir together with a wooden spoon until combined.  Pour the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times.  Form into a circle about an inch thick. 

Using a three-inch biscuit cutter (or a juice glass), form the biscuits and place in your cast iron skillet (or on a baking sheet).  Brush the tops with butter and bake for about 15 – 20 minutes or until the biscuits or browned and cooked through.

Enjoy, preferably with someone you love.

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 the 5-week adventure I took in Central America a few years ago with some of my very best friends. And, raspberries and coconut? Well, that just shouts “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.