CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA BREAD

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CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA BREAD

Last weekend it was my husband’s birthday. And in my opinion, nothing says I love you more than making someone his/her favorite dessert. So for my husband, that meant chocolate chip banana bread.

Being a dietitian, I often get asked if I eat dessert. To which I say: I don’t want to know what life would be like without dessert! Indulging is a necessity if long term weight loss, mental health, and overall wellness is the goal. But it is how we indulge that matters. In fact, that is something I will be writing about in my next piece, so stay tuned.

For now though, I give you this: a wholesomely decadent chocolate chip banana bread recipe. Enjoy….responsibly! ;)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups rolled oats or oat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • ½ cup full fat Greek yogurt
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup dark chocolate, plus more for the top (I used Hu Kitchen’s Hazelnut Butter Dark Chocolate)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. If using rolled oats, in a blender, blend oats till they turn into oat flour. (If using oat flour, you can obviously skip this step!)
  3. Mix oat flour with baking soda, baking powder, sea salt, and cinnamon.
  4. In a separate bowl, mash up the bananas.
  5. Add the yogurt, oil, maple syrup, and vanilla to the bananas and mix.
  6. Pour a third of the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and mix. When combined, add in another third and mix. When combined, add in the rest of the dry ingredients and mix until dry and wet ingredients are fully combined.
  7. If using a bar of chocolate, chop it up and fold it into the batter. If using chocolate chips simply fold them into the batter.
  8. Pour batter into a greased 9x11 loaf pan. Top with extra chocolate and bake for 30 minutes. When 30 minutes has passed, turn off the oven and keep the cake inside for another 10 minutes with the door closed. When the 10 minutes are up, the edges should be slightly brown, but golden.
  9. Take the cake out and let it cool on a cooling rack before removing it from the loaf pan.

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DOS AND DON'TS FOR GETTING BACK INTO YOUR HEALTH GROOVE

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DOS AND DON'TS FOR GETTING BACK INTO YOUR HEALTH GROOVE

Last month I wrote about how to take a vacation without leaving your health behind. I talked all about indulging within measure and staying active without running to a gym because for most people, going on vacation means eating more and exercising less. And that is totally okay.

However, once you get home, getting back into your health groove can seem overwhelming. You may get on the scale and see a number you don’t like. You may put on a pair of jeans that are a little tighter than they were two weeks ago. You may feel a sense of panic and despair.

If you can relate to this, you are not alone.

That is why I have put together my list of dos and don’ts for getting back into your health groove.

1. Don’t dwell in the guilt.

So you had one too many ice creams. No big deal. Feeling guilty about it won’t burn those calories. If anything, it will keep you from moving on. The key is to change your perspective. Yes, overeating and overindulging may have caused the scale to go up. But that also means that eating the right amounts of the right foods will cause the scale to go back down. (I find that this is a big theme that I talk about a lot with clients.)

2. Don’t start a fad diet.

Wanting to shed weight quickly often causes people to turn to fad diets. But the problem is that most of them are not sustainable. Initially you may lose a lot of weight, but then once you stop the diet, you will likely gain it all back, and then some. This often leads to the undesirable cycle of yo-yo dieting and the perpetual fluctuation of weight.

3. Don’t skip meals.

If you think that skipping breakfast on your first morning back will help jumpstart your post-vacation weight loss, you are going about it all wrong. I am a firm believer that eating breakfast is crucial for a multitude of reasons. But in a nutshell, skipping breakfast will throw off your metabolism and lead to poor food choices and undesirable eating habits. Instead of trying to skip meals, focus on choosing the right things to eat at your meals. I promise, it will be a lot more effective.

4. Do eat a lot of fiber.

So what should you be eating at these meals that you’re not skipping? The trifecta of lean protein, healthy fat, and fiber is always the way to go. But making a concerted effort to pack in the fiber is especially important. For a lot of people, going on vacation often means being less “regular” in the bathroom department. Fiber will help to get you back on your bathroom schedule. It will also help to get rid of that post-vacation bloat that has you feeling weighed down.

5. Do drink a lot of water.

You know that puffy feeling you may have from eating too much salt and drinking too much alcohol? Water is your best friend. It will help flush out and rehydrate your system.

6. Do schedule in some exercise.

The first week back at work is often hectic, and it may seem impossible to get to the gym. But scheduling time to exercise in your calendar will help to keep you from getting into a workout rut. The longer you go without working out, the harder it is to get back into it. So making it a priority when you get back will help prevent that vicious cycle. Even twenty minutes of fitness will suffice.

7. Don’t overthink it.

The biggest piece of advice I can give is to not overthink it. If being healthy is going to be a lifestyle, it can’t be an exhausting endeavor. Yes you may slip up, but how you rebound from that is what is most important. The cycle of feeling guilty for what you ate and then spending days contemplating how you are going to get back on track is no way to live. Having a plan in place, the right mindset, and maybe even a dietitian to help, can help make living a healthy life a no-brainer, as it should be.

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7 EASY BREAKFAST OPTIONS TO GET YOU THROUGH THE WEEK

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7 EASY BREAKFAST OPTIONS TO GET YOU THROUGH THE WEEK

If after last week’s post you felt completely inspired to start your day with a healthy breakfast, then you’ve got the right idea. But the execution can seem daunting.

I get it. When you wake up, you’re exhausted. You may or may not have snoozed 5 times. If you have kids, you have to drop them at school. If you have a dog, you have to walk it. All that, and you still have to get to work on time. So, it’s no surprise that making a leisurely breakfast is simply not in the cards.

Let me tell you -- you are not alone. The fact of the matter is, you need something quick and easy to make breakfast a reality. But picking up a heavy sandwich at the nearest bodega or grabbing a breakfast bar that is full of sugar is not the answer.

Breakfast, like all meals, should be composed of protein, fiber, and healthy fat. This combination is the secret to feeling full, but not weighed down. And it will give you the energy you need for the day ahead.

Below is a list of 7 no-frills, easy, and tasty breakfast ideas that you can throw together in 5 minutes or less.

1. Overnight Oats

In a sealable jar, combine ½ cup dry rolled oats, 1 cup nut milk or low fat milk, and a drizzle of honey. Store in the fridge overnight. In the morning add fresh fruit and ¼ cup raw nuts or seeds...maybe even some flaxseed or chia seeds for a fiber boost. No time to eat it at home? Just reseal the jar and bring it with you to work!

2. Microwavable Oatmeal

If you like your oatmeal hot but don’t have the time to stand over the stove, microwave it. Packaged oats that are flavored can be full of extra sugar, so always opt for the “plain” variety (I recommend Qi’a) and add your flavoring with fresh fruit, maybe some natural peanut butter and a drizzle of honey. As with the overnight oats, if you want even more of a fiber boost, add in some ground flaxseed or chia seeds. No time to eat it at home? Pour it in a thermos and bring it with you to work.

3. Yogurt Parfait

In a jar or Tupperware, combine ½ cup low fat plain Greek or Skyr yogurt, fresh fruit, ½ cup high fiber cereal (I recommend Nature's Path Smart Bran), and ¼ cup raw nuts/seeds. No time to eat it at home? Just seal it up and go!

4. Ezekiel English Muffin with Peanut Butter and Banana

Not all English Muffins are created equal. Unlike most that are full of refined carbs, preservatives, and added sugar, these English muffins have 8 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, and a pristine ingredient list. Pop one in the toaster, top it with 1-2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter, slice ½ banana on top and you are good to go! (Feel free to sub in any fruit. I personally really like this with figs or strawberries.)

5. Nutrition Curator-Approved Smoothie

Just like English muffins, not all smoothies are created equal. Most smoothies are loaded with sugar and can pack more calories than a sandwich. So if you are going to opt for a smoothie, I’d suggest following my guide for some tricks to keep your smoothie full of nutrients without turning into a calorie bomb. For increased efficiency, keep your blender container in the fridge filled with your smoothie ingredients so that all you have to do in the morning is pour in your liquid and buzz it up.

6. Avocado Toast and Smoked Salmon

Who says avocado toast is just for weekend brunch? It happens to be a very easy and quick breakfast option for your weekday mornings as well. Just pop and Ezekiel English muffin in the toaster, smash up ¼ avocado, top with a few slices of smoked salmon, and you have yourself a luxurious breakfast worthy of a mimosa.

7. Hard Boiled Eggs and Fiber Crackers

It can be time consuming to start making eggs in the morning. But hard boiled eggs are something you can make in advance and have for the week ahead. In fact, this is definitely the quickest and most transportable breakfast on this list. The best part is, it still hits all the nutrient requirements: protein and fat from the egg; and fiber from the crackers. Just slice up the eggs, top the crackers (I recommend the Wasa Fiber crackers), and sprinkle on some sea salt, ground pepper. Don’t have time to eat it at home? Grab 2 eggs and 4 crackers, run out the door, and eat it at your desk.

The takeaway:

With any goal, having a game plan and identifying small, realistic steps you can take towards achieving that goal is key. The trick to making breakfast a reality is thinking in terms of how to maximize what you can plan ahead, minimize assembly time in the morning, and pack it up so you can transport it easily and efficiently. Once you find something that works for you, you’ll wonder why you ever skipped breakfast in the first place!

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BREAKFAST: IS IT REALLY THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY?

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BREAKFAST: IS IT REALLY THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY?

Last week, I wrote a post about Intermittent Fasting, and then a reader of mine asked: “You speak about how it is better to put your meals earlier in the day, but since the traditional wisdom has always been to eat soon after you wake up, do you think that still applies here? Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?”

The short answer is yes.

But to understand why, let’s take a look at what happens when we skip breakfast….

First, your metabolism slows down.

As I mentioned last week, while we sleep, our bodies are in rest and recovery mode. During this time food is not required. However, when we wake up, our bodies are active again and need fuel. If the body goes for a prolonged period of activity without nourishment, it will likely go into preservation mode, slowing down the metabolism.

So then what happens?

  • You realize you’re starving and make poor food choices.

So now you’re at work or going about your day and you suddenly get a pang of hunger because you realize you haven’t eaten since you woke up. With the best intentions to eat healthfully, you end up grabbing the nearest and quickest option, which is usually something less than ideal. (Read: pizza from a pizzeria on the street or a burger and fries from a fast food joint) Eating well takes planning, and extreme hunger leaves no time for that.

  • You graze all day.

You may not have eaten breakfast, but you think you’re fine because your bag or desk are full of bars and snacks to get you through the day. But our mindless munching usually leads to taking in more calories than our intentional eating of meals and snacks. Having breakfast not only provides nutritional benefits, but it also mentally sets you up for more structured and mindful eating throughout the day.

  • You calorie load at night.

You haven’t eaten all day, and when you finally get a chance to sit down for dinner, you may think you have the right to eat whatever you want because you have a day’s worth of calories to fill. But that’s the biggest mistake you could make for two reasons:

  1. As I mentioned last week, calorie loading at the end of the day can disrupt the circadian rhythm and throw off the metabolism. Your metabolism has slowed down to help get you through the day with no nourishment, and now it’s being overloaded with all this food just before you are about to go into rest and recovery mode. 
  2. By eating so much so late at night, you will inevitably wake up feeling full and weighed down. Then, breakfast will be the last thing you want, thus perpetuating the vicious cycle of skipping it.

Now let’s looks at what happens if you do eat breakfast:

First, your metabolism wakes up.

When we wake up (and are hopefully not still full from the night before!), our body’s energy reserve is depleted because it hasn’t been fed in a while. As I mentioned last week, “When we wake up...our bodies are better equipped to respond to food, break it down, and use it for energy.”  Eating breakfast sends a signal to the body to rev up the metabolism. The food we eat is then converted into energy, which powers our activities ahead.

Your eating throughout the day is more structured.

By eating breakfast, you are establishing the beginning of a general eating schedule. While some people differ, most people generally eat every 3 to 4 hours -- depending on their schedule, metabolism, and whether they like to have a snack in between meals. As such, you may plan to have a snack 3 hours after breakfast, lunch 2 hours after that, and so on and so forth. This leads us to the next point...

Your food choices are better.

Having a better idea about when you’re going to eat can give you more power over what you’re going to eat. Instead of just throwing random bars and snacks into your bag to “tide you over” (read: graze on all day), you can make a conscious decision about how many snacks you need and what those snacks should look like (read: not a protein bar loaded with sugar). And instead of waiting till you are starving for lunch, you can anticipate your hunger and bring or order in a healthy lunch in advance.

You realize how much better it is for you to eat breakfast, that you make a concerted effort not to overeat at night.

The best part about getting into a breakfast groove is loving your breakfast groove. You want to be hungry for breakfast so now you actually have more incentive not to overeat at night. You don’t feel like finishing your dinner is a sad end to the day’s eating because you’re excited to wake up the next day and eat again. In fact, if you’re anything like me, you go to sleep dreaming about what you’re going to have the next morning...

The final word:

So yes, eating breakfast is important. To say it is the most important meal of the day is deceiving because it makes it seem like the other ones don’t matter. But I hope this article has shown how eating breakfast creates a positive domino effect for the rest of your eating throughout the day and how skipping breakfast does exactly the opposite.

P.S. If like so many other people you just can't seem to make breakfast work with your schedule or are in a food rut and looking for breakfast inspo, stay tuned...I got you!

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INTERMITTENT FASTING: IS THE HYPE WARRANTED AND IS IT FOR YOU?

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INTERMITTENT FASTING: IS THE HYPE WARRANTED AND IS IT FOR YOU?

Intermittent fasting is the hot new diet on the wellness circuit, and I’ve already received a lot of inquiries about it. So I figured I’d write down my thoughts to share with you all.

For those who are not familiar, there are several types of intermittent fasting, two of which are most popular.

  • One version restricts eating to an 8 hour window of your day. (So if you eat breakfast at 8am, you should be done with all of your meals and snacks by 4pm.) With this version, you are not necessarily told what or how much to eat, just when.

  • The other version is known as the 5:2. This allows normal eating 5 days a week and severely restricts caloric intake during the other 2. (Severe calorie restriction is 25% of normal intake, which they say comes to 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men.)

Now why is this diet getting so much attention? Let’s see what all the fuss is about…

Proponents of intermittent fasting claim that it can do the following:

1. Improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels.

In a typical feeding state, our bodies turn food into glucose (AKA sugar). That glucose gets absorbed into the blood. Insulin is then released to help cells take in glucose where it is used for energy.

But when our bodies are in a prolonged feeding state (read: overloaded with food), the body can’t keep up with all the glucose in the blood. It tries to pump insulin out to help the cells absorb it, but at a certain point, the body just stops responding. This is known as “insulin resistance.”

If we become insulin resistant, when we eat, our blood sugar rises and we have a hard time bringing it back down. This often causes pre-diabetes, and if not resolved, can eventually turn into Type 2 Diabetes.

Enter intermittent fasting. By restricting food intake for extended periods of time, the body gets a reprieve from constantly digesting food and having to figure out how to deal with all the glucose in the blood. This allows us to recalibrate our bodies’ sensitivity to insulin and regain control of our blood glucose levels.

2. Increase longevity.

We are familiar with mental and emotional stress, which can take a toll on the mind. But there is also physical stress, which can wreak havoc on the body. Toxins in the atmosphere, carcinogens, and even the byproducts of certain bodily functions put stress on our bodies. The cumulation of these stressors can cause our bodies to breakdown or malfunction. And the prevention of these stressors can potentially help us live longer.

It may come as a surprise, but food digestion produces byproducts that cause physical stress on the body. It is a necessary evil. We need food to survive, and yet digesting that food produces harmful materials. It is possible that because of this, certain intermittent fasting has been shown to help reduce the amount of stress on our cells and may therefore help us live longer.

However, this is more likely due to the reduction in overall food intake than it is due to the timing of the food intake. So if the intermittent fasting does not actually reduce the amount of food your body needs to digest, it may not make a difference at all to longevity.

3. Protect the brain.

By restricting food intake for an extended period of time, our bodies run out of glucose, which is the body’s preferred source of energy. When that happens, we start to use fat as fuel, producing ketones as a byproduct. (Yes, the same ketones they’re all talking about in the Ketogenic Diet.) And ketones have been shown to have certain neurological benefits, specifically with seizure control for those suffering from epilepsy.

4. Help with weight loss.

Because intermittent fasting restricts when you can eat, it is often correlated with calorie restriction and can often result in weight loss. However, if the intermittent fasting does not actually reduce the amount of calories you are consuming, it will likely not make a difference to the scale.

5. Boost metabolism.

By containing your eating hours to the first part of the day, you are aligning your intake with your circadian rhythm. When we wake up and haven’t eaten for a while, our bodies are better equipped to respond to food, break it down, and use it for energy. This can help optimize metabolism. However, if you choose to contain your eating to the later hours of the day, you may actually be hurting your metabolism.

Now it’s time for the caveat.

The research out there is very limited. Most of the studies that have been done are smaller scale studies spanning shorter periods of time, so the strength of the evidence is lacking. Furthermore, most of the studies do not involve humans, so it is difficult to apply those findings to the human species with total conviction. Once more research is done, we will have a better sense of whether intermittent fasting is in fact the better way to eat.

But let’s say you still wanted to try it. As a dietitian, here are my precautions...

1. Do not expect to lose weight if you are not cutting back on your total intake.

Having unrealistic expectations for a diet can lead to feelings of defeat and self-doubt. Therefore, it is important to recognize that while there may be health benefits to intermittent fasting aside from weight loss, you should not expect to lose weight if you are simply condensing your normal diet into an 8 hour window. It has nothing to do with you. It is just plain science and math.

2. Avoid binge-eating.

Oftentimes going longer periods without food can lead to food fantasies and an urge to ultimately eat more than you normally would once you start eating again. Binge eating is never healthy and can even lead to weight gain, so if that becomes a by-product of intermittent fasting, then intermittent fasting is definitely not for you.

3. Do not reserve your eating hours to night-time.

As I mentioned earlier, intermittent fasting can be good for your metabolism when your eating hours are earlier in the day. However, reserving your intake for later in the day can actually be detrimental to your circadian rhythm and metabolism. During sleep, our bodies are in rest and recovery mode, so loading our intake on the back-end of the day can disrupt that.

4. Intermittent fasting can be dangerous for certain populations.

  • Diabetics on insulin.

While intermittent fasting may help a pre-diabetic or a diabetic who is not insulin-dependent by restoring insulin sensitivity and reducing blood sugar levels, it can be very dangerous for diabetics who rely on insulin injections to control their blood sugar. This is because insulin doses are often aligned with typical eating habits. If you are on insulin and suddenly drastically change your eating habits without changing your insulin accordingly, it can cause Diabetic Ketoacidosis, which when left untreated can be fatal.

  • Pregnant women.

When you are pregnant, you are not only eating for yourself, you are eating for the growing baby inside you. As such, adopting new drastic eating behaviors can be a bad idea during pregnancy.

  • People taking certain medications.

Some medications must be taken with food. If you are on a regimen that requires you to eat when taking your medications, it is important to follow your regimen and not compromise your health by fasting.

  • People with a history of eating disorders.

Because intermittent fasting promotes rigidity and going a long time without eating, these can be triggers for people who are recovering from an eating disorder.

The bottom line:

Ultimately, I think having a finite “stop time” to our eating can be helpful as we tend to do more of our mindless snacking and/or less inhibited eating at night; however as with any “diet” there are usually pitfalls to watch out for. Defining your wellness goals; identifying healthy, realistic, and concrete steps to make those goals a reality; and regularly monitoring your progress is truly the best way to create lasting change. And having a dietitian to help along the way doesn’t hurt either!

 

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HOW TO TAKE A VACATION WITHOUT LEAVING YOUR HEALTH BEHIND

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HOW TO TAKE A VACATION WITHOUT LEAVING YOUR HEALTH BEHIND

Who doesn’t love going on vacation? Escaping the daily grind is important for our mental health. But what about our physical health? Coming home after a marathon of indulgent eating and a sabbatical from the gym can often lead to guilt, regret, and the daunting task of "getting back on track."

But it doesn't have to be that way.

The fact of the matter is, vacation shouldn't mean leaving your wellness goals behind. And here’s the thing: you can eat everything you want, leave your workout routine at home, and still stay on that wellness journey.

Here’s how:

Plan out your meals.

Not every meal needs to be indulgent. For example, if you know you’re going to have a particularly decadent dinner, try making healthier choices at breakfast and lunch. This will help keep your daily intake in check. Notice: I did not say skip breakfast or lunch. Skipping meals is rarely a good idea. However, balancing out indulgent meals with lighter ones is.

Share your food.

The issue with traveling and wanting to taste everything is that there are only so many opportunities to taste it all. Trying to fit multiple “must try” dishes into one meal can definitely lead to excess. The answer? Share your food! By ordering multiple dishes for the table, you get to taste everything without feeling like you’re going to roll out of the restaurant when the meal is over.

BYOF. Bring your own fiber.

One of the biggest complaints I get from clients is that they become less "regular" any time they travel. And let's just say, I can relate. That's why I always bring my high fiber cereal and high fiber crackers everywhere I go. I like to eat them during breakfast so that I'm guaranteed to get my fiber quota for the day. I'll either pair the cereal with some fresh fruit and plain yogurt or if I'm in the mood for something savory I'll get eggs or smoked salmon and eat them along with the crackers. It's such a simple move and it makes the world of a difference!

Once is enough.

Eating the same indulgent thing over and over again may be fun, but if we're being honest with ourselves, it isn't necessary. For example, while Italy may be known for its gelato, that doesn’t mean you need to have gelato every day of your two-week trip. It may seem like a “vacation” thing to do, but it is also something that will pack on those “vacation” pounds. The thing to remember about food is: taste is fleeting, but the memory of the taste will last forever. So rather than eating the gelato every day to repeat the experience, have it once and be mindful. That way, you can bring that memory home with you, minus all the extra pounds.

Walk it out.

We often think that being physically active means sticking to our rigid schedule of intense spin classes, rigorous HIIT routines, and burning pilates sessions. We feel a need to compensate for our sedentary lives of sitting at a desk all day. But when we’re on vacation, we don't have to sit at a desk all day. We can simply stay active by walking around. Going for a daily stroll on the beach or spending a day walking a new city can keep your physical fitness in check without ever stepping foot into a gym.

Now that you have all these tips in the bag, just make sure your passport isn't expired, and you're good to go!

 

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: CURRY QUINOA CONFETTI

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: CURRY QUINOA CONFETTI

Now this dish a real crowd pleaser! Literally every single person who has ever tried it has fallen in love with it. So when I'm having a lot of people over, this is one of those go-to recipes. It looks pretty and I know everyone will be happy. It's also super easy to scale up for large groups so whether I'm having four or fourteen people, it basically takes the same amount of time to make. And, if I have leftovers, I ain't mad about it! In fact, I actually think that the longer this salad sits in the fridge, the better it tastes.

Like all of my recipes, this one is totally doable for any home cook. There may be a long list of ingredients, but please don't get intimidated! There are only two cooked components (two!), and everything else can be mixed right in. 

So do yourself a favor, just screen shot this recipe so that the next time you do a grocery run you can pick up the ingredients and you'l be halfway there. The point is not to overthink it, just do it! You and your guests will thank me later. ;)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 cup zante currants
  • 1 15.5 oz can low sodium chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup sweet peas, frozen and thawed
  • 1 cup chopped fire roasted red peppers or sweet piquante peppers
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallion
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Pour olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add in onion, curry, and turmeric. Sauté onions until tender and coated in spices.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and sautéed onion.
  3. Mix together.
  4. Refrigerate and serve!

A few notes about this recipe:

  1. Didn't I say the directions were easy? I'd never lie to you!
  2. Zante currants are smaller and tarter than raisins. You can use raisins, but I particularly like the currants in this dish. They don't get soggy and they add a great punch of flavor to every bite!
  3. Similarly, you can opt to use regular roasted red peppers instead of the fire roasted peppers or sweet piquante peppers. However, I really like the spicy kick from the fire roasted peppers and sweet piquante peppers. 
  4. Finally, you can likely substitute apple cider vinegar for the regular distilled white vinegar, but I've just always made it this way. I also think that with so much going on elsewhere in this dish, the neutral acidity of the white vinegar works well.
  5. Bottom line, you do you!

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: TURKEY TACOS WITH TOMATO MANGO SALSA

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: TURKEY TACOS WITH TOMATO MANGO SALSA

I love Mexican food, and for some reason it has a bad reputation for being heavy and unhealthy. Of course, loading up on chips and empanadas can be a bit much, but it is very possible to enjoy Mexican flavors and still keep things light. The truth is, at its core, Mexican cuisine is dependent on fruit, vegetables, spices, and herbs, which are all full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

In my opinion, Mexican flavors are so bold, you don’t even need the deep fried chips and empanadas to be satisfied. Deep frying food is an easy trick to making something taste good. Our brains are wired to enjoy the crunch and salt, which is what makes those foods so mindlessly addicting. But layering flavor with intention will get your taste buds excited and will keep you truly satisfied.

So without further ado, I present to you my Turkey Tacos with Tomato Mango Salsa, which are so easy to make and so full of flavor.

Just a few notes about this recipe before you begin:

  • When I say “spicy” I mean it, so if you’re someone who stays away from the heat, I’d recommend you cut the amount of adobo sauce and chili powder in half. On the other hand, if you like things to really burn, feel free to amp up the heat as much as you'd like!
  • This recipe calls for kosher turkey, which is generally saltier than non-kosher turkey, so feel free to add salt to taste.
  • For the tacos, I use romaine lettuce cups, but feel free to use a tortilla if you prefer. I just enjoy the fresh crunch and the added health benefits from the lettuce.
  • Disclaimer: I happen to be one of those people who doesn't like cilantro (I know - it breaks my heart to say it!), so this recipe doesn't call for any cilantro. However, feel free to add it in anywhere you please! I'm sure it would be great in the turkey mixture, the salsa, or just as a garnish on top!

INGREDIENTS: (makes 12-15 tacos; 3-4 tacos/person)

Mexican Ground Turkey:

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 chipotle pepper canned in adobo, chopped 
  • 4 tsp adobo sauce
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 15oz can low sodium black beans
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 lb ground turkey

Tomato Mango Salsa:

  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1.5 mango, diced
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped jalapeño
  • 1.5 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt

For assembly:

  • 2 avocados, pitted, peeled, and sliced
  • 12-15 romaine lettuce cups, washed and dried

DIRECTIONS:

Mexican Ground Turkey:

  1. In a large rondeau on medium-high, sauté red onion, and garlic in olive oil. 
  2. Once onions are tender, add in bell pepper.
  3. When the pepper starts to soften, add in chipotle pepper, 2 tsp adobo sauce, 1 tsp chili powder, and 1 tsp coriander. Stir to ensure that the dry spices bloom in the oil (this allows their flavor to deepen) and that the onion and peppers get coated.
  4. Add the can of black beans, including the liquid, into the rondeau. 
  5. Sprinkle mixture with salt and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  6. Once liquid has mostly evaporated, add in ground turkey, breaking it up into smaller pieces and mixing it in with the rest of the ingredients.
  7. Mix in the rest of the adobo sauce, chili powder, and coriander.
  8. Cook for another 5 minutes, or until the turkey has cooked through.

Tomato Mango Salsa:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix. 
  2. Keep in fridge until use. 

Assembly:

  1. Allow Mexican Ground Turkey to cool slightly* so that it doesn't wilt the lettuce.
  2. Scoop a spoonful of the turkey onto the center of a lettuce cup.
  3. Add a spoonful of the Tomato Mango Salsa onto the turkey.
  4. Top with a slice or two of avocado.
  5. Repeat for all tacos, and devour!

*But never allow meat to stay out for more than 4 hours as that will allow unwanted bacteria to grow. 

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: SWEET POTATO TAHINI COOKIES

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: SWEET POTATO TAHINI COOKIES

I’m so excited about these cookies because for one, they're delicious. But that's a given. I also love them because I find that tahini rarely gets a chance to shine when it comes to desserts, and I just I don’t think it gets the attention it deserves. There are tons of recipes with peanut butter, almond butter, and even sunflower butter, but a sweet dessert with tahini is hard to come by. Behold: these sweet potato tahini cookies!

The great thing about tahini is that while it provides the amazing texture of other nut and seed butters, it has a very mild flavor so it doesn’t overshadow the rest of the ingredients. In fact, it’s got a subtle bitter flavor that pairs really nicely with the sweetness of the sweet potato, banana, and maple syrup. But if you’re still skeptical, you can totally substitute the tahini with any nut/seed butter, and I’m sure it would still be delicious.

Now aside from how good they taste, the texture is HEAVENLY! They are so fluffy and yet so moist you would never be able to tell that there was zero butter or oil in this recipe. To be honest, their texture is more cake-like than cookie, but I shaped them like cookies, and it just worked so I went with it. And, it totally helps with portion control, which is always a plus! (Trust me, you're gonna need it with these!)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 cup of steamed skinless sweet potato
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup tahini
  • ½ cup oat flour
  • ½ cup almond meal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp sea salt

DIRECTIONS: (makes 22-25 cookies)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375
  2. Mash banana in a bowl.
  3. Add sweet potato, vanilla, maple syrup, and tahini to the banana and mix until mixture is mostly homogenous, with as few clumps as possible.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine oat flour, almond meal, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  5. In thirds, add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, stirring each time the dry ingredients are added, and making sure that ingredients are fully combined.
  6. Scoop out mixture (either using a spoon or a cookie scoop) and form into balls on a lined and greased cookie sheet, flattening the balls slightly.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked through, but still moist.

**These cookies are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free!**

 

 

 

                         

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: CARROT CAKE OATS

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: CARROT CAKE OATS

My new oatmeal obsession: Carrot Cake Oats! Let's be real, this is more of a winter morning kinda dish, but I finally got around to making it and it was delicious! As you may remember from my Carrot Cake Energy Bites, carrot cake is pretty much a top 5 dessert in my book, so when I found a way to integrate it into my morning routine, I was beyond thrilled. I may or may not be contemplating making a zucchini bread version, so stay tuned! In the meantime, here's the full recipe. Enjoy my dears!

INGREDIENTS: (1 serving)

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1/4 cup packed finely grated carrot
  • 1/4 cup egg whites or 2 egg whites
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp maca powder
  • 1 tsp coconut flour
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch cardamom
  • pinch nutmeg

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a covered pot, bring almond milk to a boil.
  2. Add in oats, reduce to simmer, and let oats cook uncovered, stirring occasionally.
  3. After about 7 minutes, add carrots. Continue to stir occasionally.
  4. In the meantime, whisk egg whites, vanilla, maca, coconut flour, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg in a separate bowl.
  5. When another 7 minutes have passed, or when most of the milk has been absorbed and the oats are tender, turn flame to low and add in egg white mixture very slowly, stirring oats the entire time. This will keep the egg whites from coagulating in clumps and will distribute them evenly to create a smooth and creamy consistency.
  6. Continue pouring and stirring until all of the egg white mixture has been mixed into the oats.
  7. Pour oat mixture into a bowl and top with anything you’d like! I like to top mine with raw walnuts, coconut, and a peanut butter drizzle, but hemp seeds and cacao nibs are also great additions!

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: STRAWBERRIES N CREAM MORNING OATS

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: STRAWBERRIES N CREAM MORNING OATS

While I don’t like to choose favorites, (because, let's face it, I love all food!) breakfast is probably my favorite meal of the day. I’ve always made time for breakfast -- even in high school when I was commuting at 6:30 in the morning, even when I have to catch a ridiculously early flight, even when I have the craziest day ahead.

Let’s just say that when I go to sleep, I’m often contemplating what I’m going to wake up and eat. You may or may not call it an obsession.

It’s not just that I love breakfast foods, it’s that breakfast is what fuels me for my day. If I miss it, I spend the rest of the day ravenous and never fully satisfied.

This is why I was super excited when I started making my oatmeal with egg whites. For me, oatmeal was always a top 5 breakfast food, but my biggest issue with it was that I knew it wasn’t giving me the protein that I really needed. Then, I started adding in egg whites, and everything changed! It was magical! Not only do the egg whites add 7 grams of protein to my breakfast, but they also make the oats SO creamy! It’s a total win-win!

This version is inspired by the Strawberries N Cream sugary oatmeal I used to have as a kid. It was my favorite flavor because I loved getting the chunks of cooked strawberry in every bite. I may be biased, but I’m pretty sure this rendition is even better. The bonus? Mine has no added sugar, no refined carbs, lots of fiber and a healthy dose of protein to help you start your day! :)

INGREDIENTS: (1 serving)

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup steel-cut oats
  • 3 medium strawberries, sliced or chopped
  • 1/4 cup egg whites or 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp maca powder
  • 1 tsp coconut flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a covered pot, bring almond milk to a boil.
  2. Add in oats, reduce to simmer, and let oats cook uncovered, stirring occasionally.
  3. After about 7 minutes, add strawberries. Continue to stir occasionally.
  4. In the meantime, whisk egg whites, maca, coconut flour, and vanilla in a separate bowl.
  5. When another 7 minutes have passed, or when most of the milk has been absorbed and the oats are tender, turn flame to low and add in egg white mixture very slowly, stirring oats the entire time. This will keep the egg whites from coagulating in clumps and will distribute them evenly to create a smooth and creamy consistency.
  6. Continue pouring and stirring until all of the egg white mixture has been mixed into the oats.
  7. Pour oat mixture into a bowl and top with anything you’d like! I like to top mine with fresh strawberries and coconut, but hemp seeds, nuts, and cacao nibs are also great additions!

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: BUCKWHEAT ENERGY BITES

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: BUCKWHEAT ENERGY BITES

I took a bit of a hiatus from my energy bites, but the other day I came across a buckwheat bar and it totally inspired me to use buckwheat as a base for my next rendition. So I was super excited to get back in the kitchen and experiment.

Buckwheat is a great ingredient because it's toothsome, so it gives each bite that extra bit of texture. It also doesn't have an overwhelming flavor so it goes well with almost any mix-in, but it's also slightly nutty in flavor so it adds a little more dimension.

I particularly love the mix-ins in this recipe because they keep every bite interesting and exciting. The best part of all though, is that this is a one pot recipe, so clean up is a breeze!

And while I love to eat these just as a snack all on their own, adding them to a bowl of plain yogurt makes a deliciously filling breakfast! Try it out for yourself!

INGREDIENTS: (makes 30 balls)

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup buckwheat groats
  • 3/4 cup sunflower butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup zante currants
  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 1/3 cup cacao nibs
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a pot, bring water to a boil.
  2. Once water has boiled, add in buckwheat, reduce to simmer, and cover. Cook buckwheat for 20 minutes, or until water has been absorbed and buckwheat is tender.
  3. Add in sunflower butter and mix until combined throughout.
  4. Mix in rest of ingredients until evenly distributed.
  5. With a cookie scoop, form mixture into balls.
  6. Keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for ultimate freshness.

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