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.