Not Your Average Vegetable Platter

Looking for a way to entice your guests (or yourself) to eat more vegetables? Here is a round-up of the most beautiful fruit and vegetable platters from around the web. And if you’re looking for healthy dips to compliment your fruit and veggie trays, check here.

Not Your Average Vegetable Platter

Arrange veggies and dips in various glassware. Image via Cocoa and Fig

Not Your Average Vegetable Platter

Serve dip in a hollowed-out head of lettuce. Click here for step-by-step instructions. Image via Eddie Ross

Not Your Average Vegetable Platter

Or try bell peppers! Image via Pinterest (original source unknown)

Not Your Average Vegetable Platter

Portion individual servings of vibrant veggies and hummus into stemware. Image via Pinterest (original source unknown)

Not Your Average Vegetable Platter

If you don’t have stemware, drinking glasses also work. Image via Add a Pinch

Not Your Average Fruit Tray

This concept also works for fruit. Image via Hostess with the Mostess

Not Your Average Vegetable Platter

Individual glasses of salad are a great way to offer guests tastes of produce. Image via My Baking Addiction

Not Your Average Vegetable Platter

“Salad on a Stick” is a kid-friendly take on this idea. Image via Sweet Potato Chronicles

Not Your Average Vegetable Platter

Bouquets of artichokes, ornamental kale, and brussels sprouts are a great way to dress up a fruit and vegetable display. Image via Project Wedding

Not Your Average Fruit Tray

Tiered platters work great to display individual cups of mixed fruit (or vegetables). Image via Pinterest (original source unknown)

- Kelly



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5 Reasons I’m Optimistic about Child Nutrition in America

First Lady Michelle Obama has done more for childhood nutrition in the past month than food advocates have seen in years! With the recent anniversary of her Let’s Move campaign, a slew of positive legislation is being pushed through with lots of help from the First Lady. But the folks in Washington aren’t the only ones prioritizing childhood nutrition. Below are signs from all across the country that the food landscape for kids is turning a corner.


Image via Obama Foodorama

1. Universal Free Meals: Schools can opt to offer universal free meals to all students, regardless of income, at schools in which at least 40% of students are eligible for free meals through the National School Lunch Program. In schools that have at least 65% of students eligible for free meals, the universal free model is actually cost neutral! This program puts an end to the stigma of being eligible for free meals, students being turned away from lack of funds, and the burdensome paperwork associated with the tiered system.

DC central Kitchen

Lunch in DC public schools: Chicken Quesadilla on Whole Wheat Tortilla, Black Beans, Salsa, Local Apple & Milk, by DC Central Kitchen (image via CSPI)

2. Limit on junk food marketing: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Michelle Obama to announce the USDA’s proposed rule for School Wellness policy, which includes a first-ever component that bans unhealthy marketing on school grounds. This means phasing out on-campus advertising of soda and junk food on scoreboards, vending machines, menu posters, cups and plates, and more. What is considered junk food? The proposal uses the same guidelines in USDA’s Smart Snacks in School rule, which includes limits on total calories, sugar, salt and fat, and requires healthier ingredients, like whole grain and low-fat dairy.

Fruit selection

Self-serve fruit at Ashland public schools in MA (image via CSPI)

3. Healthy food marketing gets a boost: Vegetable companies (including Bird’s Eye and Bolthouse Farms) are venturing into the healthy food marketing by using tactics such as extreme ads (think Mountain Dew-style) and partnerships with Disney to tempt youngsters into eating their veggies. Additionally, the First Lady announced a commitment from Subway introducing their “pile on the veggies campaign”. This effort will focus on increasing consumption of fruits of vegetables among children, and will set nutrition parameters for what can be offered on the children’s menu. That being said, food companies (Subway included) can still be counted on to push unhealthy foods, but a targeted healthy food marketing campaign is a much needed step in the right direction.

Bolthouse Farms

Bolthouse Farms takes a cue from junk food purveyors in this ad for baby carrots (image via NPR)

4. Students eat more produce: A study from the Harvard School of Public Health found a 23% increase in fruit consumption and a 16% increase in vegetable consumption after the new school nutrition guidelines were introduced in 2012. Contrary to popular belief, the study did NOT find a corresponding increase in food waste.

Saint Paul lunch

Lunch from Saint Paul public schools (image via CSPI)

5. Obesity rates for young children may be dropping: According to a major federal health survey, obesity rates for 2-5 year olds have dropped by a whopping 43% in the past decade. While skeptics are wary that a drop this large is a statistical fluke, this potential drop is the first sign evidence that we may be turning a corner in the obesity epidemic. Let the public health efforts continue!

- Kelly

P.S. To learn more about the school lunch program, see here.

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Quinoa Salad with Dried Cranberries and Marcona Almonds

Ask just about any Gastronomy student and they will tell you what the highlight of class is: snack. Nothing breaks up a 6:00-9:00pm lecture better than a creative, satisfying, and scrumptious bite, hand selected by someone getting an advanced degree in food.

As fun as snack is, it can be pretty intimidating to cook for a bunch of foodies. Many students (myself included) work 9-5 jobs, meaning that snack must be prepared in advance. An ideal snack is portable, temperature stable, and of course, finger-licking good. Throwing in a few superfoods or ethnic ingredients doesn’t hurt either.

Quinoa Salad with Dried Cranberries and Marcona Almonds

When my turn to make snack rolled around (we pass around a sign-up sheet on the first day of class), I knew I wanted to bring something hearty and healthy, but also trendy and tasty.  That’s how I ended up with this quinoa salad. Quinoa AND Marcona almonds? I was pretty much golden. After all, nothing gets gastronomy students going more than ancient grains and gourmet ingredients.

Quinoa Salad with Dried Cranberries and Marcona Almonds (loosely inspired by the Chicken and Farro Salad recipe from True Food)

Makes about 5 1/2 cups


  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 cup dried whole cranberries (I get mine from Whole Foods)
  • 3/4 cup pitted dates, sliced into thirds
  • 3/4 cup Marcona almonds
  • 2 oz (about 1/4 cup shredded) Manchego Cheese


  1. To cook quinoa, bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add quinoa. Then, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. The outside germ of the grain will separate into a curly tail.
  2. After cooking, set quinoa aside to cool. Once it has cooled off, combine with other ingredients. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Facts (per 1/2 cup serving): 193 calories, 7g fat (1g saturated), 29.5g carbohydrates (3.5g fiber, 13g sugar), 5.5g protein, 6.9% iron

- Kelly

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Field trip to a food photography studio

Farm to Table

For students that clamor over the latest issues of Edible Boston and weigh their dinner choices on “how it will look on the blog”, a field trip to a food photography studio is pretty much a dream come true. The trip last week was put on for my food writing class, where photographer Nina Gallant and her food stylist partner, Meridith Byrne, taught us the tools of the trade. They offered nuggets of wisdom on how to style food (tweezers and small dishes are a must), how to find food that is out of season and ripe (shop at Russo’s!), and how to get the best photograph (it’s all about the lighting).

Field trip to Nina Gallant's food photography studio

Our class split up into teams of three. Each group was given a tray of food and a concept to portray (ours was “Farm to Table”), reflective of the type of project that a professional food photographer might get assigned. We then worked together to style the food and compose the shots. Nina has photographed for cookbooks, food packages, and everything in between, so the advice that she and Meridith offered as they floated from group to group was indispensable.

So, what’s the secret to getting the perfect shot? Take several photos! As Nina likes to say, “Pixels are free”.

Food styling

Want to learn more? Nina Gallant is giving a food photography class here in Boston that meets four times this April and May. For details and pricing, see here.

- Kelly

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Why I love the new food label

Food labels have been long overdue for a make-over. After years of pressure from consumer advocacy groups and health experts, the FDA finally released a proposed new food label. *slow clap*

New Food Label

Why do I love it?

  • Added sugars! While the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to 6 tsp/day for women and 9 tsp/day for men, there was no way to know how much you were getting because added sugars weren’t required to be on labels.
  • Fiber gets redefined: If approved, the “fiber” on a label will reflect only the the intact, unprocessed fiber in whole foods, and exclude purified fibers such as maltodextrin and inulin (which are added to processed foods).
  • Vitamin D and potassium: Requiring these two nutrients (in place of Vitamins A & C) is much more relevant to the health needs of today’s population.
  • No more serving size trickery. Have you ever been able to get 4 servings out of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s? I didn’t think so. On the new label, serving sizes for many foods have been updated to reflect more realistic (in other words, larger) portion sizes.
  • And most importantly, it’s easier to read! With this new design, your eyes are drawn towards the important information. The calorie count jumps out at you and the % Daily Value of Nutrients is much easier to trace.

There is also an alternate proposal, which I like very much. It is even clearer about which nutrients are beneficial (“get enough”) and which ones we need to limit (“avoid too much”). See below:

Alternate Proposed Food Label

These proposals are scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on March 3.  After that, the FDA will collect comments for 90 days. To read the reports detailing the proposed rules and changes, see this FDA webpage. First Lady Michelle Obama has been instrumental in getting this legislation approved, and in record time! This is basically the food industry’s worst nightmare, so expect a carefully strategized counterattack during the comment period.

Score one for public health and food policy!

- Kelly


Filed under Food Policy

Easy 100% Whole Grain Bread

Easy 100% Whole Grain Bread

Recently, my friend Ashley invited me over to teach me how to bake bread. Her recipe is 100% whole grain (using both whole wheat flour and quick oats), so I was worried that the resulting product would be as dense as a brick, and as dry as cardboard. However, as her little Allston apartment filled with the heavenly aroma of fresh baked bread (a must, if you have never experienced this smell), I knew I was in for a treat. This recipe is the softest, fluffiest whole grain bread I have ever tasted! The sugar (we used agave) is necessary to feed the yeast and create an airy texture, while the olive oil provides a moist texture and a rich flavor. And best of all, the recipe couldn’t be simpler.

100% Whole Grain Bread

100% Whole Grain Bread (Recipe by Ashley Higgs)


  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 2 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 ½ cups lukewarm water
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 ½ tbsp. agave syrup (or 3 tbsp honey)


  1. Allow all dry ingredients to come to room temperature.  In large bowl, stir all dry ingredients together for 1 minute.
  2. Add the olive oil, agave (or honey), and about 1 cup of water.
  3. Stir till mixed then knead for 6-8 minutes.  You may have to add more water, but do so carefully – different flours respond to moisture differently.  If you add too much water, that’s okay!  Just add more flour in small increments.  Add small amounts of water or flour as necessary.  By the end of the kneading, the consistency of the dough will change and should feel moist but not sticky or dry.
  4. Cover bowl with a damp cloth and leave the dough to rise for 30 minutes.  Dough should approximately double in size. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  5. Punch the dough and knead again for 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Shape dough and place in oiled (or nonstick) bread pan (or on a cookie sheet). Allow it to rise a second time for 30 minutes (or more if you like).
  7. Bake dough for 30 minutes.
  8. When finished baking, take bread out of bread pan immediately and put on a cooling rack.  Enjoy! (Store in airtight container or bag and in the fridge if not eaten within 3 days).

100% Whole Grain Bread with Stawberry Rhubarb Jam

I topped my bread with Strawberry Rhubarb jam  from the farmers market.

Bread Baking Lesson


- Kelly


Filed under Recipes

Guilty Pleasures: An RD’s favorite packaged foods

For the most part, I pride myself on eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole foods, favoring ingredients that are local and organic. However, there are times when convenience takes over and I find myself at the mercy of processed foods. I try to look for packages that have some of the qualities I prioritize, but more often than not, I just end up following my taste buds. Below are my picks for my favorite packaged foods…

Guilty Pleasures: An RD's favorite packaged foods

Backcountry Bundle Trail Mix (Whole Foods Market): This trail mix is a delicious blend of almonds, pistachios, raisins, dried cranberries, and sour cherries. While it would probably be much less expensive to buy the ingredients from the bulk section and make my own, this delightful mix has absolutely everything I need in the perfect proportions. I like to keep a package in my desk drawer at work for when the afternoon slump hits. It also makes a great travel snack.

Champagne Pear Vinaigrette with Gorgonzola (Trader Joe’s): I rarely ever go to Trader Joe’s, but this salad dressing is worth the trip alone. The ingredients certainly don’t have the organic, local, or minimalistic qualities that I typically look for in foods, but I absolutely love the sweet, creamy taste, and I can’t believe that it only has 45 calories per two tablespoon serving. In my book, anything that gets me to eat more vegetables is money well spent. Additionally, the presence of Gorgonzola in the dressing makes cheese, while still welcome, an unnecessary addition to the salad.

Butternut Squash Ravioli Lean Cuisine: Frozen entrees are a last resort, and I try not to rely too heavily on them. Nevertheless, it’s good to keep one in the back of the freezer. While this dish isn’t from one of the organic or natural brands, I feel better knowing that it is a vegetarian entree, and doesn’t feature too many industrialized animal products. I am also constantly surprised at my foodie self for genuinely enjoying this vegetable rich supper.

Chocolate Peppermint Stick Luna Bar: This is my pre-workout snack before my morning gym sessions. I also love to travel with these. While protein bars aren’t very natural or food-like, they can be a reliable source of nutrients when balanced, vegetable rich meals are out of the question.

Do you ever rely on packaged foods? Which ones are your favorite?

- Kelly

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Gastronomy Course Spotlight: Food and the Senses

DSC01788Food and the Senses is one of the 4 required core classes for the Gastronomy program, and is the best one that I’ve taken yet.  Classes always had a small sensory experiment, which included everything from blind taste testing to dark chocolate and red wine pairings to molecular gastronomy demonstrations. The hands-on, scientific aspect of the course was a refreshing change of pace from other classes in the program, which are often very focused in anthropology.

Like most gastronomy courses, the final project was open to pretty much whatever we wanted to study. We just had to write about a food topic and how it related to the senses. I wrote about improving the sensory appeal of vegetables, while my classmates covered topics as diverse as the rise of popularity of comfort food, and the sensory aspects of Jewish culinary traditions.

nettaThe class was taught by Netta Davis, who graduated in the first class of the BU Gastronomy program when it was created. From living on a vegetarian commune to working as an assistant to Julia Child to being a food writer in Spain, Netta has an entertaining anecdote for every culinary situation, and has the perfect personality to teach such a hands-on course. Admittedly, I am a little too Type-A for her free spirited teaching style, but I can’t say that I didn’t love the class.

- Kelly

Image via BU

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Try a Tri

photo 1This past weekend, the Boston University Triathlon Team hosted an abbreviated, indoor triathlon event called “Try-A-Triathlon”. The purpose was to introduce people to the sport and to get a feel for transitioning between the various events.

The race consisted of a 200M swim (that’s 8 lengths of the pool), followed by a 15 minute ride on a stationary bike, followed by a 1 mile run around the indoor track. The bike could be set at any resistance that you were comfortable with, and since everyone had to bike for 15 minutes, the swimming and running are were the places to focus your efforts if you were looking to make good time. The race was staggered into 7 heats of about 10 people each, and most swimmers shared a lane (as there were only 5 lanes). In the photo above, you can see the pool to the left and the bikes to the right.

I am not really a swimmer (or a runner, or a cyclist), but the length looked manageable so I signed up willingly. Additionally, I was excited that I could try all of these events in the temperature controlled paradise that is the BU gym. After all, Boston winters don’t make for great triathlon conditions.

“Try-A-Triathalon” seems to be an annual event at BU, so if I’m in the Boston area next year I definitely want to give it another try. Have you ever finished a triathlon?

- Kelly


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First hurdle: Trans fats. Next project: Palm oil

Trans fats have been long demonized, and have already been largely removed from food products. Nevertheless, there are still a few products, such as Bisquick, that will need to reformulate after the FDA’s recent decision to pull trans fats from the GRAS (generally regarded as safe) list.

c_c_Caramel delites_3qrtr

Some Girl Scout Cookies, including Caramel deLites, contain both partially hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats) AND palm oil

Currently, products can claim to have “0g trans fats” as long as there is less than 0.5g trans fats per serving. To determine if a product is trans fat free, you need to check the ingredient list for “partially hydrogenated oils”.

One ingredient that food manufacturers are replacing trans fats with is palm oil. This is problematic for two reasons. 1) While not as dangerous as trans fat, palm oil is largely saturated fat, the type of fat that is believed to raise LDL cholesterol and increase risk of heart disease. 2) Mining of palm oil causes massive rainforest destruction, and is the reason that orangutans may become extinct in our lifetime.

Interested in learning more?

  • To read more about the ban on trans fats, see this article
  • To see a list of products that still contain trans fats, see this list
  • To learn more about how palm oil is affecting wildlife, see here


Rainforest destruction for palm oil plantations is causing orangutans to become extinct

Moral of the story: If you don’t have to stir your peanut butter, something’s not right. Avoid foods with added fats (including both partially hydrogenated oils AND palm oil), and make an effort to eat home cooked meals rather than relying on processed snack foods.

- Kelly

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