Morning Glory Muffins

So, I started working at a new job last week. A really dreamy job. The kind of job that makes all the years of college and grad school feel worthwhile, like life is finally coming together, and it just feels so good to be there! Over the weekend I channeled my excitement and set out to charm my new co-workers the best way I know: with baked goods. The thing is, most of my co-workers are dietitians… so I really had to bring my “A” game!

I wasn’t really familiar with Morning Glory muffins until recently, but I like the idea of a really busy treat loaded with a variety of healthy ingredients to keep things interesting. There are a million variations for add-ins; you could really use whatever nuts and dried fruit you have in the pantry, but I thought the traditional carrot shreds would be complimented nicely by dates, pecans and coconut. Some recipes include grated apple, which sounds good too, but I decided to replace it with crushed pineapple to further play on the carrot-cake flavors.

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Should we take sodium guidelines… with a grain of salt?

If you follow science news, you may have heard about the recent study suggesting that current public health guidelines on sodium intake are overly restrictive, and that consuming too little salt can be just as risky as consuming too much. If so, you probably also read retorts from the CDC, claiming that no credible evidence exists to indicate that low sodium intake is harmful.

Classic nutrition research, right? Teams of professionals and tomes of evidence, in direct opposition. And we’re left wondering who to believe.

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Mom’s Chicken Cacciatore

After spending a weekend with the family, I felt like my return to apartment life could benefit from some real home cooking. Time for a Mom Recipe, you know? I don’t know if Spring has sprung where you are yet, but even here in southern California the nights are chilly enough to encourage stewy, braise-y dinners. So readers, today you’re lucky enough to learn about one of our most popular family recipes: my mom’s chicken cacciatore.

Cacciatore is Italian for ‘hunter,’ and as I understand it, the idea behind the dish is that hunters are able to pick up wild mushrooms while out in the forest. I don’t claim any real Italian authenticity, but the thing that sets this recipe apart is the sauce. Ohhh, the sauce… It’s tomato-based, but doesn’t really even taste like a tomato sauce. Some kind of magic alchemy goes on between the wine, broth and aromatics that yields something complex, herbaceous, and completely revelatory.

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Florida Faves

Whew, back to reality. I’m back in San Diego again after a long weekend in the small town where I grew up in central Florida, to see my brother get married. In typical Florida fashion, the nice weekend was punctuated with pretty severe thunderstorms (complete with tornado warning) exactly at wedding-o’-clock. But it didn’t slow us down from having the best weekend! My little dog Chuy even got to come; I was nervous about hauling him on a airplane, but he loves my parents’ farm so much that I had to bring him along. Not completely stress-free, but he was a pretty good boy!

I was so preoccupied with the whirlwind of family events, that I kind of completely dropped out of social media. Whoops. But I still want to share a few shots of the special local foods and experiences that I like to enjoy when I travel home. It’s a nice opportunity to look back and get inspired by the flavors of the region. So let’s enjoy these glimpses of Florida’s Treasure Coast through the eyes of a visiting native / foodie dietitian!

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RD Airplane Snack Survival Kit

Today I’m lucky enough to send an update from FLORIDA, where I’m spending the weekend (woohoo!). Traveling from my home to my hometown is an all-day affair, so I thought I’d take this chance to talk about how I keep myself nourished on a cross-country flight… because life’s too short to subsist on the world’s smallest bag of pretzels.

My kit includes things that:

  • Are without liquids – the only reason TSA will confiscate your munchies are if they are jealous that your lunch looks better than theirs!
  • Are shelf-stable at room temperature – cold-packs are a no-go through security, so we gotta stick with foods that will be safe.
  • Supply good doses of the nutrients and fiber that are tough to get enough of when traveling.
  • Easy to eat in cramped conditions.
  • Inoffensive to your seatmates – nothing is worse than sitting next to smelly food.
  • Interesting enough that we’re not tempted to ditch them in favor of whatever terrible airport food that we’ll regret later.

Get out a couple pieces of tupperware or some of my favorite reusable snack bags, and let’s fill ’em up with goodies!

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[Instant Pot] Chicken Tortilla Soup

Today I’m pulling through on my promise to share my successes with Instant Pot, my new electric pressure cooker (you can read more about my pressure-cooking obsession here). It’s been a revolutionary addition to my kitchen, but unfortunately for my readers its major role has been to constantly churn out oatmeal, rice, beans, and other essential staples too boring to blog about. But my favorite appliance is so much more than that! So I’m glad I finally got my act together to write up a recipe that puts Instant Pot in the spotlight.

But if you’re not into pressure-cooking, that’s no reason to pass over this recipe. I’ve been making this soup for years before I got wacky about pressurizing my foods. The flavors develop just as well after a simmer on the stovetop, and the process is still totally easy for a weeknight.

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Baja Fish Burritos

Let’s talk. Today’s phenomenon? Food tasting better when someone else cooks it for you. There are exceptions, of course, but as the primary cook of a household where eating out is a relatively infrequent treat, there’s something special about enjoying a meal that was crafted with love by hands that were not my own. There are a lot of factors at play, but I contend that one of the biggest draws is the potential for cooking revelations. Basically, I’m a fan of my cooking, but I know all of my own tricks. I experiment with new things, but every move I make is informed by my tastes and experience. When we’re lucky enough to be at another cook’s mercy, we get to experience food through their perspective. Their skills, their preferences, their history.

After moving back to San Diego, we’re happy to be reunited with some old friends who are Really Good Cooks. I’ve finally entered the phase of life with casual-dinner-party-ping-pong, and it is the BEST. I get a new outlet for cooking and sharing my creations, and also a steady supply of revelations. And as a result, I got to eat the best fish burrito of my life thus far. If you know how many burritos I eat, you’ll know how serious this is (hint: this is pretty serious.)

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Super Greens Rice

It’s not every day that I stop to consider whether a side of brown rice should be made even healthier. Tell me, am I crazy? In my defense, my real intention was just to make our grains tastier. But when I decided to give them the pesto treatment, I couldn’t deny that I was upgrading the nutrition too. Instead of just a carby side, I ended up with a well-rounded, nutrient-dense food. A vehicle for healthy fats, leafy greens, and – obviously – more flavor! If it didn’t deliver in the flavor department, I hope you realize by now that I wouldn’t be telling you to make this.

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Banana Jam & Hazelnut Sticky Buns

For those of you who aren’t already convinced to try a batch of my banana jam, today I’m bringing out the big guns. This recipe brings together all the best parts of cinnamon rolls and nutty banana bread, all in one sticky breakfast bun package. These are equally at home as a component of an epic brunch party spread, or simply on their own with a pot of hot coffee or tea, on a leisurely Saturday morning just because you love whoever you live with. Even if you live by yourself – you still gotta show yourself some love!

And really, this is a recipe for showing yourself some love on both ends of the spectrum. The kind of love that recognizes when it’s time to treat yo self, and the kind that takes care to supply your body with real nourishing ingredients. You get to enjoy a delicate texture while still feeling good about getting your whole grains, courtesy of my favorite whole-wheat pastry flour. Toasted hazelnuts take it to the next level of Special Brunchiness, although you can easily substitute almonds, walnuts, pecans, or whatever else you like; either way, you get an abundance of healthy fats.

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Banana Jam

You’re looking at a luxurious breakfast, fragrant with flavors of the tropics. If you want to close your eyes and feel transported to a sunny veranda, I recommend this recipe as a starting point. You can almost feel the ocean breeze, and while it’s distinctly tropical, I can’t tell you if you’re in the Caribbean, southeast Asia, or on a Pacific island… that’s up to your imagination, and the flavors you choose to pair with it.

In addition to offering a vacation in a jar, this is also a recipe for those times when your bananas are browning faster than you can handle. I didn’t know that banana jam was even a thing until a friend from my RD program enlightened me, and I am so glad she did. If I end up with overripe bananas, I don’t often muster up the enthusiasm to bake banana bread. I usually just toss the neglected fruits in a freezer bag for smoothies, but I love having this easy option for a little something special.

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