Thursday, March 1, 2012

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

This is going to be a quick post, but since it is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week,  I thought I would share a great article from USA Today on the subject.   There are so many types of eating disorders that extend beyond anorexia and bulimia.  It is important to stay informed and aware so that you can recognize the signs of disordered eating in a loved one and have the tools to help if necessary.

Visit the National Eating Disorders Awareness website for more information on the subject.  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

North African Couscous Paella

I just made this recipe the other night and it was so delicious I had to post it!  I got it from the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home cookbook.  For those of you who don't know, Moosewood Restaurant is an amazing vegetarian restaurant located in Ithaca, NY.  We had the pleasure of eating an amazing meal there this past summer when we spent a weekend in Ithaca.  Because it has won so many awards and is world renowned for its vegetarian food and best-selling cookbooks, I thought it was going to be a stuffy, overpriced place and it was exactly the opposite.  It was warm, inviting and the menu (which changes everyday) was so diverse and healthy.  I bought the "Cooks at Home" cookbook when I was there and make dishes from it all the time.  This one was such an easy, healthful, one-pot meal (the ingredient list is a little long but don't worry, it's so simple)...enjoy!

North African Couscous Paella - delicious! 
North African Couscous Paella
serves 2

2 tbsp oilive oil
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
4 scallions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
pinch of cayenne
2 cups hot water
1 package spiced dry tofu, cut in to 1/2 inch cubes (you can find this at the Asian supermarket- or just use extra firm tofu, well drained and pressed)
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas (I used frozen)
1 cup-quick cooking couscous (I used whole grain couscous)
1 tbsp margarine or butter (I used Smart Balance)
salt and ground pepper to taste
toasted slivered almonds (optional)
chopped parsley (optional - I didn't use because we didn't have any)
lemon wedges (optional)

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan with deep sides.  Add peppers, scallions, garlic, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne and saute on medium heat for 3 - 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in hot water.
  • Add tofu and cook for another 3 - 4 minutes, until it is heated through.
  • Stir in the peas and cook for another minute.  
  • Mix in the couscous and margarine or butter.
  • Cover and remove from the heat, let stand for 5 minutes.  
  • Uncover the pan and, using a fork, stir thoroughly to fluff up the couscous to break up any lumps.  
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve topped with toasted almonds and lemon wedges (and parsley if you want to use it)
    • If you have some sriracha sauce laying around and want a little more spice, a squeeze or two of it mixed in is so tasty! 
Nutrition Information (per 8oz serving)
Calories: 264  Fat:  7.2g  Protein:  13g  Sodium: 128mg  Carbohydrates: 36.8g

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


When I plan a meal I try to make it as balanced as possible: with a protein, a green veggie and a grain.  But, let's face it, there is only so much brown rice a person can eat.  One fun grain to start incorporating in to your meals is QUINOA (pronounced keen-wah).  When some people hear about quinoa they say, "quin-whaaat?"  But, I assure you, it is very easy to prepare and is good for you as well!

uncooked quinoa
Quinoa is actually not considered a "true grain" because the crop is not a member of the grass family like wheat, barley or other grains.  It is considered a pseudocereal and is closely related to species such as beets, spinach and tumbleweeds.  Quinoa originated in the Andes of South America in Ecuador, Bolivia, Columbia and Peru.  The Incas worshiped the crop and referred to it as "the mother of all grains."

The nutritional value of quinoa is excellent.  The protein content is very high (12-18%) and, unlike other grains such as rice and wheat, quinoa contains a full set of essential amino acids, making it a source of complete protein.  It is also a great source of dietary fiber, magnesium, phosphorus and iron.  One other great benefit is that it is naturally gluten-free and easily digestible.  

cooked using the method described
I have learned a great trick or two from Tom's mom, Gail, for preparing tasty quinoa, which can sometimes have a very bland flavor.  First, you rinse your quinoa then toast it for a few minutes in a hot, dry pan until you start to smell the great toasted, nutty scent.  Then, you cook it according to the package directions (usually bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes).  Once all the liquid has been absorbed, you return the quinoa to the toasting pan and toast it again, adding some spices such as garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, or whatever other spices you like.  Using this method is very easy and gives your quinoa a little crunchy texture and a great nutty, spiced flavor!

I just starting making our quinoa using the described method and we love it!  Do you have any other tricks to tasty quinoa?  Please share with us!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

School's in Session!

I am happy to report that I have survived my first week of school.  For those of you who don't know, I am taking Chemistry 101 and Biology 107 this semester at Montgomery College.  (see Hello Internet! post for more details about my plan to become a Dietitian)  It is quite an experience being back in school and I had some rather interesting "first week" kinks to work out.

The school week started with attending my first Chemistry lecture in about 10 years.  I walked in to the classroom about 5 minutes late because apparently Montgomery College does not have enough parking spaces for all of its students and I struggled to find a space.  Anyhow, the first thing that greeted my arrival was an older gentleman ranting and raving, in an accent I could barely understand, about how technology is ruining our brains and how the billionaire corporations are all Ponzi schemes.  To my surprise, he was the Chemistry professor and that was part of his lecture.  I sat through about 3 hours of his "teaching" and only learned approximately half of the scientific method.  I was crushed and could not accept that this man held the keys to my success in Chemistry.

I discovered that my Chemistry lab professor, who I learned more from in 5 minutes than I learned in 3 hours from the other professor, had an opening in a section of her class that meets Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings.  I quickly rearranged my schedule and switched in to her class faster than you can say "polyatomic ion."   

To make one thing clear, I am going to school to LEARN.  As an adult going back to school, I'm not messing around.  I am taking my studies very seriously and want to get As.  There are many more science classes in my future and if I don't get the right foundation with the basic courses I am doomed.

As I had imagined, I am in classes with a lot of 18 and 19 year-olds.  Luckily, though, my evening Biology course is mostly adults who work during the day and attend school at night.  It is great to know that I am not alone in the "adult going back to school" endeavor.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Vitamin D

Working at a nutritional supplement company has allowed me to start learning more and more about certain vitamins and minerals that support healthy bodies.  One of the vitamins I am most interested in is VITAMIN D.  It is a very important nutrient that, unless you take a supplement or spend lots of time in the sun, you will have a difficult time achieving sufficient levels through diet alone. 

One of the most significant roles that vitamin D plays in the body is to aid in the absorption of calcium, which we all know is a key nutrient for bone health.  Studies also show that there is a link between low blood levels of vitamin D and various cancers, cardiovascular disease, depression, type 2 diabetes and auto immune diseases.  There are many benefits of vitamin D including improved neuromuscular function in the elderly, lower risk for rheumatoid arthritis, and aiding in the growth and development of the fetus during pregnancy.

It is estimated that at least one-third of Americans have low vitamin D levels.  The greatest source of vitamin D, aside from supplements, is the sun.  It is produced in response to UV exposure to our skin cells.  It's possible to get enough vitamin D from the sunlight.  However in many parts of North America, the rays are too weak in the winter months and, with increased sunscreen use to protect against skin cancer, plus the fact that we tend to spend more time indoors than out, it is difficult to achieve the amount of exposure we need to get adequate levels of vitamin D. 

The only foods that are considered to be a good source of vitamin D are wild-caught fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines.  A great deal of the farmed fish we typically eat contains about 1/4 the amount of vitamin D that wild-caught fish contains.  Milk, which tends to be fortified with vitamin D (it does not naturally contain it) only contains about 100 IU (International Units) per 8 ounces. 

The current RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) set by the Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board is 600-800 IU, depending on age.  The upper limit is set at 4,000 IU per day.  You can see why many people, unless they take supplements, have a hard time achieving even the conservative RDA of 600-800 IU.  

Now, I am not telling you to go out and start taking vitamin D supplements, but I do find the subject very interesting since this seems to be a very important nutrient that roughly 1/3 of us are lacking.  I have started taking a multivitamin containing 2000 IU per day (among other nutrients important for young women) as an insurance policy against many of the diseases mentioned above. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Spicy Brussels Sprouts

I try to incorporate some form of deep green, leafy vegetable into my home-cooked dinners.  A new favorite for Tom and me is brussels sprouts.  They belong to the cruciferous family of vegetables and their leafy green cousins include cabbage, kale, collard greens, broccoli, bok choy and cauliflower. 

Nutritionally speaking, they are wonderful for you.  Brussels sprouts are a good source of vitamins A and C, dietary fiber and folic acid.  They also contain a nutrient called sinigrin, which, studies show has the ability to destroy precancerous cells if consumed regularly. 

Brussels sprouts have gotten a bad wrap for being smelly, mushy and altogether unappetizing.  The old fashioned way of preparing brussels sprouts was to boil them to death.  The act of boiling does two bad things: it reduces the the level of anti-cancer compounds and it tends to overcook them, in turn, releasing a sulfurous odor.  Steaming, roasting, and stir frying are all much better ways of cooking your sprouts.  

Try my really delicious (and easy!) recipe for Spicy Brussels Sprouts.  I make these at least once a week; it is my favorite preparation.    

Spicy Brussels Sprouts
makes approximately 2-4 servings  
(we love these so much that it's usually just enough for the two of us...)


2 cups brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and cut in half
1 tbsp (split in to 3 tsps) non-dairy buttery spread (I use Earth Balance Buttery Spread )
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp or a generous sprinkling of red pepper flakes (to taste, of course)

Spicy Brussels Sprouts after being stirred up in the pan
Melt 1 tsp of the Earth Balance in a large saute pan on medium heat.  Take the pan off the heat (so that you don't burn the butter) and place the brussels sprouts flat side down, in one layer, on the pan.

Put the pan back on the heat and lower to medium-low.  Sprinkle the sprouts with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Put the remaining Earth Balance on top of the sprouts and cover.

Cook, covered, for about 5 minutes or until the bottom the sprouts are browned (I like mine pretty browned as you can see in the picture but you really just need to make sure they are cooked through and not too crunchy).

Stir so that the tops of the sprouts get some contact with the pan and cook for about one more minute.


Nutrition Information:
per 1/2 cup serving
Calories: 50   Fat: 2g  Saturated Fat: 0.6g   Sugar: 1g   Sodium: 51mg   Protein: 2g   Fiber: 2g

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Here's an update for those of you who are following my journey back to school.  I bought my books today for my first two classes back:  Chemistry 101 and Biology 107.  They both have labs and discussions so there are a total of 6 books for the two classes.  That big stack of books set me back about $300 but I am optimistic that they will be the beginning of a great new career for me.  Here's to studying!

my new best friends!