Sunday, February 6, 2011

Left Brain, Right Brain

Image from Wikimedia Commons
I didn't think that my diet would undergo any major changes upon beginning culinary school, as I assumed that my background in nutrition had well-equipped me with the knowledge to determine a healthful diet for myself and others. Boy, was I wrong. While I pored over calories and grams of proteins, fats, and carbs, DRIs and RDAs of vitamins and minerals, dietary guidelines for each of the food groups, I put all of my faith in the science of nutrition while completely neglecting the bigger picture: the food and the experience of food. Over the past century, remarkable discoveries have been made that allow us to fully comprehend the breakdown and building up of the body in regard to the physical and chemical makeup of the food we eat. The further we delve into the scientific processes, the more obsessed we become with the individual parts (i.e. saturated fat, carbohydrates, cholesterol, omega 3s, vitamin D, fiber...), and the more removed we become from our food. This left-brained approach to food is detrimental and has lead to the overwhelming amounts of refined, processed, fortified, irradiated, pasteurized, packaged commercial food products that fill the shelves of America's grocery stores and is now viewed as food, although it is far from it. While we are caught up rationalizing and measuring (reduced fat this, added fiber that), the actions of the right side of the brain such as synthesis, emotion, and intuition are undervalued. So, instead of spending our time calorie counting and vitamin popping, let's choose our food wisely, slowly and purposefully, share it with loving friends and family, look at it, smell it, and chew it before swallowing it. I am making a pledge now to do just that. I will eat whole, fresh, organic, local, seasonal, real, unprocessed, non-irradiated food that is free from genetic modification and in harmony with tradition. First step, out goes the skim milk fortified with vitamins A and D and in comes the unhomogenized, cream-on-top, whole milk from Ronnybrook that's what I'm talking about!

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Clean and Wholesome Food"

Today was my first day in the Chef's Training Program at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health & Culinary Arts, and I left feeling comforted and inspired by all of the talk of "clean and wholesome food," as several of the instructors described the school's philosophy. I left class with a boost of kitchen-confidence and a hankering for the farro and squash dish that I recently saw posted on one of my favorite blogs, Coconut & Quinoa. Regardless of the freezing cold weather here in NYC (6 degrees...eek!), my innards were instantly warmed from this whole grain salad, served over wilted swiss chard greens. I have to admit, the glass of Cabernet Sauvignon helped take the tingle from my toes a bit too...

Try this recipe! It was extremely easy and quick (altogether about 45 minutes). Perfect for a dinner for one (or more, if you are lucky to have the company!), and I am looking forward to the leftovers...yum. If your store doesn't stock kabocha squash, try substituting a smaller-sized butternut, like I did. Enjoy! 

warm farro roasted squash salad

serves 4

¼ medium kabocha squash, cut in ¼ inch slices
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup farro (semi perlato) or emmer, soaked overnight in filtered water
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 bunch of swiss chard, stems removed
2 tablespoons spiced pumpkin seeds
6 oz goat milk feta
4 teaspoons reduced balsamic vinegar, see recipe below

preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.

place squash, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper on a parchment lined baking sheet and toss to combine. place in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring half way. remove from oven when they are beginning to brown. set aside.

drain farro, place in a small saucepan with 3 cups of filtered water and bring to a boil. lower heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until they are tender. if you’re using emmer it will take about 1 to 1 ½ hours to cook and you may need to add more water too. drain well and return to pot, add chickpeas, remaining tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper and the roasted squash. place saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring every couple of minutes while you wilt the chard.

rinse chard leaves and place in a skillet over high heat, turning with tongs until leaves begin to wilt. reduce heat to low and cover for one minute. remove lid and stir until all leaves are deep green and wilted.

divide onto 4 plates a top with about ¾ cup farro mixture. crumble feta on top, sprinkle each salad with pumpkin seeds and drizzle with 1 teaspoon of reduced balsamic vinegar.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.

Image from
 I saw a commercial the other day for an organization called Oceana which works to protect the world's oceans, that grabbed my attention, first, by the sight of actor Adrian Grenier in a wet suit, and then by the mention of the rapidly diminishing Bluefin tuna population. I am sure that you heard some talk of the high levels of mercury found in fish such as Chilean Seabass, or talk of illegal and unsustainable fishing as reasoning for avoiding some seafood. Oh boy, another controversial food group that is cause for more confusion or guilt while dining out or grocery shopping and more reason to throw the towel in and disregard all talk of such touchy food topics while eating as you please. Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, leave it to a simple text message to sort out the information for you. Next time you are at a restaurant or standing in line at the seafood counter at the market, whip out your phone and text the Blue Ocean Institute's "Fish Phone" at 30644 to get the straight answer to whether or not the beautiful pink tuna steak behind the glass is just as harmless as it looks. Just text "fish" followed by the species (Ex: fish bluefin tuna) and, immediately, a response will dish out the latest alerts for that particular fish, and also give you the option to receive additional updates by replying "BLUE".

"; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (RED); all three populations overfished with very low abundance due to ineffective management; Env Defense Fund Advisory: high mercury; Reply BLUE for txt message updates"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Stir-Fry, Not Deep Fry!

stir-fry is a great go-to dish to whip up when you are hankering for a hearty and flavorful, yet light and refreshing, meal in the depths of the winter cold. at the same time, use up all of those seemingly random vegetables that are on the verge of going bad! experiment with different flavors, but try to always incorporate a yummy protein, and serve it over a toothsome whole grain. get out some cutting boards, invite the girls over, pour some red wine, and get chopping! here is my latest stir-fry favorite; send me yours!

serves 4

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or try sesame or peanut oils for a nutty flavor!)
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 cups broccolini florets and stems
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 black radish, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups sugar snap peas
2 whole carrots, shredded (break out that Swissmar peeler!)
crushed red pepper flakes
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled (scrape with fork to remove skin) and thinly sliced
2 eggs

1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
soy sauce
2 cups cooked brown rice

heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a large sautee pan. brown garlic in oil. turn up heat to medium, and brown mushrooms. add veggies, one at a time, to allow for browning and adding a pinch of salt with each addition. when veggies are tender and brown, flavor with crushed red pepper and ginger. form a hole in the center and crack two eggs into the hole, break the yolks, and scramble to cook through. now, stir it up! enjoy over brown rice, sprinkle with chopped peanuts and a bit of soy sauce. yum.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

You say "potato"...I say "sweet potato!"

Image from
You may have heard through the grapevine that sweet potatoes are better for your health than regular potatoes, "but why?" you may ask. Although not a single thought besides "YUM" crossed my mind while I scarfed down a big baked one at lunch today, a full belly and a guilt-free conscience later, I found myself questioning this tuber's superior makeup over a plain old Yukon Gold or Idaho. I have long been a proponent of the sweet potato over the regular, for purely sensory reasons:  the color is vibrant, the sweetness is unmatched, and they make for incredible fries (especially with a spicy mayo dip like the one you can find at the downtown Detroit restaurant Traffic Jam & Snug, the site of the beginning of this love affair of mine). Although these characteristics (color, taste, etc.) may not seem to be connected to the nutrient makeup of the vegetable, they are directly connected to it, judging by the actual vitamin and mineral content reported by my go-to website for nutrition facts, NutritionData.

Let's take a closer look...

We will compare a medium regular potato to a large sweet potato, as sweet potatoes are smaller by nature (or, perhaps, because the US needs to maintain its status as the largest exporter of potato products--french fries, chips, flour--worldwide...). Anyway, these servings equal to about 180 grams, or just under 1 cup of potato. So, comparatively, both varieties of potato contain the same caloric ratio of carbohydrate (92%) to fat (6%) to protein (7%) and, therefore, provide the same amount of calories per serving (160 calories). But, that is where the similarities end.

Alright, here comes the big answer...

Sweet potatoes pack in more fiber (6 grams versus 4 grams) causing a higher fullness factor, a lower glycemic load (15 versus 17) keeping your blood sugar levels more stable, are strongly anti-inflammatory (versus the moderate inflammation caused by a regular potato), and provide over two times the vitamin C content (59% versus 28%) and a whopping 692% of the recommended daily value of vitamin A, while the potato lacks this vitamin altogether. Unfortunately, there is a flip side which I alluded to earlier regarding the taste. Although its natural sugars make for a great alternative to the sugar that makes your favorite cookies taste so darn good, the sweetness does not come without a price, as each serving contains 12 grams of sugar (10 grams more than a regular potato). Likewise, the sodium content is higher, as well.

So, there you go. The nutritional breakdown of two seemingly similar vegetables with shockingly different nutritional makeups. You decide which one to reach for on the baked potato bar next time but, if you go for the sweet ones, you can rest in peace (full and orange) knowing that you have countered inflammation and done your eyesight a favor all in one. I don't know about you, but I'm sticking with my sweet ones!

Learn more about the potato and how the US rakes in more than $180 million each year on its products here.

Monday, January 3, 2011

QUICK TIP: Creating the perfect salad!

As you may have all guessed...I am NOT a fan of high-fat salad dressings, for more reasons than one. Although some are delectable and, sometimes, necessary to curb a craving (ehem, Maurice Salad), you should be seeking to get the most out of the flavor of the toppings. I like to use several different cooking techniques for individual toppings (i.e. sauteeing, roasting, grilling) and employ fun kitchen utensils to create a multitude of textures! I highly recommend forking over the $15 to purchase a set of three Swissmar peelers which allow you to make ribbons of carrots and quickly julienne cucumbers, zucchini, and beets. Caramelized onions always provide a savory dimension to the dish, and the olive oil that you use to cook them in can provide a nice simple dressing. If the salad is an entree, incorporate some protein by tossing in some beans...I prefer "meaty" butter beans in a salad with feta cheese and roasted red peppers, or black beans in a salad with sauteed corn and avocado. Toasted nuts and seeds are also another great source of protein and healthy fats, but make sure that you don't go overboard...stick to a a couple of tablespoons or less. As for the dressing, a tip from Momma Russell is a foolproof trick: roast halved cherry or grape tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and spices at 400 degrees in the oven until caramelized and juicy. Toss the tomatoes with their juices into a salad right before serving for a warm and flavorful addition to a basic green salad! I try to incorporate a salad into every day to be sure that I meet the recommended three servings of vegetables a day. Get creative, have fun, and eat up!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Food Lover's Cleanse for a Happy New Year!

Since the first day of the year should just be considered a day of rest after all of the holiday indulgences reached a climax, MY new year starts today! Although I considered formulating a life-altering resolution for the new year, I realized in the process that simply getting back into my pre-holiday season routine will be just the ticket to starting off the new year with a bang. I do have a few goals in mind, however, some short-term (over the next month) and several longer-term (within the next year). In the short-term, I plan to cook up some great meals and have the January issue of Bon Appetit to thank for the inspiration! Check out The Food Lover's Cleanse, listen to the great advice given by my friend, registered dietitian Marissa Lippert (author of The Cheater's Diet), and stay tuned for some simple, fresh, and healthy recipes posted by The Moody Foodie!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

MYTH: "A calorie is a calorie is a calorie."

I was so happy to read about the new Weight Watchers program that was announced a couple of weeks ago, in which the old point system was overhauled, and the whole idea of "a calorie is a calorie is a calorie" was upended. Prior to this change, followers could eat whatever foods they want, as long as they remained within their allotted number of points--based on their body type--for the day or week. Although followers may have been consuming fewer calories than before enrollment in the program, they often forfeited healthy, nutrient-dense foods to "save" for unhealthy, energy-dense foods such as desserts and alcohol.

On the other hand, the new system categorizes fruits and most vegetables as point-free foods. Smart idea! Although fruits and vegetables are low in calories, they are still there (even celery...and just to clarify, there is no such thing as "negative calories"). However, they are full of fiber and water and will fill the stomach with tasty nutrients and minerals, leaving less space for the not-so-healthy (and not-so-filling) food that we Americans love. As nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables fill us up, consuming foods that are high in fats, sugars, salt, and refined carbohydrates trick our bodies into wanting more, more, more! See David Kessler's book The End of Overeating for more on the chemical effect of these foods on the brain, causing overeating.

As Weight Watchers has allowed for so many Americans to get on track to a healthier weight, I hope it has the same great influence under its new program, as it allows for greater awareness of nutrition and the importance of a balanced diet. Hooray!

Read about the new PointPlus program here: "Weight Watchers Upends its Point System," NY Times 

DISCLAIMER:  Do not proceed to eat fruit and vegetables all day long. Yes, you will lose weight, but you will be miserable from the bloating, cramps, and great deal of time on the toilet. Rather, include fruits and/or vegetables in every meal to fill you up, but it is important also consume whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins for the body to build strength and energy! Try to construct meals that include a little bit of each of these, and you will be happy and healthy.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ahh, the spa...

While on a spontaneous getaway this weekend, I was ELATED to hear that I was staying just thirty floors above a Canyon Ranch spa and restaurant and that I was to take advantage of it as I pleased. After the most mind-numbing, muscle-soothing, full body rubdown known as the "Canyon Ranch Massage," I was offered--in typical Canyon Ranch fashion--to choose a card that would catch me in my state of withdrawal from life outside of my comfy robe and path to the steam room and instill me with a few words of wisdom. The card chose me, however, reinforcing in my mind a similar notion to that of my November 22 post, which was just what I needed while on a vacation from my routine. I thought I would share it with you, so that you might find it applicable to you on this day.

Eating habits improve with practice. 

Don't expect to be comfortable with new ways of eating immediately.

Take it step by step.

Although I stress routine in my own life and to others as essential for learning your body's needs and the diet that is right for it, I also recognize the great pleasure and health benefits (for your body and your mind) that can be had from a break. So, for me, these words are a reminder that even when I breaking from the routine, if I truly listen to my body, I can loosen the reigns, feel great, and not feel guilty on the plane ride back to reality...a great lesson learned before the holiday eating begins! Enjoy the spiced nuts and eggnog while you can!

"Using Food to Teach Wellness"

I am happy to announce that I will officially be attending the Natural Gourmet Institute's chef's training program beginning at the end of January. As I have pondered the thought of going to culinary school for a while now, I never actually thought that I would (1) find a time when I could devote 7 hours, five days a week, for five months to completing it and (2) actually be able to justify the crazy time commitment without wanting to become a a restaurant. Although I love being in the kitchen and, more importantly, love to serve others good food, I do not want to forfeit my social life and hours of sleep to doing it. Rather, I want to help others understand the importance of eating good food by facilitating their own discovery of eating well and cooking for themselves. Therefore, I am seeking the knowledge and credibility of both pursuits, dietetics and the culinary arts, by studying to become a registered dietitian AND a trained chef! I feel so fortunate that I have been given the time and resources to not only discover my passions but also to lay out the groundwork for a career in which I can practice them too. "Using food to teach wellness," as the director of career services at Natural Gourmet Institute stated in the Detroit News article published Friday discussing the school's philosophy, which has served as a model to a Michigan hospital planning to open a culinary school. I have to admit that I was somewhat peeved to read that Henry Ford Hospital on the west side of Detroit is planning to open a culinary school next year that will be geared toward educating dietitians in the practice of nutrition in the culinary arts, as I have found it enjoyable to be referred to as a "black sheep" in the dietetics program at NYU for my interest in practicing within the food service industry. Although hundreds of others will be squeezing into the niche that I seek to exploit once I hit the job market, I am overjoyed by the humongous impact that is clearly going to be made with this newfound recognition of food and its power amongst health professionals...woohoo!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Healing Power of Food

Check out the article, "Epilepsy's Big, Fat Miracle," printed in the New York Times today ( This is an extremely interesting example of the profound impact that food has on the body. Sam is undergoing treatment for severe epilepsy that cannot be controlled by drug treatments. Instead, his doctor prescribed a ketogenic diet, consisting of almost solely high-fat foods and strictly limiting carbohydrates, in order to force the body into a form of starvation. Carbohydrates are the brain's ideal source of energy, but when they are in short supply, the body is able to use fat instead. For Sam, this is just what his brain needs in order to decrease the amount of seizures he experiences each day by 75%! Oh, the power of food. It still continues to amaze me, and it excites me that doctors are looking to food to provide treatment for an array of diseases.

Although this is an extreme case, and otherwise you will never hear me support a diet in which entire macronutrients (i.e. carbohydrates) are neglected, it reinforces the recurring theme throughout my study of nutrition that every body requires its own unique diet. It is so disappointing to me that so many people assume that if they follow the same diet that may work for someone else--for weight loss, weight management, or even energy level--they will experience the same results. WRONG. Every body is different and has its own ideal diet. I cannot stress enough the importance of listening to one's body and learning the language that it speaks. I know that it is not easy to always listen to your body. It is difficult to learn, especially when you are often running on schedules other than your own, but you only have this one body, so don't you want to take the time to get to know it? You could find that you feel more like yourself than you ever have before It takes time and patience and, I hate to say it to all of you whose lives don't allow for it, but it helps to have a routine.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Homemade Dark Chocolate Truffles

Yep, that's right, homemade. I adapted this recipe from a Whole Foods recipe for Coconut Mate Chocolate Truffles, which you can find on their website ( I made it a few times following their recipe and loved them so much that as soon as I finished the batch I longed for more. Since I now have the truffle-making process down pat, I have begun to tweak the recipe a bit and with great success every time. Although it sounds complicated to make your own truffles and it may be tempting to resort to your stash of Godiva truffles by the 25 lb. box (yes, Mom, that's you...), I swear to you that you will be surprised at how easy and delicious these are. Quite fool proof. Plus, everyone you share them with (which will be only the lucky ones because you will find yourself hoarding them) will be amazed at your talent. Although I have played with different ingredients, I have yet to experiment with the presentation; however, come Christmas, I will have to get creative, as I plan to give these treats to everyone I know. Oh and, that is another upside to these delectable goodies over Godiva's, they are FAR cheaper. You can purchase all of the ingredients for about the same price as a box of Godiva's and have enough to make several batches over the course of a month or so. They are vegan, if that so entices you, made with coconut milk which is one of the few plant sources of saturated fat, providing a creamy, mouth-coating finish!

Kahlua Dark Chocolate Truffles

Makes 15-20 truffles, depending on size (about 100 calories each)

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (or bag of dark chocolate chunks)
1/2 cup light coconut milk
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons espresso powder
1/4 cup Kahlua
Unsweetened cocoa powder for rolling the truffles

Fill a saucepan halfway with water and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Place a small metal bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double boiler. Add the chocolate to the bowl and melt over moderate heat.

Pour the coconut milk into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the espresso, cinnamon, and Kahlua, cover, and remove from heat for 5 minutes. Strain the coconut milk mixture directly into the chocolate, using a fine-mesh strainer. Stir the chocolate mixture until the chocolate is uniformly melted and the coconut milk has been incorporated. Refrigerate the chocolate until firm, about 2 hours.

Sift cocoa into a bowl. Using a measuring spoon, scoop up 1 teaspoon of chocolate and quickly roll into a ball about 3/4-inch across. Drop into cocoa; roll each truffle in cocoa to coat. Chill until firm. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


Per request...another gratin!

As I mentioned in my previous "gratin" post, this has been a gratin-filled fall! You may all be wondering how I manage to keep my cholesterol at a normal level with all of the eggs I have been consuming, but I am going to reveal a secret:  dietary cholesterol (from foods, such as eggs) does not significantly affect cholesterol levels because the body adjusts its own production of cholesterol based on what you eat. (On the other hand, dietary intake of foods with saturated fats, especially those from animal sources, DO have an affect on cholesterol levels...a side of LDL anyone?) If you don't believe me, check out Harvard's take on it (

Now that we have cleared that up, let's get back to GRATIN. After my recent post, a friend requested that I share the recipe of the gratin that I cooked up for her earlier in the season when summer squash was at the peak of its season and piled high at the farmers' market in Lincoln Park, Chicago. This recipe, just like the Fennel and Leek Gratin, uses cheeses lower in fat (i.e. feta, cottage cheese) than the typical "go-to" cheese for baked egg dishes, Gruyere, keeping the calories and fats in check. You do need a few more pieces of equipment for this one (i.e. grater, sieve), however, so make sure that you (always!) read over the recipe before you get started.

Okay, so enough of the prattle. Here you go, Jam!

Summer Squash and Cottage Cheese Gratin

2 cups small-curd low-fat or nonfat cottage cheese
1 1/2 pounds summer squash (can be yellow, green or a mixture)
Salt to taste
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 eggs
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese
Freshly ground pepper

1. Place the cottage cheese in a strainer set over a bowl, and drain for 20 minutes while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Grate the squash, and place in a large bowl or colander. Sprinkle with salt and toss. Allow to sit for 20 minutes. Squeeze out excess water, then squeeze in a towel to dry.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 2-quart gratin or baking dish. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium frying pan, and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic, and stir for another 30 seconds to a minute until fragrant. Remove from the heat.

3. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Stir in the cottage cheese, parsley, dill, Gruyère, onion and garlic, and squash. Combine well. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and scrape into the oiled baking dish. Bake 45 minutes or until set and lightly browned. Remove from the heat, and allow to sit for five to 10 minutes before serving. You can also serve this warm or at room temperature.

Yield: Serves six.

Advance preparation: You can grate and salt the squash several hours before you make the gratin. The gratin will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator, and can be reheated or served cold or at room temperature.

Nutritional information per serving (using 2 percent low-fat cottage cheese): 174 calories; 9 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 153 milligrams cholesterol; 8 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 315 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during preparation); 16 grams protein

Nutritional information per serving (using fat-free cottage cheese): 162 calories; 7 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 149 milligrams cholesterol; 19 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 353 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during preparation); 16 grams protein

Recipe source:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The best part of waking up... knowing that with every sip (okay, I admit, gulp), I am NOT destroying the Earth. If you choose to disregard the benefits of eating organic (lack of pesticides, encouragement of biodiversity, supporting small farms, etc.), please consider choosing organic coffee from this point on. I attended a lecture a couple of weekends ago titled The Green Revolution at the annual Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo in Boston and learned a great deal of information on how to purchase, prepare, and eat food in an eco-friendly AND nutritious way. Can you guess the top three countries with the highest emission of greenhouse gases?? One and two are pretty easy: China and the United States, but with Indonesia close behind, something has to be wrong. It is all due to deforestation, the clearing of fields for the production of oil palm, timber, and--you guessed it--coffee. So, the least we can do is trek (walk or ride a bike, of course!) to the grocery store (not Starbucks!) and buy a bag of ORGANIC coffee.

Right now, I am enjoying organic Allegro coffee from Whole Foods!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Vegetarian Brown Turkeys!

Think that I have lost my mind? I haven't. I have just returned from a lovely lunch with two handsome fellows with whom I shared a simple seasonal appetizer of figs with ricotta salata. The most common type of fig is the Brown Turkey...possibly the perfect compliment to that deep-fried (per my father's favorite preparation) hunk of animal flesh that will sit atop your table a week from now! 

Here is a recipe to consider as an appetizer for your Thanksgiving get together:

Now that's what I call a CONFLICT OF INTEREST.

Cathleen P. Black, newly nominated to lead the New York City public school system, resigned last week from the board of Coca-Cola. Influential political positions are often held by individuals whom also share a direct connection to corporations, whose interests they are all too likely to push when the situation arises. If this is the first you have heard of such "conflicts of interests," you should definitely check out Michael Pollan's documentary Food, Inc. to learn more about the web of policymakers and corporate big whigs that are making it extremely difficult for those of us who have our hearts set on providing Americans with a way out of this spiral downward into obesity and its ever-increasing list of detrimental effects including chronic disease, exorbitant health care costs, and overall reduced quality of life. Check out the article in the New York Times today that set me off on this early morning rant!

Oh, and Ms. Black, you should really get on Coca-Cola's back about updating their list of board members.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

TAG Dinnerware

You may have noticed my cute baking dish that I recently procured (thanks Mom and Dad!), while in Savannah a month ago. This dish is oven-, dishwasher-, and microwave-safe, so it is great for baking and serving (gratin, for example!). Visit the website below to check out their line of colorful and practical dinnerware!

Fennel and Leek Gratin with Feta

Today was a great day of cooking, blogging, and studying...very productive! Although I could not hold off to eat the carrot soup that was filling my nostrils with sweet potato goodness all afternoon, I still had room for the main meal...a fennel and leek gratin. YUM.

This is the third gratin recipe that I have cooked this fall and, like usual, got this from Martha Rose! Gratins are so easy to make because the measurement of each ingredient does not have to be right on, so it is a foolproof dish that tastes great every time. I think it is even better as leftovers which is great because I only have to cook once this week, and I still have a nice hearty meal waiting in the fridge for me when I get home late from class this week. I like to get creative with the leftovers, enjoying the gratin all sorts of ways...I like it cold over toasted "Seeduction" bread from Whole Foods for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Fennel and Leek Gratin With Feta

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 pounds fennel, trimmed, quartered, cored and chopped (about 4 cups chopped)

1 bunch leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned and chopped (about 3 cups chopped leeks)

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

4 large eggs, beaten

3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)

1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, nonstick skillet, and add the fennel and leeks. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add salt to taste, and continue to cook, stirring often, until the fennel and leeks are very tender and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, and stir together for another minute or two, then stir in the dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 2-quart gratin or baking dish. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Crumble in the feta, and stir in the fennel mixture. Combine well. Scrape into the baking dish, and bake 35 to 40 minutes until set and the top and sides are beginning to color. Remove from the oven, and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. This is good hot, warm or at room temperature.

Yield: Serves four as a main dish, six as a side.

Advance preparation: You can make the filling up to two days ahead through step 1; keep it in the refrigerator in a covered container. The gratin can be made up to a day ahead and reheated in a medium oven for about 20 minutes.

Nutritional information per serving (based on six servings): 201 calories; 11 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 154 milligrams cholesterol; 19 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams dietary fiber; 293 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during cooking); 9 grams protein

And now for something completely different!

If you have been able to keep up with my rapid onslaught of posts on this inaugural day, you may be itching to know where you can read more about cupcakes (on a much happier note than mine). I recently referred to the saleswoman by day, blogger by night, and cupcake-lover all day long, author of the newly reinstated blog, Coup de Cake, which you can find at! Recently relocated to Chicago, although deeply missed in NYC, she will keep you posted on her search for the greatest cupcake on Earth. I can only wait to hear what she has to say about the big ban on her most loved dessert not far from our hometown. Check out her blog for a little bit of temptation with a side of comic relief!


This one may hit a little too close to home for someone I know (hint: fellow blogger known for her search, high and low, for the perfect cupcake on her blog Coup de Cake). Although I am a staunch cupcake-hater, I found myself rolling my eyes in disgust while reading the article in the Detroit News about schools banning children from bringing in cupcakes on their birthdays. It is an interesting concept, especially since in exchange they are celebrating birthdays by extending recess time, but I cannot imagine that kids are eating less junk food or, in the bigger picture, becoming less obese. We should not be barring our children from tasty sweets, especially those that are homemade, as people have been celebrating special occasions with delicious food since biblical times. We SHOULD be teaching them to enjoy small amounts of sweets sporadically, allowing them to learn for themselves that they will taste much better that way! The first bite is always the best...

Remember: Enjoy what you love in moderation--even whole grains, running, and scrubbing the kitchen counters, in my case--and you will never have to give up what you love.

Don't try THIS at home!

Longest word ever...pancreaticoduodenectomy, or the fancy name for a Whipple procedure. It is a procedure often used for pancreatic excision of the head of the pancreas along with the encircling loop of the duodenum. Sounds fun.

A bit of liver with your carrot soup, madame?

Ok, so I am going to have to warn you now...studying nutrition is NOT pretty, although you may not believe me when I say it, especially because a recurring topic of conversation between my roommate and I (Suzy, NYU's newest dietetic intern!) is exactly how "pretty" everyone is in the Clinical Nutrition program at NYU. Today, I am studying medical nutrition therapy for liver disease. So, I figured that I would give you a little taste of what it is like to go from leaning over a pot of simmering carrot soup (see below) to turning the page of a textbook to reveal a hideous picture much like the one shown here.

Alcoholic liver disease is the most common liver disease in the United States. In my textbook, Krause states that "alcohol problems are highest among young adults 18 to 29 years of age..." Uh oh, that includes me and all of my friends. As you may have read in "ABOUT ME," I love red wine. Although drinking red wine can have some benefits such as antioxidants and a social life, the downsides include more than just purple teeth: one of these being that acetaldehyde, the breakdown product of alcohol in the body, causes damage to your liver, leading to the build up of fatty acids and, eventually, liver cirrhosis. YUCK.

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

Martha Rose Shulman is the writer for the New York Times' column, Recipes for Health. It won't take long for you to notice that her recipes are those that I most frequently rely on when I am in the mood to try something new. She uses simple, seasonal ingredients and often gives several variations of a recipe or several ways to incorporate a seasonal item (from your local farmers' market, of course!) into a few recipes. I have a mad crush on her, basically...

So, while I study for tomorrow night's Clinical Nutrition Assessment exam on gastrointestinal, oncology, and liver medical nutrition therapy, I am cooking up this recent recipe published on her site...Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup!

I like to make soup on the days when I am stuck inside my apartment (UWS, NYC), so that I feel like I have a real reason to be next to the stove all day long.

Stay tuned for the rest of the dinner that will accompany this delicious-smelling, beta carotene PACKED puree of yumminess...

Check out the recipe:
Cooking up Martha Rose Shulman's Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup recipe this afternoon while studying for exams!