Special Series for National Nutrition Month! Introducing… The MyPlate Bake

The MyPlate Bake: healthy home-cooked dinner for 2. One pan. One hot oven. One hour, start to finish.
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.

Continue reading “Special Series for National Nutrition Month! Introducing… The MyPlate Bake”

All-Purpose Greens

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.

Continue reading “All-Purpose Greens”

Low Maintenance Lunch-Packing Tips and 5 Favorite Packable Recipes

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”

HOW TO: Eat Healthy in College

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.

Continue reading “HOW TO: Eat Healthy in College”

Cooking with Cast Iron

In recent years, the boyfriend and I have been taking gradual steps toward reducing our exposure to risky chemicals in household products. I could write a whole post about this, as it’s much trickier than it should be, but today I wanted to share my experience with a certain kitchen-related detail.

I’m not super proud to admit this, but until very recently I had always employed a non-stick skillet as a major part of my cookware arsenal. It’s been my easy solution for cooking eggs, pancakes, quick sautes and stir fries. While the EPA does not currently attribute health risks to nonstick cookware, the potential concerns of the surface materials are enough reason for me to avoid them if possible.

Over time I’ve tried traditional Teflon pans as well as a variety of PTFE/PFOA-free cookware. While these new “greener” alternative surfaces may be promising, they also have limited research regarding their long-term safety. And as you may have guessed from my track record, I’m not only dissatisfied with the potential health implications, but I’ve also become really tired of replacing them practically every year as they wear out and lose their non-stick qualities.

So, when the surface on my last pan had reached its limit, it was time to consider my options:

  • Continue to grudgingly replace non-stick cookware and acknowledge the potential health risks? No… the madness must end!
  • Stainless steel? Maybe, but I feel like certain sticky foods will pose a challenge and I’ll find myself adding much more oil when cooking.
  • Carbon Steel? What am I, a millionaire?
  • Raw cast iron? When well-seasoned, it is a natural non-stick surface. It’s regarded for its even heat retention and unique ability to create a beautiful extra-golden crust. It even has the benefit of providing extra dietary iron with regular use. So many cooks love using cast iron… maybe it’s time for me to be one of them!

Continue reading “Cooking with Cast Iron”

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!

Continue reading “RD Airplane Snack Survival Kit”

Less-Mess Blender Trick: The Mason Jar Magic Bullet

For a big weekend project, it can be a necessary evil to destroy the kitchen with splatters, spills, and a mountain of dirty dishes. But in my daily life, I’m rather mess-averse. I don’t have a dishwasher in my apartment, and if a recipe is going to fill my sink up with multiple pots and bowls, it definitely makes me think twice before committing to a late night of scrubbing. Any trick that leads to fewer dishes to clean? I’m all over it.

By now, the trick I’m sharing today has saved me hours in dish-washing grief. Even more than most dishes, I hate dealing with a dirty blender… the huge, clunky pitcher and all the moving parts – just for one measly smoothie!

So, did you know that all standard blender bases are the same size as the opening of a regular (not wide-mouth) mason jar? To create your own “Magic Bullet” single-serve blender, all you have to do is unscrew your blender’s base/blades/gasket and screw them onto a simple canning jar. You can make small batches of blended foods right in the jar, and then use the same vessel for storage or consumption! I find that a pint sized jar is the most useful; just the right size for a bowl of hummus or salsa, and for smoothies I can drink it straight from the jar, or put on a canning lid and take it on the go!

In an effort to fight the worldwide epidemic of unnecessary blender-scrubbing, I made an amateur-hour attempt at creating this post’s pinnable images to let us visualize the possibilities. So if you found this helpful, please share!

Mason Jar Magic Bullet

I’ll admit, when perusing the blogs and reading about the next “amazing trick” for whatever kitchen task, I usually go into it expecting to have heard it before. I take after my lovely mom, who made sure I knew how to remove stray eggshells/keep biscuit dough cold/identify properly risen bread/etc. from an early age. I strangely pride myself on borderline obsessive knowledge of kitchen techniques, and even I had never heard of this trick until maybe a year ago! So I feel it’s my duty as a blogger who strives to make cooking accessible, to shout this one from the rooftops… this tip is a winner!

For full disclosure, it’s important to note that the glass in mason jars does not adhere to the same safety standards as the strongly tempered glass in blender pitchers. I have a hard time imagining the thing blowing apart, but I suppose it’s possible, so take that into consideration (no suing me, ok?). If you’re concerned about safety, throwing a towel over top of the jar while blending would presumably contain any breakage.

Have you heard this tip before? Do you screw a mason jar onto your blender? What other foods should I be blending??

Review: Instant Pot DUO Electric Pressure Cooker

Meet my new favorite toy.

{Please note: this is NOT a sponsored post, just sharing my experience with the newest tool in my kitchen.}

Sometime last year, I got a bee in my bonnet about pressure cooking. I admittedly don’t have much experience with the old-school stovetop pressure cookers our grandmothers used, but after reading an article about countertop Electric Pressure Cookers (EPCs) I was intrigued. I was immediately drawn to the time-saving and nutrient-preserving advantages, the energy efficiency, the versatility of programmable functions, and especially the “set-and-forget” quality that I never realized could be compatible with pressure cooking. When I decided that I wanted my next kitchen investment to be a pressure cooker, I delved into researching all available options, and eventually settled on the popular Instant Pot. This product is on the pricier end of the EPC market, and although I had some moments when I leaned toward less expensive brands, I came to the conclusion that it offered a better value for the price (factors affecting my decision to follow). I asked Santa to pre-order one for me, and I must have been good this year because the jolly old guy pulled through.

Continue reading “Review: Instant Pot DUO Electric Pressure Cooker”

3 Simple Ways to Take Advantage of Fall/Winter Fruits

In summer, getting our daily dose of antioxidants isn’t rocket science. Fruit is everywhere, and it’s easy to eat it non-stop. Sliced over yogurt, churned into smoothies, and perfectly ripe and juicy out of hand… But when fall rolls around, and the beautiful fresh berries start to disappear, I can feel my fruit consumption slow down. Here are three no-fuss fruit fixes I’m using to fit into my busy winter season:

Apple Maple Oats

Apple Maple Oats

Cool-weather breakfast at its finest. Lately I’m into steel-cut oats (creamy/hearty/sogood), so I make a big batch for the week and prep the toppings separately. For this bowl, I thinly slice half of an apple, sprinkle with cinnamon, and microwave until tender. Top your hot oats with the apples, a splash of milk, and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Fruity Salad

Fruity Salad

Jazz up those leafy greens! A juicy pear sliced into a salad like this, loaded with textures and flavors, is a great way to break up the lunch routine. I like to cut the sweetness with something salty/funky – here I’ve paired it with ham and goat cheese. Add some nuts for crunch and you’re good to go!

Pomegranate, Straight Up

Pomegranate

Why mess around with perfection? Pomegranate is the season’s most dazzling beauty, and also a nutritional powerhouse. To avoid the mess, I break apart the arils in a bowl of water. The good stuff sinks to the bottom, and then can be transferred to a container in the fridge for simple snacking.

If you have a tip for keeping up with fruit through the colder months, let’s discuss!