Weekend Reading – Food: A Love Story

My mom knew she was taking a risk when she bought Jim Gaffigan’s book, Food: A Love Story, for her dietitian daughter. I mean, the man’s no health nut. His career was launched on a Hot Pockets sketch, after all.

Food: A Love Story

That being said, the book had me in stitches! I have an advanced degree in food studies, so I suppose this would be logical airplane reading for people in my field. Nonetheless, Americans have a comical relationship with food, and Jim Gaffigan captures it perfectly. Below are a few funny snippets from the book:

  • And when we’re not eating, we’re chewing gum. We are literally practicing eating.
  • Tacos are one of the many beautiful gifts from Mexico, but the taco salad is filled with so much broken logic that it must be an American creation.
  • “Southern cooking” almost always seems to be code for “we are not counting calories.”
  • Chopsticks are fun, but I’d rather eat than play operation.
  • A muffin is just a bald cupcake, and we all know it.

Not often would I recommend a book by someone who writes, “I wouldn’t trust them skinnies with food advice.” Yet here I am. If you’re looking for an easy read that’s guaranteed to have you giggling, then give it try and let me know what you think!

– Kelly

Recipes on my Radar: Roasted Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese with Brussels Sprouts

Recipes on my radar: Roasted Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese with Brussels Sprouts

Winter tomatoes are forgettable at best, but oven roasting these greenhouse-grown rubies can help bring out the sweet flavor that we remember from sunny August days. And naturally, there is no better way to use roasted tomatoes in January than to make tomato soup.

To ease myself back into the Boston tundra (goodbye, 70 degree Houston weather), I made a Roasted Tomato Soup with Sole and Monkfish and paired it with Balsamic Brussels Sprouts Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.

For the soup, I used the Roasted Tomato Soup with Halibut recipe from Giada’s Feel Good Food (this recipe, without the pasta) and replaced the halibut with sole and monkfish, which is what I had on hand. For the sandwich, I used this recipe from How Sweet Eats.

Recipes on my radar: Roasted Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese with Brussels Sprouts

A grilled cheese sandwich isn’t exactly a health food, but simple swaps in ingredients can make a HUGE difference in nutrition. Hear me out…

A study actually compared the metabolism of a cheese sandwich with whole grain bread and real cheese (Sargento medium Cheddar slices) to a cheese sandwich with white bread and a processed cheese product (Kraft Singles). Scientists found that people expended 50% more energy metabolizing the whole foods version, even though both sandwiches had the same amount of calories and the same ratio of bread to cheese.

Not only does this grilled cheese sandwich boast 100% whole grain bread and real, organic cheese, but it even has green vegetables on the inside! Paired with a nutritious tomato and fish soup, I’ll chalk that up as a sensible dinner.

Recipes on my radar: Roasted Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese with Brussels Sprouts

What are you cooking this week?

– Kelly

The Best Cookbook Organization Trick

Cookbooks are an underutilized treasure trove of culinary expertise, recipe ideas, and winning flavor combinations. But as the printed word gives way to Pinterest and recipe blogs, cookbooks have been pushed to “coffee table book status,” collected as much for the pictures as the recipes within.

Cookbook Organization Tips

Not one to let a book go to waste, I devised a simple tactic to make sure that I get the most out of my ever-growing cookbook collection. In fact, until I make at least 5 recipes from every cookbook I own, I don’t plan on buying another. Here’s how it works…

Cookbook Organization Tips

When I first get a new cookbook, I curl up in a cozy chair and flip through it like a magazine, marking the recipes that I want to make with a flag on the side of the page. Once I actually make one of these recipes, I move the flag up to the top of the page.

Cookbook Organization Tips

With just a quick glance at the top of my shelf (see above), I can tell which cookbooks I’ve used the most, and which need a little more love. When I want to try a new recipe (which I aim to do once or twice a week), I look for a sparsely flagged book top, then start flipping to some of the recipes that I marked. With this system, it’s easy to track my progress towards my 5-recipes-per-cookbook goal.

So far, my favorite, most used cookbooks are:

We’ll see how this list changes as I get closer to reaching my goal…

Cookbook Organization

What is your favorite cookbook?

– Kelly

Current Obsessions

Ever wonder what makes a registered dietitian’s world go round? Here are five things I can’t get enough of lately.

Date Paste

Date Paste

Yes, I am fresh off watching Fed Up and reading Year of No Sugar. But the fact remains- Americans are eating much more than the 6-9 teaspoons/day (women vs. men) recommended by the American Heart Association. I have blogged about date paste before, but basically you just soak dates overnight, then blend them with a bit of the soaking water to create a honey-like liquid sweetener that is full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. I like to stir it into my morning oatmeal instead of brown sugar, but you can also substitute it for some of the refined sugar in baked goods.

This Sandwich

Sandwich

Image via America’s Better Sandwich

I recently had the opportunity to sample the winning recipe of America’s Better Sandwich Contest. The prizewinning dish, “Fast ‘N’ Fresh Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich,” is a light, yet flavorful take on traditional chicken salad, subbing Greek yogurt for mayo, and adding curry and golden raisins. This sweet, punchy mixture is then layered between two slices of Oroweat 100% whole grain bread, along with fresh spinach and thinly sliced apples. SO. GOOD. In fact, I may or may not have tracked down an empty tupperware so that I could stuff it with an obnoxious amount of curried chicken salad to take back to my office. I might have also swiped a leftover loaf of 100% whole grain bread. Let’s just say that my lunches were good this week.

Sparkling Water

Sparkling Water

Image via Drinking Water Fountains

I first tried sparkling water in college. My initial reaction was something along the lines of “Ewww, something is really wrong with this Sprite!” Flash forward a few years. At my new job, the water dispenser has sparkling water, so I’ve given this calorie-free bubbly beverage another try. And I’m hooked. Looking for a way to add some pep to your hydration routine, and help aid digestion? Look no further!

Larabars

Larabars

When someone asks for my recommendation on the healthiest snack bars, it takes an awful lot of willpower not to roll my eyes and say “Why are you eating bars? Why aren’t you snacking on real food, like fruit or nuts?” But I’ve got to give it to Larabar– they kind of are real food. In fact, they’re made with mostly (you guessed it!) fruit and nuts, and have no added oil or sugar (except in the flavors with chocolate chips). For example, the ingredients list for the peanut butter cookie bar, pictured above, reads “peanuts, dates, sea salt.” Talk about #dietitianapproved! For now, the flavors pictured above are my favorite. But I’m dying to try the new holiday flavors, such as snickerdoodle, pumpkin pie, and gingerbread.

Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmers

Burts Bees Lip Shimmer

After a long discussion about how to pull off red lipstick, a friend introduced me to Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmers ($5). While the name suggests otherwise, not all shades are shimmery. In fact, some are downright classy. They feel just like chapstick, but offer the pop of color that you expect from a lipstick. I love that the peppermint oil leaves your lips feeling cool and minty, but I especially love that the ingredients are simple and natural. My favorite shades are raisin, cherry, and apricot. Burt’s Bees also makes a Tinted Lip Balm ($7) that I’m dying to try.

What are some of your current obsessions?

– Kelly

Eat Healthy Designs

If I didn’t have a career in nutrition (which I love, by the way), I would definitely want to be working in the design world. That’s why I was so excited to discover the new stationary company, Eat Healthy Designs.

This charming Southern California based company was started by nutrition and dietetics student (and aspiring dietitian) Elise Lindsey, and her business partner, Travis Lowe. Lindsey’s passion for nutrition shines through, not only in the delightfully nerdy food puns splashed across her products, but also in the beautiful, original watercolors of fruits and vegetables. However, I’m equally excited by the back of the cards and prints, which feature nutrition information about the artwork.

The product line-up is still pretty small right now, but you can bet that I’ll be frequently stalking the website for new designs. Check out some of my favorite products below:

EAT Healthy Designs Food Pun Pencils

Food Pun Pencils, $5 for set of 5

EAT Healthy Designs Birthday Card

EAT Healthy Designs Birthday Card

Birthday Card, $4

EAT Healthy Designs Thank You Note Set

EAT Healthy Designs Thank You Note Set

Thank You Note Set, $14 for 6 cards + envelopes

I’m filing this under “Businesses that I didn’t start, but wish I had.” Do you have a favorite stationary company?

– Kelly

Healthy Eating on a Budget

The fact that I live exactly 0.3 miles away from a Whole Foods Market is both a blessing and a curse. With a paradise of healthy ingredients right around the corner from my apartment, I’m often tempted to stop by the store multiple times a week so that I can try a new recipe. But it’s adding up.

Pantry Cleanout: Chili roasted sweet potatoes and onions with corn, black beans, and spinach

Rather than face the prospect of a rapidly dwindling bank account, I have been trying to cook more from what’s in my pantry, rather than constantly getting lured into the grocery store. Above is one such dish I made this week. I had a small Tupperware of chopped bell peppers and onions in the fridge (the remaining bits that didn’t make it into my weekend omelet), so I roasted them up with a forgotten sweet potato, along with ample chili powder, paprika, and cumin. For protein, I tossed in a can of black beans (a pantry staple!), and I finished the dish off with corn from the farmers market (thank you, prepaid gift card) and baby spinach (another omelet remnant).

Getting creative in the kitchen is probably the best way to stretch your grocery dollar. But if you’re not quite comfortable enough to start experimenting, sometimes it helps to have a guide. Enter the Good and Cheap cookbook. This cookbook is a FREE downloadable PDF with recipes for people on a food-stamp budget (roughly $4/day).

Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a day

Unlike most resources for people on nutrition assistance programs, this cookbook is filled with beautiful, color photographs, and is actually a treat to flip through. The book itself isn’t a “healthy” cookbook—in fact, butter makes appearances much more frequently than this dietitian is comfortable with. However, the recipes are largely plant based, often giving fruits, vegetables, and whole grains the starring roles. Additionally, the cost per serving is given for each recipe.

Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown

Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown

Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown

The cookbook was created by Leanne Brown, in fulfillment of a Masters project for the NYU food studies program. As someone that graduated with a similarly obscure foodie graduate degree (whoop, BU Gastronomy!), I have so much respect for Leanne and the amazing project that she undertook. Like Leanne, I believe that cooking is one of the most effective (and more importantly, fun!) ways to take control of your health. And if you can do it on $4 a day? Even better!

What’s your favorite budget-friendly recipe?

– Kelly

Published

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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?

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– Kelly

10 Best Instagram Accounts to Inspire Healthy Living (Part III)

You know how fast food commercials can leave you craving fries or a burger? This is the same idea, but in reverse. Scrolling though healthy, inspiring images on my Instagram feed makes me crave whole foods and trips to the farmers market. Below are some of my current favorites. Also, check out Part I and Part II of this series for more of my favorite accounts!

10 Best Instagram Accounts to Inspire Healthy Living

@thecrunchyradish Beautiful, healthy meals from an NYC-based Registered Dietitian

10 Best Instagram Accounts to Inspire Healthy Living

@aboutanja Tons of great farmers market shots

10 Best Instagram Accounts to Inspire Healthy Living

@dagmara_ch So many healthy meal ideas!

dicanelo

@dicanelo Bright colors and nutritious meals

10 Best Instagram Accounts to Inspire Healthy Living

@mindful_nutrition This one will definitely have you craving fruits and veggies

10 Best Instagram Accounts to Inspire Healthy Living

@livingthehealthychoice Someone that eats oatmeal as much as I do! So many healthy, inspiring meals here

10 Best Instagram Accounts to Inspire Healthy Living

@sweetgreen This salad chain is new to Boston, but I’m already obsessed

10 Best Instagram Accounts to Inspire Healthy Living

@feltbyheart You can’t scroll past this one without craving fruit

10 Best Instagram Accounts to Inspire Healthy Living

@fluxi A great mix of healthy meals and beautiful San Francisco

10 Best Instagram Accounts to Inspire Healthy Living

@lauren_a24 Colorful plant based meals from another Registered Dietitian

– Kelly

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

Oat Feast

Oat Feast

On a recent trip to New York City, Ashley and I got breakfast at one of my favorite Greenwich Village gems: OatMeals, an oatmeal cafe. Over a delicious bowl of Indian Spiced Oatmeal, filled with raisins, sliced almonds, crystallized ginger, cardamom, vanilla, brown sugar, and coconut milk, Ashley and I had a revelation. We could make these recipes at home. Additionally, our curiosity surrounding savory oats was growing stronger by the minute. And so, Oat Feast was born. A 3 course meal of oatmeal, topped off with an oatmeal stout. Rather than using the OatMeals menu to guide us, we ended up getting all of our recipes from the Oatmeal Artist, my favorite recipe blog.

Appetizer: Sweet Potato and Soyrizo Oatmeal

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Entree: Pizza Porridge

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Dessert: German Chocolate Baked Oatmeal

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While all of the recipes were easy and delicious, the Sweet Potato and Soyrizo Oatmeal was a standout! I highly recommend it as an introduction to savory oats, whether you like oatmeal or not. Rich sweet potato, spicy soyrizo, and creamy avocado were the perfect way to jazz up an unassuming porridge. Have you tried any creative oatmeal recipes lately? Do tell!

– Kelly