Tag Archives: whole foods

10 Days, 10 Dinners

Of all the things I get asked, “What do you eat?” or “What do you make for dinner?” is probably what I get asked the most. Last year I did a blog post that was an entire week’s worth of food in pictures.  It went over well – people loved to see what my meals / snacks consisted of.  I’ve been meaning to do one of those again but for some reason only seem to remember to take pictures at dinnertime!! So I thought I’d post a week and a half worth of our dinners so that you can see how I’m eating lately. So this is what I really ate for dinner from 4/28 – 5/7 (yes, it took me almost 2 weeks to get it into a blog post but when you see the LENGTH of this post you’ll see why!). I’ve included a loose version of a recipe for each meal (but I made most of these up on the fly with the exception of any linked recipes so it’s possible I’m forgetting an ingredient!) in case something interests you.

My hope is that these types of posts inspire you to get creative in your kitchen and see how easy and delicious more whole foods in your diet can be! And while I don’t want anyone to think that they need to eat exactly how I eat to lose weight or be their healthiest – eating the way I’m eating these days makes me feel my best. It keeps my cravings to a minimum, gives me tons of energy and it keeps the binge monster at bay. I want to encourage you to pay attention to how the foods that you eat make your body feel (and how the way your body feels affect your brain/emotions). It’s different for everyone and I encourage you to experiment to find what feels good to you.

My only gripe with our meals lately is that I feel like I need to make more of an attempt to eat  a couple vegetarian meals, at least for me. This is hard to do in our house as we don’t eat soy protein and John hates/can’t tolerate beans/legumes (and it’s rare for me to cook 2 different entrees). It’s something I struggle with. The meat / fish we do eat is always the highest quality I can get my hands on. I do not buy feedlot meats. I can’t support that and I cut back in other areas of spending so that we can afford healthier and more humane options.

Anyhow, enough blah blah blah here are 10 Days, 10 Dinners

1. Tues – 4/28
Wild Salmon and Oat Cakes with Salad and homemade tartar sauce

(and Tessemae’s Green Goddess Dressing). I totally went back for a second helping of salad and an extra “cake”.

These came out super good which I was sort of surprised by! I bought a 14.75 oz can of Wild Alaskan Canned Salmon – the kind that has bones and skin in it – and the only way I could think of making it that would disguise bones/skin (gag!) was by making salmon cakes. I’ve always avoided these types of cans because the idea of the extra bits grossed me out but since my dairy consumption consists mostly of butter, I need to make extra effort to get calcium from other foods and guess what salmon bones have?? Yup, calcium (and vitamin D too).  And eating the skin increases the amount of healthy omega 3 fats by more than double per serving and since those are essential for reducing inflammation we need to eat them where we can! I’m over my fear of skin and bones in canned salmon and will definitely buy it again – it’s quite a bit cheaper than fresh and it’s already cooked so it’s a great way to save time and money.

How long this took to make: 20 – 25 minutes total (includes Cakes, tartar sauce and veggies for salad)

Wild Salmon and Oat Cakes with Salad and homemade tartar sauce

How to make this:

I just drained the liquid from the 14.75 oz can of wild salmon, poured the contents into a bowl and literally crushed the crap out of bones and meat up with my hands. The bones are super crumbly and the skin was rather soft so it all blended up in small bits very quickly. When it was the right consistency for cakes, I stirred in 1 whole egg, an egg white (leftover from making mayo so I thought why not?), roughly 1/4 cup of rolled oats (processed in the food processor to a breadcrumb consistency), a few tbsp of chopped onion, 1 stalk of chopped celery, a little dijon mustard, garlic powder, parsley and a dash of tamari.  Mixed it together with a spoon and heated up my favorite cast iron skillet on medium high heat.  I added about a half tbsp of both butter and olive oil to the hot skillet and when hot, scooped about 1/3 cup of the mixture into the pan (per cake) pressed it down with a spatula so it formed a patty shape, cooked for about 3 minutes, flipped and cooked for about 3 minutes more. I cooked 3 at a time (and I think this made 7 or 8 total). They got an awesome brown crust and stayed together well.

TIP: I think the reason they worked out so well was that I let the mixture sit for a few minutes while I cut up salad veggies and the skillet heated up so the oats had time to absorb some of the moisture.  For the tartar sauce, I just made my homemade olive oil mayo and added some diced bubbies pickles to it, and a little of the pickle juice.

The best part was this meal came together in just a few minutes – I think start to finish was 20 minutes. It helped that I didn’t make the salad dressing – Tessemae’s makes ones with really simple ingredients so I buy it occasionally to save myself some time (not that dressing takes more than a minute – but I get tired of whisking!).

2. Wed – 4/29
Whole Roasted Chicken with sweet potatoes, onions, cauliflower and green beans
.

I know, who the heck makes a whole roasted chicken on a weeknight? This girl does. We eat pretty late so even if I don’t get home until 7 I can still stick a chicken in the oven for dinner. I will roast a chicken with just about any vegetable combination – it’s an amazing way to have a delicious dinner that looks and tastes like you slaved forever! The juices from the chicken flavor the vegetables and the natural sugars in your starches caramelize – you can’t replicate this stuff on the stovetop (well you can but it’s a lot of work)!  After you’re done with the chicken, save the carcass for making broth (I put them in the freezer until I’m ready).

How long this took to make:  Active time, 5 minutes Inactive time, 90 minutes

Desktop Pictures2

Whole Roasted Chicken with sweet potatoes, onions, cauliflower and green beans.

How to make this:

Prep for this took 4 minutes!! Chopped up a head of cauliflower into big florets, sliced two sweet potatoes into thick circles (skin left on but scrubbed well), rinsed a bag of fresh green beans, chopped an onion into a few chunks and then placed all of that in a big roasting pan. Drizzled with a little olive oil and tossed the veggies with my hands. Sprinkled with a little sea salt and black pepper, made a well in the center and stuck in a 5 lb organic chicken. The only thing I do to prep the chicken is open the bag it came in, remove any neck/giblets or whatever, stick it in the pan and sprinkle it with salt. That’s it (no rinsing, no trussing, no butter, no fuss!!).  Bake a 4-5lb bird with lots of veggies/root veg of your choice at 425 for 80 – 90 minutes. It’s perfectly done every time!  You don’t have that much time? You can cook just the bird by itself at 450 degrees for 50-60 minutes (and cook your veggies another way). This is the type of stuff we should all learn I was talking about here – techniques for cooking instead of specific recipes.

3. Thurs – 4/30
Got take out from You You in Nashua

I ate my weight in sushi and spicy mayo (though the spicy mayo was homemade and I used low sodium tamari instead of the soy sauce they gave us). Sorry no pic! Just picture me eating a massive plate of various sushi and smiling the whole time. I swear, I would eat it every day if I didn’t think it would give me mercury poisoning.

4. Fri – 5/1
Ground Turkey hash with kale, zucchini, mushrooms and onions, served with baked kabocha squash and a fried egg.

I was feeling a little breakfast for dinner ish but had some turkey I wanted to use up so a hash it was! I added some weird spices because that’s how I roll. Meals like this are a great way to work vegetables in and not even feel like you’re eating them. You’ll laugh but I cooked kabocha squash for me and potatoes for John. He can’t do squash but I would cut off my arm to eat it more often! I could have eaten potatoes too, but I just really wanted to eat my squash, so I made two things out of selfishness really. To be honest, the way I cook, it didn’t make extra work for me. I literally roasted the squash and his potatoes on the same cookie sheet in the oven for the same amount of time. This time, I went back for seconds of just the squash. I love me kabocha.  You should try it if you haven’t before – it’s drier and nuttier than butternut squash.

How long this took to make:  About 30 minutes for the hash and eggs, 60 min for my potatoes / squash (but you can microwave so that it can all be done in 30).

Ground Turkey hash with kale, zucchini, mushrooms and onions, served with baked kabocha squash and a fried egg

Ground Turkey hash with kale, zucchini, mushrooms and onions, served with baked kabocha squash and a fried egg

How to make this:

Cook your starch however you want (I baked potatoes and kabocha squash whole in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour or so. You’re welcome to microwave yours to save time). While your starch is cooking, saute a big bunch of chopped kale (I used lacinato – it’s my favorite), 1 chopped zucchini, half a chopped onion, and 8oz of sliced mushrooms in a little olive oil, coconut oil or butter. When they’re mostly cooked, remove from the pan and cook 1 to 1 1/4 lbs of ground turkey in the same pan until cooked through.  Add the cooked veggies back to the pan, plus some paprika, garlic powder, turmeric and (weird I know) ground allspice, plus some sea salt and pepper and stir / cook until most of the liquid released from the veggies are gone. While you’re cooking in the spices, heat a skillet up over medium low heat, add some fat and fry up a few eggs to your desired doneness. Serve the hash on top of your starch and an egg or two on top of that.  It’s super awesome with salsa on top.

5. Sat – 5/2
Went out to dinner at Copper Door with the hubs and his dad

I had Wood Roasted Haddock with corn-crab hash, fingerling potatoes, pearl onions, bell peppers and sweet compound butter. Also had 2 chicken rangoon appetizers (yup, I ate wheat) and a Manhattan the size of my whole fist. (sorry no pic!). I could totally replicate the haddock dish at home, no problem. Those rangoons though . . .

6. Sun – 5/3
Chicken Soup with Bok Choy, celery, onion, arborio rice and ginger/star anise

Made homemade Chicken broth (using the saved carcass from Wednesday’s dinner) while we were home this weekend and turned it into a delicious and easy to digest soup (was having stomach pains after my wheat indulgence the night before).  If you have a high quality, rich tasting broth, you can make delicious soups with just a few ingredients since the broth is already so flavorful. Try it, I swear you will wonder why you ever bought store broth!

How long this took to make: Since I had homemade broth already, soup took about 30 – 35 minutes total.

Chicken Soup with Bok Choy, celery, onion, arborio rice and ginger/star anise

Chicken Soup with Bok Choy, celery, onion, arborio rice and ginger/star anise

How to make this:

Place 1 to 1.5 lbs organic boneless chicken breasts or thighs in a 4 quart dutch oven or stock pot. Add enough broth to cover the chicken plus 2 inches (they should be completely submerged and covered by 2 inches of liquid) and bring to a boil. Once boiling, I added a 1/2 cup of arborio rice, a two inch piece of peeled fresh ginger and about a tsp of anise seed (which I immersed in the broth tied into a piece of cheesecloth). You can also use 3 or 4 whole star anise.  I brought it back to a boil, then reduced to a simmer and let the chicken cook 15 -20 minutes (or until cooked through). I removed the chicken from the pan and let cool for a few minutes. Keep the rice cooking at a medium low temp and add more broth if needed. While the chicken is cooking, heat up a saute pan with a little fat of your choice and saute a chopped onion and 4 sliced stalks of celery until softened, about 6 or 7 minutes. When chicken is cool enough to handle, chop up into bite sized pieces. Remove anise seed and ginger from the rice/broth, add chopped chicken, sauteed celery and onion and your raw but sliced head of bok choy to the pot. Add 1 tbsp low sodium tamari, a dash of rice vinegar and 1/2 tsp ground turmeric (or 1 tbsp fresh grated). Heat everything through and season with pepper.

7. Mon – 5/4
Ground Beef, onion and fennel stuffed Zucchini boats, topped with homemade fast marinara sauce and served with organic corn and steamed green beans

This was the result of one of those nights when I came home and stared into the fridge several times and didn’t know what to make. Nothing was appealing to me, I was tired and really didn’t want anything that we had. Took a chance in throwing this all together and it worked out well!

How long this took to make: About 45 minutes.

Ground Beef, onion and fennel stuffed Zucchini boats, topped with homemade fast marinara sauce and served with organic corn and steamed green beans

Ground Beef, onion and fennel stuffed Zucchini boats, topped with homemade fast marinara sauce and served with organic corn and steamed green beans

How to make this:

Preheat your oven to 350. Cut two big zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon then lightly rub with olive or melted coconut oil. Place on a baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes. While zucchini is cooking, heat fat of your choice in a medium sized saute pan and cook 1 diced onion and a roughly chopped fennel bulb (freeze the fronds for the next time you make broth – adds a delicious flavor and it’s good for the belly) until softened (about 6 or 7 minutes). Add 1 lb grassfed ground beef and break up with a wooden spoon as it cooks.  Add 1 tsp paprika, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp garlic powder and 1/4 tsp ground allspice and stir until ground beef is cooked through. Season with sea salt and black pepper.  While the meat and zucchini are cooking, make a quick marinara sauce. I take a whole onion, cut in half and remove the skin and place the two onion halves in a hot sauce pan with a little olive oil or butter and then I add some dried oregano, either fresh or dried basil and 1 clove minced garlic and stir until fragrant (a minute or two). Then I add a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, a pinch of sugar and generous sea salt and black pepper and I let it simmer for a good 25 -40 minutes (depending on how hungry I am!). When your meat and veggie mixture is cooked through, fill up your zucchini boats with the mixture and place in the oven for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with marinara sauce (feel free to add grated parm or gruyere if you eat dairy). Serve with steamed green beans and (frozen) organic corn.

8. Tues – 5/5
Spiced Pan Seared Mahi Mahi with pineapple avocado salsa, quinoa and roasted brussels sprouts

This is really easy to make and John liked it despite not liking fish.

How long this took to make: About 30 minutes (Mahi Mahi takes about 10 minutes but brussels take a bit longer)

mahimahi

Spiced Pan Seared Mahi Mahi with pineapple avocado salsa, quinoa and roasted brussels sprouts

How to make this:

I totally cheated with my salsa. I had some Salsa Fresca from whole foods in the fridge. To that, I added some chopped fresh pineapple, a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a diced avocado. Voila, Pineapple Avocado salsa bitches. I do make my own salsa sometimes but I’m also a fan of improvising with what I have available at any given moment. Put your salsa aside and make a spice rub for your mahi mahi. Use this as a rough guide and adjust to your needs: 1.5 tbsp paprika, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp thyme leaves, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp sea salt. If you like spicy you’ll probably want to add some cayenne to that but I leave it out for John. Put it all in a bowl and mix together and then rub it all over (front and back) of 1 – 1.5 lbs Wild Mahi Mahi fillets. Let your Mahi Mahi sit for a few minutes, make some quinoa and prep your brussels sprouts. I roughly follow this recipe. Though I use less olive oil, less salt and cook at a slightly higher temp for less time (say 425 for 25 minutes – it really depends on how big your sprouts are). When your quinoa and sprout are almost done, heat a cast iron skillet or good saute pan over medium high heat, add about 1/2 tbsp of both butter and olive oil and when hot add your Mahi Mahi fillets. Cook for about 4-6 minutes on each side or until cooked through (will depend on thickness of your fillets – fish cooks pretty fast!). You should get a good sear if the pan is hot enough. Serve the Mahi Mahi with the salsa on top or on the side.

9. Wed – 5/6
Wild ramps, swiss chard and organic pork sausage risotto.

My risottos are really more like a bowl of vegetables that have some slow cooked rice mixed in, instead of the other way around. I used more of the chicken broth I made on Sunday instead of store bought – it’s way more nutritious and tastes so much better too.

How do we make risotto? I promise, it’s not as hard as people make it out to be but you do need to be present and available to stir regularly. Once you see that risotto is a cooking technique – and you just need to learn the formula you realize you can add anything to it – there are endless delicious variations. One word of advice, you probably don’t want to make it for the first time on a weeknight if you have hungry little ones waiting on you (try it on a weekend when you have some extra wiggle room).

How long this took to make: About 40 minutes.

risottoramps

Wild ramp, swiss chard and organic pork sausage risotto

How to make this:


You can follow this recipe here. To this, I added a whole bunch of chopped rainbow swiss chard in the last 10 minutes or so of cooking. I also use more than 3 cups of broth (probably closer to 5 cups) and have my broth warm before adding it to the rice. I used DuBreton Organic Mild Italian Pork Sausages. If you can’t find Ramps (not exactly in every grocery store are they!), try using scallions, leeks or egyptian onions for a similar light onion flavor (though you won’t want to use the tough green tops of leeks – again save those for broth making!).  If you don’t have vermouth, try white wine – and if you don’t use alcohol, skip it and add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for a little acid kick. Lastly, the parmesan in risotto is totally optional – it’s still creamy and delicious without.

10. Thurs – 5/7
Paleo Pad Thai

This is super delicious.

Paleo Pad Thai (from The Clothes Make The Girl)

Paleo Pad Thai (from The Clothes Make The Girl)

How to make this:

Use this recipe for Paleo Pad Thai by Melissa Joulwan. It’s basically spaghetti squash with grilled chicken thighs, sugar snap peas, scrambled egg and a delicious sunbutter sauce. We’re not paleo but searching for paleo recipes is an easy way to find recipes that only contain whole foods / real foods and you can adjust them as you see fit. This recipe can take a bit to make so I usually try to make the sauce and cook the whole spaghetti squash the day before (both of which only take a few minutes of active time – but having some steps done saves time when I’m actually cooking).  This is definitely quite different from traditional pad thai but that creaminess and crunch we’ve come to expect from pad thai makes this total healthy comfort food.

There you have it. 10 consecutive days of dinners at my house. What have you been eating lately?

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The Easiest Way to Eat “Healthy”

whole foods make it easy!

whole foods make it easy!

Sometimes I forget that not everyone has been on a food journey for as long as I’ve been on one. While I’ve been cooking, studying health and nutrition and battling my weight and eating issues for far more than a decade, the average person just doesn’t give it all that much thought. Maybe they do if they’re a big foodie, if they want to lose a few pounds or if they have a health scare where they need to change their diet to manage their condition. But for the average person who’s never been in one of these scenarios, convenience or preference often rules the day. My husband pointed this out to me recently as I went on and on about some misleading statements a commercial on TV was using to make their food product sound like a healthy choice. He said “Andrea you take it for granted that you know that, most people don’t. I don’t.”

Thanks to John bringing me back down to earth, I thought it might be a good idea to use today’s post to clear up some of the confusion that’s out there around “healthy” eating.

I follow these guidelines myself and find them to be the simplest “diet” (ahem, lifestyle!) to follow. I no longer have to worry about calories, fat or anything else. And I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been because of them. I feel like I can finally relax around food.

Forget about Labeling Claims
One huge problem with figuring out what is good for us is that we see labels in the store that say “heart healthy!” or “good source of whole grains” or “Natural” but those labels don’t necessarily mean that the food product is good for you. In fact, for some of these labels there is no strict definition by the FDA – foods can be labeled as “Natural” as long as the don’t contain artificial or synthetic ingredients and that leaves a lot of vague wiggle room. “Heart Healthy” labels mean a food is low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. As long as it fits those criteria they can use whatever ingredients they want, including chemicals, preservatives and artificial junk. I could write 30 pages on misleading food labels but that would be overkill. The important takeaway around labels is this: Ignore food labels.

Most food label claims are there purely for marketing. They’re designed to convey information that will make us want to buy it. They are not designed with your health in mind. They’re there to make money.

You’ll notice as different food trends show up, new labels will appear. Gluten free is a big one right now and while avoiding gluten is incredibly important for many people, the fact that a product doesn’t contain gluten does not mean it’s good for you. It could still be full of refined grains, sugar and other stuff you don’t want to eat. If you’re going to look at packaging at all, focus on the ingredient list (what’s in it?) and the nutrition label (the part that lists the fiber, calories etc).

I wrote a blog post on this topic last year if you want to read a little more about label claims.

One easy way to avoid the confusion that food labeling claims make is to focus on what we call “Whole Foods”.

Focus on Whole Foods
I’m not talking about the grocery store by the same name. I’m talking about a group of foods that you can always count on to be full of high quality nutrition. There’s no standard definition for the term “whole foods”. Sometimes people also use the phrase “clean eating”. Some people are very strict in their interpretation of it and others are a little more forgiving with criteria. It’s up to you to decide what makes sense and will be easy for you to remember.

To me, whole foods are:

  • food that is close to nature as possible
  • foods that your grandmother and great grandmother would recognize as food
  • grown or raised
  • food that will rot or go bad

To me, whole foods don’t:

  • have artificial sweeteners, preservatives, chemicals or food coloring in them
  • need to be made in a factory. While some whole foods may be processed at a factory slightly (think canned beans or frozen vegetables) for convenience but they still resemble their original form very closely.
  • have very long ingredient lists

Examples of whole foods are:

  • vegetables & fruit
  • meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy
  • whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, bulgur, barley, teff etc)
  • beans & lentils
  • nuts, seeds, avocados & olives
  • herbs, spices, vinegars, maple syrup and honey

What’s so great about Whole Foods?
Because they’re pretty close to their natural state and haven’t been refined or heavily processed, these foods have more vitamins, minerals and fiber than the majority of processed foods. They don’t have added sugar, added trans fats or refined flours that will spike your blood sugar. They don’t have chemicals or preservatives added. Nutrients have been stripped away or destroyed to make it taste better or last longer.

It’s easier to eat “healthy” when the majority of your foods fall into the whole foods category. Most are packed with nutrition. Healthy starts to get harder to figure out when we are buying a lot of convenient processed foods. That’s when we have to worry about the grams of fat, carbs etc as well as the ingredients.

While food processing started off as a way to feed more people, increase nutrition (in the case of fortified products), increase shelf life and portability, you only need to take a quick walk down the aisles of any grocery store to see that most food “products” are made to satisfy junk food cravings or convenience. We have whole aisles dedicated to “snack products” like chips and candy.  Entire walls of freezer cases for ice cream and non dairy “topping”. Let’s not kid ourselves, today, the majority of processed food is not about good nutrition or far reach.

What’s not a Whole Food?
Aside from the junk foods I mentioned above, something else that doesn’t really fit into the whole food category – most breads, pasta and baked goods in stores. You may be surprised to hear this. Whole grains in their whole form are great but products “made with” whole grain can be a whole other story. They are often refined (meaning the outer tough fiber is removed). It really depends on the ingredient list and is a case by case basis (the majority of stuff in the market doesn’t count).

Again, ignore the labeling claims about whole grains and focus on the ingredients. It may be high fiber (thanks to added fiber for bulk) but when a sweetener made from corn is the second ingredient, stay away. There are some breads on the market that are made with great ingredients. You really want to play detective and read each label before you purchase it. Your great grandmother would have never eaten a loaf of bread with high fructose corn syrup, so why should you eat one?

How to make this work for real life
Obviously if you’re eating a diet that is low in whole foods making a switch may seem like a huge task. It can be but it doesn’t have to be. As I said earlier, I’ve been on this food journey for more than a decade. Don’t put pressure on yourself to change everything overnight.

A few things that can help:

  • Make one change at a time and don’t make another until you are comfortable with each one. Perhaps you want to switch from a peanut butter brand that contains high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils to one that just contains peanuts. The taste will be very different at first but you’ll get used to it and over time begin to prefer it!
  • Make your goal 90/10 each day. 90% whole foods and 10% splurge or processed! Right now you might be at 40% whole foods and 60% processed. That’s ok. Keep the goal in mind and aim for higher whole foods intake over time. It will take time.
  • Cook / eat at home more often. It’s much easier to control the ingredients that go in our meals when we make them ourselves. I love a good restaurant meal like anyone else (maybe more than anyone else! haha) but we try to make eating out a special occasion. It’s possible to get whole foods at restaurants but it really depends on what you are ordering and where. In your own kitchen you know exactly what is in your food!
  • Keep an open mind. Be willing to try new foods and experiment. There will be foods you don’t like. There will be foods your kids don’t like. Try things at least a couple of times and prepare them different ways. You never know when you’ll stumble on a recipe that changes how you feel about a food!
  • Don’t deprive yourself. Eating well, eating clean, eating whole foods is not about depriving ourselves. It’s about doing the best we can for our bodies in any given moment. Sometimes, a piece of chocolate cake (or whatever your vice is) will fit the bill even if it’s not “clean”. As long as you don’t have a medical condition that makes that food dangerous, eat it occasionally and enjoy it when you do. Then go back to eating as well as you are able.

We’re in this for the long haul. I’m not sure who said it but . . . health isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. You don’t get up one day and finally reach “healthy”. You want to live well so that you can be your healthiest every day.

If you didn’t have time to read this long post, here’s all you really need to know:
1. Ignore label claims
2. look at ingredient lists
3. focus on whole foods as much as possible

I hope that cleared up some of the confusion around food that gets thrown at us day in and day out. There’s no need to follow trends or marketing campaigns if you listen to your body and stick to foods from nature.

Video: Eating for Energy & Vitality Conference on Google Hangout

Check out this free Eating for Energy & Vitality Call I did on Google Hangouts (the call was live but records automatically and lives on youtube).  Lots of great information to share with you!

Find out why so many women struggle with low energy, why that matters and what you can do about it (it includes tips for eating for high energy, specific foods that can help as well as some non-food ways to boost your energy quickly).  This is exactly the type of stuff I help clients implement in their lives!

Mix and Match Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd's Pie (topped with Butternut Squash!)

Shepherd’s Pie (topped with Butternut Squash!)

Growing up, we had Shepherd’s Pie quite a bit! In our house, it was essentially leftover mashed potatoes, frozen or canned corn and ground beef all baked in a dish together.  To be honest, I did not love it.

But now as an adult, I realize that was my mom’s way of using up leftovers and she didn’t get fancy with ingredients because she had 5 kids and at least one of us at any given time was a picky eater.

While I didn’t love the combo of plain beef and corn, I do see the appeal of a one pot dish and a form of Shepherd’s Pie appears in our house at least a couple times a month.  I like to call it Mix and Match Shepherd’s Pie.  It’s essentially one part protein, one part assorted cooked vegetables, a little tomato paste, worcestershire and appropriate spices, topped with mashed root vegetable or starch of your choice. This is not really a recipe, but more a loose formula, so go crazy if you like.  It’s a phenomenal way to use up leftovers, it’s full of comfort food, and it’s comprised of whole foods . . .what’s not to like?

The options are endless – almost anything you’ve got in your fridge can work here! I’ve made some really crazy combinations and so far neither John or I have turned up our noses at the result.  When you can’t think of anything to make – make this! The amount of nutrients you can pack into it are endless!

sausage, bell peppers, spinach, celery, onions and who the heck remembers what else! Filling for Shepherd's Pie!

sausage, bell peppers, spinach and who the heck remembers what else! Filling for Shepherd’s Pie!

Ingredients
16 – 20 oz protein of choice: try ground turkey, beef, lamb or pork, or sausages (casings removed), thinly sliced chicken breasts or canned beans.

3-4 cups leftover mashed root or starch: try potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, acorn squash, celeriac, turnip, rutabaga, kabocha squash or cooked polenta.  (If I don’t have leftovers, I boil and mash and then stir in 2 tbsp pasture butter or coconut oil to my starch/roots, plus salt and pepper. I usually will leave potato & sweet potato skins on)

3 cups chopped mixed vegetables of your choice: try mushrooms, broccoli, kale, dandelion greens, bell peppers, carrots, peas, zucchini, mizuna, cabbage etc.

1 cup diced onion or thinly sliced leeks
1 tbsp pasture butter, olive oil or coconut oil
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp dried herbs (one or two): try ground sage, savory, basil, oregano, thyme, tarragon, marjoram, dill
optional: 1/2 tsp garlic powder, onion powder or smoked paprika
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat, add 1 tbsp of coconut or olive oil (or butter) and saute 3 cups of chopped mixed vegetables and 1 cup of diced onions/leeks until they begin to soften and the onions are almost translucent. Remove the vegetables from the pan and cook your meat (you don’t need to cook canned beans if you are using them), stirring occasionally until cooked through.  Stir the vegetables back into the pan, add the worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, herbs and any optional spices until everything is well blended.  Most meats will yield a small amount of liquid during the cooking process, if you use something that doesn’t and the pan seems dry, feel free to add a couple tbsp of water while working in the tomato paste and other flavorings.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Pour the meat / bean & vegetable mixture into the bottom of a large casserole dish or 9X13 pan.  Top with mashed root or starch and bake for 30 minutes or until warmed through.  Some toppings will brown better than others, if your top doesn’t brown, turn on the broiler and broil for 1-2 minutes (keeping an eye on it as roots brown quickly).

Remove from oven and let cool briefly before serving.  Makes 4 generous delicious, comfort food servings.

Note: If your mash topping seems soupy (as the case might be with things like butternut squash) stir in a beaten egg before cooking and it will firm right up during cooking!

My favorite combos:
Topping: Colcannon (mashed potatoes with kale, leeks & cabbage stirred in)
Filling: Ground Turkey, broccolini & carrots (photo below)

Colcannon/Butternut Squash shepherd's Pie with ground turkey, carrots and broccolini!

Colcannon/Butternut Squash shepherd’s Pie with ground turkey, carrots and broccolini!

photo 1 copy 5

Topping:  Butternut squash
Filling: Sweet Italian Sausage, Kale, Bell peppers, peas

Topping: Smashed Parm Potatoes
Filling: Ground Beef, mushrooms & carrots

Do you make Shepherd’s Pie? What are your favorite filling and toppings? Are you a traditionalist or do you like to veer off and clean out your fridge like me? Share in the comments below, I’d love to hear your side of things!

7 Days in the Diet of This Health Coach

One week's worth of food for this girl!

One week’s worth of food for this girl!

I’ve been getting a lot of emails from people asking what I eat so I thought it might be helpful to create a blog post out of it.  I don’t eat perfectly so I’m feeling a little shy about putting this out there (but really, who does??) but what’s pictured here is huge improvement from what I’ve eaten in the past.

To be honest, what I eat changes constantly.  It depends on what mood I’m in, what’s on sale, what’s on season or sometimes, what’s convenient!  In an effort to inspire some ideas in others and to showcase my real person’s diet, flaws and all, I thought it would be fun to take a picture of everything I ate for a week.  This is how a health coach eats.   At least this one, on one particular week (two weeks ago actually – July 7 – 13 – it’s taken me that long to get all the pics off my phone and organized by day!).  I aim for eating 90% whole foods but give myself a little wiggle room for treats and convenience because I’ve learned that being too strict can set me up to fail.  I’ve gotten really good at listening to what my body is asking for and the result is that I’ve lost weight, have better digestion and my asthma is well controlled now.  All really good stuff.

Some things you may find amusing – we eat a lot of leftovers in an effort to not waste. Whatever comes in the CSA or I buy at the store – that stuff costs a lot of money.  So you’ll see that the same veggies might appear throughout the week.  Gotta use it all!  You’ll also notice I eat a lot of one-pot meals.  It’s sometimes easier for me just to throw a bunch of stuff together if i don’t know what I’m making!  As much as I love to cook, sometimes I don’t feel that creative and just toss things in and keep my fingers crossed that it turns out ok.  Most of the time it does and I’m grateful that I have a husband who thinks everything I cook is delicious.

I’d love to hear if you see anything here that surprises you.  What does a typical week of food look like in your household?  Are there foods you just have to eat everyday? Anything off limits?

 

Monday's eats!

Monday’s eats!

Monday
Breakfast – Black coffee (not pictured, apologies!) and a 20oz Beet, Watermelon, Celery & Hemp seed smoothie (with a bit of baby spinach).  Delicious and way sweeter than you’d expect.

Snack – Cashew Cookie Larabar (so tasty I ate it before I could snap a pic!)

Lunch – Leftover broccoli salad with a few brazil nuts (the salad had broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, raisins/cranberries, hazelnuts and a rice vinegar, homemade mayo, lemon juice dressing with honey.

Dinner – Wild Rice & Brown Rice mix, grilled chicken topped with an apple butter / mustard sauce (homemade apple butter i had in fridge + yellow mustard, onion powder, tarragon), grilled asparagus, grilled eggplant (nothing but olive oil, salt/pepper) and some kohlrabi greens & red onion sauteed in pasture butter.  All super yummy!

Tuesday's spread!

Tuesday’s spread!

Tuesday
Breakfast – same smoothie as monday plus black coffee + 1 tbsp coconut oil

Lunch – leftover grilled eggplant, kohlrabi greens, red onions,  with a dollop of the leftover apple butter mustard, 1 tbsp chia seeds and 1tbsp pumpkin seeds.

Snack – unsulphured 4 prunes

Dinner – Pan seared wild sea scallops with red potatoes, rapini (broccoli rabe) and garlic scapes.  lemon aioli on the side (basically just homemade olive oil mayo w/ lemon juice & zest & chives).  Raw kohlrabi sliced thin with extra virgin olive oil and hawaiian red sea salt

Wednesday

Wednesday

Wednesday
Breakfast – smoothie with watermelon, cucumber, celery, zucchini and sunflower seeds after barre.  Not as filling as the beet one (and it looked disgusting) but it wasn’t bad! Black coffee too, apologies I forgot to take a pic of the coffee again!

Lunch – leftovers from dinner on tuesday, 1 scallop, red potatoes, garlic scapes, broccoli rabe and kohlrabi with some lemon aioli.  I tossed the raw kohlrabi in when I heated it up and added a small handful of raw kale after (because my bowl looked too white!).

Snacks – Kind bar – almond/apricot in yogurt (this one basically is a candy bar. I’m not lying to myself.  But it’s so tasty!)

Dinner– big salad with romaine, arugula, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, steamed beets, balsamic vinaigrette (homemade) and tuna salad (tuna, celery, spices and homemade olive oil mayo).

Thursday

Thursday

Thursday
Breakfast – same smoothie as Wed, black coffee and some beet water (the leftover water from steaming beets – it was too pretty to toss out!).  I drank about 3/4 of what is in the picture.

Snack – banana

Lunch – salad with romaine, arugula, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, beets, balsamic vin and a big old dollop of cashew butter.  I only ate half of what is in this pic because I was running late for an appointment.

Dinner – sushi take out from You You in Nashua – seaweed salad, half a salmon pop roll (pan seared salmon, cucumber, avocado, spicy mayo, tempura crunches), 1/2 cucumber roll (just cucumber inside), 3/4 rainbow roll (tuna, salmon & whitefish) and low sodium tamari.

Friday

Friday

Friday
Breakfast – Apple Pie Larabar and I treated myself to an ice coffee with cream and sugar after barre class.

Lunch – finished the salad I didn’t finish on wed (see Wed pic for the salad), also added a half cup of black beluga lentils (cooked with a bay leaf and a little hawaiian red sea salt).

Snack – 1/2 cup of bubbies raw sauerkraut, 4 brazil nuts and 3 prunes.

Dinner – random “shepherd’s pie” concoction – sweet potatoes/cauliflower topping with butter, chives & salt/pepper, filling was grass fed beef, collards, zucchini, peas and onions from our CSA share (with some tomato paste, worcestershire, tamari, oregano, sage, salt/pepper).

After dinner snack – 6 pieces of 85% dark chocolate from Green & Blacks

Saturday

Saturday

Saturday
Breakfast – 2 fried eggs cooked in pasture butter with zucchini, kohlrabi, onions and beluga lentils (cooked the day before). A little garlic, smoked paprika, ras al hanout (a moroccan spice blend) & sea salt. I’m a big believer in that almost any dinner can be fried up with some eggs for breakfast! I also had 25-30 green grapes and 2 cups of coffee with cream and sugar (only one pictured). Also pictured – a jar of homemade sriracha sauce.  I used to be addicted to the store bought stuff and then I felt bad about all the preservatives it was putting in my body (considering how cautious i am about other foods with preservatives, why the heck would i douse food with it almost daily??).  Here’s the recipe I used.  Came out very good and because it’s fermented it will last forever! I think I made this batch 6 months ago and it’s still delicious.  It goes on almost every egg breakfast concoction I make.

Dinner – chicken breast baked with dijon & herbs, organic cornmeal polenta w/ pasture butter, collard greens & onions with uncured ham steak (and a little maple syrup/cider vinegar/chicken broth – that’s what I cooked the collards in).

Yup, that’s right, I only ate two meals on Saturday. That’s pretty typical for me.  John and I both tend to eat two big meals on the weekends, occasionally with a snack.  We stay up late & sleep late and this works for us. This saturday I was home working on my laptop most of the day and the only movement I got was some restorative yoga so two meals of this size was more than enough food.  But it’s definitely not for everyone.

Sunday

Sunday

Sunday
BreakfastChocolate Oat Smoothie (with cucumber/celery, was running low on greens!) & Black coffee after barre class.

Snack – kind bar – caramel sea salt (like these ones too – only a few grams of sugar)

Lunch – leftover shepherd’s pie.

Dinner – Green bean, carrot, zucchini and tomato salad with extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, worcestershire sauce, onion powder, lemon juice, chickpeas, green olives and salt/pepper and some of the polenta from Saturday night.

After dinner snack – 6 pieces of Green & Blacks milk chocolate almond bar.

Day 29 – Time for a Detox?

Veggies are great for detoxing!

Veggies are great for detoxing!

So after 29 days of parties, truffles, cookies, cocktails and lots more, you may be feeling a little bloated, puffy and generally not good.  My tip for day 29 of  31 Days of Healthy Ways to Enjoy the Holidays More is to try a whole foods detox for 3 – 5 days.  If the holidays have gotten to the better of you, a gentle detox might be what you need.  Our bodies naturally do plenty of detoxing for us and in general our liver, kidneys, skin and lungs do a fantastic job of detoxing but you can help support them in doing their job by giving your body easy to digest foods packed with good nutrition.

Helping your body detox with whole foods can give you more energy, clear up your skin and reduce the inflammation that your body might be experiencing from too many acidic foods this time of year.

For 3 – 5 days focus on eating whole unprocessed foods and don’t eat processed foods.  Easy peasy!

Focus on eating:  vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, fresh pressed juices and smoothies, whole grains
Foods to avoid:  processed food (packaged), wheat, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, meat, sugar, artificial sweeteners, food coloring, preservatives (if there’s an ingredient list and you don’t know what some of the ingredients are – skip it)

Some meal ideas
Cook a big batch of quinoa, amaranth or wild rice, stir in fruit and cinnamon for a delicious breakfast or serve it with pumpkin seeds, avocado, baby kale & diced carrots for a satisfying lunch.  Make dinner a baked sweet potato topped with chopped raw broccoli, bell peppers and a few walnut halves & hemp seeds.  Snack on fresh fruit or fruit and vegetable smoothies.  Make salads with lots of raw veggies and top with half an avocado, chia seeds and lemon juice and olive oil. Drink lots of water, add a squeeze of lemon or lime.  Eat naturally fermented foods like Kimchi or Sauerkraut (Bubbies is a decent commercial brand) for a little probiotic boost for your gut.

For adding flavor/seasoning
 Try lemon juice, himalayan or celtic sea salt, reduced sodium tamari (wheat free soy sauce), hummus (preferably homemade), extra virgin olive oil, spices, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar.  If you absolutely must use some sugar – 1 tsp of real maple syrup or raw honey is ok.  Add a tablespoon of dried fruit – cherries, cranberries, apricots (look for unsulphured ones with no added sugar in the ingredients)

If you’re someone who eats a lot of takeout, freezer meals, canned or boxed foods, put them aside for now.  No bread, cheese, milk, chicken tenders, coffee or candy.  If you are worried about caffeine headaches, try some ginger or peppermint tea, both are soothing on the digestive tract but also have been shown to reduce the severity of caffeine withdrawal headaches.  If you rely heavily on sugar and are expecting to have a hard time giving it up for a few days, cook some sweeter vegetables like carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes in a little water – eat the vegetables and drink the broth.  The sweetness will satisfy that craving.

Listen to your body. Make sure you are eating enough while still focusing on eating clean.  If you find you are super hungry while detoxing, take a look to see if you are missing fat and protein.  You may need to up these a little to get through it.  You may even find that you enjoy eating this way and want to continue after your detox.  Keep it up and you’ll be feeling better soon!