Thursday, July 31, 2014

Berry Greek Yogurt Bark

I’ve been painfully sensitive since the day I was born.

This article, which I stumbled upon earlier this week titled 16 Habits of Highly Sensitive People fits me to a tee. My sensitivity to noise (I wear earplugs when I write, which is a lot), my preference to exercise solo, my attention to detail, my tendency to cry easier than most, my aversion to open-office plans...all true.

It’s one of the things I love and don’t love the most about me.

I think that’s why developing recipes for this blog and having my articles published initially terrified me (refer to #15). But, as we round out year #3 of the Nourish RDs blog, as I’ve cooked more, and experimented more with what works and what doesn’t, I’ve started to find that just sometimes, things work out better than you could have ever imagined.

That was the case with this recipe, which I whipped up yesterday morning.

I hope you like it! And if you don’t – well, that’s okay, too.

Berry Greek Yogurt Bark

2 cups plain Greek yogurt
The zest of 1 lemon
3 teaspoons honey
1 cup frozen raspberries
½ cup shelled pistachios
¼ cup slivered almonds

1.      Line a small baking pan with aluminum foil.
2.      In a medium bowl, combine the first 3 ingredients. Stir until well incorporated.
3.      Add the berries, pistachios, and slivered almonds to the mixture. Fold in until well incorporated.
4.      Spread the mixture in the baking pan and place in the freezer for about 2-3 hours, or until hardened.
5.      Once hardened, remove the bark from the pan and either cut or break up into pieces.
6.      Allow to thaw for about 5 minutes before eating.

*Store remaining bark in the freezer.

** You can experiment with any ingredients you have on hand. These are some of my runner-ups:
  • frozen cherries and dark chocolate chunks
  • frozen blueberries and unsweetened flaked coconut
  • dried cranberries and pecans

Enjoy, preferably with those you love!

Although we do work with the National Raspberry Council, we were not compensated for this post.  
All our opinions are our own.  We really do just love berries (and this bark)!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Raspberry Chia Fruit Spread

We’ve done it. We’ve completely jumped on the chia seed bandwagon. Lisa admitted to being a little bit resistant at first, but along came the Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Seed Pudding, and boom! She was on-board the bandwagon, too.

I first fell in love with chia because of its healthy dose of omega 3s and fiber – which admittedly, are two things that make registered dietitians completely geek-out with excitement. But, more recently, I’m fallen in love with chia because of its versatility. I love these little seeds in my homemade breakfast bars for a little added crunch, in my oatmeal and yogurt for their satiating power, and in my dessert and breakfast puddings for extra thickness.

But, at the end of the day, there are always going to be people that aren’t ready or willing to jump on the bandwagon yet (or at all). And that’s completely okay with us. Everyone has different preferences and palates and that’s what makes this food world such a fun, interesting place. (Personally, I’ve always had an aversion to cooked zucchini and summer squash – so slimy!).

That’s where this recipe for Raspberry Chia Fruit Spread was inspired. The chia seeds are blended with the raspberries and coconut milk so you can’t even tell they’re in there. But, the best part? The chia seeds are still supplying your body with all the wonderful anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s.

As someone who never seems to get tired of a good ol' peanut butter and jelly sandwich, this fruit spread is such a nice alternative to jam or jelly – it’s naturally higher in fiber and omega-3s and contains much less added sugar. This fruit spread is also a really yummy addition to plain yogurt and is a great substitution for maple syrup on whole grain pancakes or waffles.

Raspberry Chia Fruit Spread

3 tablespoons chia seeds
¾ cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 ½ cups frozen raspberries, thawed
1 teaspoon honey

1. First, make a chia pudding by combining the chia seeds with the coconut milk in a small bowl and allowing to sit in the refrigerator for approximately 4-5 hours. Stir occasionally so the chia seeds are well incorporated in the coconut milk.

2. Once thickened, combine the chia pudding with the raspberries and honey in a blender.

3. Blend until smooth.

* Store in your refrigerator in an airtight container.

Enjoy, preferably with those you love!               

Although we do work with the National Raspberry Council, we were not compensated for this post.  
All our opinions are our own.  We really do just love berries (and chia)!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Cherry Harvest

Being raised on opposite ends of the continent, both Lisa and I were lucky enough to be exposed to home grown food early in life. For me, it was mornings in my grandma’s garden – one that stretched across the whole backyard. I grew up knowing the taste of a warm, sweet carrot pulled directly from the soil and the taste of peas picked straight off the vine. I’m heading home to see Grandma in a couple weeks and I can hardly wait to sit next to her on the porch and peel peas for dinner.

A few weeks ago, I had a taste of my childhood when I visited Chelan, a picturesque town in Northern Washington that’s not only a popular vacation destination, it’s also home to one of the largest cherry production sites in the world. 

During my days at Chelan, life slowed down to happy pace, I met and mingled with some of the kindest people, and ate sweet fruit to my heart’s content.

sushi rolling class with Chef Joseph Nagy at Maki Sushi using Chelan Fresh apples, cherries, and pears

the prettiest blueberry plants at Blueberry Hills
blueberry picking (after the yummiest breakfast) at Blueberry Hills

As a dietitian, I could go on and on about the about the health benefits of cherries, specifically their powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The cherry's ability to reduce oxidative stress can play a role in protection against cognitive decline, reducing inflammation in individuals with arthritis, and enhancing muscle recovery after exercise. And let's not forget about their fiber content; 3 grams per serving! 

But today, I’m also going to talk about the amazing process of harvesting these sweet little gems.

During the course of one season at Lake Chelan, over 20,000 tons of cherries are harvested. Herald Schell, Field Staff Manager of Chelan Fruit, a group which consists of approximately 300 grower members emphasized that farming is not for the faint of heart. And a lot more goes into this process than I had ever imagined. 

Herald Schell, Field Staff Manager of Chelan Fruit with a young apple tree

When a cherry is ripening, for example, rain water has the potential to seep into the cherry and split it from the top. To prevent this from happening, helicopter pilots fly low around the orchards in the morning to dry the cherries and remove the water -- all doing so without damaging them. You can see how the helicopters work their magic here. After the cherries are picked in the morning, they are then sent to the warehouse where they are photographed 36 times to detect color, size, and defects. 

Each cherry is individually sorted into a cup and 1,796 cups are viewed and evaluated each minute. I still have a tough time wrapping my head around this process. 

This ultimately means that each time we bite into a cherry, we are guaranteed the very best quality.  You can see more on the “Making of the Perfect Cherry” is this video from Chelan Fresh Marketing here.

So how do we support our farmers, those hard working individuals that work behind the scenes to nourish us with some of the best and most nutritious food on the planet? “We just need more Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables,” said Schell. That's the goal. I couldn't agree any more.

in the cherry fields, sampling some of those sweet, delicious fruits!

Are You an RD or health care professional? You can sign up for the Chelan Fresh RD Toolkit here to receive recipes and resources for apples, pears and cherries for use with your clients and for outreach activities.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Healthy Snacking: How to Choose a Snack Bar

It's so secret we are big fans of snacking.  Having snacks between meals can be an important part of healthy eating habits.  Snacks can be an opportunity to add more nutrition to your day—think fruit, plain yogurt, nut and nut butters, or vegetables and hummus.  Balanced snacks can stave off hunger pains and prevent you from overeating later in the day.  

Most of the time, it’s best to snack on real, whole foods like those listed above—something with a combination of good quality carbohydrates (think fiber), protein and good fat.  But sometimes, you need a quick, easy and convenient snack to tide you over when you don’t have access to a kitchen or refrigerator.  And that’s where snack bars come in.   

 So, what should you look for in a snack bar?

  • 225 calories or less per bar.  Any more than this, and the bar actually becomes a meal.  If you have weight loss goals, you may want to choose a snack bar that has around 150 calories.  
  • Bars made from whole food ingredients, like nuts, dried fruit and whole grains.  Bars with ingredients you don’t understand or can’t pronounce should be a last resort. 
  • The first ingredient should not be a form of sugar—sugar, honey, dextrose, sucrose, agave, maple syrup, etc.  Even better, the first three ingredients should not be a form of sugar. 
  • Ideally, the bar should not have any added sugar.  The sweetness should just come from dried fruit.  However, these bars are not always easy to find. 
  • At least 5 grams of protein. 
  • At least 3 grams of fiber.  Ideally, the fiber should come from whole food sources, not fiber additives (like inulin). 
  • No hydrogenated oils (trans fats). 
Be sure to read labels and not be deceived by marketing.  Even within the same brand, different flavors can have varying ingredients and nutrition information.  Many snack bars are actually just candy bars in disguise.  However, they can be a part of a healthy diet, when eaten as a snack or treat, not as a meal replacement.   

Monday, July 21, 2014

{Recipe ReDux} Mango, Yogurt & Almond Medley

This weekend in Los Angeles, we had a nice little break from the intensely hot weather we’ve been experiencing lately. The past couple of mornings were slightly overcast, the air had a cool breeze, and we even received a few drops of unexpected rain.

The weather is scheduled to heat up again this week which has me brainstorming of simple, no-cook nutrient-rich recipes I can whip up in a cinch.

For me, this often equates to fruit and yogurt parfaits. When it comes to yogurt, Lisa and I like to opt for reduced-fat, unsweetened varieties. I usually stir vanilla extract, cinnamon, and a little bit of honey into my plain yogurt, but the addition of almond extract to yogurt – as shown in the recipe below – kicks up the flavor to a whole new level. I highly recommend you try it especially if you’re hoping to make the transition from flavored, sweetened yogurt to plain. 

Mango, Yogurt & Almond Medley

Serves 4

1 pound bag of frozen mango chunks, thawed
The juice & zest of 1 lemon
1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons honey
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup toasted almond slivers

1.      In a small bowl, combine yogurt with lemon juice & zest, honey, and almond extract. Stir until well combined.
2.      In a medium bowl, combine thawed mango chunks and yogurt mixture.
3.      Serve desired portion into a small bowl and top with 2 tablespoons almond slivers.

Enjoy, preferably with those you love!

Friday, July 18, 2014

French Lentil Salad with Cherry Tomatoes & A Plant-Powered Giveaway!

A few nights ago, my friend and colleague Sharon Palmer celebrated the release of her second book, Plant-Powered for Life at Real Food Daily in Pasadena. 

Sharon and I, selling her two books, The Plant-Powered Diet & Plant-Powered for Life, as well as her (super cute!) organic "I AM Plant-Powered" tees
I worked with Sharon to organize the event and we were so happy to see such a positive turnout.

I absolutely love that plant-based eating is really starting to make waves.

Lisa and I are both “plant-powered omnivores,” as Sharon calls it. While we both eat animal products, plants usually have the starring role on our plates at each meal. And I think that’s really what it boils down to. Americans tend to revolve our menu planning around animal protein first – fish, pork, chicken, or beef. But, all it takes to become a plant-powered eater is a subtle change in mindset. Think of plant foods first.

For example, this time of year, there’s nothing better than sweet summertime corn. Maybe you’ll cook up some cobs of corn, mix the kernels with in-season avocado, heirloom tomatoes, and red wine vinegar. You can serve the mixture over black beans and quinoa, and serve with a ounce or two of salmon. You see? The plants take the starring role, and the salmon is the meal’s accessory.

Below is a plant-powered recipe Sharon offered to share with us. And don’t forget to scroll down to the very bottom of today’s blog for your chance to win a copy of Plant-Powered for Life!

French Lentil Salad with Cherry Tomatoes

  • Active preparation time: 15 minutes
  • Total preparation time: 30 minutes (not including chilling time)

Beans aren’t the only member of the legume family worth celebrating. Lentils, packed with fiber and protein, are just as nutritious. Plus they cook up—no soaking required—in only 15 to 20 minutes. A French ami shared her mother’s traditional recipe for lentil salad with me years ago. This simple salad, seasoned with a French vinaigrette, is a classic dish in France. It makes a wonderful, protein-rich highlight of any meal. Because the flavors continue to meld, it’s also great the next day.

Makes 6 servings (about 1 cup each)
1 pound (454 g) dried lentils (or 3 cups cooked; see Note)
4 cups (948 ml) water
2 teaspoons reduced sodium vegetable broth base
4 celery stalks, diced (160 g or about 1½ cups)
1½ cups (224 g) cherry tomatoes, halved
2 medium shallots, finely diced
¼ cup (15 g) packed chopped fresh parsley
1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence (see page 000)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 medium garlic clove, minced
Pinch of sea salt, optional

  1. Place the lentils, water, and broth base in a pot. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender but firm.
  2. Remove from the heat, drain any remaining liquid, and transfer the lentils to a large bowl. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Stir in the celery, tomatoes, shallots, and parsley.
  4. In a small dish, make the dressing by whisking together the olive oil, mustard, vinegar, herbes de Provence, black pepper, and garlic.
  5. Add the dressing to the lentil mixture and toss. Taste and season with sea salt, if desired. Chill until serving time.

Note: If you’re in a rush, use precooked, refrigerated lentils, available at many stores. Although a classic French lentil salad uses lentils du puys (small, dark green lentils), try other varieties for a colorful twist, such as yellow, beluga (black), or multicolored lentils.

Variation: Substitute cooked beans, such as white, fava, or cranberry beans, for the lentils.

Per Serving: 136 calories, 8 g protein, 19 g carbohydrate, 4 g fat, .5 g saturated fat, 4 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 55 mg sodium

Star Nutrients: vitamin A (13% DV), thiamine (10% DV), vitamin B6 (11% DV), folate: (40% DV), vitamin C (19% DV), vitamin K (67% DV), copper (13% DV), iron (16% DV) magnesium (10% DV), manganese (24% DV), phosphorus (16% DV), potassium (14% DV)

From Plant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps and 125 Delicious Recipes Copyright © 2014 Sharon Palmer

Enter to win your own copy of Plant-Powered for Life, Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps and 125 Delicious Recipes (The Experiment, 2014)

Plant-Powered for Life is a cookbook-slash-handbook to help anybody make plant-powered eating a habit and enjoy lasting, vibrant health—the fun way! In Plant-Powered for Life, Sharon presents a straightforward, delicious way to meet the challenge. She urges readers to set a personal goal and take one step closer to it every week. Each chapter—from “Aim for at least 6 servings of veggies” to “Give sprouted grains a try”—includes a call to action, a clear, concise explanation, and two to three globally inspired recipes, which cover every meal, course, and season. With this guide, anyone can forge new habits, cook great food, and enjoy a healthy plant-powered life—one tasty step at a time.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™ is a writer and author of The Plant-Powered Diet. Over 850 of her articles have been published in national publications, including Prevention, Better Homes and Gardens and Today’s Dietitian. She is also the editor of the award-winning publication Environmental Nutrition and writes for her blog, The Plant-Powered Blog. Her specific expertise is in plant-based nutrition, including Mediterranean, vegetarian and vegan diets. Her second book, Plant-Powered For Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps and 125 Delicious Recipes is now in stores!

Disclaimer: While I am Sharon’s Media Relations Manager, I was not compensated for this post. I truly love this book and have already made several of the recipes. And I love being a plant-powered omnivore, too!