Sunday, May 20, 2018

5th Blogiversary

5th Blogiversary

Happy 5th Blogiversary to me!!  How has it been 5 years already??  I sat down to think about what to  write for my blog for this week and no one set topic was jumping out at me.  I always have a few ideas but none that I think will constitute being a full blog.  Over the years that I’ve been writing my blog I think the blog has actually evolved so I do write a little bit of this and that to keep everyone up on the latest headlines – and still sticking to my original reason why I started this blog – to help educate people about nutrition and to become healthier along the way, one step at a time.  So, yes, I’ve been writing in this blogosphere for the last 5 years.  Kind of like a part-time job but one I don’t mind doing. 

Blogging has changed more recently and while I never have profited off of my blog, many food bloggers and fellow dietitians are using their blog for profit.  Tie that in with algorithms that the social media outlets have and it actually makes it hard for people to write a blog for enjoyment with all the pressures that they face – are people there to really read the content, do they just want the recipe, or do they want people to click on their affiliate links so ultimately they can profit off of that one blog post they just wrote.  It’s complicated.  A food blogger I follow recently wrote an actual blog all about it, read about it here - All that to say, my blog started and was intended to help give accurate nutrition information.  I’ve never profited off of my blog (nor wanted to, although people tell me I should) as I feel that takes away from the authenticity – yes I buy products but there’s no reason for me to endorse the product when there are many other products out there that are similar.  The example I always give is with peanut butter.  Patients would ask me all the time what brand of peanut butter I buy.  It doesn’t matter what brand.  What matters is that the only ingredient that should be listed on that label is peanuts and maybe some salt.  I don’t care if your peanut butter is from Publix, Whole Foods, Aldi, or wherever, my job is to educate you on what products to buy.  I wrote about it here  and here  if you’re interested in reading more.
I never even took a look to see what blogs had the most views – can you tell I’m not making a profit off of my blogs?  I’ve never been about the numbers in all honesty, but as I was scrolling back through old blog posts I did get curious to see which topics drove the most traffic and which ones didn’t.  And it’s also possible that early on there weren’t that many people following my blog or maybe it’s my use of various hashtags and joining twitter that changed that all around.  Regardless, here’s a trip down memory lane for old time’s sake.

The blog that had the most views of all time and that doesn’t pale in comparison to my other blogs is a piece I did on Type 1 Diabetes.  My former employer actually rolled it out on their social media platforms.  I think that’s the only time I did check the analytics to see the views.  I mean we’re talking over 4,000 views in one day and a total of 10,000!  Glad to have passed along valuable information for a topic near and dear to my heart.  Type 1 diabetes is often misunderstood and even though it is manageable it is a daily job.  Throw in this diagnosis with a younger child and it transforms life as people know it in learning how to manage and control it.  You thought your 2-year old was a picky eater, but now throw in that you have to dose insulin based on what your picky 2-year old will eat and hope that they really do eat everything that you dosed that insulin for.   Every day is different which also can make it a challenge.  My blog post was simple and not even my best writing (ha!) but it did exactly what I wanted to do – help change the misconceptions associated with Type 1 diabetes.  Take a read here if you haven’t already. 

While I am not currently working with people with Type 1 diabetes I did find a way to help educate the community here in Miami.  Part of my current job is to create nutrition programs that are FREE to the community.  There was a request to create a carbohydrate counting class for those with type 1 diabetes.  Using my expertise and knowledge I’m doing just that.  If you know someone with Type 1 diabetes, adult or child, that struggles to understand carb counting – you didn’t know you needed to be a dietitian and mathematician after your diagnosis, see meme above – please come check the class out or even spread the word!  It’s completely FREE and open to the community.  Click on the link below to register.

As per the numbers, the most successful blog post I wrote wasn’t even about food or nutrition.  It was about self-care.  It’s quite a hot topic these days.  May is Mental Health Awareness month and to be quite honest it is often overlooked and/or not talked about.  Just last night when I was watching the NBA game there was a commercial promoting their NBA Cares commercial on Mind Health a few players have come out and said they too experience anxiety and are trying to raise awareness and give outlets for help.  I think part of it boils down to taking time to care for yourself.  We often times are so busy taking care of others that we miss out on giving back to ourselves.  Simply just taking some time to breathe during the day can be helpful in our overall health.  What’s your self-care routine?  How do you give back to yourself in order to give to others?  Check my blog out for a few tips/ideas.   Sounds like something so basic yet so often not implemented in our day-to-day living.  Self-care:  it costs nothing and you gain everything.
One of my least successful blog posts, errr maybe it was just one of my first blogs posted, was a piece I did on nutrition myths and exercise  - general helpful tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of your exercise.  It’s quite common that people are going to the gym and are making the commitment to working out, but 9 times out of 10 they aren’t seeing changes because they’re not changing things in the kitchen.  It goes hand in hand. I can’t tell you how many people “carb load” and all they really need to do is eat healthy and balanced the whole week.  Not to mention that I saw a lady at Publix yesterday loading up on a specific sports drink that was on sale.  I asked her out of curiosity why she was buying so much (obvi it was on sale) but she told me that her kids play outside a lot and she didn’t want them to get dehydrated.  I started a whole discussion on hydration with her – there I go again, passing out nutrition information in the grocery store.  I can’t help myself!  While I’m not saying that sports drinks aren’t required at times the majority of the time you just simply need to make sure you’re hydrated in general with water (fruits, veggies, etc.)   The lady was surprised by what I was saying but she still bought the sports drinks.  I explained that the kids are used to it and it will take some time to adjust but her pocketbook would thank me not to mention her dentist might be thanking me too.  I did a quick follow-up piece on nutrition with the same myths where I updated some of my training regimen when I was training for the marathon.  It had a few more views, but still not that successful if you ask me.  Maybe all the sports people think they already know what they’re doing?  Maybe I need to be more creative in how I title/hashtag my blog?  Not completely sure, but this does lead to me where do I go next.
I did a podcast for FIU a few months back – take a listen here if podcasts are your thing.  Spoiler alert, it was REALLY fun!  I mean I had a really good time just sitting and talking to the hosts about what I love best, nutrition!  I do listen to a few podcasts on my own time and I do believe that they are getting more and more popular (they have been for a while now).  It got me to thinking – should I do a podcast?  Would anybody listen?  Some of the technology stuff has me feeling like I’m cornered and not sure where to go, but the truth of the matter is that I have to grow and learn new things.  A podcast would be the first step.

The other area that I have been working on is an actual website.  I have my blog and post my blogs there, but I had acquired a webpage and have never made it public.  I’m still learning things about it (it’s that technology that has me limited) but I’m determined to create a logo and really finalize my webpage in this coming year.

Other items I have on my list to do/learn – making food videos.  Yes I know these are even becoming overdone, but I think it would be fun minimally to do a FB live of my own and/or tape a few Instagram stories that are actual videos.  Those that know me have seen me in action, but those that just read my blog really don’t know that much about me.  It’d be nice to put a face with the person behind the blog. 

Those are just a few of my ideas to continue to challenge and grow in this whole blogging thing that started 5 years ago.  I have changed in this time – you should have seen some of the first pictures that I took! – I also transitioned in my jobs.  The irony is that I have more time now and blog less, or maybe it isn’t irony.  I channeled some of my stress in my blog and it was a helpful way to document my journey along the way.  I think my favorite piece was the blog I wrote after having my 2nd panel interview for my current job. 

I wrote about my presentation and how stress was stifling my inner creativity.  I had reached levels of stress that needed to change as it was ultimately affecting my health.  Work can do that to you.  Out of my stress and ultimate hope for a new beginning  came one of the most simple yet elegant desserts that I’ve ever made and ultimately one of the most simple yet effective presentations I’ve ever created.  I’m thankful each and every day for my new job – it’s a fresh start and full of opportunities.  
This is the same way I feel about my blog  - I’m able to document my experiences and while some people call it a diary if you will I think it chronicles my adventures all while educating people along the way, simple yet effective.  So many thanks to all of YOU that have been reading my blog.  I appreciate it – even if I don’t know that you’re reading (this internet is a crazy thing).  Here’s to the next 5 years and wherever it leads me…a podcast, videos, or more.  The adventure awaits!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Month in Review - April 2018

The Month In Review – and just like that it feels like summer!  I am not complaining but I am here to tell you that Miami had all of a few days of Spring like weather and then BAM the next day it felt like  summer.  I may be exaggerating and I am also well aware that other places feel like it is still Winter, hello snow in Minnesota! but I can only give you the latest update on the weather here in the MIA.  I think we’re all bracing for the summer weather that’s coming and know that it’s going to be a scorcher.  Which only means that smoothies and juices are getting ready to bombard our social media feeds, #worsttrendever, when all you really need is water, water, and more water. 

This month alone three of my favorite food bloggers have released cookbooks.  We all know I have a cookbook addiction, so it was easy for me to buy three of my favorite bloggers’ books.  But three in one month?  There are too many recipes to try and I can’t focus on one of their books because I have all three at once!  Real world problems, I know.

How Sweet EatsThe Pretty Dish – I tried to think back to when I first started following Jessica of How Sweet Eats and I can’t really remember.  What I do remember is that Jessica inspired me to get in the kitchen and really experiment with flavors and just go for it.  And I’ve never looked back.  It’s where it all started for me, the love of making everything homemade, of spending time in the kitchen and really creating healthy and nourishing dishes.  I also learned to never  doubt Jessica’s flavor combinations.  As weird as something might sound, do NOT doubt her.  The flavors are always on point!  Always.  Blood orange, avocado and beet salad; beet hummus; kale salad with blood orange vinaigrette are just a few of the recipes I’ve made so far.  And then today I made her scrambled eggs with ricotta cheese.  I’m not sure why I’ve never thought to put ricotta in my eggs.  So glad Jessica did, because they are perfection! 

I still haven’t made it to the section of her book where she makes homemade scrubs – food that you can put on your face.  I made a peppermint coconut oil scrub this past Christmas and it was divine, so I’m sure I’ll love experimenting with some of these DIYs.  I could go on and on about Jessica, but the truth is go check out her blog and see for yourself.  The other great thing about Jessica is she has a section that she writes on Saturday called, “CurrentlyCrushing On” and this is where I started finding other bloggers to follow.  Thanks Jessica!

What’s Gaby Cooking – her first cookbook was all about avocadoes so her next book was named after herself, What's Gaby Cooking:  Everyday California Cooking.  Makes sense.  I like Gaby’s recipes because they are simple, easy and delicious.  That’s a winning combo in my book.  I think part of the reason why I also love Gaby so much is because she’s on social media a lot (Snapchat and Instagram) that you feel connected in some way – she’s down to earth and super funny.  She just needs to make it down to Miami on her book tour!  I’ve tried a few of her recipes so far – Sesame-Miso Market Salad, Green Rice Burrito Bowls, Pico de Gallo, and her Basil Vinaigrette is everything.  Truly, you’ll want to drizzle that basil vinaigrette on just about everything.  Last week I made the cilantro vinaigrette and it’s great, but basil is happening this weekend!  If you’re looking for simple yet flavorful, Gaby’s your girl.

And last but not least, The FauxMarthaThe Minimalist Kitchen – I stumbled upon The Faux Martha’s blog as I said through one of Jessica’s posts.  I don’t remember which post that is was, but Melissa’s blog is so well written you’ll want to read it each and every time.  (There was a recent blog from another food blogger recently about how blogging is a thing of the past and do people even really read blogs anymore.  Some people even just scroll to the recipe and skip the reading altogether…which makes me wonder should I even be blogging anymore?)  But back to Melissa, her blog is easy to read and is so well written that even at times she’s made me cry – I mean this one about fellow blogger Pinch Of Yum was exactly just the right thing to say even when she thought it wasn’t.  Her cookbook is about minimalizing what it is that you have in your kitchen and cooking something almost out of nothing.  Well, not nothing, but with the basics and not having to go so over the top.  I made her dutch baby recipe the other day and to say it was delicious was an understatement.  Her bean tacos are also simplistic yet made flavorful by the slaw on top – perfect combo of sweet yet tangy.  If you know someone just starting out and learning how to cook (and even stock what they need in their pantry), The Minimalist Kitchen is a good one to have.  May we all learn a little something about minimalism. 

And FYI I am not promoting that you go out and buy these bloggers cookbooks.  I am summarizing what I did during the month of April.  I cook and I buy cookbooks, that’s my thing.  What I want is for people to take away the idea that cooking can be easy, flavorful, and healthy all at the same time.  These bloggers release recipes weekly (for free) on their websites.  You can even check your local library and check out their cookbook (no need to purchase).  Maybe you will be inspired and find a new recipe, or maybe you’ll even find someone else’s blog that you end up liking just by reading one of these – believe me that’s how I’ve found almost all of the bloggers that I follow.  Stay inspired with cooking, it’s too easy to get into the trap where we think that cooking has to be a chore.  These ladies will help inspire you to get in the kitchen, even if it’s just something quick that you can throw together and call a meal.

And in work news – last weekend we had a big event with the Dolphins – Family Fit Fest – Baptist is one of those unique organizations that as being not for profit we give back to the community.  Literally every program we do is FREE.  You heard right, FREE.  We might just be the best kept secret in Miami.  Free nutrition classes and freeexercise classes, all over Dade and Broward county.  We partnered with the Dolphins for the Family Fit Fest – it was a day of skills and drills for the kids, screenings, Zumba, yoga, free fruits and veggies and more! 

Talk about a fun-filled day!  The best part of my day was by far this little kid playing the “My Plate” game.  He looked at me and asked me, “Were you at the tennis event?”  I replied in shock, “as a matter of fact I was!”  He continued to tell me that he knew it was me because I was the lady that was teaching him how to eat healthy from the plate.  I mean I know kids have a pretty good memory, but I’m thinking I made an impact on this kid for him to have remembered me…or he’s going to be a future dietitian when he gets older J 

That’s community health nutrition in action.  Day in and day out we’re able to have different programs for the community and all for free.  It makes my job fun and interesting and is it really work when you love what you do?    

In the month of May Miami’s public learning station, PBS, is starting a health channel.  As it’s the first month some of the programs will be repeated as it is just getting started, but we will have doctors and specialists on for different topics all throughout the coming months.  They are going to feature myself and the dietitians I work with on the following topics:  Vitamins and Supplements – May 7th, Plant-Based Eating- May 16th, and Heart Health – featuring moi on May 21st.  Here is the website – allthealthallthetime – Stay tuned for future topics and the official schedule to be released.    And if there’s a topic you want to hear more about, email us with an idea.  Excited and nervous all at the same time!!  My TV debut coming right atcha!

While I worked at UM it was always my thought to go back and get my masters.  After I finished my undergraduate years ago (and having gotten two majors in 4 years) the last thing on my mind was going to school for another two years.  I also was thinking of how would I even pay for that?  So off I went into the workforce and never looked back.  But it always was something that I looked back and thought that I should’ve done.  So back to UM – it would’ve been ideal to have gotten a masters of public health while I was employed there.  The only problem?  When you work 8 am -8 pm it doesn’t really leave you any free time.  Not to mention most of the classes were in person.  Flash forward to present day and my current employer does offer tuition reimbursement as well.  I think this is something that I need/want to do.  So I’ve been researching a few programs, mainly online.  I got the GRE study guide and will be working on that in the coming weeks.  The only pitfall is that I have to be here (at my current job) for a full year before being able to get the tuition reimbursement.  While I will miss the cutoffs to get my application in for this year, I came to the conclusion that it will all work out in due time.  Sometimes I just need to slow down – literally adjust to my new job before throwing myself into a master’s program.  The other benefit of waiting till the next year,  one I can actually study for the GRE and not cram it all in in one weekend  (which could work, but let’s be real I’ve been out of school for forever and trying to sit down and study is a little bit like torture (when it’s for the GRE and not something I want to study).  Two, I am going to go on a few trips in this next year – at least in my head that’s the plan.  I already booked a trip to Baltimore for some continuing education.  Instead of staying local I opted to make a trip out of it.  Why not, am I right?  Next trip will be an actual vacation where I can fly away and literally relax – last time that happened was in Italy and I said then I’d travel more.  I haven’t so now’s the time.  Now just to decide where to?  Peru is definitely on the bucket list.  Spain – the northern region, although I enjoyed the south thoroughly so I’d go back in a heartbeat!  I’m going to just keep dreaming of where I’ll travel for now.

The last thing I’ve been working on is staying consistent with my meditation.  I’m actually less consistent now because I tap in to my meditation in times of stress.  I know it’s the opposite of what you might think, but that’s my tendency and I’m working on it.   I haven’t really been stressed at all since starting my new job.  So I stopped doing daily meditation and only occasionally meditate.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m always trying to reconnect with my breath – short little reminders during the day to make sure I’m actually breathing.   But sitting down to actually meditate, it’s been awhile.  So yes, even I need to stay consistent.  It’s in those times of stress the consistency will help me reconnect back to my meditation and the skills I develop – it’s literally a bicep curl for your brain.  Seems I’m starting over at ground zero for now, with the intent to get stronger every day.

Hard to believe tomorrow is the last day of April.  It's been jam-packed and full of fun.  Can't wait to see what May brings.  Have a great month of May ya’ll!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Not Sponsored. Just A Fan. Part Deux.

I wrote a piece a few months back about food bloggers and dietitians being sponsored to promote products.  You can read about it here.  While I am not a famous dietitian (or blogger for that matter) I didn’t receive much feedback or commentary.  No problem.  I'll just keep doing what I’ve been doing for the last 5 years.  If my piece gets noticed, so be it.  I know that I have a few followers that do read the blog and for that, I’m grateful.  The reward for me is educating people and I hope through my blog I’m able to show people that healthy can taste delicious…I think my pictures are proof.

The background on my last piece is in regards to food bloggers and dietitians alike being paid sponsors for products.  Social media in the last couple of years has paid attention to certain marketing techniques (pun intended) and this is the new wave of how advertising is going.  A popular food blogger will write a quick blurb promoting said product in a cute fashion and somewhere in this blurb will need to use the hashtag #ad #sponsored  These hashtags are used to readily make the public aware that they are being paid to say this.  But in my mind I would believe that this food blogger might just believe in this product if they are being paid to sponsor it…or do they? Not all food bloggers are dietitians.  And even though they may not know the science behind whether a food is healthy or not they do have the power to influence their followers to buy the product.  Hence why companies are using this technique.  I readily admit to being prey to this said tactic.  Enter chocolate covered hemp seeds.  Probably never would’ve bought them until I saw them used as a garnish and thought…I have to have them!  Spoiler alert – I did not have to have them. 

On the flip side there are some food bloggers that are dietitians.  This is where in lies the problem (in my humble opinion).  There are dietitians promoting products, ambassadors if you will, that are not healthy.  If I were an unsuspecting consumer that saw a semi-famous dietitian (just checked one dietitian’s followers right now – 54,000 – there are obviously some with more or less, but holy smokes that’s a lot of people seeing what she posts.  Not to mention she recently promoted a sugar substitute that is now listed on CSPI’s “red” list – Chemical cuisine).  Talk about an ethical issue…#amIright??  All the work that I do to promote actual education to the community all down the drain by one single post that now confuses the community to think that a sugar substitute is healthy.  All because she’s getting paid.  Hmpf.  My job has gotten that much more difficult.  I was approached by a couple of companies a few years back and I’ll be honest, I turned them down.  Sure I was enticed by the money.  But it’s too hard to keep up with all the products they may produce and at the end of the day I didn’t want all my allegiance going to any company.  My allegiance is to educating and remaining unbiased.  But the truth is, money talks.  Dietitians need to be paid more as a profession.  I’m all for entrepreneurship and making something of yourself.  I am not for being paid to represent a product that isn’t healthy just to say how to use it in some recipe which then confuses people to wonder is it healthy or not?

At the end of the day patients do request for certain brands so that they can know what to buy while in the store.  I’ll say it again and again and again, it’s more about the education of the nutrition label than it is the actual brand because whether you’re in San Diego, CA shopping at Von’s or you’re here in Miami, FL shopping at Publix you should be able to know what to buy simply by looking at the ingredient list. If you need help Navigating The Supermarket, we offer store tours (for free!).  Take a look to see the upcoming tours in both Dade and Broward county!

The following are products that I use in my kitchen – no I am not sponsored and these are not ads.  It’s just what I eat.  And while this might seem like a product endorsement, I like to see it as I discussed, a teaching moment.  Read on to see what I say about the items and again, forget the brand, buy whichever brand you want that fits the bill of what I describe. 
Whole Grains.  Brown Rice.  Whole Wheat Flour.  Oats.  Barley.  & more!  Hard to believe that quinoa is now considered “old”.  But the truth is that recently other whole grains have started to gain ground in popularity.  I wouldn’t say they’ve gotten as popular as quinoa did, but I do believe that people are starting to try new whole grains out.  I myself just recently purchased wheat berries.  And while wheat berries are simply a whole wheat kernel, I’ve never tried it.  I won’t take it as far to grind these berries into my own whole wheat flour (because you can), but suffice it to say I too am experimenting with different whole grains.  Variety really is the spice of life.  The most common response I hear is that people don’t know how to cook these grains (or rather they don’t always turn out just right).  The truth is they do cook similar as you would brown rice.  These whole grains are going to be nuttier, chewier, and earthier in taste as they are whole grains.  So, find a recipe – hot or cold – that you’d like to try and see if you like them.  Always remember, rotate and keep trying!  Here’s a recipe to get you started.

I’ve still been on the search for a few more whole grain crackers.  If you follow me on Instagram I’ve featured a few recently on my #TasteTestTuesday.  I do ultimately want to make a homemade version, but until I do, here are a couple more that I’ve thrown into the mix and rotate through for my snacks or even a cheese board (shhh no one will know they’re healthy!)

This is the only flavor I have tried and that I can vouch for.  Two ingredients:  wheat bran and oat bran.  I think you know what that means.  Loads of fiber.  You WILL go to the bathroom.  If fiber is something you struggle with then these crackers will help.  Just remember to drink water to help with the increase in fiber you’ll be ingesting.  As for some of their marketing ploys – “appetite control” and “only 2g Net Carbs – I could do without.   I guess you can’t call them healthy without appealing to the masses without using some kind of recent “fad” in the news.  Me?  I just call them #dietitianapproved and #notsponsored  #justafan I simply aim to educate that with only 2 ingredients they’re a definite product to use!

This company makes a lot of different crackers, but they only have ONE that’s whole grain.  They are light and airy and paper thin, but they really paired well on one of the cheese boards that I did recently with some of the soft cheeses.  Options is what I say.  Definitely starting to get a slew of whole wheat crackers that I feel confident about and that I can rotate through.  And yes, I will still try to make some homemade, but in the mean time you can call me lazy…or maybe just resourceful.

The dairy aisle is/can be daunting.  I’m not going to discuss some of the controversies with dairy in general here on the blog today.  Rather I’m going to show you two products that are #dietitianapproved.
The first is a lower sugar option yogurt.  Yogurt these days can almost be considered dessert depending on the amount of added sugar they’ve included.  Chobani finally came up with a version that has minimal added sugar (probably to rival Siggis brand.  Although on a side note, Siggis now manufactures a version that really has no added sugar, however, it is 4% milkfat.  If you take sugar out, nine times out of 10 you add fat back in.  Animal fat that I choose not to ingest due to familial hypercholesterolemia). They need to adapt to the new label and tell you how much added sugar there really is, but for now this new “Hint” variety is their best version and your best version to transition to less sugar.  Because if you were able to see how much added sugar were in their “Flips” you’d realize it’s dessert.  The truth is my ultimate recommendation is to aim for plain yogurt and add your own fruit in.   I use non-fat yogurt and either add in some actual nuts for crunch or stir in some nut butters for some plant-based healthy fats.  I should’ve taken an after picture to show you how pretty the blackberries looked after I smashed them.  Next time.

People are realizing that nut butters are healthy for them as they are a source of protein with healthy fats (source is from a plant and not an animal).  However, companies are adding in either trans fat to make the nut butter solid and/or sugar to sweeten their product.  Why can’t we leave well enough alone?  I know people complain about stirring the nut butters, but the truth is the moment they’ve added “partially hydrogenated oils” into the mix I feel there went the health component and why are you even eating the product?  I was at the store yesterday and saw this brand (remember who cares about the brand, just using this as an example.)

Do NOT buy!!  This picture is ONLY for educational purposes.  Read below.
They were right next to each other and neither one is one I would recommend to buy.  I am showing the picture for educational purposes only.  Companies are trying to steer away from labeling their product with “partially hydrogenated oil” but instead using “palm oil”.  As if palm oil is healthier? Um, no.  If you want to read more about palm oil and the reasons why not to use it, check out what CSPI had to say here.  If you're concerned about how it effects the environment there’s a whole report about that here.  

I shouldn’t assume but I do think it’s safe to say in this situation that the average consumer would grab the “Bare Smooth” making the connotation that if it is bare then it doesn’t have anything added to it.  WRONG.  They added palm fruit oil in.  Can we just leave well enough alone and keep it to just one ingredient? Almonds plain and simple.  Is that too difficult?  Stay aware and watch that ingredient list.  Moving on. 
Tuna in a package.  Another example of what should be something simple to buy that isn’t.  I looked at a few different options that are sold in the stores and what you’re aiming for is no added flavors.  Once they start calling them “Creations” they’re adding in way too many additives that you should have more control over.  One brand even used MSG – which some people are sensitive to.  It takes a little more work, but go ahead and add in your own spices.  I use a little mustard to make it creamy (so that I use less mayonnaise) and if I have it, I’ll even mash up avocado to give it some flavoring.  I cannot promise that it will look Instagram worthy, but the taste?  Out of this world.  I’ve even been known to make it completely Mediterranean in flavor and only use olive oil and red wine vinegar (as well as sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, red pepper, and cucumber).  The sky is the limit, but definitely aim for plain when it comes to tuna so you can have the control.

Spiralizers are still having their moment.  But who wants to add another gadget/appliance to their kitchen?  Not me.  I don’t have enough space for that.  Although I was just gifted a really tiny hand-held spiralizer that definitely does the trick on zucchini.  Sweet potatoes, not so much.  I think making food attractive can be helpful in people trying new foods.  I am not for zoodles taking over the world and replacing them as carbs at a meal (that’s a topic for another day), but I am for including more non-starchy vegetables.  Enter these frozen options (there were a few companies in the store, I happened to take this brand’s photo).  I’ve noticed them fresh and in the produce area, but the truth is they are super expensive if you buy them fresh.  This frozen version was well within reason for cost based on amount and I’ve even seen them as a BOGO (buy one get one free) deal.  So keep your eyes peeled and stock up on a few of these if you don’t own a spiralizer and have been wanting to try them out.

My job as a dietitian is to educate people on how to make better food choices with the ultimate goal of helping people become healthier.  It’s a hard job to do with so many food options available, not to mention sifting through all the marketing confusion.  As a dietitian I don't want to be a part of the confusion.  Promoting a product and being sponsored by a food company might seem like a good way to bring in a few extra dollars to some, but to me that only creates even more confusion for the consumer.   I'll continue doing #TasteTestTuesday and showing different products on the market that are #dietitianapproved.  I'm NOT being sponsored and it's definitely NOT an ad, it's just me doing my job as a dietitian, promoting health and awareness.  

Sunday, April 1, 2018

That's A Keeper 9

If you’re new to the blog, That’s A Keeper is a series I do where I round up some of the latest recipes I’ve tried that are successful KEEPERS!  They’re recipes that you want to hold on to and make over and over because they’re just that good.  And in my case, I have them on reserve as a just in case.  Again, for those that don’t know me well, I rarely make the same recipe twice.  But if needed, I have my KEEPER recipes, ready to go to for that special brunch or shared gathering.  KEEPERS:  Where I try the recipe so that you don’t have to and pass on only the best of the best.  

In this series of That’s A Keeper, I even bring you a recipe all my own – with a little inspiration from food bloggers and from my last few years of cooking, I finally have put together a concoction I can call my own.  I’ve always been told that I need to do a cookbook.  To which I respond that the recipes I’ve been trialing are mainly recipes from other people and I really don’t have that much creativity or science backing to be able to create a recipe all on my own.  But I’m here to tell you I can see my kitchen skills evolving (not to mention how much my photography has improved!) and I am starting to get some creativity when putting recipes together.  I like to think of it as adding my own flair.  So if that’s a recipe I can call all my own, I don’t know.  But what I do know is that I have been inspired and the creative juices have been flowing.  Read on for my latest keepers that I hope are yours too.

Breakfast, Lunch, or DinnerA Frittata.  Eggs are most likely the quickest thing to make in the kitchen.  They can serve as breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and are a lean protein – minus the accompaniments:  bacon, cheese and butter, what really raise your blood cholesterol (due to the saturated fat).  Back to the recipe, a frittata.  A frittata is cooked in a cast iron pan or an oven-safe skillet, because you start the cooking on the stovetop and finish it in the oven.  A one-pan meal which translates to less dishes and equals winning in my opinion.  Frittatas are also great because I like to think they can pass for any meal and are made in less than 30 minutes.  Even better?  You can throw whatever vegetables you have on hand that are leftover from the week to make as many different concoctions as you like.  As I mentioned simply be careful with some of the add-ins like meat and cheese.  I used reduced-fat feta in my version seen here and loaded it up with a LOT of veggies.   Peruse through the many recipes here, and see what one fits the bill.  I ended up making a version all my own.  The key is to have your go-to base and then have add-ins as you like.  I’ve done zucchini, peppers, onions, and mushrooms.  I’ve had one just with kale and even made one with leeks and asparagus.  The combinations really are limitless.  Experiment and most of all enjoy and have an easy meal.

VegetarianMarinatedChickpeas – One of my favorite food bloggers, HowSweetEats, just released her second cookbook, ThePretty Dish.  I tagged all the recipes that I want to make and then determined which ones I already had the ingredients for.   I can’t be the only person that wants to make all the recipes when they get a new cookbook.   Or maybe I am?  Anyhoo, HowSweetEats made this recipe awhile back and to be honest I wanted something quick and easy as a go-to lunch last week.  These marinated chickpeas are one to have in your back pocket.  No joke.  They are so simple and so good.  I served them over a bed of lettuce and added tomato and some avocado.  While I can’t post a recipe from her cookbook, just know that this recipe here – is the same.  The only difference is she added roasted red peppers into the mix.  And the bonus with this recipe is the chimichurri.  Her chimichurri made it in a series of my “Keepers” before.  So this really is a double keeper.

SaladMarinated Zoodle Salad (no link to the recipe because this one's all my own)– If you’ve never liked zucchini raw or cooked this is your chance to try it!  Zoodles, aka zucchini made to look like noodles but have no carbs, have been the rage for a while now.  I always teach patients that zucchini, as all non-starchy vegetables, should be included in an unlimited amount.  It’s the reason why ½ the MyPlate is illustrated this way – we need to eat MORE veggies!  Zoodles were never created in my opinion to eliminate carbs from the mix, but unfortunately it has shifted this way a bit.  You’ll see many a picture on social media depicting zoodles with marinara sauce on it and calling it a meal.  Nope.  Not even close.  You can add zoodles in with your pasta if you’d like to cut back on the total volume of carbs because we do eat too many carbs.  But eliminating pasta?  Um no.  This combo is my take on eating a salad and not having to make it all leafy greens.  There is spinach on the bottom and your standard tomatoes, but there’s something about mixing it up and not having it be the same old boring that makes my salad new again.  The recipe for the vinaigrette is simple:  2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and a dash of black pepper.  Think of it as an outline for any vinaigrette you want to make.  You can always mix it up and add in some vinegar, red wine or balsamic, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and any other spices you’d like.  It’s simple to make a homemade dressing.  Play around with the combos, but the ratio of 2:1 for the olive oil to lemon juice (or vinegar) is how I make the base.  The other add-ins are just bonus in changing flavors.

CondimentCucumbers and Pickled Shallots – Try and feed me a pickle from a jar and I’ll tell you, “no thanks”.  Give me a homemade pickle?  Now you’re talking.  And don’t just stop at cucumbers.  Give me all the pickled anything!  Recently I’ve been pickling red onions – I mean the color alone is reason to at least try them, shallots, cucumbers, radish, and carrots.  I haven’t tried any other veggies, but I typically add them on to tacos.  Amazing crunch and flavor addition.  Not to mention more non-starchy vegetables for ya!  You know me, the sneaky dietitian trying to get you to eat more veggies in your everyday life.  And not a bad way I might add.  #amIright  This recipe for the cucumbers and shallots by itself is amazing and my go-to recipe to use.  Occasionally I add in the fried shallots, only because they’re fried and no one needs fried non-starchy vegetables…that wasn’t the deal.  But when you mix the cucumber with the pickled shallots and then add that fried shallot on top?  Whoa!  THE best!  This is a must try and again your way to add more veggies into your life and enjoy them.  Tears aside from having to cut the onions, this is a happy cry!

Vegetarian Main DishKimchi “Fried” Farro – GOYA had a contest a couple of weeks back where all you had to do is use the hashtag #HEATGameDayMeal and show them what your “recipe to win” was.  I love the Miami HEAT and to have a chance to win game tickets and more, I was like count me in!  I picked at random just one of my more recent pics that I posted and thought, what the heck?  I never win anything, but knew I had to take a chance.  It was simply adding a hashtag to one of my pictures.  Not too hard.  Well I am here to say that I can never again say that I don’t win anything.  Because guess what??  I WON!! I went to the game last night and got to watch the pre-game shoot around. 
May I just say that Justice Winslow didn’t miss any shots?  En fuego.  For tickets, I had FRONT ROW FLOOR tickets.  Had to let that sink in for just a second.  I mean pinch me, is this for real?? When the HEAT do their introduction they have flames that ignite (there is a pyro tech crew there just in case.  Don’t try this at home.) and they do bring the heat, literally. 
I thought we were at least a ways away, but even still we felt the heat.  Insane!  The game was exciting, back and forth, and even went to OT.  I will say there were lots of missed calls and our boys just need to play.  I’m looking at you Hassan.  But when the last play looks like DWade was robbed and it would have come down to free throw shots, it leaves me still mad that we got the L.  After the game there was a meet and greet with Rodney McGruder.  I’m not sure he was thrilled to meet everyone in line, but I think he’ll remember me.  I was the one with the GOYA basket. 
And if you’re interested in the recipe I made, that just happened to use GOYA red beans, here’s the recipe from Lindsay Maitland’s book, Healthyish.  Simple and thrown together with some leftover farro I had.  Those meals are always the best.  Not sponsored by GOYA, just a proud sweepstakes winner.  Thanks GOYA!

Dessert Vegan Chocolate Mousse – This is one recipe I have repeated too many times to count.  It’s just that good.  I know, I know, I said I almost never repeat a recipe.  But when it’s this good you want to make it for everyone.  Yep, that good.  I froze them once and realized they still turn out okay after being defrosted.  I had a friend tell me they tasted good right out of the freezer, kind of like an ice cream fix.  And I even had one friend heat it in the microwave for just a few seconds after coming out of the fridge.  I have yet to try it either of these ways, so I guess that means I’ll just have to make this recipe again.  Me?  I just eat it straight from the fridge.  Don’t think that it’s light and airy like egg whites make normal chocolate mousse.  It’s not that.  This is vegan.  But what it is, is full of chocolate creamy goodness that doesn’t taste a lick like coconut if you were worried.  So yes, make this and thank me later.  P.S. I have tried at least two other “vegan” chocolate mousse recipes and none have paled in comparison to this.  What can I say?  I’m a connoisseur of chocolate mousse.  And when I was making this for someone that doesn’t consume dairy, I considered it my mission to find a great recipe.  Mission accomplished. 
So there you have it, my latest round-up of recipes that have made it to “keeper” status.  I’ve found the more and more that I trial recipes the pickier I become.  I think that’s a good thing – for all my readers out there, you’re only getting the best of the best!  And I’m even getting better at selecting recipes to know that they’re keepers.  There’s only been a few misses as of recent.  If you try some of these recipes, let me know.  I hope they make it to “keeper” status for you too!
No April Fool's - I really WON and was on center court!!