Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Favorite Things, Part 2: Too Cool Not to Share

Hi there! This is Part 2 in a multi-part series on my favorite things of 2014. If you missed Part 1: Things You Plug In, check it out here.

Paderno World Cuisine A4982799 Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable Slicer

$32.40 on Amazon

These things have been all the rage lately, but I haven't been compelled enough to spring for one myself. Well, I'm really grateful to my good friend Laura for this wonderful shower gift. We still have a lot of dishes to try out, but for steamed zucchini tossed in pesto and for a fun twist (get it?) on cucumber salad, this thing has been super. It is easy to assemble, use, and clean and I think it would be a great way to make preparing and eating veggies fun for kids and for adults who are kids at heart. ;-)

Bodum Columbia Four 6 Oz Cups Stainless Steel Thermal Vacuum Coffee Press, 0.5 l, 17-Ounce

$84.99 on Amazon

I confess: I LOVE coffee. But not any old cup of Joe. Nope, I'm a coffee snob. The luke-warm cups from the keurig at work infuriate me. Dunkin Donuts coffee is no more than a carrier liquid for excessive amounts of cream and sugar. You get the idea. I also don't own a drip machine b/c frankly, it takes up a lot of counter space and I'm the only one who drinks it. So, I've been doing the pour-over thing since before that was a thing and making espresso on the stove with one of those cute Italian things my Grandma gave me. I buy good, freshly roasted beans and I grind them myself and well, both of my methods were falling short. The pour-overs are never dark enough and the stove-top stuff can burn pretty easily. I knew a french press would fill a void in my life. And oh, how it has! This pot is petite, so it's footprint is small and it makes just enough coffee for me to get my morning fix. Best part... it keeps it hot until I'm ready for my second cup and cleans up with a very quick rinse. Is it worth $85? Guess THAT depends on how much of a coffee snob you are. :-P

Joseph Joseph 9 Piece Compact Mixing Bowl, Food Prep and Measuring Set, Nest 9

$49.95 on Amazon

A colorful, space-saving set that includes measuring cups (we had a few from one set and a few from another, but were always searching for the right one for whatever we were measuring at the time), a large mixing bowl (you can never have enough), 2 strainers (the ones we still have hog way too much space in our cabinets!), and a small mixing bowl that's great for prep. 

Joseph Joseph Twist 2-in-1 Silicone Whisk, Multi-Colored

$10.16 on Amazon

The most annoying thing about a whisk is that it can take up so much space in a drawer! This one is great because it stores flat and the colors are super fun, too. It works, it's easy to clean, it won't damage cookware, and well, I love it.

Tervis 4-Pack Tumbler, 16-Ounce, Clear

$39.99 on Amazon

We had a good friend tell us we had to get these after staying with us for a few months and observing our drinkware patterns: Let's just say he was right. We also got the lids that pop on to make these to-go sip cups for coffee or straw cups for water. Best part? They're top-rack dishwasher safe and don't sweat. 

Progressive International GT-3468 Snap Fit Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons, Set of 5

$15.00 on Amazon

Another colorful space-saver that is super practical! I've had sets of measuring spoons over the years. They've come on rings that don't really hold them together and that ring of spoons can be pretty irritating because you have to decide if you should pop the 1 or 2 spoons off the ring or leave them all together. 

Silpat AE420295-07 Premium Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat, Half Sheet Size, 11-5/8-Inch x 16-1/2-Inch

$13.29 on Amazon

Cookie season is here! I've wanted these for a while and love how easy they make baking and clean up. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Favorite Things, Part 1: Things You Plug In

This year has been amazing for SO many reasons and while material things certainly don't top the list, James and I had fun selecting stuff for our registry. There wasn't much we "needed," so I took special care to research every possible want and need before adding anything to our lists. We ended up selecting a handful of practical things that we would use regularly.

After a few months of use of some very generous gifts, I'm happy to share reviews of my favorites. Some of the "things" on the lists in this mult-part blog post series (!) weren't gifts, but were things that made their way into my life this year that I wholeheartedly recommend. Use this and the following lists for inspiration this gift-giving season or gift yourself with something you know you'll use every day. I've separated things into fun categories and included images that link to the items on Amazon for your convenience. ;-)

Part 1: Stuff You Plug In

I had my eye on most of these things for a while and I did a ton of research before I knew they were "the ones." I even subscribed to Consumer Reports to read expert reviews on a lot of the products I was eyeing. They also publish these great buyer guides that tell you what to look for when you're shopping for a particular item. Yeah, I'm a dork. What?

VitaClay VM7900-8 Smart Organic Multi-Cooker/Rice Cooker 

$129.99 on Amazon

I have a hand-me-down crock pot that works. But the only functions on it are high and low. There's no option to set a timer and the lightweight plastic lid lets a lot of liquid escape. It's also a bit small for the type of things I like to cook in it - soups! I also have a cheap rice cooker that works well, but is coated with a nonstick surface that probably leeches all kinds of chemicals into our otherwise healthy brown rice, quinoa, and other grains. I've had my eye on this since I saw it reviewed on another blog and well, I knew I wanted it. It's pretty amazing. It works for rice and other grains, roasts, soups, and stews. The clay pot means it gets really hot and actually reduces the time needed to "slow" cook from 6 - 8 hours to 2 - 4. It has a timer that lets you schedule when it starts cooking and it keeps food warm. The lid locks, so liquid is retained. And, the pot is easy to clean even though it's not painted or covered in "nonstick" stuff. If you don't have a slow cooker and/or a rice cooker, this is a no-brainer! Thank you Roseanne!

Breville BOV650XL Compact Smart Oven 1800-Watt Toaster Oven with Element IQ

$179.95 on Amazon

The "oven" on my ancient Black-n-Decker toaster oven died a year or two ago and I swore I wouldn't buy another one. Instead, I'd put best one I could find on our registry and thanks to James' Godmother and her daughters, we now have a brand new top of the line amazing toaster oven that toasts, bakes, and broils. We've toasted english muffins, baked cookies, broiled fish, and even reheated chicken pot pies in this bad boy. And it's been good at all of them. The digital stuff took some more getting used to than I expected, but it counts preheating down and beeps when it's ready. We even got a coordinating cutting board that fits on top perfectly. I love it's small footprint, too. I wasn't looking for an oven to put on the counter, you know? We have an oven... but this thing will certainly help us get a hot dinner on the table in the summer without heating up the rest of the apartment. And, I love Breville. The designs are so sleek. Thank you Aunt Janet, Marie, and Nancy!

Breville BTM800XL One-Touch Tea Maker

$249.95 on Amazon

Splurge alert! If you're like us and make several POTS, not cups, of tea for like five months out of the year, this might be worth it. Otherwise, it's kind of hard to justify unless you've got $250 burning a hole in your pocket. I used a $15 electric kettle that I bought at Wal-mart for over a decade. I love electric kettles, counter footprint aside. They boil water faster than the stove and it's nice to have a device dedicated to only water. When I started "shopping" for a new electric kettle, all I wanted was one with an auto-off feature that I could customize the temperature on (I used to use a digital thermometer to achieve the ideal temperature for steeping green and other delicate teas). The more I researched, the more I wanted one with a detachable base so the kettle could go from counter to kitchen or coffee table without a cord. Things started to get pricey when I combined those features with a kettle that didn't have plastic and I hated the thought that I might be sipping BPA or other endocrine disruptors with my cup of antioxidants. When I saw a kettle with a list price of $300, I thought it was a joke. Until I watched the video and saw the Breville magic. There are pre-set buttons for green, white, black, and herbal teas and for mild, medium, and strong. There's a rather magical basket (that somehow doesn't let loose tea into the water) on a magnet that automatically enters the water at the exact moment the water reaches the perfect temperature and removes the basket from the water once it has steeped according to your preference. And yes, there are custom temperature and steep time settings, a keep warm button, an auto-off feature, and a detachable base. Heavens, you can even program it the night before to make your tea when your alarm goes off in the morning. People... what more do you need in life than the perfect cup of tea?! Thank you CarolMom!

Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler

$64.99 on Amazon

OK, I full well know that I dissed nonstick surfaces like 2 sentences ago, but you have to pick your battles in life, right? Well, we have lodge cast iron pans and the grill/griddle thing has NOT been working for us. This thing has been life-changing. Eggs. Pancakes. Grilled veggies. Grilled chicken. Burgers. It does it all. But wait, there's more! Because James' one registry request was a waffle iron and well, I didn't want a separate appliance taking up precious space. There are WAFFLE plates for this bad boy! And they work perfectly fine for the (let's be honest here) 5 times a year we'll probably make waffles. ;-) The plates are pretty easy to change and clean up nicely in the dishwasher. Note: Cuisinart makes several versions of the "griddler." I compared and contrasted them all. Read all the reviews. This one won hands down, I promise. Thank you to the Sicuranzas!

In the next week, I'll post one or two more "favorite things" round-ups, but the above captures most of the big ticket items. Have you ever used any of the above products? If so, let us know in the comments! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Fall Recipe Round Up + Thanksgiving Inspiration

This week, I'll enjoy my first Thanksgiving turkey since 2007 and I think I'm going to enjoy every bite. Adding meat back into my diet over the past few months has been interesting on so many levels. Some of my concerns over the slippery slope have been realized and lately, I'm making more of an effort to bump the veggies in our meals back up to pre-omnivore levels!

Since I've mastered some crowd pleasing veggie-filled dishes, I'll be preparing some crispy roasted brussels sprouts with garlic aioli and a new variation of my butternut squash lasagna for our family's Thanksgiving feast. If you need some inspiration this week, here are a few of my favorite fall recipes and a look back at some of our past Thanksgiving meals.

Delicata Squash Stuffed 2 Ways
If you have any non-meat eaters coming to your Thanksgiving feast, this is an entree option that is sure to wow. Delicata squash are delicious but are near the end of the season. If you can't find them, you could try this with any small squash. 

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Leeks

This year, I'm going to add some kale and mushrooms to this recipe and sub goat milk for the half and half. I also got some gluten free no-bake lasagna noodles so my niece can enjoy this! 

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Pistachio Parsley Pesto

The parsley and pistachios that top this squash will add a burst of color to what can otherwise be a fairly monochromatic table full of shades of brown (no offense, stuffing, turkey, and potatoes, but you're a little lacking in the color category!)

Another delicious vegetarian entree option. Add some cannelini beans to the pesto to bump up the protein. 

Ah, my old standby. 

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Feast

We hosted Thanksgiving a few years ago and got super creative so nobody missed the Turkey. Even my sister, not the world's biggest fan of veggies, loved the massaged kale salad. 

Maple Ginger Cranberry Sauce

Leave the refined sugar in the pantry with this recipe! It's still sweet and the maple and ginger add some more complex flavors. 
Spice things up a little with this superstar soup! 

Hopefully you've found some inspiration for something a little different than your standard candied yams, mashed potatoes, and stuffing here.

If you end up overindulging this week, you might want to try my Easy Detox Week

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


It's getting cold, and that means I'm transitioning from smoothies to oatmeal in the morning. I wasn't all that excited about this transition because last winter, I think I overdosed on oatmeal and I didn't do a great job with my ratios, meaning that it often ended up turning into a brick before I finished it. Well, I put a little more effort into my first bowl of the fall and when I shared a photo of it on InstagramFacebook, and twitter I got several requests for the recipe, so here it is! Note that I ate this for brunch. It makes a really big bowl that could easily serve 2. I've included rough nutritional estimates below. 

1 c unsweetened original tempt hemp milk (any unsweetened milk or water will work)
1/2 c rolled/old fashioned oats (this makes a very large bowl but is a "serving" according to the package)
1/2 apple, diced small (use the whole apple if feeding 2 with this)
2 tb raisins
1 tb chia seeds (can be bumped up to 2 tb for 2 servings)
1 tb pumpkin butter (or pumpkin puree to taste)
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or to taste)
1 tb sunflower seed butter (or any nut/seed butter of your choosing)
dash sea salt

Optional: To make these into proats (protein oats) add 1 tb of unflavored whey (try to find organic grass-fed if you can!) protein powder (or plant-based protein powder if you prefer). This makes a great post-workout recovery meal to help muscle synthesis. Added protein not included in nutritional info below.

Soak oats and chia seeds for as little as 5 minutes or overnight in water. This helps wash away water-soluble anti-nutrients in the oats and encourages early stage sprouting of the chia seeds; even a quick soak/rinse is better than no soak.

Combine hemp milk, raisins, salt, and apples (and whey if making proats) in a small/medium saucepan over medium heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until small bubbles form. Add the pumpkin butter, pumpkin pie spice, and oats. Stir to combine, lower heat to simmer, and cook until you reach your desired texture. This shouldn't take more than a few minutes since your oats have already soaked! Stir in the chia seeds, transfer to a large bowl, and top with a the sunbutter. Note that if you skip the nut/seed butter, you might want to stir in a tb of real butter or ghee. A little fat is an important part of a well-balanced meal, adds a ton of flavor, and should not be feared! That said, this recipe is sweet enough with the pumpkin butter, raisins, and apple... you don't need any added sugar! Enjoy your bowl of fall!

Quaker Quick Rolled Oats - Rolled Oats, 1/2 cup150202500
Tempt - Hemp milk (unsweetened), 1 cup801821250
Apple - Washington, 0.5 large (3-1/4" dia)551500111
Raisins - Seedless, 2 tbsp(s)621601212
Trader Joe's - Pumpkin Butter, 1 tbsp (18g)40100009
Spices - Pumpkin pie spice, 1 tsp610010
Trader Joes - Sunflower Seed Butter, 1 tbsp100484602
Tj Chia Seeds - Chia Seeds, 1 Tbsp137153450


Monday, November 3, 2014

It's Been a While

Why hello there. You may remember me as the sustainable food and nutrition blogger who used to post recipes and stuff once in a while. Well, I've been a bit busy this year with my new job publishing Food Science books covering Sustainable Food, Nutrition, Functional Food, and Dairy and oh yeah, GETTING MARRIED (more photos of our big day here). It's been a wonderful year and now that I've hit my goal at work (and then some, yipee!) and have wedding planning (phew, that was tiring) behind me, I'm so excited to be re-launching my blog along with nutrition workshops, cooking classes, and 1:1 health coaching!

I'll delve into more specifics about those in a future post and in page updates, but for now, I figured I'd share some of this year's highlights with you in a digestible list with some fun pictures just to get us caught up. Sound good? Great. Here goes.
  • 18 new scientific reference books contracted on topics like protein and amino acids, vitamins, sustainable protein sources, insects as food ingredients, and probiotics. All right up my ally.
  • 5 conferences attended, including American Society for Nutrition at Experimental Biology in San Diego, Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) in New Orleans, IFT Wellness in Chicago, the 17th World Congress of Food Science & Technology (IUFoST) in Montreal, and Elsevier's Editorial Retreat in Chicago. I sat in on some fascinating scientific sessions which gave me new perspectives on macronutrient balance in our daily diets, micronutrient fortification of foods, the definition of sustainability, industry's role in our food supply, economies of scale gained in food production, food waste, food loss, and a whole host of other really fascinating topics. 
  • After sitting through and speaking 1:1 with scientists who have spent their entire careers studying protein, amino acids, and cardiometabolic health and muscle syntheses, I gradually reintroduced meat back into my diet. After 6 years of semi-vegetarianism (there was some fish in there), it's been good. I tried meeting the complete protein recommendations made by said scientists without meat, but it was really hard to do while staying within my reasonable daily calorie requirements. My new husband was rather reluctant about eating meat again, but he's fully on board now and makes a mean grass-fed organic pasture-raised burger, which we like to sandwich between english muffins made of sprouted organic ancient grains and top with whole grain mustard and home made slaw. 
  • Before the wedding, James and I both started 5 am classes at a fitness studio around the corner from our new home. We also cut WAY back on dairy, refined grains, and refined sugar. These were the biggest offenders in our diet and these changes helped both of us look and feel our best for our big day. :-)
  • Oh yeah, we moved from Somerville to Malden in July. I will have to convert one of our off-street parking spots to a container garden next summer or find a community garden to get my hands dirty in.
  • Turks and Caicos is beautiful and the food there is delicious. We spent 8 glorious nights in an oceanfront suite on Grace Bay. I had never needed a vacation so badly in my life and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I drank lots of rum punch and ate lots of fresh fish. I even indulged in the best bread pudding I've ever had. Every morning. With breakfast. I also listened to 3 audiobooks and took 3 yoga classes. We swam in the ocean, went snorkeling, jet skiing, and kayaking and rented a vespa to explore the island ourselves. So. Much. Fun! 
I promise to write another post this week. Feel free to leave a comment with any questions, comments, or ideas for future posts!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The More You Know

Disclaimer: This is not a recipe. It's a reflection on my last 6 years as a sustainable foodie/pescatarian/semi-vegetarian and on my first 5 months as a sustainable food and nutrition science editor. 

I gave up meat on a bit of a whim after reading one of those popular paperbacks arguing for the nutritional and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet void of anything factory farmed. I'm glad I did it. With other lifestyle changes, it helped me shed a ton of weight and get closer to my food and my community. At the time, I thought I'd give it a try and see how it went and never committed to go entirely vegetarian or vegan, though I've dabbled in both over the past six years and I've learned a lot about myself and about my body along the way. Eliminating things from your diet can be a fun challenge that can open your mind to entirely new ideas of what constitutes a "meal."

When I stopped eating meat, I stopped eating fast food and I cut out a lot of "processed" foods, too. The stuff that filled my grocery cart, pantry, and fridge took on entirely new meanings and appearances. My family looked at me like I was nuts for the first few years and my grandma forgot to mention the occasional turkey neck that went into her delicious "vegetable" soups. Dining out and grabbing food on the go also became more interesting and challenging for all the obvious reasons.

Snacking trends
In the last few months, I've been fortunate to travel to Chicago and San Diego, two of my favorite cities, for food and nutrition related conferences. In Chicago, I attended IFT Wellness, an industry-focused conference with tracks on protein enhancement, sugar reduction, and salt reduction. The several hundred attendees came largely from big food companies and had food science or nutrition degrees and sessions were convened on everything from novel protein sources (including insects) to natural sugar alternatives (including monk fruit extract and changing the shape of your food product).

what food companies contemplate as they develop new products
While I was in Chicago, I made a trip to Eatily. It was amazing.
The conference opened with provocative keynotes that ridiculed Michael Pollan and gave me a glimpse into what I considered "the dark side."  A consumer panel shared their daily snack choices with us and walked us through their rationale for starting the day with peanut butter cups, serving frozen pizza and chicken nuggets for dinner, and polishing off sleeves of chips ahoy at a time. I sat in on sessions presented by nutrition scientists, legal experts on ingredient labeling, product development consultants, and food technologists. I couldn't help but be skeptical of a lot of what I heard, saw, and tasted, but I loved every minute of it.

At the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting at Experimental Biology in San Diego, I sat in on really scientific sessions on protein requirements, biofortified staple food crops, sustainable diets, and malnutrition and inflammation.
A catch-all definition with many contradictions

I spoke with some of the world's leading scientists on hidden hunger, human breast milk, lipidomics, and functional foods and was invited to speak with ASN's Public Policy Committee. Words can't do my experience justice. I was in awe of it all and so much of the science was incomprehensible; it's been a long time since I've studied molecular biology, cell biology, microbiology, or biochemistry. [The full program for that conference is here.]

But here's the rub.

While a lot of the hard science went right over my head, I was able to understand some of the big picture conclusions coming out of scientific research that the media just isn't picking up on. I learned how important it is to space your protein out throughout the day and how hard it is to get all the amino acids you need for healthy cellular function without animal protein.

How exactly do scientists measure sustainability?
I learned that to eat more sustainably (in terms of carbon footprint, not necessarily land usage or any of the other things you might associate with sustainable food), the best thing you can do is to consume less calories and even more importantly, to drink less calories. I learned that taking a baby aspirin with your fish oil or omega 3 supplement can greatly enhance the anti-inflammatory effects of said supplement. And I learned that if we all followed the well known recommendation to eat two servings of seafood a week, our oceans would be devoid of fish very, very soon.

The slides to the right are just a few of the ones presented during the sustainability session, which got really detailed into cost per nutrient density and carbon footprint

There are no hard and fast truths when it comes to the way we eat. 

Carbon footprint isn't the only way to measure sustainability
Everything is interdependent and what works for your body or for your community or for your country might not work for another. It's all so complicated and the entire field of nutrition science is still so young. I don't feel more or less confused than I did before, but I'm approaching things with a much more nuanced view than I think I ever have. I'm starting to seek out locally pastured meat, because my new functional dermatologist told me to cut out dairy and without its protein (dare I assert that cheese is no better for you or the environment than pastured chicken), I'd have to drink 3 vega protein shakes a day to get enough amino acids to repair my muscles after long crew practices and butt-kicking spin classes. I love that those smoothies have perfected vegan delivery of complete protein in a convenient (albeit expensive) form, but what's the impact of all that processing of whole ingredients into powders and packaging them and shipping them?

Lots of variables!

I can't help but think sometimes that it must be a little luxurious not to care so much about the health of our bodies or our planet, but I'm incapable of caring any less, at least for the time being. And, I'm excited to keep learning and to be spreading knowledge within the scientific community and beyond. :-)

I met Ellie Krieger of the Food Network's Healthy Appetitie in San Diego. :-)
I'd be eager to engage in conversation and comments about all this. If you've made it this far, you surely have an opinion or two to share, so please do! While I feel safe asserting that I know more than the average Joe about sustainable food and nutrition, the more I learn, the less I realize any of us really "know" much of anything!

PS: Curious about the "books" my team publishes? Here's a link to some of our titles.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Homemade Vinaigrette Recipe and Tips

My mom circulated an article on the health benefits of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar to me and some friends last week and it got everyone thinking and talking about ways to incorporate this "superfood" into our diets. I am not a fan of drinking vinegar so my natural go-to was an apple cider vinaigrette.

Salad dressings are super easy to make at home and generally much cheaper and healthier than store-bought dressings. You probably have a lot of the ingredients on hand at any given time, so why buy the bottled stuff when you can customize your own to your specific tastes? I whipped up a pint of dressing last week and gave a half cup to a friend who requested the recipe today, so here it is!

For all dressings like this, I recommend using an immersion (aka hand-held) blender if you want to emulsify (creamify) the ingredients. If you have a jar with a lid (like my favorite pint-sized canning jars), you'll likely be able to fit that blender right down into the jar and then seal it up, minimizing dirty containers and dishes (timesaver!). If you don't have one of those doo-hickys, you can use an upright blender. You'll just have more cleaning to do, I suppose. If you don't need or want to emulsify your dressing, you can simply put all of the ingredients in a container with a spill-proof top and shake well to combine. If you do this, you'll want to mince the garlic instead of adding them whole (again, adding to the dirty dishes)!

3 cloves garlic
1 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
2 tb dijon mustard
1 tsp honey or maple syrup (optional)
dash of sea salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Makes roughly a pint of dressing. :-)

Other ideas for dressings:
Use a pitted date instead of honey or maple syrup to sweeten
Add some fresh herbs like parsley, basil, or chives
Dried herbs work, too
You can swap out the apple cider vinegar for any kind of vinegar
Instead of vinegar, try lemon or lime juice
Instead of garlic, try a shallot
Add a dash of hot sauce for some zip
Some Braggs Liquid Aminos or soy sauce can add some umami flavor

What are your favorite homemade dressing tips?