Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Healthier Homemade Granola & Granola Bars

Granola is a very easy to make and versatile food.  It can be eaten plain as-is, for breakfast with fresh berries and milk, as a little snack for work, hiking, for kids lunches, or it even used as a breading for chicken or fish - yes, I did just go there (and it is delish!)  :)

Since this recipe uses a lot of nuts and seeds, I had to test out several times and temperatures.  I found what works - and what definitely does not work based on this recipe.

Here's a healthier alternative to store-bought granola, which usually contains added unnecessary sugars, food coloring, preservatives and other potentially harmful ingredients. If you press this particular recipe mixture together on a cookie tray, you can make it into bars - cutting them into the shape you'd like.  The granola bars will turn out crunchy, much like the Nature Valley Oats & Honey bars. 
Granola Bars
Granola with Greek Yogurt
Granola with Yo Baby Yogurt

**Granola traditionally has a lot of calories and is not meant to be eaten in bulk.  It is meant to help sustain energy using complex carbohydrates and is meant to be a nice and delightful little snack that is both crunchy and delicious.  Add it to yogurt for a little texture for a power-packed breakfast.  I hope you enjoy this fun little treat!  My little toddler even loves this snack!**

Just as a note - since I usually make everything in bulk, you may want to cut the recipe in half if you'd don't want as much.

Healthier Homemade Granola (& Granola Bars)
Yields about 6 cups granola and 12 granola bars

1 package Bobs Red Mill Museli (18 oz)
1-18 oz container rolled oats
2 cups raw almonds
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas - they are green)
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup raisins (regular or golden - or both)
1 cup dried cranberries (try to stick with the healthiest option)
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup cinnamon (you can add more or less based on your preference)
4 Tbsp. Vanilla, or to taste
3/4 cup almond butter
1/2 cup coconut oil (unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin)
1 cup honey (or brown rice syrup), use more if necessary
1/4 cup packed brown sugar (or you can omit this and bump up the honey if desired)
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine all ingredients in a very large bowl.  Toss together with your hands, making sure to break up the coconut oil with your hands.    The mixture should be slightly damp, not dry and crumbly.  When you press the mixture into a ball with your hands, it should hold its shape.  Don't be afraid to add more almond butter if needed or more honey.

Coconut Oil is Solid at Room Temp
Extra-Virgin Cold-Pressed Coconut Oil

**Why use cold-pressed extra-virgin coconut oil? Its process uses pressure instead of heat, therefore retaining most of the nutrients and antioxidants for added nutrition. Even though coconut oil is saturated fat, it is now found that this oil is good for your heart, is better than polyunsaturated oils such as vegetable oil, helps to support the immune system, helps aid the thyroid, boosts your metabolism, has antibacterial properties & is quick energy. It is also a great body lotion!

Raw Mixture

Almond Butter

**Make Your Own Almond Butter:
Place 2 cups of raw almonds with about 1 teaspoon of sea salt in a food processor.  Pulse until combined then blend together until smooth (scraping down the sides when necessary).  Keep refrigerated in a mason jar.  Almond butter can last for about 3 months in the refrigerator (although I would make smaller, fresh batches if possible).

To Make Granola: Leave mixture crumbly.  You may even make small balls out of the mixture or clump small amounts together to give your granola more texture.  Line a cookie tray with foil (shiny side up).  Spray lightly with pan spray.  Spread about one-third of the mixture out on the tray (only enough to make one thin layer).  Bake granola for about 45-55 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or less.  You can tell it is done when the mixture starts to turn golden brown and dries out slightly.  The mixture will not be completely dry right out of the oven.  It continues to dry when cooling.

Repeat baking process for another batch of the granola. Let granola cool completely before placing in bags or containers.

To Make Granola Bars: Take the remaining 1/3 batch of granola and press it onto a pan sprayed cookie tray.  (You may alternately use a pan sprayed muffin tin to make small individual portions).  You will want to press the mixture together pretty firmly and square off the edges as neatly as possible. make it about 1/2-inch thick or so.  Bake in a 275 degrees F oven for about 50-60 minutes or more, depending on your oven and how dark you like your granola bars.  Check the bars every 10 minutes or so to ensure it does not burn (because it will burn very quickly if not watched).

When bars have finished baking, let cool slightly but cut them while they are still warm.  Let the bars cool completely before packaging.
Before Baking Granola Bars

After Baking Granola Bars

After Baking & Cutting Granola Bars

Friday, February 22, 2013

Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia! Ha ha!!  Sorry, I couldn't resist!  It is absolutely the first thing that everyone thinks of when I mention Chia Seeds.  These little seeds are indeed the same type of seeds that you would paste on pottery to make fluffy garden dog or a furry President Obama character.  Did you know that the food grade versions of Chia Pet seeds are actually edible??!!

Don't be fooled though, even if the thought of consuming a seed (even food grade) that composes most cheap holiday presents actually turns you off, these tiny little miracle seeds pack enough nutrition to make even the best spinach look weak!

So what on earth is a Chia Seed?
  • It is an edible desert seed that comes from a plant called "Salvia Hispanica," is a member of the mint family (believe it or not) and is usually grown in southern Mexico.  
  • These were actually one of the main staples of the diets of the Mayans and Aztecs.
  • They are incredibly small and taste much like a lighter version of a sesame seed.
  • They look like a smaller versions of passion fruit seeds when hydrated.
1 Tablespoon of Chia Seeds contains

Calories: 60
Total Fat: 4.5g
     Saturated Fat: 0.5g
     Trans Fat: 0g
     Omega-3: 2282mg
     Omega-6: 752mg
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 0mg
Total Carbohydrate: 5g
     Dietary Fiber: 5g
     Sugars: 0g
Protein: 3g

Vitamin A: 0%
Vitamin C: 0%
Calcium: 6%
Iron: 4%

  • 1 TABLESPOON of these seeds packs all of that nutrition!  They are slightly comparable to flax seeds and hemp seeds as far as nutrition is concerned.
  • They are high in antioxidants (which fight off the free-radicals in your body that would cause harmful diseases).  
  • They great minerals such as magnesium, phosphrous, manganese, copper, iron and zinc.  
  • The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in this is a great addition to your diet.  They help to raise your good cholesterol (HDL) and lower your bad cholesterol (LDL).  It's like having a small piece of salmon - without having to spend a lot of money and without having to cook it.
  • The high level of fiber is great for your digestive tract.
  • When you put Chia Seeds in liquid (even cold liquid) for about 20-30 minutes, they form a gel ring around the outside of each seed. 
  • Researchers believe that when consumed, the seeds form that same gel and actually slow down the digestion of carbs converting to sugar - so it may help to balance your blood sugar (and help ward off your sugar crash a little better).
  • This gelatin cal also help stabilize some of your baked goods so that you use less fat in them.  (I am definitely going to come up with some great recipes soon using this fantastic little seed.)
  • The gelatin will actually make you feel fuller, sooner!

  • Chia Seeds can be added to just about anything.  I add mine to my breakfast smoothie in the morning to help level my blood sugar.  (I personally enjoy the texture, but you can blend them in the blender for your smoothies).
  • They can be used in many baked goods, savory dishes, ice cream, yogurt and so many other foods.
  • You can add the seeds to your stir fry dishes (much like adding sesame seeds).
  • You can add it to your fresh cooked vegetables to boost the nutrition.
  • Add it to your whole grain pancake or waffle batter for added nutrition.
  • Add it to poppy seed cakes if you run out of poppy seeds.
  • Eat them raw or sprinkle over a fresh garden salad.
  • Make your own version of bubble tea with chia.
  • Basically anything that you can think of could have the addition of chia seeds.
Please Note:
  • I have heard from some sources that Chia Seeds have been known to interact with some medications and even aspirin. As with anything, please consult your doctor if you have any questions about your specific diet and medications.
Where to Find Chia Seeds:
  • I found these seeds and purchased them in a 1 pound bag from the natural health section of my local grocery store (Wegmans).  I purchased mine for $7.99.
  • You may purchase online simply by doing a Google search as well. 
  • Be careful when purchasing "milled" Chia Seeds.  Any time products are subjected to manufacturing processes, they will start to lose their nutritional value.  This is true of flax seeds as well.  Since the oils in flax are so volatile, unless they are whole seeds and packaged in a dark container, I will not buy them.  Chia and any other nutritional seeds will act much in the same way.
Overall, Chia Seeds are by far one of the most nutritionally dense products around.  I would highly recommend just trying them.  They are very comparable to the texture of sesame seeds.  They don't leave any aftertaste and are actually a pleasant and interesting texture addition to a lot of items.  Don't go snatching the seeds from your Chia Pet box though.  The Chia Seeds I am speaking of a food grade and must meet much more vigorous health standards than the ones that will be pasted on pottery.  Even if you are new to the whole health kick revolution, try Chia Seeds as a first step to re-building your healthier life.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Make Ahead Spinach (Quick, Cheap & Easy)

Being a working and busy mom, I virtually have no time at all to cook during the week.  How do I solve this dilemma and still cook healthy to achieve and maintain my weight current weight loss of 100 pounds (not only once, but twice)?  I cook large volumes of food on the weekend and freeze in small portions for a few weeks at a time.

One of my absolute favorite veggies of all time is spinach.  It packs incredible phyto-nutrients, which are great at disease prevention, it is incredibly low in calories, very high in iron and Vitamins A and C (both of which are antioxidants) and Vitamin K which helps with blood clotting.  It also packs super minerals such as potassium, manganese, magnesium, copper and zinc.  So why wouldn't everyone want to jump on the Popeye bandwagon?  Spinach often-times can be incredibly expensive at the store, it goes bad fairly quickly and the frozen or canned counterparts just don't taste good at all.  Even fresh spinach can be a turnoff sometimes if overcooked - and let's face it - sometimes kids (and adults) just don't like it.  I'm lucky though that both my kids LOVE spinach (but only fresh cooked or the recipe below).

Over the weekend I visited our little home-town corner store, ANG.  They supply a lot of fresh, local, home-grown products there (and I am all about supporting your local farmers - as my extended family farms).  I noticed that they had pre-packaged spinach in their cooler.  When the owner of the store walked by, my husband and I stopped him and asked him how we may go about getting the spinach in a large volume.  He said he had an entire case in back and we can have it at case price.  What was case price you ask?  $22 for 4 POUNDS!!! GASP!!!  That is almost HALF of what you would pay at larger chain stores!  Even on sale, most bags of spinach are 2 for $5 in our location.  We got 16 bags for $22 (and would have normally paid $40 on sale).  The store owner also gave me his business card and told me as long as I give him a few days notice, I can call in any time I want and he'd be more than happy to order as much spinach as I need (and it goes for other items as well).  Winning!!! :)

Why on earth do I need 16 bags of spinach?  For cooking ahead, portioning & freezing.  This helps save time, money and helps with pre-portioning, I am able to keep control of my calorie intake a little more precisely.

Cook-Ahead Spinach

16 bags cleaned baby spinach
8 cloves minced garlic (if desired)
Himalayan Pink Sea Salt (or regular sea salt) to taste
extra virgin olive oil, for finishing (if desired)

Preheat your largest pot over medium heat.  Add a couple of bags of spinach to the pot (depending on the size of the pot) and let wilt (I use tongs to wilt that much at a time).  No need for oil, as spinach has enough water that a cooking oil is completely unnecessary.  Add salt and a small amount of garlic if desired and cook only until the spinach turns dark green.  Remove from heat.  Place spinach in a colander over a bowl (to catch the incredible about of water it will leach out).  Repeat for remaining batches, drain and finish with a light drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil if desired.  Let spinach cool.  You may even refrigerate for 1-2 days before the next step of portioning.  *Quick tip: Save the liquid from draining the spinach - you can freeze it in ice cube trays for smoothies for added nutrition!

**Please note:  Extra-Virgin Olive Oil is not meant to be cooked.  The molecules in it are very fragile and once exposed to heat, they will break down, even sometimes leaving carcinogens behind.  Only finish with this beautiful ingredient or use it in raw salad dressings for its optimum taste and health benefits.

Once spinach is cool, portion it out into small bags.  I'd love to know if there are any great bio-degradable bags out there - so please send suggestions if you know of any good brands.  To portion, I setup an assembly line and involve my kids.  I portion and the kids place it on a scale (as it helps me with portion control) and I seal the bags.  I hand them back to my kids who then put them in a large bag to be put in the large chest freezer.

When I am ready to put my lunch together in the morning, I grab a bag of the frozen spinach and a bag of frozen homemade roasted chicken (this will be a future post) and a container to reheat them in and done!  Now I have all-natural homemade food that not only tastes better, but it retains more nutrients than processed foods.  This is my life saver for being a mom on the "Mommy Make-Ahead Tip."  Happy Cooking! ~Cathy

Nutrition Facts For Spinach & Garlic (with or without salt):
Calories: 23   Carbs: 3g   Fat: 0g   Protein: 3g

Nutrition Facts For Spinach, Garlic & Extra Virgin Olive Oil - less than 1/2 tsp per serving (with or without salt):
Calories: 39   Carbs: 3g   Fat: 2g   Protein: 3g

Monday, February 18, 2013

Healthier Breakfast Sandwiches You Can Make At Home (Cheap & Easy Too!)

Who doesn't love a hot breakfast sandwich from a fast food joint when you're in a hurry?  My kids always love that fun 'lil treat we almost never get.  Since I am a working mom, I have very little time to put together amazing breakfasts for my kids, so I came up with a little make in advance & freeze solution that I made over the weekend (and it is husband-friendly too!).  By using ham or turkey instead of bacon or sausage, you are cutting out tons of unnecessary fats and nitrates.  If you use egg whites and omit cheese, you are saving even more in calories and the sandwich is still filling.  Using whole wheat muffins helps add a bit more fiber and ensures the carbs are complex carbs to help stabilize your blood sugar a little longer than simple carbs would.  Also, try adding some veggies such as diced tomato, baby spinach or asparagus for an extra added boost of nutrition.

**Also as a little tip - since I try to buy as little deli meat as possible, what I usually do is have a roasted ham for dinner (or roasted turkey breast) and slice up the leftovers and use them for these breakfast sandwiches.  It is healthier and a lot cheaper too! :)  The ham ends up tasting like a really delicious version of Canadian bacon! YUM!

The Lighter Egg Muffin
Yields 12 sandwiches

12 Whole Grain English Muffins (100% whole wheat)
12 eggs (you may use just eggs whites)
salt, to taste (if desired)
12 thin slices ham or turkey
12 slices low-fat or reduced-fat cheese of your choice, cut into quarters (or use shredded cheese) (optional)

Spray a muffin tin generously with pan spray.  Crack 1 egg into each spot.  You may omit the egg yolks if desired.  If you decide to keep the egg yolks, break each yolk with a fork before baking.  Sprinkle each egg lightly with salt if desired.  Bake in a 350 degrees F oven for about 15-20 minutes or until eggs are completely set.  Remove eggs from pans using a spoon and let cool on a plate.

Toast the English muffins (either in a toaster or in the oven that you are baking the eggs in). Place 1/4 slice of cheese on the bottom muffin for each sandwich (you may omit the cheese completely if desired).  Top with a slice of ham or turkey.  Add 1/4 slice of cheese followed by an egg then two 1/4's of cheese.  Close sandwich.  Wrap in plastic wrap then aluminum foil & freeze.

When ready to serve, remove all wrapping & place on a paper plate.  Microwave for about a minute or so or until sandwich is heated through.  Enjoy!

Want An Extra Boost of Nutrition?

  • Add some wilted spinach
  • Add sliced tomatoes
  • Sprinkle some flax or chia seeds on each sandwich
  • Add sauteed peppers and onions

Nutrition Facts For 1 Sandwich (with whole egg and cheese):
Calories: 362   Carbs: 28g   Fat: 18g   Protein: 22g

Nutrition Facts for 1 Sandwich (egg whites and no cheese):
Calories: 173   Carbs: 27g   Fat: 2g  Protein: 13g

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Perfect Flaky Pie Crust!

Ok, so your grandmother made the most delicious and perfectly flaky pie crust - but you can never duplicate it for some reason (even with HER recipe)? The secret is in the BUTTER!! Why? Butter has water and when you give butter enough surface area, the water spreads out into thin layers. When it is baked, the water creates steam and STEAM = FLAKES! :)  

  • Most recipes tell you to break up the butter into "pea-sized" pieces. That's the first issue. In order to solve this issue, you need to have the butter in larger pieces. Slice the chilled butter into pats and break them in half. Then press each piece as flat as possible. When you incorporate the butter into the flour, about half of the butter is lightly incorporated and the other half is just lightly tossed together in the mix.
  • After your dough is made and you have chilled it (chilling helps set the dough & helps the proteins relax to make it tender), it will be a little strange to roll it out (because you will be thinking - what am I going to do with these chunks of butter?!). Be gentle when rolling it out and if there are chunks of butter on the very outside edge of the crust, just tuck them in. Be sure to use flour when rolling it out because the butter will tend to stick to your rolling pin or surface. You may also roll it between two sheets of plastic wrap if desired. This is also why chilled dough is important - to help prevent sticking.
  • The third tip is to chill the dough after putting it in the pie tin. This is another critical step!  I actually put mine in the freezer until set. The premise behind this is to set the fat/butter in the crust so that when you do bake it, the butter will sear and hold its shape - not slowly heat, melt and slump down the side of the pie pan.
  • The fourth tip is to sear the crust first in your oven. If a recipe states to bake at 350 degrees F, bump the temperature up to 400 degrees or 425 degrees F for the first few minutes of baking, then turn down the heat to 350 for the remaining time. This literally sets the crust and helps it to hold its shape. Having a cold crust helps with this step so it can hold together for the first few minutes of searing. 
  • There are two types of crust: hearty/flaky and shortbread-based. This recipe is for hearty/flaky pies such as apple pie. Although this type of recipe can be used for a cream pie, those type of pies actually benefit from having a shortbread-style crust (for flavor and texture purposes).
  • This crust will also be crumbly, much like a store-bought pie crust. If you would like a little more heartiness, simply decrease the shortening by 1 Tbsp. You will be absolutely amazed at the difference 1 Tbsp. can make! If you remove that 1 Tbsp., you will have flaky layers instead of flaky crumbles. Depending on which style you prefer, prepare the crust accordingly.
Now that you have all of the right tips, here's one of the recipes that I use all of the time. By the way, this is NOT lo-cal or low fat but will definitely be delicious! :) Happy Baking!! ~Cathy     

The Perfect Flaky Pie Crust
Yeilds 1 double crust (for average to small sized pie pans)

2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. shortening
1 1/2 sticks salted butter, chilled
ice water, as needed

Place flour in a large bowl. Add salt and shortening. Fully incorporate the shortening in with your fingers making sure that there are no lumps left.

Slice chilled butter into pats about 1/8"-1/4" wide. Break the pats in half and flatten with your fingers to make them as thin as possible. Add pats to the flour and lightly toss just to coat the butter. Mix in about half of that butter lightly by hand. Try to leave the other half with bigger pieces of butter.

Slowly add ice water (not the ice cubes) to the dough until the mixture starts to come together. This dough will actually appear as though it is ready, when it actually needs more water. About 1/2 cup or so is a good estimate. The dough should not be too sticky but this dough may be slightly sticky.

Once the dough comes together, split the dough in two balls. Form each into the shape of a hamburger patty (and square off the edges by rolling it on the counter like a wheel).  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 60 minutes. Chilling is another critical step to the success of this recipe.

Once dough is completely chilled, roll one out onto a floured surface (leave the other in the refrigerator). Be sure to use enough flour and you can add flour underneath the dough as you go along. The butter will look like streaks in the dough. Once rolled out, roll over your rolling pin and brush off excess flour with a pastry brush. Lay into a pan sprayed/greased pie tin. Cut edges, leaving about 2" overhang.

Chill bottom pie crust until set. Fill with desired pie ingredients then roll out the other dough patty the same as the first one, brushing off any excess flour before laying over the top of the pie. Cut edges to match bottom crust. Tuck edges under and pinch together to the bottom crust (I use my thumb and index finger on one hand and index finger on my other hand to pinch edges). Cut vent holes in the pie. Be sure to chill the pie again before baking. I actually put mine in the freezer to speed up the process.

When baking the pie according to your pie recipe, bump up the temperature of the pie 25-50 degrees F for the first 10-15 minutes of baking to sear the crust. After searing, turn the temperature back down to the original temperature on the recipe and bake for the remaining amount of time.

Note: If you are using a large pie pan to bake in (such as a 10-inch pan with 2-inch sides), I suggest making 1 1/2 times this recipe so that the crust will be large enough to fill the pan.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Healthy Smoothie Recipe (Is It Summer Yet??!!! )

It is getting towards the end of winter and I'm starting to get anxious about spring - then SUMMER finally arriving.  As I was daydreaming about how nice it will be in the upcoming months, one of my favorite recipes popped into my mind.  I thought I'd share this with you as it is not only delicious, but it is packed with an incredible amount of nutrition.

Is It Summer Yet???!!! Nutrient Dense Breakfast Smoothie
Serves: 2

1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup frozen blueberries (or mixed berries)
3/4 cup frozen pineapple chunks
1 medium banana, peeled and split into chunks
1 Tbsp. Brown Rice Syrup (honey or agave syrup will work as well)
1 cup coconut water, or as needed

Add the fruit and sweetener to your blender.  Add a small amount of the coconut water.  Pulse until incorporated, then turn blender on high.  Slowly add the remaining coconut water until all ingredients are completely blended.  Serve immediately.

Note:  Use unsweetened fruit.  If you choose to use fresh fruit instead of frozen, be sure to add a few ice cubes to give the smoothie more texture (otherwise it will be very thin).  If you add 1 Tbsp. spirulina (which can be found at most health food stores), it will boost the protein to 4g.

Per Serving:

Calories: 180kcal  Carbs: 46g   Fat: 0g   Protein: 1g

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Making Conscious Food Decisions (Fat Tuesday!!!)

Happy Fat Tuesday everyone!!  The day when droves of people gorge themselves on delicious foods!  Just a quick reminder - you will pay for those empty calories sooner or later.  Be it your heart or your pant size, every single item you consume has a consequence, be it good or bad.

I love the festivities, parades, the colors, the lavish costumes, the beads and all of the fun ambiance of Fat Tuesday & Mardi Gras.  Just make conscious decisions.  You can have chicken wings - just don't eat the entire dozen of them lol.  You can have your cake and eat it too - just don't eat the entire cake.

The issue with eating too much is that our bodies only burn a certain number of calories per day.  Have your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) taken at a health clinic.  This tells you the number of calories that your body burns at rest.  They then figure in your activity level to determine how many calories you should consume per day.  This is one of the critical staples that I had taken years ago (and I probably should have it re-taken).  This is the number one reason I have lost weight - because I know from a scientific standpoint how many calories I burn per day (not an estimation).

The reason America is getting fatter is not only because convenience foods and boxed foods have tons of calories, it is also because we are moving less.  The convenience of cars, dishwashers, washing machines and all of the items I use on a daily basis make us move much, much less than our ancestors did.  I can hardly even fathom the amount of hard work that my great grandparents put in doing everything by hand.  They burnt countless calories AND they also ate fresh from the garden.  Canning was a staple of their lives and the food came from their garden.  Meats came from the animals they raised (and burnt tons of calories raising the animals).

Today, Americans no longer have to pull that enormous amount of weight to get their food.  Milk "comes from the grocery store" is something that is the norm for a lot of kids. When we burn fewer calories, we need to eat less.  When you burn a lot of calories (such as through exercise), then you need to consume a little more.  Food is fuel and the type of fuel you are feeding your body also does matter 100%.  If you feed it nutrient dense fruits and veggies and lean proteins, your body will more efficiently process those foods and more efficiently convert them into sustainable usable energy. If you feed your body empty calories and simple sugars, your body burns up the fuel so quickly that you crash within hours.

Please take a moment today and consciously think about your food decisions.  If you do eat those wings or cake or have a few drinks, try to balance it out with some veggies and perhaps just bump up your daily activity level a bit for the next few days.  We only have one shot at this life and I know a lot of people say that they want to enjoy it through food - but consciously enjoy it or you will be sorry later.  Party on - just party on with a little less stuffing of your face & dance a little more today! :)


Monday, February 11, 2013

Food Stylin'

One of the most fun & enjoyable projects I have done was working with Bison Foods.  The staff at McElveney & Pallozzi (the hiring marketing firm out of Rochester, NY) were wonderful to work with and the employees of Bison were equally as great!  I developed a line of recipes for them using their cottage cheese, sour cream and chip dip products.  This photo was from the Sunday coupons.  I food styled these products to be used in coupon inserts and billboards around the Rochester and Buffalo area. What an incredibly rewarding experience!

The Skinny:
Although sour cream and chip dip are generally labeled as "fattening," Bison Foods makes reduced fat versions of their products.  As always though, everything in moderation.  Anything eaten in large amounts can be considered "fattening."  I absolutely LOVE Bison products (as I'm sure a lot of you do as well)!  If given the opportunity, I would choose full fat versions of the products and just eat less.  Enjoying full flavor and having a smaller portion helps to curb cravings (this way you won't binge on it when you do allow yourself to have it).  Bake up some homemade sliced sweet potato chips (be sure to soak in cold water first and drain thoroughly - then sprinkle with a little sea salt) instead of bagged fried potato chips and you're good!  Use fresh veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, celery, baby carrots, pear tomatoes, sliced bell peppers, even jicama slices (what is jicama? - A Mexican root vegetable and it is delish)!!!  Check Bison out at

Welcome To My New Blog!!!

This is an exciting new journey (and a long time in the making) that ties both my professional and personal lives together in my quest to introduce real food and real nutrition to people around the world. Check out my most popular posts and recent posts/recipes on the right side of this blog under "Popular Posts" or "Blog Archive."

"What Is This Blog About?": I will be posting tips, tricks and hints regarding everyday nutrition.  It will include everything from gardening to proper cooking techniques (and everything in between).  I will have new recipes, quick & easy recipes, kid-friendly recipes and advanced recipes.  I will be sharing my triumphs and epic failures with you - because hey, we're all on the same learning curve ;)

"What Is The Main Focus?": The main focus of this blog is quantity and quality of foods.  Those two factors are critical in determining where you are in the nutritional spectrum.  I also will be introducing new foods, cooking techniques, kitchen tips and incorporating them into recipes and everyday life. 

"What If I'm Not A Foodie Or Know Very Little About Food?": That's great! Then you have found the right place!  I am here to share my knowledge of food and nutrition with everyone, irregardless of cooking/nutritional ability.

"I'm Having Trouble Losing Weight, Can You Help?": Absolutely!  I have lost over 110 pounds not only once, but TWICE in my journey.  Having kids does a number on your body and I have found several different strategies and solutions to help you meet your goals.  It does NOT involve hours upon countless hours at the gym (no one has time for that lol).  It just requires determination and a willingness to have an open mind.  If you stick with it, you should be well on your way to achieving better nutrition.

"Tell Me More About Your Background": I have 2 Bachelor's Degrees, one in Culinary Nutrition, the other in Culinary Arts, both from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI.  I graduated Summa Cum Laude and was my class commencement speaker (I spoke on stage with famous Food Network Chef Tyler Florence).  I have worked at The Sagamore Spa & Resort in Lake George, NY doing everything from pastries to banquets to line cooking.  I completed my final internship at Sunny Fresh Foods (a division of Cargill) in Minnesota where I developed over 100 new recipes using their egg products.  I worked in the Test Kitchen for The Catalina Restaurant Goup (Coco's and Carrows Restaurants) in Carlsbad, CA.  I also was a Chef Instructor at the New York Wine & Culinary Center in Canandaigua, NY and would teach every subject from basic Saute to the Food Science Behind Cookie Making & Baking. There I worked with famous celebrity chefs such as Martin Yan, Sara Moulton, Oprah's Chef (Art Smith) and many more.  Today I do everything from recipe development to contract work, and of course, food & nutrition blogging! :)

"I'm Looking For A Recipe Development Chef To Develop Recipes For My Company - Are You In That Line of Work?": Yes!  In the past I have developed recipes for companies such as Bison Foods and The New York State Maple Producers Association (where I worked with Bobby Flay at a NY State Fair demonstration), Sunny Fresh Foods and I have developed many small recipes for local newspapers/television segments.  In the past, having been a Chef Instructor, I have literally created hundreds of recipes from scratch and can create any recipe from the very basic up to the most complex and highly skilled recipes. Please feel free to email me at and I would be happy to help on any upcoming project!

Thank you all so much for your continued support as I embark on this journey.  I can't express to you enough how much simple nutrition has changed my life!  From the chubby kid in school who was bullied relentlessly - I gained strength through knowledge.  The more I learned the more empowered I felt.  My life has drastically changed so much so that I feel compelled to share my experiences with others in hopes that they might experience the same (or better) results!  I thought nutrition was just another way of saying it's "what" you put in your body - but I didn't realize how extremely complex that was!  It is indeed "what" you put in your body - but "what" doesn't only refer to a food - it encompasses the quality of that food, the nutrition density, the carb/sugar level, the vitamins, minerals and most importantly it is the reason WHY you are putting it in your body in the correct amounts.  I am continually learning about new healthy foods and I take new nutrition classes every now & then to keep up with this ever-changing industry.

I have finally learned - "Eat to Live, Not Live To Eat!" and I haven't felt this great in years!! So thank you all for your love and continued support!  It is people like you who make all of this worth every single moment.

All The Best,