Food Prep Strategy: 7 Steps to Sustenance & Sanity

Let’s talk about eating logistics. If you like to eat fresh/whole/minimally-processed/REAL food, you have to plan, shop, and cook. It takes some time and effort, but it is an essential form of self-care.

Luckily, since we have to eat every day, we get a lot of practice at this task. With experience, we optimize. We can get better at working smarter, not harder.

Done properly, getting systematic about your Food Plan can improve your quality of life. It can save you time, money and stress. It can help you align your goals with your reality. It can streamline your efforts, freeing up your creative energy for bigger and better things, while keeping yourself well-fed and SANE.

Continue reading “Food Prep Strategy: 7 Steps to Sustenance & Sanity”

Hemp-Crusted Tofu Nuggets

Sadly, the latest release of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is not going to tell you to eat less meat. I, on the other hand, am less worried about profits in the meat industry than I am about a collapsing climate and the brutal reality that at current consumption rates, our children will be facing food and water shortages in the alarmingly near future. So, let me take it from here, America: let’s think about eating a little less meat!

I already try to work a lot of meatless meals into my routine, but following the politics around these guidelines has gotten me riled up and feeling motivated to put more effort into to upping my diet’s sustainability factor. Which brings us to today’s recipe: when it comes to planet-friendly eating, these nuggets are gold.

I happen to love tofu. If you don’t, believe me, I get it. It’s not a mandatory ingredient for plant-based eating, but if you just haven’t developed a taste for it yet, maybe it’s time to give this powerful protein a chance.

Today’s recipe features a crispy coating that commemorates our environmentally friendly efforts with the superstar sustainable wonder crop: hemp! Hemp is a resilient, fast-growing crop that doesn’t require much land or water. It’s also a source of complete protein and healthy omega-3 fats, and its seeds happen to be the perfect toasty/nutty ingredient to mix together with cornstarch for a simple crunchy (gluten free) breading for your tofu nuggets.

Hot out of the saute pan, these tofu fingers are addictive. The breading is neutrally seasoned, so they pair equally well with the full spectrum of dipping sauces. My choice? Hot honey mustard. It’s a 3-ingredient, 30-second recipe (ie. an instant classic).

Hemp-Crusted Tofu Nuggets

Through the lens of crispy tofu, I hope I was able to share a few nuggets of inspiration to look at the big picture and consider sustainability when feeding ourselves. It’s not always easy, but our choices matter. If you’re interested in more practical tips for sustainable eating, let me know in the comments – I’m hoping to make time to write another post on this topic soon.

Finally, if the disappointing results of the Dietary Guidelines have gotten you riled up too, let me share this way to take action: help set things straight and call the document what it really is: “Food Policy Guidelines for America.” Dr. David Katz has set up a petition on change.org calling upon the USDA and HHS to clarify that the Guidelines are not intended as expert dietary health guidance, but rather, as Katz puts it, “what politicians think should be done with the best, expert advice in an effort to balance public health against corporate profits.” Right now it has about 75% of the signatures needed, so it needs your support!

Hemp-Crusted Tofu Nuggets

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 8 nuggets

Hemp-Crusted Tofu Nuggets

For the Tofu:
1 14-16 oz. block tofu
1 egg
2 tsp. soy sauce
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1 pinch salt + pepper
oil to saute
For the Hot Honey Mustard:
1-2 tsp. your favorite hot sauce
1 Tbsp. honey or maple syrup
2 Tbsp. grainy mustard

Press the tofu by placing it between two plates with a heavy object on top to drain excess liquid. Prepare two shallow bowls for breading stations: in the first, whisk together the egg and soy sauce; in the second, combine the hemp seeds, cornstarch and salt/pepper.

After the tofu has pressed for 10 minutes, slice it into 8 equal planks and heat a tablespoon or two of oil a large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat each tofu nugget with the egg wash, dredge in the hemp seed breading, and add to the skillet to pan fry. Cook the tofu in batches if needed to avoid crowding the pan, and when both sides are golden brown, transfer the nuggets to a plate lined with a paper towel.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce (for hot honey mustard: combine hot sauce, honey and mustard... enjoy!)

http://flavorrd.com/2016/01/hemp-crusted-tofu-nuggets/

Blueberry Cocoa Hemp Smoothie

Hungry for more hemp? Chill out with my favorite Blueberry Cocoa Hemp Smoothie!

Sweet Chili Baked Tofu

Need a go-to tofu? This is mine: Sweet Chili Baked Tofu, even simpler than today’s recipe and its versatility makes it an excellent meal prep item.

The Magic of Sourdough, Part II: The How and WHY of Getting Your Starter Started

flavorRD is on a sourdough baking kick! Last week we started with a crash course on sourdough’s history, science and nutrition benefits. This week, it’s all about getting your own culture started.

Want to know the coolest thing about getting started experimenting with sourdough in your own kitchen? You don’t need to have connections with a veteran baker or buy a special culture – the microorganisms that make up sourdough are all around you, just waiting to forge a symbiotic relationship with you and your baking habit. Wild yeast and lactobacillus bacteria live on the surface of flour granules and in the air around us, and when you provide them with the right conditions, they’re happy to set up shop.

How do I capture a culture?

All it takes is a container of flour and water mixed together on your counter. At regular intervals, you feed the culture with more flour and water, after first removing some of the mixture before feeding time (in addition to making sure you don’t end up with a giant doughball that takes over the city, this basically serves to keep acidity in check and to cull the herd, allowing a smaller population of microorganisms to eat what you feed them and multiply with less competition, and fewer byproducts of metabolism that might slow their growth). Simply follow the feeding schedule, and you’ll have your own thriving culture in about a week!

I’m not going to break down a step-by-step schedule here, because it’s been done well many times on the web already. When I started my starter, I mostly followed this guide by the people at King Arthur Flour, with the benefit of some extra insights from Smart Nutrition and The Kitchn. The simple flour/water/time protocol yielded a healthy, happy starter that just chills contentedly in my fridge all week, and unfailingly springs to action when I take him out to play.

OK, but remind me again why it’s worth it to take time from my busy schedule for the care and feeding of a living baking ingredient?

Excellent question. With the word-count I’m saving by outsourcing the how-to, I’m choosing to dig a little deeper into the why-to. Home-baked sourdough bread is a nice way to enhance a happy-healthy life, but it does take a little effort. You might think of it in the same light as other “healthy habits” that you’re motivated to work into your life, like taking time on the weekend to chop up a surplus of your favorite veggies.

So let’s consider motivation. Sourdough’s health benefits are a good reason to incorporate a starter into your baking repertoire, but honestly, I knew about those facts for months before I mustered up the will to get started. Motivation is about a personal, emotional connection to your goal. If you feel like you want to do something, take a moment to think about WHY you feel that way. Once you can define your motivation, you can use that connection to fuel your inspiration, to decide that it’s worth your effort to start it up and stick with it.

Sound like a chore? It’s really just about getting in touch with the good feelings you have about your aspirations. Allow me to demonstrate with the easy-breezy answers that come to mind when I ask myself the question:

Why Should I Start a Sourdough Habit?

Because it makes me feel like a baking wizard. Or at least, you know, some kind of baking MacGyver. I can’t diffuse a bomb with a paper clip, but I can make a mean loaf of bread with just flour, water, salt, and time. Knowing about traditional methods of food production is a valuable life skill; we come from a long line of humans before us, and it’s good to be in touch with our roots. During my weekly baking sessions, I often think about my post-apocalyptic survival skills, and how my camp will still be enjoying the pleasures of leavened breads as long as we can get our hands on enough flour!

Because science is fun. It’s good to be curious, and science is really just organized curiosity. Some of my reasons for creating this blog centered on joining like-minded readers in the joys of paying attention to the wonders of the world around us, and working with sourdough is a great opportunity to learn something cool. I love that my sourdough science project takes me back to my college days in microbiology class, except even better (ie. instead of cramming for exams, I’m cramming baguettes in my mouth. science rules!)

Because life is too short for bad bread. Before I took up my sourdough project, I often settled for some pretty uninspiring grocery-store bread to keep up with my household’s carb appetite. Now, since almost every weekend yields a batch of awesome home-made sourdough baked goods (often with leftovers to bank in the freezer) I’ve cut way back on the riffraff. Good bread makes life better!

Starting a sourdough starter is really a pretty easy, foolproof project – it’s amazing what you can do with just a little flour, water, time, and motivation! If you have your own culture or plans to cultivate one (or if you could use a little more inspiration first), don’t miss next week’s post: I’ll be talking about the simple steps of my weekly sourdough ritual, and the best recipes in my baking rotation.

The Magic of Sourdough, Part I: Ancestral Biotech with Nutrition Benefits

Say hello to my doughy little friend.

It’s a bubbling, fermenting colony of bacteria and fungi that lives in my fridge, but it’s nothing to get squeamish about… it’s just sourdough! I started my first starter about 3 months ago, and I’ve been experimenting with this ancient form of baking biotech just about every week since then. It’s been a fun learning experience, and now I feel like I’ve gotten enough of a handle on it that I can share my dietitian/baker perspective. This post is the first installment of a 3-part series covering the ins and outs of the process, along with the reasons why you might be motivated to start up a habit too!

What is Sourdough?

To give a satisfactory answer to this question, let me break it down into two parts:

The History Lesson: If you peer far enough into the past, you’ll find a time when all breads were sourdough breads. At the dawn of agriculture, humans began eating their newly cultivated grains, ground and mixed with water as porridge and flatbread. When these simple batters were left out long enough, they created a moist & cozy home for the local wild yeast and bacteria. That’s when our neolithic ancestors discovered the magical leavening and preserving qualities of sourdough.

The Science Lesson: The sourdough culture is a symbiotic community of microorganisms that naturally grow on the surfaces of grains and in the air around us. These microbial friends include wild yeast (whose fermentation of starches/sugars yields carbon dioxide gas, which creates the air bubbles that leaven bread) and lactobacillus bacteria (whose fermentation yields lactic acid, which keeps the medium acidic enough to resist spoilage, and which also contributes to sourdough’s signature flavor).

Sourdough is Healthy?

If you only think of sourdough as a tangy flavor in specialty breads, you may be surprised to learn about all the attention it’s been getting lately for its nutrition benefits. Research has been revealing some fascinating facts about sourdough, and it’s all due to the probiotic cultures living in this fermented food.

  • Increased mineral bioavailability. Whole grains are full of essential minerals like zinc, magnesium and iron – that’s why dietitians are always on your case to eat more of them! But grains also contain compounds called phytates that bind to these minerals and inhibit their absorption in the gut. The lactic acid created by the bacteria in sourdough breaks down phytates, and consequently increases your ability to absorb the minerals in your bread.
  • Lower glycemic index. The lactic acid in sourdough alters the starch/protein microstructure that forms during baking. The resulting bread has starch that our bodies digest more slowly. Slower breakdown of starch means a less dramatic glucose response, preventing undesirable spikes in insulin. (If you want to really dig into the science, this paper is fascinating.)
  • “Probiotic” benefits. Although our microbial companions are not able to survive their trip through the oven, their byproducts hang in there, providing a variety of the benefits associated with fermented foods. Before they check out, the good bacteria are nice enough to leave us a selection of antioxidant, cancer-fighting and immune-boosting compounds.
  • Elimination of gluten. Enzymes from both the wild yeast and lactobacillus bacteria work together to degrade wheat flour’s gluten proteins into smaller peptides. The microorganisms are so good at this, that researchers have measured certain sourdough breads as having gluten concentrations of just 12 PPM… that’s legally gluten-free! This is good news if you have trouble tolerating gluten (and tolerating the taste of gluten-free breads).

Is your interest piqued? Don’t forget to tune in next week, when I’ll be back to talk about getting your starter started!

NEXT: Sourdough, Part II: The How and WHY of Getting Your Starter Started

What I ate in Seattle

I had the pleasure of spending last weekend in Seattle, WA. My brother and his wife live up there, and they hosted Grant and I for a trip so jam-packed with local fun and amazing food that we are ready to move into their guest room permanently! In the same vein as my last food-focused San Francisco travel report, read on for my top highlights from the weekend.

We started our festivities early on Friday with breakfast at Morsel in Ballard. If you want the best, freshly-baked, big-as-your-face biscuit sandwich you’ve ever had, this is your place. I chose one of the daily special arugula-garlic biscuits as the foundation for my rendition of “The Goat,” which pairs goat cheese with thinly sliced cucumber and tomato jam. I opted to add a fried egg (good decision). The guys made a good decision too, both ordering “The Spanish Fly” with egg, manchego, prosciutto, arugula and pepper aioli. We also had the first of many flawless cappuccinos and lattes (Seattle, you are really on point with that business).

What I ate in Seattle: Morsel

We walked off that deliciousness by trekking all over the city. We started downtown with a stroll through Pike’s Place, took in the views from the Columbia Center, made our way to the international district (where else can you find mocha and pina colada flavored fortune cookies, straight off the factory lines?), the U district, Green Lake Park… each place with its own unique local flavor, totally fascinating.

After all that, we picked up a late lunch at Un Bien – they sell INCREDIBLY GOOD Latin/Caribbean style sandwiches. They’re made on a fresh crusty baguette with cilantro, pickled jalapenos, caramelized onions, lettuce, aioli, and whatever protein you choose (sirloin for me) with a magical citrus-y marinade.  I was too busy digging in to take a photo myself, but if you look at their Yelp page I think you’ll get the idea.

That night, we headed out to Ballard Beer where they have a wide selection of local brews, and beautiful community tables that are welcoming to both dogs and board games. We took advantage of both.

What I ate in Seattle: Ballard Beer

Next door, Lil Woody’s makes a mean grass-fed burger too!

The next morning, my sister-in-law secured her position as Hostess with the Most-ess by surprising us with pastries from Cafe Besalu (buttery, flaky, and graced with peak-season summer fruits – this place definitely lives up to its reputation) and firing up their espresso machine for homemade lattes!! Seattle hospitality at its finest!

After that, we escaped from the city with a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island. On top of the natural beauty and small-town charm, the trip is worth it just for the lunch at The Harbor Public House. Do yourself a favor and relax on their scenic patio with some epic local seafood. I ordered the smoked salmon tartine: mixed greens, a slice of whole-grain sourdough, goat cheese, and their incredible house-smoked salmon topped with tomato, red onion and capers. I’m still dreaming about it.

What I ate in Seattle: The Harbor Public House

After making our way back to the mainland and seeing a few more sights, we decided to refuel with a quick healthy dinner. As a health-food-nerd, I was excited to check out a co-op market that I’ve heard a lot about since my brother started working at their offices: PCC. I was not disappointed – it was like Sprouts on steroids, with a prepared food section that puts Whole Foods to shame. The spread below includes their curried tempeh/veggies, pesto tortellini, Emerald City Salad, quinoa tabouli, Moroccan eggplant, and a sesame-glazed chicken wing. All freshly-made, healthy and delicious!

What I ate in Seattle: PCC!

We had an early flight Sunday, so before heading to the airport we had time for one more epic vacation brunch at Chinook’s. We had a beautiful waterfront view, and every breakfast is served with a basket of freshly baked scones with orange butter! Charmed again by the local produce, I ordered a stack of huckleberry pancakes. A sweet finish to a delicious trip!

What I ate in Seattle: Chinook's

After having such a great time, I know I’ll be back again soon. If you have suggestions to share, let me know with a comment!

My Top 5 On-The-Go Weekday Breakfasts

Let’s talk about breakfast. Weekday Breakfast, to be specific, which is an entirely different animal than the leisurely, unhurried, coffee-sipping pleasure-breakfasts that we get to enjoy on the weekends. Weekday Breakfast, for better or worse, is about taking care of business: supplying ourselves with an adequate amount of the right balance of nutrients to fuel ourselves for the workday, and doing it quickly.

To be honest, I struggle with Weekday Breakfast. When I drag myself out of bed for work, I don’t have much of an appetite. It’s just hard to get my morning-brain interested in the fuel that I know my body needs. The good news? Recognizing a problem is the first step in doing something about it. I started with a dedicated Weekday Breakfast Pinterest board to help inspire my efforts. I also took a critical look at my morning routine, and found that although it may not be the best approach for mindful eating, I really have the best success when I schedule my breakfast time either during my commute or at my desk (whatever works!). And there’s one other critical element that should go without saying: that healthy breakfast also needs to be a tasty treat… otherwise, what’s the point? So now, after some brainstorming and field-testing, I’m coming here to share my top 5 healthy, quick, on-the-go balanced breakfasts that keep me powering through my weekdays!

The Mix 'N Match Box

1. The Mix-n-Match Box

This is sort of a DIY version of the protein bistro box from Starbucks; I developed a taste for those during my time-crunched grad school days, but this make-at-home version is a lot easier on the budget. It also works well for my breakfast ambivalence because I can pick at little nibbles of this and that, and I still end up with a balanced meal.

My basic formula is whole grain bread (the seed-packed sourdough stuff pictured above is my current favorite), cheese, fruit, and a boiled egg – but the mix-n-match system is a good way to use up whatever odds and ends you have on hand. Pack it all into a medium-sized tupperware container, and you have a balanced snack-breakfast, wherever your day takes you.

The Quesa-Pita
2. The Quesa-Pita

This is a really common fallback weekday breakfast for me, for two reasons. First, I pretty much always have these 4 ingredients stocked in my kitchen, and second, it’s something that will actually pique my meager morning appetite.

Use a slice (or half slice) of regular or lite cheese of your choice to cover half of a whole-grain pita bread. Place it under a broiler or in a toaster oven until melted/crisp, then add a handful of spinach and a vegetarian sausage patty (I cut mine up into a couple of slices to cover the whole sandwich). Fold it in half, wrap in a paper towel, and you’re good to go!

The PBJ Yogurt

3. The PBJ Yogurt

Have you been disappointed recently by the new PBJ flavored Greek yogurt from Trader Joe’s? If it sounded really good in your head, but didn’t meet your flavor expectations, it’s time to take things into your own hands.

I already talked about this perfect combination of plain yogurt, PB/J, wheat germ and chia seeds in my post on Eating Well After Oral Surgery, but it truly has earned a space among my go-to morning meals/snacks. For an extra-special breakfast, try it with my favorite banana jam recipe!

The Loaded Veggie Bagel

4. The Loaded Veggie Bagel

Here’s another savory sandwich that will help you get a head start on your daily servings of veggies. Baking a weekend batch of my garlic kale & feta bagels will give you an even ‘veggier’ foundation, but most of the time I use the whole wheat sprouted sesame bagels from Trader Joe’s.

Toast a whole-grain bagel (or bagel-thin, for a lower-calorie breakfast). Schmear with light cream cheese or hummus, and top with whatever fresh veggies you like or need to use up. The combination pictured above is a personal favorite, baby spinach + cucumbers + shredded carrots, but other tasty choices to mix and match include alfalfa sprouts, avocado, tomato, arugula or baby kale.

Steel Cut Muesli, California-Style

5. The Mason Jar Muesli

To finish with something sweet, here’s a simple make-ahead breakfast that happened to be the #1 most popular recipe on my blog last year. In this Steel-Cut Muesli, California-Style, the oats are soaked overnight in the fridge and eaten chilled, so they’re a great way to enjoy the benefits of oatmeal during the warmer months. In these photos I used a re-purposed jam jar, but it also works really well with half pint wide-mouth canning jars like these. They’re compact to stack in the fridge, so you can make a whole week’s worth in just one quick prep session!

So that’s what I’ve been into for breakfast lately… but I can’t finish without an appeal to you, readers: come on, help me with my breakfast problem! How do you fuel your weekdays?

Summer Living

Things have been a little quieter on this website than I like lately. Honestly, I’ve been making an effort to spend more time in the moment; quality time with Grant and with friends, enjoying the outdoors, taking more time to take care of myself. When prioritizing these (irrefutably good) pursuits, I just haven’t had as much screen time to sit down and write/photograph all the posts that I want to share with you. But don’t worry – things have been in the works, and you have lots of good stuff to look forward to!

Before July passes by in silence, I want to take a moment to catch up and chat about the things that have been feeding my spirit. I hope you can derive some inspiration, and I’d love to hear about what has been nourishing you lately too.

  • summer gardening: I really like having plants around… it just feels right. My apartment doesn’t have any outdoor space at all, but we still make room for our botanical friends with a little container garden outside our front door. This summer we’ve been maintaining our current resident herbs (parsley, mint, basil and chives), harvesting a bumper crop of jalapenos, and freshening up our window box with a blooming bunch of portulaca (gorgeous and very prolific!)
  • summer reading: I’m currently deep into Ram Dass’ Journey of Awakening and on the foodie front, I’ve also been working my way through An Everlasting Meal. Tamar Adler takes us through a leisurely discourse on ‘cooking with economy and grace,’ weaving together conventional wisdom and recipes with a sense of calm and appreciation that draws the reader to see the true beauty of simple cooking. It’s a real delight, highly recommended.
  • summer cooking: While I might have slowed down on posting, I never stop cooking! I’ve been living on fresh peaches, making lots of quick dinners with Instant Pot, experimenting with culturing my first sourdough starter, and scheming over lots of exciting healthy foods to share with all of you very soon.
  • art is another thing that nourishes my spirit on the regular, mostly because I’m lucky enough to live with a really talented artist. The image above is a painting by Grant Fraker; you can find it along with other original paintings and prints at GrantFrakersArt on Etsy (and follow along on Twitter and Instagram).

A Day in the Life of a Registered Dietitian (on Nutrition Milestones)

Can you believe flavorRD has never had a “what I ate” food diary post? There have been travel reports and highlight reels, but for the most part you’ve only had the chance to glimpse into my diet a single meal at a time… until now!

My colleague and fellow RD Rachael Derr is one of the brilliant lovely ladies behind Nutrition Milestones, a private practice offering dietitian services here in San Diego. Committed to providing “nourishment through life’s biggest moments,” these women go beyond just nutrition counseling and truly share their passion for eating well to help families become their happiest and healthiest. Even if you’re not in southern California, you can get inspired through the articles and videos on their blog, which is packed with real-deal nutrition strategies and insights, from healthy eating during pregnancy to recipes so simple that you can make them with one hand tied behind your back (or, you know, while holding a baby).

Anyway, when Rachael came up with the idea to clear up misconceptions about the way RDs eat with a “Day in the Life” blog series, I was happy to take part. READ THE REST ON NUTRITION MILESTONES.

The Easiest Seasonal Pumpkin Treat (Dark Chocolate Edition)

Tis the season to enjoy pumpkin-flavored treats, so I’m dropping in with this quick Saturday post to share my simplest life-hack for satisfying those cravings when there’s no time for baking from scratch. This is the way that I cover both my seasonal craving for pumpkin spice AND my year-round need for dark chocolate in one simple snack-dessert with relatively respectful ingredients. All it takes is a Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Waffle from the freezer section, and a schmear of my favorite dark chocolate almond spread. Like you needed another reason to keep a jar of that in your fridge! Take it easy, happy weekend!

 

My First Year as an RD

This time last year, the grisly scene above – probably familiar to some of you! – was a mainstay of my living room floor (the only place with enough room to spread out all of the materials I wanted at my fingertips). That’s right… Today I’m celebrating my first full year as an RD!

While becoming a registered dietitian was a major undertaking, from the years of classes, to the way-too-long-to-be-unpaid internship, to the final frazzled study sessions (Even Chuy seems to say, “Um… is everything OK??”) I’m confident that it was the best choice I could have made for my future. So I’m taking this milestone as an opportunity to share some of my perceptions from my experience so far. If you’re into it, come join in for a little #RDChat!

Continue reading “My First Year as an RD”