Friday 30 July 2010

A Moment of Wisdom

I'm currently flying through Michael Pollan's Food Rules, an Eater's Manuel. The book is a how-to guide that reaches both those who are clueless and those who are tuned in. I would definitely recommend reading this book, and definitely recommend gifting it to someone you love.

The book is based around Pollan's simple rule: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." It's broken down into three sections (What Should I Eat? What kind of food should I eat? How should I eat?)in which Pollan provides simple sayings and rules of thumb that he has acquired throughout his travels.

I wanted to share a rule or two (a moment of wisdom, if you will) from the first section of the book--to give you a taste and get you hooked.

No. 11 Avoid food you see advertised on television

No. 13 Eat only foods that will eventually rot (aka NOT McDonalds burgers)

Buy it! NOW!

Thursday 29 July 2010

Degrassi Coleslaw

Okay, so the coleslaw has nothing to do with Degrassi, other than that it was enjoyed while watching the newest episodes of my favorite show "Degrassi: The Next Generation." Nope, I'm not kidding. It really is my favorite show: my sister and I have been watching since it started in 2001. Yes, I am 26 years old. Yes, I do watch TV geared toward high school students (middle school students?). There's just so much unbelieveably awesome drama...and it takes place in Canada, which makes it so much weirder...I much cooler. Canadian teens have a lot going on in their lives. Sometimes I wish I were Canadian.

Degrassi is doing this thing called "The Boiling Point" where they show a new episode every week night for six weeks. My DVR is working overtime between Degrassi and Anne of Green Gables on PBS (another Canadian favorite-- It must be because I grew up so close to the border in VT).

My Sis came over for a Degrassi marathon and M and I decided to make BBQ ribs and coleslaw. In a time crunch, we used Plumrose baby back ribs (the best option we could find at Stop N Shop), instead of making our own. I whipped up some coleslaw using a variety of recipes, but mostly my coleslaw-seasoning instincts.

Degrassi Coleslaw

1/2 head of cabbage
2 carrots
1/3 cup of mayonnaise
1 Tbsp spicy mustard
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp coriander
1 tsp sea salt

I chopped up an entire head of cabbage before deciding that half would be enough--cabbages are deceptively large.

I shredded the carrots

I combined the carrots, cabbage and salt and let them sit, covered, in a colander for about an hour. Instructions on the Paleo Diet website said to let it "stand until the cabbage wilts, about one to four hours." I'm not sure why this is (maybe to drain water from washing?), but I don't know if it really made a difference.

After an hour, I added the mayo, mustard, apple cider vinegar and the rest of the spices and stirred.

Man Hands...I mean, my sister wanted to taste test.

While I was adding ingredients, M was grilling the ribs.

To round out the dinner, we had some organic baked beans. The next time we decided to have ribs, I really want to try making them on my own: buying a bare rack of ribs and marinating or seasoning them myself. While the Plumrose ribs were better than some of the other brands, they still have some not-so-natural sounding ingredients in them that I would like to try to avoid in the future.

After dinner, M headed out with the boys and My sister and I settled in to watch Degrassi. Oh the drama! I looooooove it!

Do you watch any TV shows that are not exactly "age appropriate"?

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Peanut Butter Bandwagon

I've been reading about Peanut Butter Finger's flourless peanut butter cookies all over the place as of late. I read about them so much, that I couldn't resist trying the recipe out for myself...I do love the peanut butters after all.

Easiest Peanut Butter Cookies Ever (a la Julie at Peanut Butter Fingers)


1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg

Mix the three ingredients together, dollop onto a cookie sheet, and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. How easy is that?

The cookies are sweet, greasy and peanut buttery. Highly addictive, so beware: prep and baking take about 12 minutes, so it's super easy to make these whenever you want...there is absolutely nothing to it. For me, the quick prep time makes these a dangerous treat--when I want them, I can basically have them in less than 15 minutes.

Because I've become a chocolate and peanut butter freak thanks to HEAB, I had to add some chocolate to this recipe. I just melted M's leftover Easter bunny, with his permission of course, using my ghetto double boiler method.

I put the melty chocolate into a Ziploc freezer bag and cut off the tip to create a cookie decorating tool.

Using my non-decorating skills, I drew chocolate worms.

And personalized a cookie for M and for me

I don't typically eat peanut butter, but for some reason I've been craving it the past two weeks. I usually stick to the almond butter or sunflower seed butter, but the thought of cheap, salty peanut butter has been irresistible for some reason.

I'm working through my cravings-- trying to figure out what nutrient or emotion my body is lacking that's making me crave nutty fats. I've attempted to add other sources of fat into my diet from coconut and avocado in order to quell the need for pb, and so far, it seems to be working. It could be worse: I could be craving chocolate least peanut butter has some nutritional value. Everything in moderation.

For more on why peanut butter is not-so-good for you, see Whole9's Peanut Manifesto

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Hapalainio Cheddar Burgers

Last month, while at my friend's wedding, I had the pleasure of sharing an inn suite with my friend H and her Hubby. I've known both of them since college (we all lived in the same dorm freshman year), and we used to be neighbors in Beantown before they moved to the Windy City. Anyway, it was wonderful to spend and extended amount of time with them after what seems like years apart: I'd forgotten how much I laugh when I'm with them.

What does this have to do with hapalainio burgers, you ask? What is a hapalainio? Well, it's actually a jalapeno. The night before the wedding in June, M and I stopped at a gas station to pick up some snacks for the weekend. We ended up with some Lay's Kettle Cooked Jalapeno Chips. The second we got back to our room and whipped them out of the bag, H's Hub started calling them "hapalainio chips" apparently because there's an SNL skit in which George Bush (played by Will Ferrell) refers to jalapeno poppers as "hapalainio poppers". Also, H's Hub is it all makes sense...right.

Anyway, we laughed and laughed about the chips for the rest of the weekend...or at least until I got back from the wedding reception and ate the remainder of the bag...which was more than half full I believe. That's what Bacardi and good times will do to you.

So, when M had a hankering for a spicy burger we decided to whip up some of our very own Hapalainio Cheddar Burgers.

Hapalaino (Jalapeno) Cheddar Burgers


1lb ground beef
2 Jalapeno peppers
1 cup cheddar cheese (we used Cabot Seriously Sharp)

M de-seeded the peppers and chopped them up, whilst I grated the cheddar cheese.

Is this picture gross?

We then combined the beef, peppers and cheese and formed four perfect burger patties.

M threw them on the grill along with some of his Mama's Buffalo Chicken Burgers, which were basically BBQ sauce, buffalo sauce, breadcrumbs and some spicy seasoning.

While M grilled, I snacked on some guacamole and plantain chips. I need to put a serious restriction on the number of plantain chips I'm allowed in one sitting. It's getting out of control.

Along with our burgers we had some sweet potato fries,

and deviled eggs.

After dinner, we retired to the back deck to enjoy the humidity.

Chester was there.

And so was this guy.

The burgers were great. Neither of us have been brave enough to experiment with jalapenos at home, so this was a great first attempt: there was only one accidental touching of the eye incident. The burgers could have been spicier, so next time, I think we'll leave a little more of the pith on the pepper. We were afraid they'd be too hot, so we erred on the side of caution. Overall, a great success!

Monday 26 July 2010

Are You Average?

I found this visual representation of what the average American eats in a year while browsing the Crossfit Boston site...and to tell you the truth, I was actually surprised. I prepared myself for the worst, but what I saw in this chart was even more atrocious than I expected.

Of note:
  • The average male is 5'9" and weighs 190lbs, while the average female is 5'4" and weighs 164lbs.
  • The average American consumes 600.5lbs of non-cheese dairy products per year.
  • The average American eats about 142lbs of caloric sweeteners per year (including 42lbs of corn syrup)
It's eye opening and scary to see these stats laid out like this...

Were you surprised at any of these findings?

Health Counseling Update

In addition to writing this blog, cooking healthy food, and enjoying summery activities, I've also been busy with my IIN health counseling program. Since classes began in April, I've mostly been listening to the modules, experimenting with whole foods and doing supplementary research on my own (mostly in the form of reading, reading and reading, but also playing around with my diet).

On the business front I'm trying to get a better picture of what I want my counseling practice to look like (ideally). Who my "target market" will be, and what other kinds of services I can offer besides counseling (grocery store tours etc.).

Toward the end of August, I will receive a certificate from IIN that approves me to start officially seeing clients. Until then I will be practicing initial health history consultations like crazy with any and everyone.

The initial Health History consultation is a free, laid-back meeting that can be done in person or by phone. The Health History is a way for you to get a sense of what it would be like to work with me to address any health/nutrition/wellness issues you have.

If you are interested in helping me with my health histories, if you would like more information, or if you have a completely unrelated question, please email me at:

Looking forward to hearing from you!


Sunday Breakfeast

Yesterday morning, M decided that he wanted to make me breakfast. Not just any breakfast...a breakfeast as he called it. Breakfast foods are most easily my favorite kinds of foods: I would eat eggs and bacon for every meal if it were possible slash not weird.

We made a special trip to Whole Foods where Chester and I stayed in the car and M went in a did the shopping. He came out 15 minutes later with a mystery bag full of groceries...and I had no idea what he bought! The entire breakfast was a surprise.

I sat in the living room, drooling over The Phantom Gourmet, while M slaved away in the kitchen. Twenty minutes later, I was sitting in front of my dream breakfast.

When we go out for breakfast, I have the hardest time choosing my breakfast M made both sausages and bacon! The sausages were Wellshire Farms original pork sausages. I think the bacon was from Wellshire Farms too.

I love putting avocado on my eggs. We've recently become avocado obsessed: they're a great source of healthy, monounsaturated fats.

The main dish: Cheesy Eggs. Fried and scrambled eggs are a breakfast staple at our house...the cheese was our weekend indulgence.

M bought a whole pineapple and cut it into chunks. We're big on fruit in the mornings, but we usually eat berries of some sort. The pineapple was a tropical treat.

Breakfast is the best. For reals. I love waking up hungry for delicious breakfast foods. They say that eating breakfast is important because it helps boost your metabolism and it keeps you from overeating throughout the day. I like breakfast because it helps me get some protein in the A.M. and because there are so many different breakfast foods that I enjoy eating. Eating a healthy breakfast definitely keeps me on the healthy eating track for the rest of the day.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Tuesday is Fish Night

So it's taken more than a while to get back into the groove of cooking at home (and documenting the cooking) than I thought it would. Our weeks have been busy and weekends action packed. We are just now starting to take control and hold ourselves accountable for the cooking and the eating.

In an effort to get back on track, M and I have instituted Fish Tuesdays. M loves fish. I love fish. We savor the experience of ordering it at restaurants, so M figured, why not make more fish at home? Now that we have the grill, it's super quick and superier easy.

M's Rosemary Halibut

Halibut (we got the pre-portioned version from Whole Foods)
Olive oil
Rosemary (fresh or dried)
Fresh lemon juice

We coated the fish with the olive oil, oregano and rosemary and topped with lemon juice. M popped them on the grill for about 10 minutes.

The fish lady at Whole Foods talked us into buying some expensivo lemons-- Meyer lemons from California. I was sold from the moment I saw them...the most beautiful lemons I've ever encountered.

Chester liked them too

We snacked on some California rolls while the fish was cooking.

I whipped up some balsamic tomatoes a la our favorite restaurant, Raso's Grille. They serve these puppies with their baked haddock dish-- to die for. I diced up a tomato, added some olive oil, garlic and some Maple Grove Farms Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Completed the meal with a little seaweed salad (my favorite)

For dessert we had delicious blueberries that I picked up at the Copley Farmer's Market. I forgot how awesome fresh blueberries are! I'm probably never going to buy berries from the grocery store again...These berries in particular brought me back to the days when my best friend lived next to a blueberry farm. We would pick, legit, five pounds of blueberries each...and eat them over the course of a day or two. Blueberry fiends...good times.

Fish Tuesdays have been a huge success so far! I can't wait to try out a different kind of fish next week. Now I have another food day to look forward addition to Fancy Pizza Sunday...more on that one another time.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Drooling for Days

Ever since I started reading Mindless Eating, I can't stop thinking about peanut butter cups. Well, actually, I came across Heather Eats Almond Butter's post about the "World's Most Brilliant Combo" and my mouth hasn't stopped watering since. I've been trying to be good lately, aka keeping the sweet, chocolaty goodness to a minimum, but yesterday afternoon I broke down and made my own version of that delectable Reese's favorite.

Almond Butter Coconut Cups


85% Cocoa Dark Chocolate
Almond Butter
Coconut Butter (grind unsweetened coconut in the food processor until buttery, about 8 minutes)

Paper Muffin Tin Liners
(I used enough chocolate to make two massive candies: I made a limited quantity, one for me, one for M, to keep my chocolate habits in check)

I melted the chocolate over medium heat using a ghetto double boiler method (a metal bowl floating in a small frying pan), and poured the melted chocolate into the muffin liners. The first pour should be enough to cover the bottom of the liner, and to coat the sides.

After freezing the muffin liners for about 30 minutes, I mixed together about one Tbsp of almond butter and one Tbsp of coconut butter and put a dollop of this mixture into each chocolate cup, and covered with the rest of the melted chocolate.

After an hour, I had the biggest peanut butter cups EVER. I might have gotten carried away with the chocolate...

They were about the size of the muffin liners...huge. The sweetness of the almond butter coconut mix was essential to balance the bitterness of the chocolate (I mean bitterness in the most delicious way possible). The almond butter cups were so rich that M and I could only eat half of a half each! Maybe I'll make a pact with myself to only eat chocolate candy that I make-- that way I know what's in it, and I have to go through the "trouble" of preparing it myself. That should keep my peanut butter chocolate peanut butter craving in check.

On another note...Chester and Jack look kind of like dark chocolate and peanut

Please pardon Chester's alien eyes...

No chocolate for Chester!

Monday 12 July 2010

Reading: Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think

To supplement my education, I am currently reading Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think by renown food psychologist Brian Wansink, PhD. Although I am only half way through the book, the things I have learned thus far have been eye opening. Mainly that people make over 200 decisions about food everyday and that most of these decisions are not influenced by hunger, but by lighting, music, the size of the food container and the company we keep.

One of the most interesting things I have read so far is how much people rely on external cues, such as the size of a dinner plate, to tell them when they are full. When same portion of food, such as a scoop of mashed potatoes, is placed on an 8-inch plate and a 12- inch plate, people eating off of the 8-inch plate will be more satisfied than those eating off of the 12-inch plate (p. 66). Even though the amount of food is exactly the same, the portion looks larger on the 8-inch plate, therefore people perceive that they are eating more food. I would guess that those with the 12-inch plate are more likely to ask for seconds than those with the 8-inch plate simply because they feel like they didn't eat as much: the food didn't take up as much room on their plates. The more we rely on external cues to tell us when we are done eating, the more likely we are to have trouble regulating our weight.

Not surprisingly, none of us are immune to the tricks our eyes play on us. Dr. Wansink and his team carried out a study in which the subjects were his colleagues from the Nutritional Science Division at Cornell University. The scientists were invited to an innocent ice cream party where some were given 17-ounce bowls, and some were given 34-ounce bowls. Even though the subjects were PhDs with loads of experience and insight, those with the 34-ounce bowls still ate 31% more ice cream than their 17-ounce bowl counterparts (p. 67). Basically, even if you are aware of the tricks your mind can play, it will still get the best of you.

It might seem like there's no escape, but I believe that there is hope. Since I began reading this book, I've noticed that I have been paying much more attention to the reasons behind my eating and behind my stopping eating. In my opinion, being aware of all of these external distractions is the first step toward having control over my eating decisions. Now I question whether I'm eating that last piece of chicken because I'm physically hungry for it, or because the music/TV/lighting has distracted me into it. I've found that I'm eating less now that I'm better educated and more aware of how my eyes and surroundings can trick me.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in regulating their weight and the psychology of how our brains can subconsciously sabotage our attempts at healthy eating. Even if you don't struggle with your weight, the concepts introduced in this book will make you reevaluate why you eat as much as you eat.

Wansink, Brian. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think. New York: Bantam, 2007

Friday 9 July 2010

Grilled Budget Pizza

We're finally back in the swing of things after our vacation to MV, and the long holiday weekend. We are also on a strict budget after our holiday spending...In order to save some money and get back on track, we've attempted to buy minimal groceries and use up some of the ingredients we buy, but never use that just kind of hang out in our pantry.

For dinner the other night, I decided to whip up some grilled pizza using mostly ingredients we had in the fridge (I did have to buy a tomato and some cheese). Gluten free, grilled white pizza with spinach, tomato and bacon to be exact. I used recipe for almond flour pizza dough that I found on the NorCal Strength and Conditioning blog, and modified a white pizza sauce recipe from Serious Eats.

Grilled Budget Pizza

Pizza Dough:

3 cups almond meal
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
3/4 tsp salt

I mixed all of the ingredients together in a large bowl and formed a dough ball to roll out onto a cooking sheet covered with cornmeal.

After adding extra, extra cornmeal so that the dough would slide off of the try and onto the grill (hypothetically), I rolled the dough into a squarish shape. M fired up the grill to about 400 degrees, and we attempted to dump the dough onto the grill. It would have been nice to have a pizza peel, so that I could slide the dough gently onto the cooking surface, but the almond flour dough was incredible sticky, and thus it was more of a dumping action than a slide.

The result was what we like to call a "rustic" pizza crust aka totally misshapen. There was some minor breakage, but nothing to stop the grilling process completely. We optimistically cooked the dough for about 3 minutes and then used a two person flip technique: one of us guiding the cookie tray underneath the dough while the other gently lifted the dough with a spatula. Once the dough was flipped, we heaped on the toppings.

White Sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
1/4 cup heavy cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

(I made the sauce and prepared the bacon before grilling the crust so that everything would be ready once the dough had been flipped on the grill.)

I heated the olive oil in a small pan over medium heat, added the garlic, salt and pepper, and let the mixture bubble for about two minutes.

After adding the heavy cream, I let the sauce simmer for about three minutes until it thickened.

While the sauce cooled, I fried up some bacon.

I really like bacon...

Once the dough was flipped, I spread on the sauce, topped it with spinach, sliced tomatoes, cheese and the bacon bits. We closed the grill, and cooked the pizza until the cheese had thoroughly melted, about 8 minutes.

We ended up with a heaping pile of garlicky, bacon-y goodness!

Everything was cooked just the right amount: the crust didn't burn, and the toppings were all piping hot! The almond flour crust was a little dry (M said it smelled like movie popcorn...), which I attribute to the grilling and the fact that there was no yeast involved. I have a feeling it would be different--more doughy, less crumbly-- if it were baked in the oven. Next time we grill pizza, I'll be curious to try a traditional, whole wheat dough recipe.