Tag Archives: nutrition

St. Patrick’s Day Spinach Pesto Pasta

I watched maybe four episodes of “Chopped” last night. It may have been a bit much… because when I just went to the kitchen to make dinner, I created my own little mystery basket. Except instead of exotic or ridiculous ingredients, mine were things in the fridge that are about to go bad… I had to get rid of some spinach. And the broccoli was looking a little peaked. (Please don’t tell the judges.) So there was that… From the pantry I scrounged some staples: pasta, garlic, onion. Done! I’m going to make a spinach pesto with sauteed broccoli and penne. Boom! And that’s how it went. Pretty lame for “Chopped,” I know, but the approach sure beat opening the door to a near empty fridge, sighing and saying, “We have no food!” Which is how I probably would have reacted just a few years ago…

Instead, I accepted the challenge and tried my damndest to impress my judge (the husband). And here’s the oh-so-appropriately-timed St. Patrick’s Day pesto pasta we ended up with for dinner:

broccoli-pesto-pasta

St. Patrick’s Day is a favorite holiday of mine. And when I looked down at all that green goodness on my plate I couldn’t help but smile at the timing. I would totally make this, or even just the pesto for a St. Patty’s Day party. Festive, and good for you! Skip the green beer and load up on this. (Note, I said green beer. I have no problem with beer… just for the record.)

Meanwhile, on my little episode of “Chopped”… The judges were speechless and practically licked their plates clean…

pesto-clean-plate

And there’s still plenty of pesto left over to use in dressings and to dip things in between now and the actual St. Patty’s day. This pesto (which is similar to this one) is a super sneaky way to get in more greens, which are good for you on every level – improving circulation, bringing in oxygen, detoxing cells and even lifting the spirit. They’ll also help counter act some of the not-so-good for you stuff (read: green beer) we may over do in honor of our patron saint in green….

spinach-pesto

St. Patrick’s Day Spinach Pesto Pasta

Ingredients:

For the pesto:
1 bunch spinach
1/2 cup walnuts
1 clove garlic
1 lemon
1 handful basil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

For the pasta
1 box whole wheat or brown rice pasta
1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:
Cook the pasta according to package instructions.

For the pesto, first put garlic clove in food processor and process to chop. Then add walnuts and chop. Add spinach, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and process into a smooth consistency. Last, add the basil and process until evenly blended and smooth. Add more olive oil and/or water until desired consistency is reached.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add diced onion and sautee until translucent. Add broccoli florets and sautee about 10 minutes until cooked through.

Top pasta with broccoli mix and then pesto.

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What I Read This Week: No more recipes. Foods to try in 2012. What your urine’s telling you.

I’m a bit a news junkie (journalism major here) and in particular I eat up anything related to health/nutrition/food. My little New York Times “recommended for you” section is chock full of it. They know me. As does Amazon.com who seems to think I am an obsessive dieter/avid hiker/ecofarm hippie.

Anyway, I thought instead of selfishly hoarding all of the information I consume in my own brain (where it’s sure to be lost never to be found again), I should share the little nuggets that I think you might find interesting too. So here goes… here are a few things that caught my eye this week…

A Recipe for Simplifying Life: Ditch All the Recipes

A Medical Tell-All Can Be Found in Urine

FDA: Some Livestock Antibiotics Will Be Limited

Stopping Superbugs: Time for Congress and Industry to Catch Up With American Consumers

Mark Bittman: The Last of Last Year’s Food Links

12 Healthy Foods to Try in 2012

10 Things I Say No to and Why

What about you? Anything catch your eye that’s worth sharing?

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I Believe…

First, a few things that I don’t believe in: Guilt, Diets, Scales and 100 Calorie Packs. Now that I’ve got that out there, here’s what I do believe…

1. You are what you eat. Literally. The food we eat gets digested and absorbed and used to make new cells, tissues, stomach lining, blood, skin, hair fingernails… When old cells die they’re replaced with new ones. It’s a continuous process. And when we feed our bodies foods that support healthy cellular growth, you can see it on the outside with healthy looking skin, hair and nails. That simple. Every second of every day we’re shedding old cells and creating new ones. So when you think of it that way, every day is a new chance to change your diet and your body for the better.

2. Your body is telling you something. You just have to listen. Our bodies are constantly sending us signals but all too often we skip right over them or worse, shut them up with an Advil. Instead, listen to the messages your body is sending. It may be telling you to slow down, or that didn’t work so well, or that feels great! Tune in to the signals and use them to treat yourself better.

3. Counting calories is a waste of time. What is a calorie anyway? If you want to get specific, a calorie is the amount of energy required raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by one degree. Way too scientific if you ask me. Food is food, it shouldn’t be rocket science. So why do we insist on making it out to be? I’m not saying go out and eat a Value Meal. Calories don’t matter! No. The calorie is good for just what it is – a guide for the energy value of food. But we’ve taken it to the extreme and become calorie-obsessed. We spend twice as much money for a smaller quantity of food just because it comes in a 100 calorie pack. Pay no mind to the laundry list of ingredients we can’t pronounce. But it was only 100 calories! Which brings me to number 4…

4. Know what you’re eating. Be a food detective. If there’s anything in the ingredient list that you can’t pronounce or rhymes with blahgogenated, don’t eat it. It also matters how your food is grown and raised. Find out if it’s conventional or organic, local or farm raised, caged or pastured, grain or grass fed. It matters.

5. Food is powerful. We underestimate it. Maybe it’s because of all the drugs we have nowadays and all the messages and advertisements that come with them. But food can be even more powerful than a drug without the slew of possible side effects. Different foods create unique chemical reactions in the body that can facilitate healing. People have healed themselves from all sorts of ailments – from a case of the doldrums, to a little headache, to cancer, diabetes and so on.

6. Diets don’t work. And there’s no such thing as the perfect diet. If there was we’d all be eating it. Thing is, everybody is different. We all have different blood running through our veins, different metabolisms and different taste buds. And in this day and age with more and more food allergies and sensitivities, quite literally one persons panacea can be anothers poison. It’s up to each of us to find the diet (err, make that way of eating) that works for us right now. That means listening to your body (see #2), experimentation and enjoying the journey.

7. Food isn’t the only thing that feeds us. Sure it feeds us in the most literal sense, but what I’m talking about are those things that feed the soul. Our primary nourishment – relationships, careers, spirituality – feed us on a much deeper level than peas and carrots. You can eat all the broccoli in the world, but if you’re not feeding your soul what it needs too it doesn’t matter.

8. Exercise should feel good. The right exercise that is. And if it doesn’t feel good then why the heck are you doing it?! Or, maybe that’s why you’re not doing it? So stop. And find something that does make you feel good. Exercise is another one of those primary foods that feed us on a deeper level. It can make you happy, relieve stress and increase energy. And your exercise routine should change as you do to suit your age, preferences and lifestyle.

9. You, and only you, are in control of your health. Just because heart disease runs in the family or your father has high cholesterol does not mean you are doomed. The choices we make everyday have a greater impact. Nutrition (both primary and secondary) can turn genes on and off. This is cutting edge stuff right here. You see, food is powerful (#5) and you really are what you eat (#1) afterall.

10. Health is a means, not an end. It’s not just about being healthy. It’s about what being healthy allows you to do…

What do you want to do?

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Green Juice

Let me start by saying that this started innocently with a smoothie. And then I got curious. So I ordered a juicer on Amazon. I got a few well-respected opinions…. wait, this reminds me of something David Wolfe (raw foodist and superfood freak) said in class when he was asked: “What do you think is best juicer on the market?” His response: “The one that’s in your cabinet that your not using!” Excellent point.

So a week after I ordered it, my juicer arrived and if you had told me five years ago (heck, a year ago) that I’d one day be this excited about an appliance arriving on my doorstep I would have called you crazy pants. No joke, that juicer came on a Friday and you know what I did that night? I juiced all the produce in our fridge. Dork? Yes. I juiced a carrot. An apple. A beet. I was having fun playing with my new toy. Then I spilled beet juice all over the floor. It looked like a murder scene in our kitchen. Good thing I was out of veggies at that point. My juicing skills have gotten a little more sophisticated since then. I tried out a few different green juice recipes, tweaked things a bit and came up with the recipe here. I make juice maybe 2-3 mornings a week. I’d love to have it daily, but it’s a time investment. We’re talking 5-10 minutes to prep and make the juice, then 5-10 minutes to clean the juicer. Given that I don’t like to clean much of anything, you can guess my least favorite part of the process. I suppose there are worse things… like cleaning the fridge or unclogging drains. But I can think of a bajillion other things I could do with those 5-10 minutes. Like, sleep. Time and cleaning aside,  juicing is an incredibly healthy practice if you can squeeze it in (see that?), especially if your idea of eating greens is the lettuce on your cheeseburger. Think about it. You could eat all of this…

Or you could drink a glass of this….

It tastes pretty good too (a lot better than it looks anyway). When you drink juice from fresh vegetables and fruits it’s like cutting out the middle man. You remove the fiber, which your body would ordinarily have to break down to extract the nutrients itself. When it’s just the juice, the good stuff (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, chlorophyll) is more readily available and easily absorbed. It goes straight into your system and gets soaked up by every cell in your body. You don’t have to chew up that big pile of veggies and your body doesn’t have to use energy to digest it. That means more energy for you.

There’s a lot of information out there about juice fasting/feasting to detoxify, heal and re-energize the body. The idea is to consume fresh vegetable and fruit juices for a few days to give the digestive system some well-deserved time off, allow the body to release toxins, and focus its energy on other tasks besides digestion, like healing. If you’re interested, I suggest doing some research before jumping in and, of course, consult a health care professional before doing anything drastic.

Me? I’m satisfied for now getting my dose of green juice when I can. I look at it as my insurance for the day. No matter what the day may bring I know I have already had a days worth of veggies before even leaving the house. But considering my track record from green smoothies to full on juicing, a juice feast just might be next. Stay tuned…

Green Juice

What you need:

2 ribs celery
1/4 large cucumber
1/2 cup parsley
2 leaves of kale
1/4 a lime
1 small apple
1/4 inch piece of peeled ginger (optional)

What you do:

Wash everything well. Feed all the ingredients through the juicer. Save the lime for last so it can help clean the juicer. Pour green juice over ice and enjoy!

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Juicers Ready…

Green juice (that’s right, you heard me) is on next week’s blogging agenda. Here’s a video clip to set the scene. Maybe it will whet your palate? Who am I kidding, I hope it just makes you laugh. I bring you Jim Carey as The Juice Man….

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What I Learned At School This Weekend

I remember sitting down to dinner when we were kids and my Mom asking each of us: “What did you learn in school today?”

And we’d say, “I don’t know.”

I’m not sure how this scene played out in your house. I imagine most experienced something similar. I can’t help but think back to those days now when I get back from a class weekend. Today my mom asks me how school was and 30 minutes later I’m still going… And she’s wondering where’s the middle?!

I won’t bore you with too many details here, but I thought I’d share a few of my favorite “fun facts” from the weekend. Classes were taught by Joy Bauer (Today Show nutritionist), Dr. Andrew Weil (MD, Harvard grad, Integrative Medicine pioneer), Dr. Barry Sears (creator of The Zone diet), and Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D. (founder of The Natural Gourmet Culinary Institute). They covered inflammation, food and mood, arthritis, heart health, cravings, headaches, and bone health.

Here’s my version of a Top Ten list….

  1. Every hour of walking increase your life span by 2 hours.
  2. Every pound that’s lost alleviates four pounds of stress on joints.
  3. More than 2 servings of fish per week reduces your risk of heart disease by 23 percent.
  4. A red bell pepper has 300 mg of vitamin C. That’s more than 3 times that’s in an orange.
  5. Adequate levels of vitamin D protect from colds and flu. We get less exposure to vitamin D in the winter so we are more susceptible to the flu.
  6. There is no toxicity risk for vitamin D from sun exposure and food because the body only makes as much as it needs.
  7. It’s the polyphenols in red wine that protect us from inflammation. Two glasses of red wine is equal to 10 servings of vegetables.
  8. Our bones are constantly being built up and broken down. It’s thought that they replace themselves every 10 years.
  9. Bones are made up of 65% calcium and 35% collagen (or protein). The calcium makes them hard. The collagen makes them flexible. You need both for strong, healthy bones.
  10. Other important nutrients for bones are vitamin D, A, C, K, phosphorous, magnesium, healthy fats and trace minerals.

And some good quotes from the weekend….

“It’s not about being healthy, it’s about what being healthy allows you to do.” – Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D.

“If you can control inflammation, you can control chronic disease.” – Dr. Barry Sears

“Food is powerful!” – Joy Bauer, nutritionist

“Health is an inner quality of bounciness. We are born with it but it’s up to us to protect it.” – Dr. Andrew Weil

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About

I just updated what’s under the About section to include more information on the school I’m going to and the work I’ll be doing as a certified health coach. Check it out.

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Inspired.

Saturday, I started my classes at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. I’m officially back in school to get my certification as a nutritional health counselor. I’m so excited about what’s in store for this year.

So there I was Saturday morning headed to the first day of school and I felt like it might as well be the seventh grade. I had butterflies in my stomach… and on my face – butterfly closures to keep my chin together. Just a few days before I left for NYC I was running, tripped, flew and busted my chin open on the sidewalk. And I broke four teeth. I never had braces growing up, but Saturday I felt those kids’ pain.

Once I got there I realized nerves were silly. I mean really, I was surrounded by people who are just as passionate about health as I am. Do you know how cool it felt to be in a room with hundreds of people who also get excited about learning a new healthy recipe? We were all there because we believe health education is important and something that’s missing and desperately needed today. The room was buzzing. I wish you could have felt the energy and enthusiasm there. It was inspiring to say the least. 

On class weekends we’ll meet and hear from some of the brightest and most innovative minds in the health field. This weekend included talks by Walter Willet, the chairman of Harvard’s nutrition department, Marion Nestle, NYU professor and author of the book Food Politics, and Bernie Siegel, physician and author of Love, Medicine and Miracles

My favorite moment happened in the first hour of class though. The principal of the school, Joshual Rosenthal, invited people to introduce themselves to the class and say why they’re in school. One woman stood up and talked about the challenges of raising kids and teaching them healthy eating habits in today’s society. She said, “I’m here for my kids.”

Joshua then asked who else was there for the same reason… 

It felt like half the room stood at that point. I got goosebumps.

I’m so exited to finally be getting started on this path. And I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences with you. Stay tuned!

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Talking Stocks

With all this rain we’ve had in Dallas (day 5 now), all I can think about is my bed and soup. Where are you sun? Oh, how I miss you. I will say though this cooler weather and Monday night football has me ready for fall. Leaves changing colors (in states where that actually happens). Sweaters. Pumpkins. Boots. And Soup.

Last weekend Ross (boyfriend and guinea pig) and I drove to Austin. We do this just about every weekend it seems – drive 3, 4 or so hours to Austin or Houston for a wedding and/or UT football. It’s good quality time together, which lately I’ve spent reading to him from recipe books. He says he likes it, but he’s lying. He’s really just trying to stay awake and hearing about beef stew and chicken curry beats Glamour.

Last weekend we got to the chapter on stocks. His financial mind wishes I meant those kind of stocks, but no, this was soup stocks, as in broth – the real deal made with animal bones, heads and feet. Mouth watering yet? It sounds disgusting and a little disturbing, I know. Believe me the thought of purchasing cow knuckle bones and then boiling them makes me want to cry. But this is what people actually used to do back when nothing went to waste. For thousands of years people did it. Then bullion cubes and Campbell’s soup came around and these ancient methods went out the window. And so did the minerals, gelatin and health benefits that came with them.

I read all of this in Sally Fallon’s cookbook: Nourishing Traditions. It made sense and we were curious how one makes a true stock (well, I was at least. He was driving and didn’t have much choice).

So we went on to read about how to make beef stock, and this is how the conversation went:

Me: (reading) … About 4 pounds beef marrow and knuckle bones, 1 calves foot, cut into pieces (optional), 3 pounds meaty rib or neck bones, 4 or more quarts cold filtered water…

Ross: Do you think they sell those at Whole Foods?

Me: I don’t think so. Maybe behind the butcher’s counter?

Ross: (mocking) “Yes, I’d like 2 chicken breasts, 4 filets, a whole chicken with the head – no feathers, and a calves foot. If you have some hooves throw those in there too.”

Me: OK, maybe China Town?

Ross: Keep going.

Me: (reading) 1/2 cup vinegar, 3 onions coarsely chopped, 3 carrots coarsely chopped, 3 celery stalks coarsely chopped, several sprigs of fresh thyme tied together, 1 teaspoon dried green peppercorns crushed, l bunch parsley…

Place the knuckle and marrow bones and optional calves foot…

Ross: Wait, nothing is optional. If we’re making this we’re going all the way.

Me: Um, OK…. (reading) in a very large pot with vinegar and cover with water. Let stand for one hour. Meanwhile, place the meaty bones in a roasting pan and brown at 350 degrees in the oven. When well browned, add to the pot along with the vegetables. Pour the fat out of the roasting pan, add cold water to the pan, set over a high flame and bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen up coagulated juices.

Ross: You’re going to need a witch hat.

Me: (reading) ….Add this liquid to the pot. Add additional water, if necessary, to cover the bones; but the liquid should come no higher than within one inch of the rim of the pot, as the volume expands slightly during cooking. Bring to a boil. A large amount of scum will come to the top…

Ross: Mmmm, I love recipes with scum.

Me: (reading) ….and it is important to remove (the scum) this with a spoon. After you have skimmed, reduce heat and add the thyme and crushed peppercorns.

Simmer stock for at least 12 and as long as 72 hours.

Ross: Three days?!

Me: (reading) Just before finishing, add the parsley and simmer another 10 minutes. You will now have a pot of rather repulsive-looking (laughing) brown liquid containing globs of gelatinous and fatty material. It doesn’t even smell particularly good.

Ross: Boiling hooves. I bet that does smell good.

Me: (reading) But don’t despair. After straining you will have a delicious and nourishing clear broth that forms the basis for many other recipes in this book.

Remove bones with tongs or a slotted spoon.

Ross: Wait, you don’t strain it or anything. Gross.

Me: (reading) ….Strain the stock into a large bowl.

Ross: Oh.

Me: (reading) Let cool in the refrigerator and remove the congealed fat that rises to the top. Transfer to smaller containers and to the freezer for long-term storage.

Ross: Seems like a lot of work for some broth.

Me: You use it to make soups, stews, sauces and lots of other dishes in this book.

Ross: OK (laughing), I can’t wait to see you with a calves foot.

For more on stocks and full stock recipes (chicken, beef, fish), see Sally Fallon’s article.

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Lessons From a Caveman: The Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Cavemen had it easy. They didn’t have the temptation of sweet potato fries, or Dairy Queen Blizzards, or margaritas. All they had to eat were nuts, berries and seeds; lean meat; fish and plant foods. Their primitive diet struck the perfect balance of anti-inflammatory Omega-3s and pro-inflammatory Omega-6s. What does today’s “caveman” diet look like? Steak. Potato. Bread. The scales are tipped in one clear direction. In a span of a few hundred-thousand years, from hunting and gathering to the fast food industry, our pro to anti-inflammation ratio has gone from 1:1 to a bloated 30:1. Say, “Do I look swollen?”

It might be another story if McDonald’s got its start selling salmon and spinach Happy Meals. But the reality is most of the foods and fast food we eat are processed and fatty. And the more we eat, the more inflammation builds up in the body. It’s what causes aches and pains and leads to allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Of course inflammation speeds up the aging process in general too. Hello, wrinkles. So when you hear of the powerful antioxidents in blueberries, or the wonders of green tea, or the new superfood – acai, or whatever is touted as the next season’s fountain of youth …  it all comes down to the food’s ability to fight inflammation.

The trick is to eat less of the really pro-inflammatory stuff (processed foods, sugar, red meat…) and more of the anti-inflammatory stuff (veggies, nuts, fish, whole grains…). Go primitive. In your diet that is. No loin clothes.
I like to think that if I can strike a balance, I’m in good shape. The good cancels out the bad, right? Do the math: 1 Butterfinger Blizzard + 6 oz. salmon + 1 Spinach salad + 1/4 cup blueberries = 0. That’s a wash. 

Here’s a quick list of some inflammation fighters:
nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews)
avocados
fish (wild-caught salmon)
olive oil
dark leafy greens (spinach, mixed greens)
whole grains (brown rice)
broccoli/cauliflower
berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)
tomatoes
tea (green)

And some inflammation instigators:
butter/margarine
sugar
full-fat dairy
red meat
high-fructose corn syrup
vegetable oils (corn, cottonseed, safflower and sunflower oils)
wheat flour (white bread)
packaged snack foods
coffee

For a visual, check out Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid.

Want more? Read: Jack Challem’s “The Inflammation Syndrome”

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