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.
Since the feeding and maintenance of a sourdough starter requires you to set aside a portion to “discard,” it only makes sense to synchronize feeding time with a weekly baking session. Make that starter earn his keep! Once you’ve grown a sourdough culture, no matter what tempting treats are on your “to bake” list, they all start with the same simple steps that make up the weekly ritual:
Take the starter out of the fridge, pouring off any liquid that has accumulated on top (this is alcohol from the yeast’s slow fermentation!) and giving the rest a quick stir.
Divide the starter into two halves – set one aside for baking, and leave the other in your ‘crock’ (FYI: mine is just tupperware) to continue your culture.
Use a kitchen scale* to weigh 4 oz. flour** and 4 oz. water, and stir them into the remaining starter in the crock until smoothly combined. Allow it to sit, covered but not airtight, at room temperature for 2 hours before returning it to the fridge. This gives your microbial friends some time to eat before going back to ‘sleep’ for the week.
Take the other half of the starter that you set aside, and use it in a tasty recipe! It can often be used in this “unfed” state (ie. in baked goods that either don’t need to rise much, that involve a pre-ferment, or in quickbread type recipes that include another leavener like baking powder/soda), but if you want it to be powerful enough to leaven bread, you’ll want to give this half its own feeding as well. To give it some extra “oomph,” feed the discard starter with 4 oz. flour and water just like in the last step, and let it hang out for about 12 hours before baking. If I’m planning to bake bread on Saturday, I usually take my starter out on Friday night, split it, and feed both halves. Then after 2 hours, I put one half back into the fridge for next week, and leave the other half out overnight to continue fermenting until I’m ready to bake the next morning.
** I usually feed my starter with unbleached all-purpose flour, which yields the most reliable results. But once every few weeks I prefer to liven things up with a feeding of whole-wheat flour instead.
Highlights of my Sourdough Baking Rotation
And finally, what we’ve all been waiting for… the recipes!
Pizza Crust: I’ve already mentioned (and teased on Instagram) my obsession with crafting the perfect whole grain sourdough crust for pizza night. Recipe testing is still in progress, but you can definitely look forward to seeing the results here once I get it dialed in.
Pancakes + Waffles: Weekend breakfast turns your sourdough ritual into an opportunity to show your household some love. This basic recipe from King Arthur Flour has an overnight rise with buttermilk, and comes out superbly light and fluffy. I substitute whole-wheat pastry flour instead of the all-purpose stuff, with great results, and it’s also a good foundation for customizing variations with your favorite mix-ins. In fact, I have a new seasonal specialty coming your way soon!
Biscuits: I’ve only experimented with sourdough biscuits once so far, but they definitely warrant further study! I tried a variation on this cheddar biscuit recipe from Cultures for Health (great resource for all things fermented), and although it came out a little more like a dinner roll than a fluffy/flaky biscuit, we still ate them enthusiastically. The dough is marbled with sharp cheddar, black pepper and garlic, which I was compelled to enjoy savory-sweet style: topped with a drizzle of honey. Next, I’ve got my sights set on these cheddar-chive beauties.
Seed Bread: When I wrote last week about my motivations for starting a sourdough habit, there was another bullet point that I should have included: because I am addicted to sourdough seed bread! I first got hooked on the version they sell at the bakery department at Sprouts, and then when I found this recipe from Smart Nutrition (one of my all-time-fave RD bloggers) I’m pretty sure it was seriously the tipping point that inspired me to adopt my new sourdough pet. I add hemp seeds to mine, and it is outrageously good.
Those are the baking basics that have stood out as the house favorites during my first couple of months experimenting with my new sourdough ritual, but I look forward to baking plenty more healthy, fermented grainy goodies. You can keep up with ongoing updates on my baking inspiration on my Sourdough Recipes Pinterest board (next on my list: those popovers and those donuts!)
Readers, now it’s your turn: tell me about your sourdough! What are your best tips and must-try recipes?
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
Ice packs. Netflix. Eating soup on the couch. Sounds like a super-fun recovery weekend, right? This year I learned from my dentist that I needed oral surgery to correct a gum recession problem (PSA: apparently this is why you shouldn’t brush your teeth too hard!) and two weeks ago, I finally went under the knife to get it fixed with what they call the “pinhole” surgery. As the operation day approached, I put some diligent thought into how to best support myself nutritionally for a speedy recovery. It was obvious that I would need to stock up on soft/easy-to-eat foods, but from a dietitian’s perspective, I couldn’t help but draw up some plans to emphasize my favorite nutrients to facilitate the healing process. And it should go without saying, that I also wanted to continue to ENJOY food while I heal… gotta keep flavor in mind to nourish the body + spirit.
Sure, you could say I’m ‘overthinking’ it for a relatively minor surgery – the doctor’s only dietary orders were to avoid crunchy and sticky foods – but on my follow-up visits, the surgeon praised my quick healing, so I’m thinking the effort was worthwhile!
Disclaimer: please understand that good nutrition is very personal; what’s good for one individual can be a problem for another. Follow the advice of your own doctor and/or dietitian, who know your particular needs and issues. This post is about my own case and experience.
So how does this registered dietitian approach her post-op recovery diet? Here are the things that went under my consideration:
Oral Surgery Post-Op Nutritional Recovery Plan
First off, for wound healing, it’s important to get enough calories and protein for your body to generate new tissue and heal. This means making an effort to eat well, to make sure that a sore mouth or poor appetite won’t lead to meal-skipping or under-eating. It also means paying special attention to build meals around healthy protein sources like eggs, lean meats/poultry, yogurt, beans, soy, etc.
Essential Nutrients for Wound Healing
But beyond those basics, there are a few other key nutrients/foods that I wanted to emphasize in my post-op recovery plan:
Vitamin C: An essential co-factor in the generation of collagen, this nutrient is key for healing tissue. As a bonus, it’s an antioxidant so it decreases systemic oxidative stress and consequently inflammation.
Food Sources: tomatoes, peppers, fruits like strawberries, oranges, or pineapple
Zinc: This mineral has a structural role in many enzymes, including several that are involved in pathways for collagen formation and in supporting the immune system. It’s clinically proven that adequate zinc status is important in aiding wound healing; in hospital settings, dietitians even prescribe zinc sulfate supplements to help patients with difficult wounds. I didn’t bother with that extra expense, but I did focus on eating plenty of my favorite zinc-rich foods.
Anti-Inflammatory foods: Certain foods work with your body to decrease its systemic inflammatory response, while others just add more fuel to the fire. Since I knew I was going to be dealing with a lot of swelling, I did everything I could to tilt the scales in the right direction:
more veggies, fruits, healthy fats, fish, soy, turmeric, ginger, green tea
less refined flours and sugars
Dietary Supplements for Recovering from Oral Surgery
I also chose to support my regimen with a couple ofsupplements (again, talk to your doctor or dietitian about what’s right for you). First, I picked up a bottle of probiotic supplements to help innoculate my gut with a beneficial microbiome after finishing the course of antibiotics required following the surgery. Fish oil capsules can provide an extra anti-inflammatory boost from omega 3’s, and turmeric is another anti-inflammatory ally (look for high-quality capsules that also contain black pepper / piperine, which greatly improves bioavailability). Hydrolyzed collagen powder is a convenient way to supply building blocks for your healing tissue, especially because it blends very easily into hot or cold drinks, smoothies, soups, oatmeal, and the other soft foods you’ll be enjoying.
flavorrd is a member of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, and earns a commission for purchases made through the following links:
What to Eat After Oral Surgery
So, after I had my game plan ready, how did I work these foods into my diet? Here’s a glimpse into my week following the procedure:
Behold, the Green Smoothie Pop. I received these fun squeeze-pop molds as a get-well gift from my mom (how sweet is that? she obviously gets me.). The day before my appointment, I whizzed up a mason jar magic bullet filled with frozen banana, frozen pineapple, fresh spinach, orange juice and almond milk, and poured the blend into the tubes to freeze. It was the right thing to do. Delicious tropical flavor, soothing cold for gum pain, and the pineapple and orange juice pack a punch of vitamin C for healing!
Leading up to my surgery, I naturally ended up discussing the finer points of the mechanical soft diet with my dietitian coworkers. When the idea of golden grilled cheese saturated with creamy tomato soup came up, I just couldn’t get it out of my head. During my pre-op grocery run, the first things to get tossed into my basket were a loaf of whole-grain sourdough bread, some lovely grass-fed sharp cheddar, and an ultra-convenient box of Imagine light-sodium Garden Tomato Soup. With the bread lightly brushed with olive oil for a source of healthy fat, this meal is easy to throw together when you don’t feel like cooking, and total comfort food. Win win! And if you do feel like cooking, I must recommend my favorite tomato soup recipe: [Instant Pot] Roasted Tomato Soup.
Some Other Favorite Creamy/Hearty/Nourishing Soup Recipes:
Scrambled eggs made appearances at both breakfast and lunch. They’re a quick/easy protein, soft, and topping with salsa doesn’t just up the flavor factor, but also adds a little extra veggies and vitamins. Every bit helps!
PBJ yogurt! I had the surgery on a Friday, and after my first weekend of healing was over, this was my staple pack-for-work breakfast the following week. Plain Greek yogurt topped with a small spoonful of strawberry jam, a larger spoonful of chunky peanut butter, a tablespoon of wheat germ (zinc!!) and a generous sprinkle of chia seeds on top. So delicious, I’m still continuing to eat this now that I have my chewing abilities back.
Just to be clear that I wasn’t powering through the recovery phase cooking everything from scratch: there was definitely a life-saving order of takeout pho. It’s the only ‘fast food’ I can think of built on a foundation of nourishing bone broth! I ordered extra and lived off this for the first couple of rough recovery days, when it was awesome to be able to just nuke a quick meal whenever hunger struck.
Annnnd just to be clear about one other thing, there was also definitely ice cream. Duh.
Some other healthy foods that I subsisted on but wasn’t cogent enough to snap photos of: whole-wheat fusilli pasta topped with a grass-fed beef and mushroom bolognese, fork-tender broiled salmon, this black bean soup, this broccoli cheddar soup, and a simple chicken ‘noodle’ soup with tiny star-shaped pastina that made me feel like a little kid again. Lots of good eating, and although I’m still waiting for clearance to start flossing again (as a flossing fanatic I’M GOING CRAZY OVER HERE!) I’m pretty much back to normal now!
I hope this post will help other people trying to figure out what to eat after oral surgery. If you have any other words of wisdom, please share in the comments!
flavorrd is a member of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, and earns a commission for purchases made through the following links:
Already have enough recipes for healthy, easy, one-pan, perfectly balanced weeknight dinners? Yeah, I didn’t think so. So here comes variation #3 for my National Nutrition Month series of MyPlate Bakes… and this time, we’re packing some major superfoods! This one-pan-meal is filled to the brim with omega 3’s, leafy greens, antioxidants, fiber, protein, potassium, along with your recommended daily allowance of deliciousness!
Ready for take two? In case you missed it last week, this is the second installation of flavorRD’s special feature for National Nutrition Month. Every week in March, we’re biting into a healthy lifestyle with a new balanced recipe inspired by USDA’s MyPlate: the idea is that 1/4 protein + 1/4 carbs + 1/2 veggies = healthy dinnertime success made easy, all on a single sheet pan. This time around, we’re catering to the plant-powered people out there! Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or just trying to work in some Meatless Mondays, this spicy sweet garlicky goodness is a full-flavored way to power up your weeknight dinner table.
March is National Nutrition Month, and it’s prime time for talking up my favorite subject: healthy food, and how to enjoy it!
This year’s theme is “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle,” and I’m celebrating by biting into an exciting new series of recipes inspired by USDA’s MyPlate. I’m a big fan of the simplicity of this food icon, designed to make it easy to build a healthier diet, one plate at a time. If you ask me, striving to make your plates look more like MyPlate (with half of the real estate covered by fruits and veggies) is one of the most straightforward ways to shift your eating habits to become healthier than ever.
For this recipe series, I’m calling my invention the MyPlate Bake. The concept is to follow the MyPlate formula of 1/2 veggies + 1/4 carbs + 1/4 protein, and roast it all together on a single sheet pan. This results in a healthy home-cooked dinner for two, made from scratch with whole food ingredients, in under an hour (prep and clean-up included). Believe it!
I’ll be updating the blog every week this month with a tasty new variation, so stay tuned! First up is an instant classic that I already know will be a go-to in my kitchen: the Maple Dijon Chicken MyPlate Bake.
Ready for an authentic glimpse into my kitchen? Here’s the Real Talk: I bought this kale with intentions to make a big fresh kale salad, but I procrastinated too long and the poor greens lost their crunch factor. It was a bummer for about 10 seconds, until I realized the silver lining: they were still perfectly good for sauteing, so now I get to talk to you about one of my favorite tricks for jamming more greens into my diet: All-Purpose Greens, yo!
While you can also whip this up as a quick side dish, this recipe is mostly about healthy-eating logistics. We can all benefit from a trick for making it easier to eat more vegetables, and this is one that I keep up my sleeve. I like to make a full batch of All-Purpose Greens to store in my fridge and use throughout the week in meals that could benefit from an extra serving of veggies. It’s an effortless way to add color and flavor, not to mention fiber, vitamins, minerals, and all of the other disease-fighting phytochemicals that make vegetables the foundation of a healthy diet.
The media is abuzz once again with the old back-to-school rhetoric. Whether we’re students or not, they’ll have us believe that summer is on its way out, and we are now to turn our attention to our responsibilities… time to put away the bikini, buckle down, and become masters of productivity. In the nutrition realm, this translates into dutiful healthy meal planning and lunch-packing. We all know that packing your own lunch is healthier, more economical, and all those boring grown-up ideals we so desperately strive for. But you know how I feel sometimes? Like life is hard enough already, and it’s not all about agonizing over engineering the optimal lunch routine. In this post, I’m giving us permission to TAKE IT EASY and feed ourselves good food with just a modicum of effort. You’re welcome! Continue reading “Low Maintenance Lunch-Packing Tips and 5 Favorite Packable Recipes”
Today’s post goes out to a special demographic, who if they’re anything like I was, are doing a lot of googling these days: soon-to-be college students. You’re about to uproot your life, be out on your own, deprive yourself of many hours of sleep in favor of homework/socializing/beer-pong, figure out the various intricacies of LIFE ITSELF… and as if that’s not enough, you’re expected to feed yourself too!
Generally speaking, college students have limitations in space, time, money, cooking/shopping experience, and transportation… basically, it’s the perfect storm for subsisting on pizza and beer. But you don’t have to let this happen to you! As an RD who’s spent the majority of my adult life as a student (and whose first job was rolling burritos in my college dining hall), I’ve been there and I’m on your side when it comes to keeping your body running well by putting good food into it. Let’s talk about the tools you need to make this happen.