2014: A Year in the Kitchen

7 Jan

As JWD and I scribbled down our 2014 goals last week, one goal really stuck out for me: cook more and cook better. Goal writing is not a long-standing tradition for us (2013 was the first), but it proved itself worthy of a repeat. Before we talk cooking, let’s talk goals.

Thinking, writing, and talking about goals can be a powerful catapult to actually achieving them. The more time you spend with your goals, the more REAL and POSSIBLE they become. We like to write ours down, talk about them together, and then post them on the fridge for all to see. This keeps them front and center in our lives, constantly reminding us of what we value. This is key because goals are easy to forget in the daily bustle of life. Out of sight, out of mind. You must make an effort to keep them integrated into everyday life.

Now, back to cooking! Yes, I already cook quite a bit. It’s probably safe to say I cook much more than the average person. However, what many would categorize as “cooking” I do not. When I wrote “cook more” on my goal list, I meant actually cook. Chop things, knead things, sauté things, braise things, follow recipes, and most of all, enjoy and connect with the food while I cook. “Cooking” in 2013 was on auto-pilot… the same things on the menu every week and a lot of non-cooking type of cooking (ex: a bag of frozen veggies + tofu = stir-fry). So what’s the big deal about cooking? Why is it goal-worthy?

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The heart and soul of cooking is about connecting with other humans, sharing, expressing love, nourishing our bodies, unleashing creativity, and taking it upon ourselves to fulfill one of our most basic needs. Cooking is now optional in our society. I am even guilty of fueling this notion. When I sit down with clients for our initial assessment I ask “Do you cook?” as if it is elective.

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However, eating is not optional. At about the same time Americans excused themselves from the kitchen, obesity and chronic disease rates started to rise. We’ve passed off the important responsibility of food preparation to the food industry and they’ve proven themselves untrustworthy for the most part. It’s time to reclaim this duty. And by doing so we will also reclaim our health, our families, and a deeper appreciation of what we are capable of. Magical things happen when you use your five senses and raw ingredients to create something tasty and nourishing for yourself and people you love.

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Cooking every day is not always realistic in our fast-paced jam-packed lives, but doing it whenever you can find the time will be therapeutic. Start small. Here is how I plan to reach my goal:

  1. Read more about cooking (I’m starting with Michael Pollan’s Cooked).
  2. Continue planning weekly meals and include new (and intimidating) recipes.
  3. Cook for others (watch for your invite in the mail (: ).
  4. Encourage others to cook more by sharing my kitchen adventures and teaching people what I learn about conscious cooking (keep your eyes on the blog!).

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Think about your goals. Then write about them, talk about them, and display them for all to see. Map out a plan to make them happen.

And also think about getting your hands dirty in the kitchen once or twice this week.

Thanks for reading :)

Go Nuts! A Handful of Nuts a Day May Help You Live Longer

21 Nov

Good news this week for nut fans! A new study found a strong link between regular nut consumption and lower risk of death. Over three decades participants who ate a 1-ounce serving of nuts every day had a 20% lower all-cause mortality risk compared to those who did not nosh on this healthy snack. In addition to decreased death rates, nut eaters were 25% less likely to die from heart disease, 10% less likely to die from cancer, and 20% less likely to die from diabetes or lung disease.

We have long known that nuts are chock-full of healthy unsaturated fats, fiber and protein. In fact, in 2003 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended eating 1.5 ounces of nuts per day for their heart-protective benefits. Nuts have also been linked to weight control.

My favorite part of this new finding is that the health benefits apply to ALL nuts. Study participants consumed an array of nuts including cashews, almonds, walnuts, and more. So no matter what your nut of choice is, you can reap the benefits. Many clients will ask “Which is healthier, walnuts or pecans?”, or my least favorite “Is it true that almonds are lower in carbs than other nuts?” No need to split hairs- the most important thing is to choose nuts you enjoy so you will actually eat them! Also, it’s best to avoid nuts and nut mixes drenched in sugar and/or sodium.

Serving size is a little different for each variety, but one serving is roughly  ¼ cup. Nuts are definitely nutrient dense, but they are also calorie-dense, meaning it is easy to over-do it. Try pre-portioning them into snack bags for perfect portable snacks.

Here’s some inspiration to put this nutty news into action now…

In Larabar form (digging this seasonal flavor right now- HIGHLY recommend!)

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Walnuts on my cereal

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Pistachios paired with a piece of fruit

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Homemade candied almonds  (add a dash of cayenne for an unexpected kick!)

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A variety mixed into fiber-rich trail mix

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Pecans in my salad

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Cashews in my stirfry

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Caution when interpreting this good news- it is not realistic to think you can simply add a serving of nuts to a couch potato fast-food lifestyle and expect to add years to your life. Researchers did their best to control for various lifestyle factors, but it is not likely that nuts single-handedly improved peoples’ health. It is possible that nut eaters have healthier overall habits than non-nut eaters.

The bottom line: regular nut consumption should be incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet active lifestyle. Not sure how to make that happen? That’s what a registered dietitian nutritionist is for :)

What are you waiting for, go nuts! Thanks for reading :)

Bigger Breakfast, Smaller Waist?

13 Aug

If I had to play favorites, I’d pick breakfast as my favorite meal of the day, hands down. I always wake up looking forward to brewing the coffee, blending the green juice, and building the main course.

I am always telling my clients that “diets don’t start at breakfast”. First thing in the morning, when our bodies just fasted for 7+ hours and need to be refueled the most,  is not the time to cut calories or skimp on nutrition!

A recent article from The Wall Street Journal gave me more ammo to back my broken-record breakfast advocating ;) A study of overweight and obese women found that those who ate the bulk of their calories in the first part of the day lost more than 2x the weight, waist circumference, and BMI percent compared to those who ate the bulk of their calories toward the end of the day. The women in the breakfast group also showed improvements in markers for cardiovascular disease and diabetes including triglycerides, cholesterol, and insulin responses.

We find even more support for “breaking the fast” from the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks successful “losers” to help us better understand how to lose and maintain a healthy weight. Of the 10,000+ successful individuals tracked, 78% eat breakfast every day and 88% eat breakfast at least 5 days per week!

Now that we know eating breakfast is a good idea, let’s talk about what that breakfast looks like.

3 Keys to Building a Better Breakfast

  1. Invert the Pyramid: Rev your metabolism by aiming for at least 20% of your daily calories in your morning meal.

  2. Pick a Protein: Protein will give your breakfast staying power and keep you from reaching for the break room goodies before lunchtime. (eggs, yogurt, nut butter, Sunwarrior, cottage cheese, beans, soy milk)

  3. Choose a Complex Carb: Fiber-rich carbs provide a dose of energy for your brain and body and keep you feeling satisfied. (oatmeal, whole grain cereal/bread/tortilla, fruit)

Bonus: add a fruit! Give your body a healthy serving of antioxidants and fiber.

Some breakfast favorites:

Cereal w/ soy milk, fruit, and nut butter

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Fruit, yogurt, and granola parfait

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Oatmeal (try these make-ahead steel cut oats in the crockpot!)

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Overnight oats (perfect way to enjoy oats in the summertime)

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Scrambled eggs with veggies and toast (also great as a sandwich)

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Homemade energy bites for those who are pressed for time in the morning

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Fruit and protein smoothie (try my go-to recipe!)

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Whole grain waffle with nut butter and fruit (great transition breakfast if you don’t have an appetite in the morning)

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Thanks for reading :)

Breakfasts and Lunches on Repeat

3 Aug

Hey there! Hope you are okay with a bit of randomness today…

I’ve been quite the creature of habit when it comes to breakfasts and lunches recently.

Breakfast has looked something like this:

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Some combination of old-fashioned oats/cereal, yogurt, soymilk, fruit, and nuts/nut butter. It’s been hitting the spot!

Lunches haven’t been much more adventurous…

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Between our garden, JWD’s parents’ garden, and the farmer’s market , we’ve been struggling to keep up with the constant bounty of produce on the counter. Easiest way to utilize your produce- chop it up into a giant salad! Crackers and hummus have been accompanying most of my salads. 

On the life front, it’s business as usual with the exception of a few things…

We celebrated JWD’s and my sister’s birthdays last week! They have the same birthday :)

This has been happening…

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My mom and I took trip to Chicago for an extravaganza of bridal appointments. It was a blast! Apparently the legend of the “bridezilla” really exists because each place we went was well-equipped for her- plush dressing suites, cold beverages, fluffy robes, and a sound system with an iPod dock. You know, just in case you happened to bring along a special playlist specifically for trying on wedding dresses ;)  I have my eye on the first dress of the trip (not the one you are peaking at in this picture). 

We’ve also been enjoying some pool time in the unusually mild midsummer weather. 

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I’ve discussed a lot of interesting topics with clients lately that I’d like to address soon including gluten-free diets, vegetarian protein sources, and the oxymoron of healthy restaurant food. Stay tuned for that!

Thanks for reading :) 

Meal Planning Part II: The Grocery Store Trip

23 Jul

Hi there! Today we are going to talk about part two of my meal planning strategy- the actual grocery store trip! Catching up? Check out Part I: Before the Grocery Store!

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Although most of us spend quite a bit of time in them, grocery stores can be overwhelming and scary places!  I know I am of the minority when I profess my love for grocery shopping. Tiffany’s is to Holly Golightly what grocery stores are to me :) I grew up with a mom who despised grocery shopping (and still does I think!), so I understand the pain of those of you who side with my mom. Here’s hoping a little guidance and streamlining will help ease the pain… :)

The first two steps are the most crucial! If you remember nothing else from this post, remember these rules:

1. ALWAYS go grocery shopping armed with a list! (see Part I)

2. NEVER go grocery shopping on anything less than a satisfied stomach!

(I have slipped up on these two steps before and next thing you know you’re standing in the checkout lane with double your $$grocery budget$$, ten empty sample cups, and a hodgepodge of items! Not good for the wallet, the waistline, or the meal planning.) 

Once you are prepared and properly fueled, you are ready to execute your plan. So grab your imaginary cart and let’s go on a virtual grocery store tour…

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PRODUCE

I always start with produce mainly because of the natural flow of most stores AND to fill my cart with the good stuff first! Aside from what’s on my list, this is what I look for…

- Whatever fruit is on sale for snacks. There is always something on sale! I get enough for at least 1 serving per day per person.

- Citrus for green juice and for flavoring dinners.

- Carrots/celery for snacking and adding cheap nutrition to various meals.

- Avocados for salads, sandwiches, eggs, and the inevitable Mexican night!

- Fresh greens (kale, salad greens, chard, etc.) if we don’t have a garden bounty.

- Anything else on sale/that looks good!

MIDDLE AISLES

Next I move on to the middle of the store. I usually breeze through these aisles pretty quickly, trying to stick with just items on my list. The middle of the grocery store is the place that causes the most “off the list”/impulse buy/junk food trouble for me! Those darn food marketers…

Popular middle aisle necessities include…

- A quick stop in the meat department for the occasional fish. (technically not in the middle)

- Whole wheat or quinoa pasta, canned tomatoes, chips for JWD, nut butter, bars, and cereal.

- Any extras like sparkling water, crackers, hot sauce, coffee, trail mix.

BULK

This is one of my favorite features and the primary reason I go to Whole Foods! I load up on old-fashioned oats, beans, lentils, grains, nuts, and anything else needed for the upcoming week’s recipes.

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FREEZER/DAIRY

This is the last stop!

- Frozen greens for green juices (much cheaper than buying all fresh!) and frozen fruit for smoothies.

- Sometimes a frozen pizza if one is on sale and it is going to be one of those weeks (I know you know the kind I’m talking about).

- Almond/soy milks (usually 2 half-gallons), tofu, tempeh, Food For Life bread, yogurts (one Greek, one regular), cheese (slices for JWD and something tangy for my lunch salads), and hummus.

*Note: We buy a dozen eggs every week from a small grocery store that stocks local eggs. We think it’s worth the extra trip!

I take a minute to recheck my list that I have been crossing off as I go to make sure all needed items made their way into the cart. 

And that’s a wrap! Time to pay! We have a set grocery budget and I’ve gotten pretty good at eyeballing the cart and staying within our budget.

Now it’s time to haul it all home… stay tuned for more!

Thanks for reading :)

Friday Favorites

19 Jul

Happy Friday! Thought I’d pop in and share a few things that I’ve been groovin’ on this week…

1. Running skirts!

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These have become a summer staple. Since I’m in workout clothes for both work and play, it’s fun to mix things up with something girly :) Running skirts- love ‘em or hate ‘em?

2. Cereal

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Ice cold breakfasts are a necessity on smokin’ hot STL summer mornings. Even before 7am the air was thick and sticky this week. I enjoyed my cereal in many ways- with milk and yogurt, parfait style, and on top of a thick smoothie (the last one is my fave!). I don’t have a go-to cereal, but I try to stick with these rules:  

  1. At least 4g fiber
  2. At least 3g protein
  3. Less than 8g of sugar (I’m willing to flex on this one if #1 and #2 are stellar)

This week I went with Kashi GoLean Cinnamon Crumble because it was on sale. Great in the fiber and protein department, but 12g of sugar will keep it off of my “staples” list.

3. This salad

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I ate this salad at Companion this week and it was INCREDIBLE! A HUGE bowl of spinach topped with tomatoes, edamame, sunflower seeds, avocado, and feta with lemon vinaigrette and a hunk ‘a crusty bread on the side. Definitely recreating this at home!

4. Circuit training

The heat makes me feel like a slug and completely “melts” my motivation ;) So most of my workouts have been indoor circuit-style workouts that give me  a good sweat and sore muscles. Look forward to more gym and at-home circuit workouts!

5. Cha-cha-cha-chia!

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We were out of flaxseed this week, so I pulled the chia seeds out of the depths of the freezer for my omega-3 fix. Just like flax, you can put them in smoothies, on cereal, and salads. My seeds made their way into my green juice and smoothies.

Have an excellent weekend! Thanks for reading :)

Meal Planning Part I: Before the Grocery Store

17 Jul

Some of the most popular questions I get are meal planning-related. I am a firm believer in the cliche saying “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” As a dietitian, self-proclaimed foodie, and grocery shopping lover, even have a hard time staying healthy when I’m forced to wing it in the kitchen. Planning ahead, especially when it comes to food, makes for seamless mornings, easy snacks, and {almost} effortless dinners. So here’s a rundown on how I meal plan…

I start by taking inventory of what we already have and make note of any obvious gaps.

Oats!

Coffee!

Bananas!

(3 things that seem to disappear in an instant at our house!)

I also make note of things that need to be used up.

Then I fill in the blanks with our staple breakfast/snack/lunch foods. Yogurt, “milks”, bars, bread, and hummus are some staple food examples.

In the warmer months, a farmer’s market trip typically falls between the kitchen inventory/staples step and the meal planning step. It’s fun to get what looks good without the restriction of a shopping list! (In the winter, I skip this step and go straight to meal planning).

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Farmer’s markets are also great for meal inspiration.

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Next comes what many probably consider the most tedious step- actual planning of the meals. This is also the most commonly skipped step! And the key step! I check the calendar to see what the coming week entails. Does JWD have a late ____ (fill-in-the-sport) game? Do I have an early morning/late evening clients? Any fun plans for going out? I make note of anything that will disrupt a normal dinner time and plan accordingly. Meals with longer prep times will fall on weekends or on days that I have a light client load, quick + easy meals (link) will fall on busy nights, and so on. I also try to mix things up so we aren’t having the same foods back-to-back.

As for recipes, I scan my Pinterest board, cookbooks, and magazines for new inspiration. And I always mix in a few memorized staples for ease! (more on these types of meals at a later date!)

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After the meals are scheduled, I add required ingredients to the shopping list. I make weekday lunches a breeze by planning for leftovers with certain recipes! I use this nifty planner from May Designs, a company I’ve blogged about before.

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(We write our grocery list in code :) )

After my list is complete, I take my book to the grocery store and stock up!

Stay tuned for more!! Thanks for reading :)

Recently…

13 Jul

Yay, it’s finally the weekend! I love that cozy place between last week’s craziness and preparation for next week. Saturdays are where the magic happens!

After a glorious 8 hour slumber, we headed out for breakfast and the farmer’s market.

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fruit/yogurt/granola parfait, scrambled egg, Companion 5-Grain toast, and coffee.

Today’s haul included eggs, beets, peaches, blackberries, green beans, sweet corn, broccoli, heirloom tomatoes, and summer squash.

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We also made a quick stop at the mall (before it got crazy busy) and made it home by 11a.m. Love Saturday mornings like that!

Let’s reverse– some highlights from last week…

Overnight oats with the sunrise. Blueberry/peach is my new favorite combo! I’m also loving Wallaby greek yogurt. This batch of oats is topped with toasted crushed walnuts.

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Christmas in July! French press for one with Nutcracker Sweet inbru that I found in the depths of the cabinet.

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Gracie wishing I’d made French press for two…

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Food For Life Ezekiel Flax toast, scrambled eggs, and peaches +blueberries…

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My new favorite snack: frozen banana slices with a schmear of coconut almond butter.

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Popcorn + almonds

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A few epic salads were devoured last week….

This one is a mix of greens, roasted corn/green beans/onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, croutons, and tofu. Baked salt & vinegar chips on the side.

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And this one is greens, a crumbled veggie burger, brown rice, cucs, tomatoes, and dolups of hummus and greek yogurt. The salt & vin chips made another appearance!

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The best dinner of the week was this Mexican bowl, hands down!

Brown rice, smashed pinto beans, sautéed summer squash and onions seasoned with chili powder/cayenne/paprika, tomatoes, greek yogurt, cilantro, and a heap of nooch! So. Good.

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Also had some fun with the spiralizer. More on that later!

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Also last week….

Mornin’ garden gazin’ (check out that bedhead, hehe)

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And a midweek Dave Matthews Band concert! Out past 8pm on a Wednesday night? Who are we??

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Enjoy the rest of your weekend! I’ve got some good stuff in the drafts folder! Thanks for reading :)

Post-Holiday Happenings + “No Gym Required” Workout

8 Jul

I hope you all enjoyed a long holiday weekend! Ours was great- family time, friend time, pool time, patio time (and a million bug bites to show for it!). I always feel a little foggy coming off of an extended vacation/holiday and look forward to getting back to my routine :)

To lift myself out of my fog on Sunday, I did this cardio workout. You guys have requested more “no gym required” workouts, so here you go! This is a great workout to do at a track/bleachers or anywhere with a flight of stairs.

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After getting hot and sweaty I showered and headed straight to the kitchen- my favorite place to be on a Sunday afternoon. We got an amazing farmer’s market haul on Saturday, so I was extra excited to do some cooking. I made a green juice with grapefruit that totally hit the spot. Then I got to work on Kath’s baked oatmeal for the week, and white bean veggie burgers, kale chips, and sweet corn for dinner.

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After dinner activities included some work (yuck!), couch time, and popcorn (yum!).

I kicked off the post-holiday Monday with a baked oatmeal square topped with peanut butter and headed to the gym for work. After work I made a spontaneous grocery trip primarily to get anti-itch cream for my bug bites. They kept me awake last night!

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The rest of the day…

Lunch

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Veggie burger crumbled over greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and topped with balsamic dressing and goat cheese. A mix of Popchips and rice crackers with hummus on the side.

Pre-yoga snack

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Greek yogurt, almond butter, the juiciest peach ever (SO happy peaches are in season!!!), and apple slices. Not very pretty, but yummy!

Yoga was really hard tonight. At one point I even considered leaving, but I toughed it out and my stress levels (and my hips) are happy I did.

Dinner roasted in the oven while I showered.

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Tofu with a sriracha/cayenne/chili powder/paprika rub, beets, and beet greens sautéed with olive oil/garlic/apple cider vinegar all topped with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast.

Now it’s time for reading and sleeping! Thanks for reading :)

Current Favorites

3 Jul

This was a short week for me- today is my Friday! Weeee! Nothing too exciting to share on the work/life front, so I thought I’d share with you 7 things I’m digging at the moment. Enjoy!

1. Blue Diamond Toasted Coconut Almonds

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I don’t usualy buy stuff like this (the ingredients list contains a few unpronounceables), but they are delicious. Since I consume them in such small amounts, I consider it a lesser evil :)

2. Lululemon Speed Shorts

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I am obsessed with these shorts. I run, lift, yoga, and lounge in them. I basically only remove them from my body on laundry day- yep, they are that great. The waistband is thick, comfy, and muffin top-proof. I sized up for a more relaxed fit. 

3. Seagram’s Key Lime Seltzer

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I love my sparkling water! Seagram’s is extra dry and fizzy, and the Key Lime favor is so yummy! (side note: has anyone tried the La Croix coconut flavor? I want to try it, but don’t want to commit to an entire case. Opinions, please!)

4. HIIT (high intensity interval training) cardio workouts

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Lately I’m opting for fast and intense cardio workouts in lieu of long, slow, and steady. It’s time efficient and effective! Try this one, this one, or (if you dare!) this one.

5. My Pinterest wedding board

Pinterest is the epitome of lazy bride wedding planning because pinning is much easier (and more fun) than actually doing. Check out all my boards here.

6. The Fire Starter Sessions

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Literally every sentence of this book can stand alone as good advice. It is so thought-provoking that I can only read a few pages at a time.

7. Nutritional yeast

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From popcorn to pasta, this stuff makes everything taste better! I buy mine in bulk at Whole Foods. It seriously goes on everything I cook.

So those are the 7 things on my daily rotation right now. What’s on yours?

Have a Happy 4th of July and thanks for reading :)

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