Upcoming Appearance at Let’s Talk About Food Festival, 9/27

Let's Talk About Food Festival

If you’re interested in cooking, nutrition, food justice, the environment, and making our food system healthier and more sustainable, you should definitely check out the upcoming Let’s Talk About Food Festival in Copley Square on Saturday, September 27, 2014. Speakers include former White House Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook, Chef and Sustainable Seafood Advocate Barton Seaver, America’s Test Kitchen’s Dan Souza, and more. Events run from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM on Saturday (click here to see the full schedule). There will be cooking demonstrations, expert panels, and film screenings of acclaimed documentaries Cafeteria Man and Fed Up.

I will serve as an ‘expert conversant’ on childhood obesity from 10:00 – 11:00 AM at the Endless Table, then I will be manning the Ask-a-Nutritionist booth from 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM. Stop by and say hello!

Let's Talk About Food Festival

Images: 1 // 2

- Kelly

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Mediterranean Veggie Burgers with Sweet Potato, Red Lentils, and Quinoa

Mediterranean Veggie Burgers with Sweet Potato, Red Lentils, and Quinoa, served on Whole Grain bun with Avocado and Spinach

This recipe is a close adaptation of Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe for the New York Times. I actually had the pleasure of meeting her last week (#starstruck), because she’s moderating a panel at an upcoming conference that my company is hosting. Our lunch meeting was catered by SweetGreen, so basically it was an all-around perfect day.

In my version of the recipe, I decided to lighten things up a little bit and bake the patties, rather than coating in breadcrumbs and pan frying them. Shulman recommends serving the patties with raita, chutney, or a garlic mint yogurt sauce, but I went classic veggie burger style, and served them up on toasted whole wheat buns with avocado slices and fresh spinach.

My only previous attempt at veggie burgers was an awesome black bean burger recipe (with avocado mango salsa, might I add), so this was a totally different experience. But a delicious one, at that. The feta and chives really give these veggie patties a flavorful kick, and the lentils and quinoa provide that ever-important protein.

Mediterranean Veggie Burgers

Mediterranean Veggie Burgers

My boyfriend was actually licking the bowl at this point. I’m telling you, these veggie burgers are GOOD!

Mediterranean Veggie Burgers

Mediterranean Veggie Burgers with Sweet Potatoes, Red Lentils, and Quinoa

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 2/3 cup red lentils
  • 2 1/3 cups water
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, baked (I just poked holes and microwaved them, about 4 minutes on each side)
  • 3 cups tightly packed, chopped fresh spinach, plus more for garnish
  • 3 oz crumbled feta (about ¾ cup)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 8 whole-wheat hamburger buns, toasted (I like this brand)
  • 2 avocados, sliced

Method

  1. Combine water, quinoa, and lentils in a small pot and bring to a boil. Then cover and reduce to a simmer, until the outside germ of the quinoa separates into a curly tail, the lentils are tender, and the water has been absorbed (about 15-20 minutes).
  2. While the lentils and quinoa are cooking, skin the potatoes and place them in a large mixing bowl. Then add the spinach, feta, chives, mint, and lemon juice to the sweet potatoes.
  3. Once the lentil and quinoa mixture is cooked, let cool, then add it to the sweet potato mixture. Mash all ingredients together with a fork until mixed well.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop ½ cup of the vegetable mixture, then roll and flatten into a patty. Continue with the rest of the mixture. Recipe makes 8 patties.
  5. Let patties refrigerate for at least an hour- the longer the better. (They can also be made up to two days ahead of time. In fact, they actually turn out better this way, as they have more time to set.)
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes (no need to flip).
  7. Serve on a toasted whole grain bun with fresh spinach and sliced avocado.

Mediterranean Veggie Burgers

Nutrition per serving (1 patty on a 100% whole wheat bun with 1/6 avocado): 300 calories, 6.5 g fat (3g saturated fat), 46g carbohydrates (8.5g fiber, 8.5g sugar), 12g protein, 460mg sodium, 500mg potassium, 228% Vitamin A, 33% Vitamin C, 20% Calcium, 28% iron

 

Mediterranean Veggie Burgers

- Kelly

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Finally… a healthier granola!

Healthy Granola

The word “granola” has become synonymous with a health conscious lifestyle, and is often used to describe individuals that have an aversion to processed foods and a soft spot for REI.

Despite the healthful moniker, this popular snack is often riddled with as much added sugar as children’s breakfast cereal, and the oils used to roast the oats can multiply calories quickly. So much for being a health food. Sure, granola is a satisfying source of fiber and whole grains. But the dessert-high levels of sugar have kept granola from being a pantry staple at my house. Until now.

Healthy Granola

Yes, I could make my own recipe. But a friend recently introduced me to the “Wheat Free Classic Granola” in the bulk bins at Whole Foods Market, and well, why fix what’s not broken?

While the calorie and fiber count of this granola is comparable to other brands, what stands out is the low level of added sugar: Only 4g per half cup (55g) serving! Compare that to 14g per 55g serving of Cascadian Farms Oats and Honey Granola, one of my favorite guilty pleasures.

Healthy Granola

Unlike most granolas, where honey plays a starring role, this granola has sunflower seeds, cashews, sesame seeds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds, giving this traditionally sweet treat a surprisingly savory twist. I like to dress mine up with raspberries and organic nonfat milk (above), or bananas, figs, and plain organic nonfat Greek yogurt (below).

Healthy Granola

Do you have a favorite granola or granola recipe? Share in the comments!

- Kelly

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Evidence that Nutrition Assistance Programs Can Help Improve the Food Environment

What good are food stamps doing to nourish the hungry if participants spend it all on junk food?

This is a common critique of nutrition assistance programs, and for a good reason. That being said, many hunger advocates counter that today’s hungry often live in communities where fresh, healthy foods aren’t available, and that tightening the nutrition criteria for these assistance programs will leave participants with nowhere to turn. After all, a little bit of junk food is better than no food at all. However, a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior demonstrates that when nutrition assistance programs update their offerings to reflect the latest in nutrition research, the foodscape improves to benefit everyone.

FRUIT SELECTION

Background from the study:

“Based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, the US Department of Agriculture changed the WIC Program’s supplemental food packages, addressing nutritional concerns of the panel by offering low-fat milks and whole grains, and including cash vouchers for fruits and vegetables. Before the change, WIC offered juice, milk, cereals, eggs, beans, and other foods. However, the milk was whole milk, cereals were not whole grain products, there was no option to include whole grain bread or rice, and there were no fruits and vegetables. This set of changes, the first in a generation, went into effect in most states, including Louisiana, in October, 2009.”

So what happened after these changes were introduced?

For this study, researchers visited small stores in New Orleans right when the change was introduced, and then again a year later. In 2009, only 3.7% of stores participating in the WIC program carried whole wheat bread or brown rice, but a year later, 70.4% offered whole wheat bread and 92.6% offered brown rice!

These drastic improvements aren’t just a sign of the times, but can largely be attributed to the changes in the WIC program. That’s because at non-WIC participating small stores in New Orleans in 2010, whole wheat bread was only offered at a meager 1.5% of stores, and brown rice was only offered in 12.1% of stores. Additionally, the study found that the number of varieties of fresh fruit significantly increased (from 3 to 4) at WIC stores, but not at the non-WIC stores, and average shelf space of all vegetables increased in WIC stores by about 1.2 meters.

VEGETABLE SHELF SPACE

These improvements in healthy food selection benefit all shoppers, not just those in the WIC program. Could similar improvements be made to other nutrition assistance programs? Weigh in!

Note: Despite these hopeful findings, food choices in depressed communities are in dire shape. For more on this topic, see my blog post on the link between hunger and obesity. Also, to learn more about the WIC program, see here.

- Kelly

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Root: Vegan Food for Carnivorous Palates

It’s refreshing to come across a menu that doesn’t use cheese as a crutch for vegetarian meals. At Root, a vegan restaurant, that’s not even an option.

Tortas

Tostada: Crispy corn tortillas topped with chili-spiced sweet potatoes, black bean and corn salsa, avocado, and (tofu based) crema, served with greens

If you have visions of rubbery “veggie meats” and endless tofu dishes, think again. In fact, you won’t even find tofu on the lunch or dinner menu (except cleverly blended into the house made aiolis). Clean eaters can still find superfood darlings, such as kale, quinoa, and beet juice. However, by creating whole-food versions of carnivorous favorites (hush puppies, burgers, tostadas, and more), the menu is approachable to people of all dietary patterns. The word vegan doesn’t even appear anywhere on the menu, so as not to isolate customers.

Tucked away in grungy Allston, Root is a clean oasis, with an atmosphere that reflects the food they serve. The small space is industrial, yet inviting, contrasting square, copper tables with an abundance of natural wood accents. Bicycle wheels decorate the walls. Water is served in mason jars. Root is counter service at lunch and dinner, but switches to table service for the weekend brunch.

At some vegetarian restaurants, such as Life Alive, all of the food tastes overwhelmingly of umami, with little differentiation between menu items. What distinguishes Root from its meat-free peers is that each dish has a unique flavor profile. Like the popular Boston vegetarian chain, Clover Food Lab, many dishes are Root are deep fried, and aren’t as healthy as the clean atmosphere and vegetable emphasis would have you believe. However, for the health conscious consumer like myself, there are many nutritious options.

Warm Kale Salad

Warm Kale Salad

One such item is the warm kale salad ($8). A hearty way to enjoy leafy greens during the winter months, this dish is a delightful bowl of lightly steamed kale, caramelized onions and bite-sized nuggets of roasted butternut squash. Dried cranberries, pepitas, and citrus miso dressing complete the bowl. Somehow, this generous salad leaves your body feeling nourished and content, even if you have just indulged in the artery clogging, yet oh so addictive, herbed fries and house made ketchup.

1406673311.030589.IMG_3750

Sweet Potato Quesadilla

Kale takes on an entirely different persona in the sweet potato quesadilla ($8). This appetizer-sized dish consists of a flour tortilla filled with sweet potato, kale, and sautéed onion. Rather than relying on a processed, vegan soy cheese to bind the quesadilla together, the dish is served with a creamy thyme sauce made from cashews. This rich, hearty sauce is also the secret to the delicious eggplant caprese sandwich.

If you’re looking for southwestern flavors, your best bet is the torta ($10 with choice of fries or side salad). Chili-lime black beans, tomatoes, avocado, pickled onion, and fried jalapeno, are pressed together in a locally made Iggy’s bun. The toasted bread is the perfect vehicle for the warm black beans and pickled veggies, while the avocado tones down the heat from the perfectly crisp jalapenos.

Other noteworthy dishes include the made-from-scratch black bean and quinoa based “root burger” and the famously fluffy vanilla pancakes (the secret is the coconut oil). With a menu this inviting, plant based diets have never seemed more mainstream. And at this inspired eatery, that is precisely the intent.

Root is located at 487 Cambridge Street, Allston, MA. info@rootboston.com, 617-208-6091. Hours: Monday-Friday: 11am-10pm, Saturday-Sunday: 9:30am-10pm.

- Kelly

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Published

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

I am proud to announce that I accomplished one of my major bucket list goals today: getting published in print!

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My food/travel story about Austin, TX is in today’s issue of the Boston Globe (page G 23). You can also read it online here. I first got connected with the Globe after taking Sheryl Julian’s food writing class in the Boston University Gastronomy program (which I highly recommend for any aspiring food writers). While the subject matter of the article couldn’t be much further from health or sustainability, I am pleased to be a published food writer and photographer. I also added a new ‘Press’ page to my website. Any ideas for my next story?

1405513951.459472.IMG_3687

- Kelly

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Cheesy Chickpea Kale Salad with Nectarines and Corn

Cheesy Chickpea Kale Salad with Nectarines and Corn

Ashley and I spend our workdays reading about atrazine contamination and pesticide poisonings, so when I found out that she had never seen Erin Brockovich, I knew we needed a movie night. And what goes better with a girl-power, kick-corporate-butt movie than a beautiful, healthy, plant-based dinner?

Because Ashley recently acquired a sourdough starter (from 1890!!!), she brought homemade whole-wheat sourdough bread and homemade sourdough crackers. Yum! A hearty summer salad was a natural pairing. This picture on Pinterest was my jumping off point, but I threw in cheesy chickpeas to up the protein factor. Chicken would taste delicious on this salad too (as would avocado), but I was looking to keep it vegetarian with the garbanzos. In fact, subbing nutritional yeast instead of Parmesan would make this vegan, although I haven’t experimented with that yet.

Cheesy Chickpea Kale Salad with Corn and Nectarines

Cheesy Chickpea Kale Salad with Nectarines and Corn (inspired by eats well with others)

Serves 4

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 ears of corn
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil
  • 3 large nectarines, thinly sliced
  • 1 recipe cheesy chickpeas (see recipe below)
  • 1 recipe honey mustard vinaigrette (see recipe below)

Method:

  1. Boil the corn until cooked (about 5-7 minutes), and then slice kernels off of the cob. My other favorite trick for cooking corn is to steam it in the husk by microwaving it (with the husk still on) for 5 minutes (for 2 ears). Once it cools, you can peel it and cut it as usual.
  2. Massage the kale with olive oil until it turns a dark green color and reduces by about half.
  3. To assemble, toss the kale with the nectarines, basil, corn, cheesy chickpeas, and honey mustard vinaigrette.

Cheesy Chickpea Kale Salad with Nectarines and Corn

Cheesy Chickpeas (inspired by Clean Eating)

  • 1 can garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Method:

  1. Spread out chickpeas over several layers of paper towels to dry, for about 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 375. In a small mixing bowl, combine the olive oil and cheese until the oil is absorbed.
  3. Once the oil is absorbed, break up the cheese a bit with your fingers, then add in the garbanzo beans and mix until well combined.
  4. Evenly spread the chickpeas onto a greased baking sheet, and bake for 30 minutes.

Cheesy Chickpeas

Cheesy Chickpeas pictured prior to baking

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons whole grain mustard

Method:

  1. To make the honey mustard vinaigrette, pour the champagne vinegar, olive oil, honey, and mustard into a small mixing bowl and whisk until combined.

Cheesy Chickpea Kale Salad with Nectarines and Corn

Serves 4

Nutrition Per Serving: 330 calories, 14g protein, 11g fat (2g saturated), 49g carbohydrates (10g fiber, 13g sugar), 418mg sodium, 215% Vitamin A, 145% Vitamin C, 20% Calcium, 18% Iron

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Yes, Keep Eating Fruit

Yes, Keep Eating Fruit (@kellytoupsrd)

Fruit is bad because it has so much sugar, right?

Aren’t bananas fattening?

Shouldn’t you cut back on fruit if you’re trying to lose weight?

I get questions like this all the time. No seriously, I do. While it’s upsetting to think of how the media and food faddists have led well-meaning dieters astray, it’s actually pretty liberating when friends and clients realize just how easy good nutrition is. More fruits and veggies, less junk food. It’s that simple!

Think about it logically. America doesn’t have an obesity problem from eating too much fruit. It’s our ever-increasing portion sizes, penchant for sugary beverages and endless snacking that did us in.

Yes, fruit has sugar. But it also has loads of vitamins, minerals, water, and most importantly, fiber. The fiber in the fruit will slow its release into your bloodstream, so that you don’t get the spike and crash associated with other sugary foods (such as soda or candy).

However, do not confuse fruit with fruit juice. Juice lacks the fiber and some of the micronutrients of the whole fruit. While a cup of fresh fruit is a healthy, low-calorie snack, do not be fooled into thinking that juice is a low calorie or no calorie beverage. Many juices pack just as much sugar and calories per cup as soda. And without the fiber (and additional water in whole fruits) to trigger fullness cues in your stomach, it is much easier to overindulge in fruit juice than fruit. Additionally, the amount of juice you drink has a direct relationship with diabetes risk, but the amount of fruit you eat actually decreases the risk of diabetes.

Next time you find yourself unsure of what to eat, remember the sweet truth and fill up with fiber-rich fruits and vegetables.

- Kelly

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Seasons 52: Diet-Friendly Fine Dining

Seasons 52

Grilled Alaska Wild Copper River Salmon with summer corn risotto, sugar snap peas, and toybox tomatoes

Imagine enjoying an Oak-grilled rack of lamb with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and a summer vegetable ratatouille, all for the same amount of calories as a medium Strawberry Surf Rider Smoothie from Jamba Juice. At Seasons 52, that’s precisely what you’ll get.

Nestled into a corner at Houston’s vibrant City Centre, this new restaurant redefines healthy dining. The seasonally influenced menu inspires the restaurant’s name. Entrees change about four times a year, and vegetable sides change weekly. However, the most impressive part of the menu is that every item is 475 calories or less.

Seasons 52

Honey & Herb Roasted Chicken, spring vegetables, Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, roasted chicken jus

If you’re picturing cardboard diet food and rubbery tofu, think again. Instead, the healthy balance at Seasons 52 is achieved by shunning the embarrassingly large portions that have come to be standard and letting fresh, seasonal vegetables do the talking. These meals are hearty, satisfying, and downright delicious.

The whole roasted Branzino, a European seabass, is standout summer special. This beautifully presented dish has a delicate texture and a sinfully savory flavor. Another memorable dish was the honey & herb roasted chicken. Chefs could have taken the easy way out by serving a dry slab of boneless, skinless chicken breast atop an uninspired salad. Instead, this chicken is moist, rich, and downright flavorful, and served with a tantalizing array of seasonal vegetables. Additionally, while the trend of desserts in shot glasses feels exhausted at other establishments, at Seasons 52, it somehow feels special, and fits right in to the perfectly-portioned atmosphere.

Seasons 52

 

Oak-Grilled Filet Mignon, cremini mushrooms, steamed leaf spinach, mashed potatoes, red wine sauce

Seasons 52 has over 30 locations across the country including Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, Atlanta, Georgia, and Phoenix, Arizona. It first arrived in Houston at Westheimer, and it’s popularity spurred this second location at the City Centre shortly after.

While the classy, dimly lit interior lacks in personality (there is not a chalkboard, Edison lightbulb, or tattooed waiter to be found), the understated elegance is the perfect setting for a fine dining establishment. Unlike Ruggle’s on the Green, another popular City Centre eatery that emphasizes seasonality, the atmosphere at Seasons 52 is much more upscale and carries a noticeably higher price point.

That being said, you get what you pay for. And at Seasons 52, that means delicious, quality meals that leave you feeling nourished, rather than nauseous.

- Kelly

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What is a degree in Gastronomy?

Gastronomy

Last month, I graduated with a Masters in Gastronomy from Boston University. This revelation is often followed by blank stares and questions about my future in intestinal medicine or the study of outer space. Close, but no cigar.

Gastronomy is the study of food, not just from a culinary perspective, but from anthropological, historical, scientific, and policy-based perspectives as well. Below are the courses I took to complete my degree. You can click on each course to read more about it. Also, check out the Gastronomy student blog to learn more about current students and alumni.

Required core classes for the Gastronomy program:

Food Policy concentration:

Electives:

Other classes that I wish I would have had a chance to take (had time permitted) are: Food Marketing, The Many Meanings of Meat, Certificate Program in the Culinary Arts, Urban Agriculture, Food Science, and Food Microbiology.

What does one do with a Gastronomy degree? Graduates of the program work as food writers, consultants for food and beverage companies, culinary instructors, food marketers, as well as for nonprofit organizations working to reform the food system. As for me? I’m using my culinary training and knowledge of the greater food system in order to achieve my long-term goal of making healthy foods both more accessible and more appealing.

- Kelly

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