Friday, December 28, 2012

Food Substitutes + Truffle Farro Salad & Spinach and Artichoke Turkey Burgers

Eating healthy doesn't mean you have to give up the foods you love. You just have to make small changes to individual ingredients to keep the taste and make the dish healthier. Here are some common and easy substitutes you can make in your foods:

Cream/Sour Cream/Mayo: Greek Yogurt is a great substitute for all things creamy. I put it in pasta dishes to replace cream sauces, and it works perfectly as sour cream in Mexican dishes etc. By using Greek Yogurt, you reduce fat as well as promote healthy digestion.

Butter: Coconut Oil can be used alone as a spread, or as a replacement in baking for oil and butter. Coconut oil can help with weight loss, and it also, contrary to popular belief, lowers bad cholesterol because it contains lauric acid.

Flour: Almond Meal, which is just ground almonds, is a great way to avoid wheat in baking. You get the benefit of the nuts and avoid the downsides of using processed, white flour.

Chocolate: 70% Dark Chocolate or higher is always the way to go with chocolate. You don't have to give it up, just go darker for more of the health benefits, which include a good source of antioxidants and vitamins, decreased risk of stroke, and more stabilized blood sugar.

Mixed Farro Salad with Truffle Dressing


Farro, cooked
Dried cranberries
Non-fat feta crumbles
Pistachio nutmeats
Baby broccoli, chopped

For dressing:
White truffle oil
Garlic Aoli Mustard
Olive Oil

1. Cook the farro first, let cool. 

2. Chop the broccoli into bite-size pieces. Combine the rest of ingredients.

3. To make the dressing, combine the mustard and two types of oil. I had to experiment to get exactly the right consistency and flavor. You don't need a lot of truffle oil because it's very potent, but you might need to add more olive oil to get the dressing to be smooth enough to pour over and toss in the salad. 

4. Toss dressing in salad and serve.

Spinach and Artichoke Burgers with Dip


For burger: 
Lean ground turkey meat
Frozen spinach
Dehydrated onions (or chopped fresh)
Garlic powder
Wheat germ (or something equivalent, with the texture of breadcrumbs)
Chopped artichoke hearts OR artichoke bruschetta 
Parmesan Cheese

For Dip/Topping:
Greek yogurt
Garlic powder
Frozen spinach, defrosted
Parmesan Cheese

1. To make the patties, combine all the ingredients until evenly distributed.

2. Heat up a pan with olive oil. Form patties and make sure they aren't too thick so they can cook through. Place in pan.

3. Cover and lower the heat in order to let the patties cook thoroughly. Flip when they turn golden.

4. Make the spinach and artichoke dip topping. Combine ingredients and heat in microwave for about two minutes (be careful not to heat it too long or yogurt will curdle).

5. Top burger with dip, and enjoy!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

How to Eat Meat + Easy Buffalo Chili & Sweet Potato Fries

After so many posts without meat, I thought it was appropriate to write one all about it, especially because it's finals time for many, and this is the best time to eat it! Since meat is such an excellent source of protein, it really boosts brain power and focus, as well as mood. However, there are some rules you should follow when picking and choosing the best meat for yourself.

I know I talk about this all the time, but you should really watch Food Inc. if you want to learn about the meat industry in the US. Most of the standard meat for sale is made from cows, pigs and chicken that are shoved together in one small space, with no room to move and that eat and poop all over each other. I know it sounds graphic, but this is what causes disease like E Coli, which can be deadly.

Additionally, these livestock are being given antibiotics, even if they are healthy. This is done to encourage growth in the animals and make them fattier and meatier. The major problem with this is that it's causing antibiotic resistance in humans. This is a serious issue. We need antibiotics to fight major illnesses, but if we are resistant to them because of their overuse, and because of their prevalence in food, we won't be able to use them to treat serious illnesses when we actually need them.

That being said, here are the rules of thumb for the type of meats you should be buying and consuming to get all of the positive health benefits and non of the negative:


Free Range: These animals are allowed to roam freely on the farm instead of being in a tightly enclosed space with other animals. This keeps the animals healthier from diseases.

Organic: These meats have no pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical or synthetic fertilizers, nitrates, nitrites or preservatives. They are also not treated with hormones, GMOS, or antibiotics. Aka, they are all natural. These additives are stored in the animal's fat, and can cause excess weight gain in humans. You're not only being environmental, but you are helping your body get rid of these toxins when you eat organic meat.

Red Meats:

Grass fed: This type of meat has more Omega 3s as well as Vitamin E. You are also significantly less likely to get E Coli from grass fed animals than from animals fed with grain.

Organic: Same benefits as chicken.


Wild caught: Fish raised in farms live in similar conditions to farm raised animals in enclosed spaces. They are controlled in small pens and contain more fat, antibiotics and toxins than wild caught fish. This is especially important for fish like salmon, who are fed the most antibiotics of all meats in order to prevent them from getting diseases that are swarming around in the sewage-like water of these lakes and ponds. Wild fish, on the other hand, swim freely in the Pacific, in clean water, free of antibiotics and color-enhancers. They are higher in Omega-3s, which help prevent heart disease and boost mood. They also contain less fat than farm raised fish.

This may seem like a lot to ask for, but many restaurants and grocery stores are now selling and serving organic, free-range, grass fed and wild caught meats. Just carefully check labels, and Google some eating out options and it shouldn't be too hard to find. None of the taste is compromised with these practices. In fact, you might find that they taste better.

How often should I eat meat?
I think it really depends on the person, but here is my suggestion for an average individual: Red meat no more than once a week. Fish one to two times a week, but try to have it at least once. Chicken once or twice a week.

Buffalo Chili & Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Sriracha Ketchup

1 lb buffalo meat
1/2 can kidney beans
1 chopped medium onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 large white mushrooms, chopped
10 grape tomatoes, chopped
Chopped red and yellow peppers, to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Chili pepper flakes, to taste

Serves 2 to 3

1. Chop and saute your vegetables in the olive oil. Cook until almost completely ready (onions are translucent, tomatoes are soft).

2. Add in the buffalo meat, on medium to low heat. Buffalo takes less time to cook than beef and needs the medium to low temperature to cook correctly. You can cook the meat to how you like it, and many like it medium. I cooked it a little longer just to be safe, and it was still incredibly flavorful, as buffalo meat generally is. I cooked the meat for about 3 to 4 minutes. 

3. Add the balsamic vinegar, beans, and chili pepper flakes. Let the meat stand for a couple of minutes before serving to maximize the taste. 

Serve over grain of choice, if desired. I had mine with barley, and it was hearty and filling. Quinoa is another great option (of course).

Buffalo is a great alternative to beef. It's really simple to cook and extremely flavorful on its own. I didn't have to add anything heavy to this recipe to make it flavorful, and I didn't have any of the traditional spices for a chili, but it was still very, very tasty. In terms of health benefits, buffalo has less fat and less cholesterol than beef.

For fries: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Chop sweet potato into fry-sized slices. Grease a baking sheet with olive oil and place the sweet potato fries apart so they aren't touching each other. You can drizzle a little bit of olive oil on top of the fries, if you desire. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until crispy. Keep your eye on them, because bake times can range depending on your oven. Mine is weak, so it takes longer. Serve with ketchup and Sriracha, mixed (about two parts ketchup, one part Sriracha). 

Bon Apetit!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Health Q&A + A Seasonal Harvest Breakfast

My friend Emily interviewed me for her class about healthy living, and I thought it would be interesting to post for everyone to see. It's just some quick advice and tidbits about living a healthy lifestyle. If you have any suggestions or questions of your own, feel free to post them in the comments!

Q: What made you begin your healthy living lifestyle?

A: I have always been raised in a healthy household, but the decision was initially not my choice. For awhile, I rebelled against my mom's enforced foods by eating candy and junk food whenever I could. The true reason I started to eat heathy was because I was paranoid about gaining weight at the end of high school and beginning of college, the time a lot of people start putting on the pounds. Once I started eating well, however, I felt better, and it became a habit for me. The more I got into health, the more I got into food and cooking, and they just kept playing off of each other.

Q: With a primarily plant-based diet, how do you ensure you are getting all of the essential nutrients?

A: A primarily plant-based diet is one composed mainly of plants and whole grains—this includes things like legumes and vegetables and unrefined grains, and excludes things like animal-based products such as meats or cheese. While I do believe a plant based diet is best, I don't believe in completely excluding animal-based products. There are a lot of nutrients and health benefits in animal-based products that aren't found in plant-based products, and they are essential to eat sometimes in order to maintain optimal health. To get all the nutrients I need, I make sure I eat a lot of beans, which are high in protein, and a ton of vegetables and greens. I also eat a lot of nut products including almond milk and almond butter, but it is important to eat fish, chicken and other low-fat animal products a couple times a week.

Q: How do you incorporate fitness in your healthy living? 

A: When I have the free time, I love to do yoga. It's great for the body as well as the mind, and it keeps me fit. I also get lazy, so I like to do pilates, which isn't too hard on the body, but it tones it up. If I really have time, I join the gym and take classes like Barre Core and Zumba. I used to be a dancer, so dance is an effortless way for me to get my cardio in. However, when I'm really busy, which is about half of the year, I get my fitness in by walking. Since I live in New York, I walk almost everywhere, so that keeps me in decent shape. If I'm in LA, I like to take hikes.

Q: How do you come up with your healthy recipes?

A: I spend a lot of time on websites Foodgawker and Pinterest. I find a lot of food blogs, and then I get ideas for recipes. I never usually follow a recipe exactly as is. I just like to get ideas and inspiration, and then I substitute and add things to fit my taste and needs. I also get inspiration from different ethnic cuisines and restaurant food and put my own healthy twist on it. For instance, anything that uses cream, I will substitute Greek Yogurt to make the dish more healthy.

Q: How do you continue to eat healthy foods while on a college student budget?

A: I probably spend more money than the average college student on food, but that is because I cook a lot and always use a ton of vegetables in all my dishes to get a balanced meal. However, healthy foods don't have to be expensive. Beans and grains are cheap. Vegetables can be inexpensive, even if organic, especially if you buy frozen. I buy most of my foods at Trader Joes, which has pretty low prices. Also, cooking for yourself is a lot less expensive than always eating out.

Q: Do you ever splurge on sweets or fatty foods? How does that make you feel?

A: I do sometimes splurge on sweets and fatty foods, and while I do occasionally feel guilty, I think it's important to let yourself enjoy other foods. If not, you end up with all these built up cravings from depriving yourself, and you will end up indulging in a lot more than would if you just gave in initially. All things in moderation. No one should deprive themselves of things completely. Plus, you have to listen to your body. Sometimes you need a little sugar boost.

Q: Do you have any tips for someone who eats unhealthily and might want to make a diet change?

A: I would say that the first thing to do is to educate yourself. Start reading about processed and refined foods, trans fat and excess sugar, and the way our meat is raised in our industry (and if you don't feel like reading, watch some documentaries like Food Inc or Supersize Me). Once you start learning about how unnatural these things are, and what they do to your body and overall health, I guarantee you will be less excited about eating them. 

Next, I would say realize you don't have to sacrifice taste for health. There are plenty of ways to make things taste good using ingredients that are good for you. Last, it's all about getting over that initial hump of the sugar, salt and fat addiction. These foods mess with our brain wiring and cause us to crave them all the time, but only when we are eating them. Once you cut them out, you stop craving them, and you will instead crave healthy, natural food. But just like any other addiction, the initial battle is the hardest!

Poached Eggs Over a Harvest Scramble

(amounts are ESTIMATED)
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped sweet potatoes
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 1/2 cups kale
1/2 apple, chopped
1 tsp walnuts
2 eggs
1 tbsp olive oil 

1. Chop your vegetables. Crack your eggs very carefully into a ramekin or shallow bowl, being very careful not to break the yolk.

2. In a large skillet, heat up olive oil. In a deep pan, boil one to two inches of water. 

3. Saute vegetables in the pan with the oil. While they are cooking, start poaching your eggs. Turn the water down just slightly, so that the water is barely boiling. You can stir the water just before to cool it down. Very carefully slide the eggs into the water, one at a time, by placing the bowl partially into the water and letting the egg slide out. If the yolk breaks off, the water isn't hot enough. (For more tips on poaching an egg, click here).

4. Let eggs cook for 3-5 minutes, and then remove with a slotted spoon, letting the water drip out. Serve eggs over vegetable scramble, and top with walnuts.

Poaching an egg is hard, and I am still getting the hang of it myself! Don't get discouraged. If this is too difficult for you, try eating this dish with eggs sunny side up.

This is a low-fat and low-calorie breakfast filled with protein, healthy fats, and a good portion of vegetables and fruit. If you are worried about cholesterol, or aren't in the mood for such a large breakfast, just use one egg instead.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fall Breakfast + Brain Boosters

This week, I was fortunate enough to come back home to LA for Thanksgiving weekend and spend time with my family. The first morning back, I decided to cook breakfast, and I chose two dishes I had never done before. With fall comes a lot of good produce and seasonal vegetables, and one of my favorites is pumpkin! I've been meaning to make some healthy pancakes, and I thought it would be nice to make them using this autumn squash. I needed to accompany the pancakes with a healthy protein, so I turned to eggs. I make eggs almost every single day, but I've never made a proper frittata, so I thought while I had the kitchen space and resources, I would give it a go.

While brainstorming possible nutrition ideas, it came to me that a lot of the ingredients I used in this super-breakfast are good brain boosting foods. I've been spending a lot of time researching the effects foods have on the brain, as this is a large part of my journalism senior thesis. Few people realize the impact of what we put in our mouths and how it controls our moods and the way we behave. Luckily, the ingredients in this breakfast promote alertness, happiness and calmness. This is a breakfast that pleases the senses, as well as the mind!

Power of Pancakes:

Oats: Oatmeal provides our brains with sustained fuel power with a healthy, natural boost of glucose. Eating oatmeal rather than sugary foods prevents a sudden spike and drop in blood sugar, and it instead provides a steady few hours of brain power. Oatmeal also fights anxiety and fatigue with its level of magnesium. 

Dark Chocolate (72%): Dark cocoa is also a brain booster, containing a large percentage of flavonoids that preserve cognitive abilities in the brain such as memory. It is also a mood booster, bolstering positive mood with the release of endorphins. 

Pumpkin: Aside from the other health benefits of pumpkin (immune system booster, antioxidant, rich source of fiber), it's a natural energy boost, with an even higher potassium level than bananas. 

Coconut Oil: Coconut oil has a plethora of health benefits, one of them being a brain booster due to the brain's alternative fuel, ketone bodies, being present in medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil. Additionally, the lauric acid in this beneficial saturated fat releases a gut hormone that reduces sadness.

Milk: Milk can help improve memory, as well as improve mood. The calcium levels reduce stress and anxiety, and the tryptophan present increases serotonin, which elevates mood.

Feel Good Frittata:

Eggs: Eggs are both strong brain boosters and mood boosters! Vitamins D and B12 increase levels of serotonin, a mood elevator, and the vitamins also help enhance memory. Eggs are also high in omega-3s, the ultimate mood booster.

Tomatoes: High in lycopene, folate and magnesium, tomatoes enhance mood and lower depression, and they also promote an alert mind and memory function.

Rosemary: Rosemary is a powerful and pungent herb that can improve brain performance as well as boost mood, presumably through the chemical compounds in its oil.

Onions: Onions also boost our brain's memory power, and they help prevent degenerative diseases such as stroke from its antioxidants. Onions are also rich in chromium, which boosts mood.

Garlic: Garlic is a blood thinner, which increases blood flow to the brain and increases its functions. The extracts in garlic have also been shown to increase cognitive functioning, which includes increased memory and stronger ability to complete tasks.

Spinach: Spinach is filled with folic acid and magnesium, two depression-blasting nutrients. The folic acid in spinach also protects neurons in the brain. 

Recipes under the cut!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

What I Ate During Hurricane Sandy

Sorry again for the all the delays in posts, it's been a pretty crazy month. I've been really sick, and then we got hit with the hurricane, and I lost power for 5 days. It was inconvenient, but my roommate Sara and I still managed to have a little fun with it, and we went old school and cooked by candlelight. During the four days we were still here, before we ran out of refrigerated food and escaped to Boston, we cooked all our meals using the frozen and refrigerated foods before they went bad. I tried to take as many pictures as I could, so enjoy this compilation of some of my Hurricane Sandy meals.

Before the power went out:

Poached Egg over Swiss, Avocado, Tomatoes and Spinach over Whole Wheat Toast:

My first attempt at a poached egg! I used Mark Bittman's directions here, and it's a lot harder than it looks! I lost a little bit of my yolk, I think because my water wasn't hot enough after I turned it down. I'm going to have to attempt it again sometime soon. 

Lemony Quinoa and Kale Salad

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Truth About Organic + A Baked Egg

To buy organic or to not buy organic? That is the question, and it is a hotly debated one.

A Stanford study that came out in September found that organic foods were no more "nutritious" than non-organic foods. The study suggested it was not necessary to purchase organic products.

Hold on-was that ever the point of buying organic? The answer to that is no, it's not the point. Organic fruits and vegetables aren't supposed to be "healthier" in the sense that they provide more vitamins and minerals. They're healthier because the fruits and vegetables don't have pesticides on them, the meats aren't filled with harmful antibiotics, the food isn't genetically modified.

We don't know the risks of pesticide exposure, so why take a chance? Studies have shown that pesticides can be carcinogenic. GMOs have also been found to be carcinogenic and unsafe to the environment. And there's a long list of reasons why antibiotics aren't safe, including increased antibiotic resistance, which leads to an emergence of bacteria that we can't fight off.

I've provided two great reads, by my two favorite food advocates, if you are interested in why it's important to buy organic, despite what the Stanford study says.

Mark BittmanThat Flawed Stanford Study

Marion Nestle: Are organics more nutritious? Again? Sigh.

So what are the foods that are really important to buy organic? Here are the rules of thumb:

Anything you eat the outside of: Apples, berries, leafy greens, potatoes, etc. Pretty much any fruit or vegetable that you ingest the entire thing, including the outside.

Animal Products: Organic meats don't have any antibiotics or added hormones. They are allowed to range freely, and if you've seen Food Inc. (and if you haven't, I highly suggest you do), you'll know how important it is that these animals aren't stepping all over each other and aren't living in their own manure.

Milk: Like organic meat, organic milk products have no added hormones.

It is not necessary to buy organic avocados, bananas and other fruits or vegetables with a peel or outer protection. The pesticides don't infiltrate these outer surfaces, so there's no need to spend the extra money on organic.

Baked Eggs
I love my eggs in the morning, and baked eggs are a great way to switch up the monotony of omelettes,  scrambles and sunny side-ups.

1 Egg 
Egg Whites (as needed)
4 grape Tomatoes
Kale and Arugula (or spinach)
1 Garlic clove
2 Mushrooms of choice
Trader Joes 3 cheese low fat blend (or cheese of choice)

Goat Cheese
Ground Flax Meal

1. Preheat your oven (or toaster oven) to 375 degrees Farenheit.

2. Crack your egg into an oven safe bowl. Add some egg whites to thicken, if desired. I sprinkle a little bit of cheese on top to layer. 

3. Chop your vegetables, then saute them in a pan. I use a handful of each, and like to put a lot of greens in mine.

4. Pour the vegetables on top of the egg, and pat down with your spatula.

5. Top with cheese. You can choose to bake here if you wish, but to add some nutrition, and taste, I like to add ground flax meal and rosemary on top as well. Sometimes I also like to add a bit of goat cheese, or I substitute the goat for cheddar blend. The ground flax tastes like breadcrumbs and provides you with omega-3s and extra fiber to keep you full.

6. Bake for ABOUT 20 minutes. Check up on your egg by using a fork and making sure the white part of the egg has cooked through and isn't runny. That's how you know it's ready.

Eat up! The egg doesn't look as pretty here since I went a little crazy with the flax and rosemary (and took a couple of bites :) ), but it sure is tasty, and if you don't want flax, don't put it!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Wonderful World of Savory Oatmeal

The Wonderful World of Savory Oatmeal

I'm sure you've all eaten oatmeal before, whether it be covered in strawberries or sprinkled with chocolate chips. But there's more to oatmeal that you probably don't tastes amazing prepared savory.

I know it sounds odd, but it's only because we are so used to preparing oatmeal sweet. Oats don't have a naturally sweet flavor, just like rice or any other grain, and they can be prepared the same way you would a rice dish, using predominantly salty flavors. Now that I've discovered this trick, I've been making savory oatmeal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's a quick healthy meal!

Why using oats is a healthy choice:
  • Contains no arsenic like rice does
  • Lowers your cholesterol/helps prevent heart disease
  • High in fiber
  • Keeps you full, stabilizes your blood sugar levels, and controls your appetite hormones
  • Great for weight loss
Savory Oatmeal Recipes:

Mexican: Just substitute the oatmeal for rice. Use beans, cheese, tomatoes or salsa, avocado and hot sauce, and top with Greek Yogurt as a substitute for sour cream.

Gooey "Pasta": Sometimes I use oatmeal when I'm craving a big bowl of pasta. I'll put in the vegetables and greens I usually put into my pasta (spinach, arugula or kale) along with zucchini, mushrooms, and onions with some tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. I'll add some Greek Yogurt to this too, just as I do with my pasta, to add some protein filled creaminess.

"Canadian" Breakfast: Instead of Canadian bacon, I use chicken apple sausage, and I top the dish with cheddar cheese, and a (small) splash of maple syrup. If you are feeling adventurous, you can chop up some green onion and throw it in for a more savory flavor. This dish is a great mix of sweet and savory, inspired by a cool oatmeal bar in Greenwich Village called Oatmeals.

I've made these three in the past few weeks, but you can play around! Think of the flavors you like together, and mix them with oatmeal. Make a Caprese with tomatoes, homemade pesto and some mozzarella cheese and balsamic vinegar. Or substitute oatmeal for rice and make a garlic mushroom "risotto." The options are endless!

Garlic Lemon Italian Style Oatmeal "Risotto"
Chopped onions
Chopped garlic, 2 cloves (or to taste)
Chopped tomato
Chopped mushroom
Grated parmesan cheese
1/2 small lemon, to squeeze
(I used Old Fashioned oats, which was actually really good, but if you want more of a fine risotto texture, use steel cut, which take a bit longer to cook)

 1. Heat up your oatmeal first, whether it be in the microwave (quickest and easiest for old-fashioned) or in the pot (best for steel-cut. I bought the quick cook kind, which saves lots of time).

2. While your oatmeal is cooking, chop up your vegetables. Then sauté in a pan with some olive oil.

3. Once your vegetables are cooked, either pour them into your oatmeal and mix, or pour the oatmeal into the pan with the rest of the ingredients. Sometimes it's nice to add the oatmeal to the pan so that the vegetables mix more thoroughly and so that any flavor that is sitting in the pan gets absorbed by the oatmeal.

4. Grate your parmesan cheese. Squeeze the lemon into your oatmeal, and top/mix with parmesan cheese.

Hope you become a savory oatmeal convert, and let me know if you think of any creative combos!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Dangers of Arsenic in Rice + Sweet Potato Pasta with Crispy Kale

The Dangers of Arsenic in Rice + Sweet Potato Pasta with Crispy Kale Brown Rice and Arsenic:
Before I begin this wonderful recipe, I have to rant about rice. If you haven't heard, A recent study has shown that the rice produced in the United States has high levels of arsenic, a carcinogen. Great. And to make matters worse, brown rice has higher levels than white, since the grain is less refined.

It infuriates me to think that even when you eat the right foods, you could still be ingesting harmful carcinogens because of the way our food is grown. Our country needs to work on food policies ASAP.

Anyway, from here on out I'm going to limit my intake of brown rice and brown rice products (yes, that means brown rice pasta, which was shown to have pretty high levels of arsenic compared to some other rice products). I'm going to try to include more varied grains into my diet, like quinoa and barley. If you do continue to eat brown rice, rinse it thoroughly!

If you are ever wondering what to make with sweet potatoes, try putting it with pasta or in a salad. There are a ton of recipes out there with kale and pasta, so why not make it healthier by adding in some vitamin-rich sweet potatoes.I used brown rice pasta in the recipe below, but I think it would be wise to use whole wheat pasta instead.

This recipe requires some multitasking, just a warning!

Sweet Potato Pasta with Crispy Kale
Whole Wheat Fusilli
One Sweet Potato
A handful of kale
Chopped garlic
Chopped onions
Chopped tomatoes
Parmesan cheese, grated
Milk (optional, I didn't use it)

 Step 1: Boil the sweet potatoes until they are soft. This should take about 20 minutes.

Step 2: While potatoes are boiling, put kale in the oven to bake. I baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes, and I put a little bit of oil on the baking pan first.

Step 3: Start boiling your water for the pasta, and add when ready.

Step 4: Start chopping your ingredients, then saute. Grate the cheese as well.Your potatoes should be ready to be drained at this point. You can mash them in a separate bowl with a fork, or just add them straight to your pan with the other sauteed ingredients and mash it with a spatula.

Step 5: At this point your kale should be done. Take it out, then mix your drained pasta with the sweet potato sauce. If you want the sauce a little creamier, add a splash of milk and heat for a minute or two.

Step 6: Sprinkle the kale on top of the pasta along with the cheese, and eat up!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Spicy Asian Mango Quinoa with Chicken Wontons

 How to pronounce this grain-like seed: 

Many people don't know what quinoa is, or they're afraid to try it. Although the taste and texture might take some getting used to, quinoa can be prepared in tons of different ways, so if you don't like it upon first eat, don't give up.

The beauty of quinoa is that it's a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids. That being said, when you mix quinoa with beans or chicken, you get a pretty filling meal. Quinoa is low in gluten and is filled with tons of other essential nutrients like iron, fiber, Vitamin B, potassium, magnesium and zinc. It's a low cholesterol complex carbohydrate that has twice the amount of calcium as whole wheat and less fat than a typical grain.

Isn't quinoa wonderful? I cook with quinoa a lot, so I'll be posting a lot of recipes, but my favorite ways to experiment with quinoa are by mixing it with a ton of chopped vegetables. It also tastes great with lemon or tomato sauce, and I've even made quinoa pizza bites before.

This is my first time trying this recipe, and it was really easy and filling! I think I would add garlic next time though, for a little bit more flavor. I decided to add mango since I had the frozen chopped Trader Joes kind already in my freezer. I thought it added a nice touch.

Spicy Asian Mango Quinoa With Chicken Wontons 


1/2 Cup Quinoa 

(I prepared a full cup but only used half. If you are cooking for more people other than yourself, use a full, or more).

A couple green onions, chopped

Chopped white or yellow onions

Chopped mushrooms (I used shiitake)

Chopped garlic (I used powder, but I think it's more flavorful with fresh)

Chopped mango

5 Chicken Wontons/Gyoza
(I used the frozen kind from Trader Joes.)


1. Cook the quinoa first. There should be directions on the box, but if not, use two cups of water for one cup of quinoa.

If you want more flavor, you can also cook with chicken stock or vegetable stock instead of water.

Combine both the quinoa and the water in a pot and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce to a simmer and cover, cooking for about 15 minutes.

(Although just as I don't measure, I don't really follow time. I just look to see if it looks ready. The water should be gone and the quinoa should be soft and fluffy).

2. Chop your vegetables while the quinoa is cooking.

3. Sauté the veggies in a pan. The white onions should be soft and translucent.

4. Heat up your wontons. The ones I used only take a minute and a half in the microwave.

5. Once the quinoa is ready, combine everything! I combined it in the pan, because it's big and some of the flavor sits at the bottom, but you can combine in a bowl as well.

6. Put on hot sauce, as desired. I liked mine spicy, and it actually went really well with the mango and gave the dish a good kick.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Best Groceries for Healthy Eating + A Mediterranean Breakfast Pizza

The Best Groceries for Healthy Eating and A Mediterranean Breakfast Pizza

Thanks for all the positive feedback on the blog! It makes me even more excited to keep writing when I know that you guys are enjoying it.

This week, I was talking to my friend from school, Emily, who was telling me that she wanted to get started with cooking, but she didn't know what ingredients to buy. This inspired me to write a post on what I consider essential ingredients to have at all times to make the most versatile, flavorful and healthful dishes.

My Essential Grocery List For Healthy Eating:


It's really important to include complex carbohydrates in your diet. Studies have shown that the Atkins Diet is actually bad for your heart, so buy some whole wheat/whole grain carbs, and enjoy them guiltlessly, just don't go overboard. However, I don't mean white, refined and processed grains. Those are an absolute no-no. White grains=sugar=fat=diseases! Only go for brown, whole grain or whole wheat products.
  • Brown Rice: Great to have around because you can throw anything in it, and you can put it in salads. Quinoa can also be used.
  • Whole wheat items: Whole wheat bread, whole wheat tortilla, whole wheat pasta (although I prefer brown-rice pasta, which is gluten-free for all you Celiacs).
  • Beans: My favorites, and most versatile, are black and garbanzo. And I love lentils. Beans are a great source of non-animal protein (they won't raise your cholesterol), a great source of fiber, and they are really cheap! They're only about $2 a can.

Vegetables are my favorite food group. They make any boring dish exciting, and they are also the healthiest (low calories, high vitamins and fiber). This means I can eat lots and lots of vegetables without ever worrying! For those of you with lachanophobia (fear of vegetables, new word!), it's probably because you haven't been preparing them right. You don't have to eat them plain to enjoy their benefits. Vegetables add a lot of flavor to food, and you have to eat them in order to be healthy, so you might as well make them tasty. 
  • Onions: I am extremely liberal with my onions. I use them in anything I can because they're so damn flavorful. Onions help ward off diseases like diabetes, osteoporosis and cancer. 
  • Tomatoes: Good for every style dish (Italian, Mediterranean, Mexican, Californian etc.). 
  • Greens: Kale, spinach, arugula, you name it! The darker the better (nutrition-wise, but taste-wise in my opinion also).
  • Lemon: Vitamin C! But also great to use as a flavoring for rice dishes, pasta, and salads. It keeps you from using fatty sauces or dressings.
  • Garlic: Adding garlic to anything immediately makes it taste better. Garlic also has tons of health benefits. It boosts your immune system, regulates blood sugar levels, lowers blood pressure... the list goes on.
  • Hot Sauce: This one's not for everyone, but I personally live for hot sauce, and I think it can add a lot of flavor to your food, even if you just add a splash!
  • Olive Oil: One of those good fats everyone is telling you to eat. I mainly cook with it, but it's also good for salads. Use it in moderate quantities to be heart healthy!
  • Eggs: I'm a strong advocate for eggs. There has been a lot of controversy about eggs and cholesterol, but the general scientific consensus is, if you have no cholesterol issues, an egg a day is extremely beneficial to your overall health. Eggs with Omega-3s will also boost your mood! Great source of protein, low in calories and really easy to switch up. I eat one almost every morning (or I'll sometimes have egg whites). 
  • Cheese: My guilty pleasure. I usually go for low-fat cheeses, or cheeses in small(ish) quantities. There have been studies done that people who ate small amounts of cheese lost more weigh than those on a same calorie diet with no cheese. 
  • Greek Yogurt: If you haven't had Greek Yogurt yet, START NOW. Although it is really tasty as a yogurt, especially with fruit, I rarely use it as just a yogurt. It works great as a substitute for heavy cream, mayos and sour cream. I'll add it to pasta sauce, use it in a Mexican dish, or make my own dressing, sauce or dip with it. Greek Yogurt is amazing!

I think that covers it. I could also add Oatmeal to the list. If you're not eating eggs for breakfast, then I would definitely suggest oatmeal. I have also recently fallen in love with savory oatmeal, and I have been using it as replacement for rice or pasta, but I'll do a separate post on that later!

Keep in mind, I consider all these foods the basics. Supplement your kitchen with other vegetables, mixed grains, healthy snacks like popcorn, and try to have chicken and fish once or twice a week.

Now onto the yummy stuff. This dish is one of my favorite easy breakfast recipes. If you are all out of healthy breakfast ideas, why not try a pizza! What is a healthy breakfast? For starters, it should have a good amount of protein and fiber to keep you full throughout the day. It should also be your biggest meal of the day, as you will burn the most calories after eating it, since you have the full day ahead.

The best part about this healthy breakfast is that it incorporates the healthiest diet--according to scientific research--the Mediterranean diet. And what is a Mediterranean diet? It's one that includes heavy intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, and fish, with moderate intakes of cheese and other meats. 

Recipe of the Day! Mediterranean Breakfast Pizza
(inspired by my dear mother)


100% Whole Wheat Middle Eastern Flat Bread (Trader Joes)

A couple of grape tomatoes, cut up

Chopped Onions

A handful of kale

Mushrooms, cut up

Cheese (I used Trader Joes Low Fat 3 Cheese blend and Fat Free Feta)

1 Egg

1. I began by sprinkling the 3 cheese blend over the flat bread (I usually like to spread goat cheese on it instead, but I didn't have any this time.)

2. Then after the vegetables were all chopped, I put them on the flatbread and stuck it in the toaster oven. I usually put the kale down first and carefully place the rest on top.

I originally put it in at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, but I think you could go up to 375 or 400. I left it in for about 15 minutes, give or take 5 minutes depending on the strength of your oven.

I know it's ready when the kale is a little bit crispy, the onions are soft and the cheese is bubbling.

3. While the flatbread is baking, fry an egg!

4. Once the flatbread is ready, plop the egg on top, and you're all done! I like to keep the yolk runny, but of course you do as you like!

I like this dish because it keeps me full for awhile, and it's really balanced. You get protein from the egg and cheese, and the complex carbs and fiber from the flatbread keeps me full for much longer than if I eat just an egg dish. Plus, there are a ton of vegetables and greens on it for added fiber and vitamins, but the best part is, it tastes delicious!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Yes, I have started a food blog. I know everyone and their mother has one, and that it's super annoying when people document every ounce of food they put into their mouth. 

But this is because food is such an integral part of our lives. What people don’t realize is that food fuels not just our bodies, but our mental  state, our mood, our brain capacity, our energy, our overall well being. 

This isn't just a "here's what I ate and here's how I cooked it" kind of blog. I’ve recently become very interested in health and nutrition. Actually, not just interested, obsessed. I’ve always loved to cook, but when I got to college, it turned into a passion. I cook almost every single meal I eat, and by cook, I don’t mean heat up some pasta and throw some sauce over it. I chop vegetables, cook, steam, bake, grate. I put a lot of thought into every meal. Cooking is my therapy. It’s an art. I look at recipes, but mainly for ideas and guidance. I read every health and nutrition article I can get my hands on, and I love to share the information I find. 

Now that I’m a senior in college, and in the uncomfortable position of having to pick a path in life, I’ve found myself integrating my two favorite things: food and writing. I’m currently the Health Intern at Seventeen Magazine, and I am writing my honors journalism capstone on food and the brain. I thought it would be nice to complement my research and reporting, and my incessant cooking, with a blog where I’ll post what I cook and create, but also the latest health news and interesting facts about nutrition. 

A few disclaimers: I like to improvise. A lot. Which means I don’t really measure things, so I apologize in advance if I can’t specifically break down proportions for you, but generally that’s not really what’s important anyway. Toss in what you like, take out what you don’t, and I promise you it will still taste good. 

Not everything I make looks pretty or sounds good, especially because I use solely healthy ingredients (no butter, no white starches, no cream, etc.). But it’s pretty tasty. I’ve gotten really good at making healthy things taste delicious (ask my younger brother who LIVES for fast food but manages to eat everything I make for him). I’m a decent chef ;)

Last thing, I’m not a vegetarian, per say, but I generally cook vegetarian dishes because I’m a huge fan of grains, legumes and vegetables. I eat mostly a whole grain, plant based diet, with the occasional fish and chicken, mayyyybe pork on occasion. I don’t eat beef because it makes me feel sick, and this is the general diet I will be advocating (based on lots and lots of research on what’s healthiest for you). I just hope to inspire (and educate!) people to eat healthy but enjoy what they eat!

Anyway, I thought I’d end the post on a simple lunch I made today. I’ll call it:

End of Summer Salad

Non Fat Feta Cheese
Green Onions
Artichoke Hearts
Balsamic Vinegar (I used Rosemary Balsamic, yum!)
Olive Oil

Nothing too crazy. I just chopped it all up and tossed it in the oil and vinegar, but it was yummy and light, and really easy to make! Lentils are amazing, and they're really healthy for you (really high protein, dietary fiber, B vitamins, iron). Trader Joes (where I buy the majority of my food) has a really great package with precooked lentils that you can use hot or cold. 

Enjoy :)