My Food Adventures in the Azores

It feels really good to be back home in my cozy, familiar house in Rhode Island after a week in the Azores.  I mean that even with this huge snowstorm going on as I type!

 

0117161055a~3The Azores Islands are an absolutely gorgeous vacation destination.  Clean and quiet, you will discover natural wonders like thermal pools and volcanoes.  There are endless hiking trails, breathtaking bicycling routes and plenty of ocean.  You can visit pineapple and tea plantations, walk through botanical gardens and go whale watching.

Brief Weather Recap and then on to the Food:  If you like the sun like I do, don’t go to the Azores in January.  It is their winter and their rainy season.  However, if you would be happy to get away from freezing temps and snow, enjoy a steady 60 degrees day and night and don’t mind the fog, wind and rain, then go.  It is beautiful when the sun is out….which we enjoyed on our first day but saw no sign of again for the entire week.  We knew what we were getting into visiting this time of year and to be fair, it does need to rain quite a bit for it to have such lush, colorful beauty in their other seasons.

Let me begin by saying that we didn’t go to the Azores specifically for the food.  We just wanted to get away and check out a new place!  I figured there would be lots of fresh fish and produce but wasn’t sure what exactly to expect….

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8 Great Holiday Gift Ideas

Hello!  These are gift recommendations from someone whose life revolves around eating and talking about eating–  so you know they are all going to be food (or beverage) related.  They also happen to be things I have around my kitchen at the moment… but are more than likely not in most people’s kitchens.  There is an excellent chance you will find at least one unique idea for a special someone.

Now, on to the gift ideas… Christmas is right around the corner!

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Bone Broth

I hope you saved the carcass from your Thanksgiving turkey…

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Bones, water and a little apple cider vinegar.. simmer for approximately 24 hours and then strain the broth.

 

 

 

Are you drinking bone broth?  I wasn’t until recently.  I have quickly become a believer in it– both for health as well as for its incredible flavor.  I’m also into the idea of not wasting good, nourishing food.  Never will I go back to bouillon or canned broths.

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Thanksgiving: Savor it, Don’t Stress it

I’m hearing from just about everybody how anxious they are feeling about Thanksgiving.  If you’re anticipating the holiday with stress and fretting that you’re going to “cheat” or “ruin your diet,” I want you to shift to a more positive perspective.  This is supposed to be a happy, family centered day– there is no reason to be stressed out.

My top 3 tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving:

1.  Remember this is only ONE meal!  It’s not what you do occasionally that is going to have a big impact on your health and body, but what you are doing on a day-to-day basis.  It is our everyday habits that carry importance.  Trust me:  You’re not going to erase all your healthy eating if you have some “extras” on Thanksgiving.  To help this sink in, turn the situation around:  If you normally ate junk food for all your meals, how much of an effect do you think eating one really nutritious meal is going to make if you go right back to your old pattern?  Right, not a lot.  Again, it’s your daily habits that count.

2.  Savor your food, eat slowly and be grateful.  Try not to rush through your plate with  thoughts of what you’re going to get seconds of.  Slow down and enjoy every bite of what you have.  Then, once you’ve given your stomach some time to get the message to your brain whether you’ve had enough, you can decide what you want to do.  Pause here and you just might find that you feel good and don’t need more just because it’s there.  This isn’t a day to see how much food you can put down; it’s a chance to be with people you care about and be thankful for the abundance that we all have in our lives.

3.  This one is for those of you who want some sort of guidance to follow.  When you’re building your Thanksgiving plate, think this:  Make sure at least half your plate is a variety of vegetable-based dishes.  There are always lots of these at Thanksgiving– butternut squash, sweet potatoes, green beans, turnips, carrots and salad just to name a few.  Load up on these fiber-rich, colorful, antioxidant and vitamin-filled goodies.  Save about 1/4 of your plate for your turkey and the last quarter for the more processed stuff like breads or pies.  That’s a pretty good balance to aim for.

Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

dory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s On Your Counter?

I just saw this interesting article yesterday and had to share!

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The 20lb Cereal Box: Kitchen Counter Foods that Relate to Your Weight

Keep boxed cereal or bottled soda on your counter?  How about cookies?  According to this study, you likely weigh more than your skinny neighbors who keep fruits on the counter.

“It’s your basic See-Food Diet — you eat what you see,” said lead author Brian Wansink, professor and director of the Cornell Food and Brand lab and author of Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life.

Look around your kitchen and see what you’ve got sitting out in plain sight.  Your habits may be impacting your health in a way you never realized.  If you see fruit– good for you! If you see highly processed foods– you may want to make some changes if you are trying to lose weight.

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Homemade Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream (Dairy-Free)

0929151851dAre you tired of pumpkin yet?  I’m slowing down with it but still having some type of squash several times a week since it’s so abundant at the farms!

While pumpkin and other squash are definitely things to be eating now, it still somewhat qualifies as ice cream season as well.  We had a few warm, humid days towards the end of September when I wanted something cold and creamy made from my frozen bananas.  But what to mix in?  Peanut butter, cocoa powder, salted macadamia nuts, the usual suspects?…. No, I was looking for something new to try.  Aha! There was some leftover pumpkin in the fridge.  That, along with pumpkin pie spices and coconut milk just might make for a nice combination.  And it was!

I have gotten in the habit of having some source of fat just about whenever I eat– I find it keeps me full longer, plus it’s supplying healthy nutrients for my body.  I encourage you to experiment on your own, especially if you find you are hungry again too soon after eating.  Without the coconut, this ice cream is mostly carbohydrates from the bananas and pumpkin.  The addition of coconut (an excellent, nutrient-dense fat source) helps your body slow the release of those carbs into your bloodstream, resulting in less of a blood sugar spike and steadier energy levels.  And for bonus healthy fats– top your pumpkin ice cream with macadamia nuts! (not pictured, but trust me I did it)

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Why Your Chicken Tastes Boring

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I don’t usually watch Dr. Oz but someone sent me this link to a recent episode that discussed a topic I am a big believer in– buying meats (chickens in this case) from farmers who are raising their animals to be HEALTHY as opposed to the majority of chickens who suffer on factory farms in unspeakably awful living conditions.

Chicken aren’t all created equal.  The state of their health is a reflection of their lifestyle factors such as diet quality, access to sunlight and freedom to move around.  Sounds basic enough, but sadly, most of the animals raised for food in America are denied proper nutrition, exercise and sunshine.  :(  We’ve all been exposed to the documentaries by now so unless you have been living under a rock or are in denial, you know what I’m talking about so I’ll spare you a photo or a link.

Some people don’t care about animal welfare.  That’s a personal choice, but I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like their food to taste delicious.   Did you know the flavor of chicken is impacted by what it eats?  So is the nutritional value of their meat and eggs.  Chickens are meant to forage for grass and bugs– but chickens raised in factory farms only get chicken feed made from corn, soybeans and a vitamin/mineral mix.  They grow twice as fast in half the amount of time– but the quality of meat suffers.  What the cluck?  Food safety can be compromised as well.  There are plenty of reasons to know where your chicken comes from and select wisely.

Most chicken are soaked in a bleach solution after slaughter…. ugh.  And did you know that because factory farmed chickens are so bland, they are often injected with chicken broth to add flavor (and it still tastes blah).  They are typically fed antibiotics which make them gain weight faster.  If Canada and many European countries have banned the use of sub-therapeutic antibiotic use, why is it still common in the US?

‘You are what you eat’ rings true for chickens.

And for us– you could also say:

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True, it definitely costs more to buy from the smaller farmers who are making the effort to raise chickens properly but it’s worth it.  It’s your health after all.  And it’s certainly more humane for the animals.  I strongly encourage you  to learn where the foods you eat are coming from and consciously make your food choices based on your values.  Not only are you voting with your food dollars for what is right, you are investing in your health!

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Goodbye Coca-Cola

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Yeah, things like obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

 

 

I just heard the news today that Coke was no longer going to be a sponsor for the AND (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).  You may be surprised to learn that there even was a connection between Coke and the US’s largest professional organization for dietitians.

Definitely one of those things that make you go….hmmmm.  The AND  states that their vision is to optimize health through food and nutrition and their mission is to empower their members to be food and nutrition leaders.

Great goals, however my peers and I have always found it interesting that the big sponsors of the Academy are:  The National Dairy Council, Coke, Pepsi and Unilever, whose products include Ben and Jerry’s, Country Crock spread, I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter (yes I can), Klondike Bars and Hellman’s Mayo.  {{{shudder}}}

If you don’t find that shocking enough, check out this article from Mother Jones about the 2014 California Dietetic Association’s annual conference where the author noted that:

  • McDonald’s was the featured sponsor and the sole provider of lunch
  • Hershey’s had a booth where they were passing out chocolate and strawberry milk
  • Butter Buds gave out packets of fake butter crystals
  • The Wheat Council hosted a presentation on how gluten intolerance was just a fad
  • The Corn Refiners Association had a panel defending corn syrup as a sweetener

These are conferences geared towards registered dietitians– the people who are counted on to have evidence-based, unbiased nutrition information.  As you can see, there is a strong link with the food industry.

Says Marion Nestle (one of my many favorite nutrition experts): “Food companies are smart. They know that if they can make friends and help inform dietitians and nutritionists that the people they are supporting or helping will be reluctant to suggest eating less of their products.”

I’m happy to see Coke go.  It’s maddening opening up my monthly journal and seeing logos from companies selling soda and candy bars.

Find this as fascinating as I do? (likely not but you never know).  If you want to read some unbelievable stories about how the food industry, nutrition and health are intertwined, check out Food Politics.

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Autumn= Pumpkins and Baking!

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The perfect weather is here; windows are open bringing in a refreshing breeze.  I’m lighting candles in the evening when the sun sets early, making hot tea, digging out my leggings and hoodies…and getting super excited about making homemade pumpkin treats.

Let the fall baking begin…

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For this first day of fall, I of course have to share with you a phenomenal recipe for pumpkin-something, so without question I am highly recommending these Grain-Free Pumpkin Bars with Maple Pecan Glaze by the Detoxinista.  Click on her link and you’ll find a much prettier picture than mine– and more importantly, to get the recipe!

The ingredients are dietitian-approved real food ingredients including pumpkin, almond butter, honey, eggs and pumpkin pie spices.

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Like she says, the pumpkin cake alone is great.

 

 

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But the frosting takes it to the next level.

 

 

 

 

If you want to start your autumn off on the right foot, go make this and thoroughly enjoy every moist, pumpkin-y bite.

…and then go outside and continue moving your feet with an energizing, mood-brightening, brisk walk, bike or jog in nature.  You’ll be glad you did.

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I just remembered one more wonderful thing about fall– it’s that brief time of year where there’s no pulling the “It’s too hot” or the “It’s too cold” excuse with your dietitian. :)

 

First-Day-Of-Fall-2015

 

 

 

 

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One-Pot Grilled Vegetables and Salmon Deck Dinner

Ideas, ideas, ideas.  You are always asking for new meal ideas!

It’s the weekend and it looks like we are being blessed with some more gorgeous weather.  I recommend getting to a farmers market and cooking outside like I did this week.

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I got white eggplant, round green zucchini and corn at the Wickford Farmers Market and peaches from Narrow Lane Orchard.  Mushrooms and wild salmon were à la BJs.

Here is what I do when I want to grill.  Slice up the vegetables and add to a large pot.  Drizzle in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, shoyu or tamari and maple syrup.  This makes for a perfect marinade.  Put the lid on the pot and rotate until everything gets coated.

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