Friday, September 30, 2011

Traveling and Dining in San Diego

Sorry to have been away for a week but I was attending the American Dietetic Association's Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) in sunny San Diego, California!  What a beautiful city - so clean, sunny and full of things to see and places to eat.  Since I was attending a conference, I didn't get to see as much of the city as Fireman but heard about the museums, marinas, Little Italy and Coronado.  We were able to go to the San Diego Zoo before the conference started and loved every minute of it. It's very clean and the staff is friendly and willing to answer questions.  We started by taking a double decker bus around the park so we could determine in which areas we wanted to spend more time.  After the bus ride, we set off on foot and just wandered through the areas that interested us most.  Below are a few pics from the Zoo!  I had been to this Zoo many years ago with my Aunt, Great Uncle and his wife.  My Uncle was such a fun and funny guy.  I'll never forget how he heard a seal calling and said, "Listen, that seal is calling my name - Fred, Fred" and it really did sound like that.  My Aunt (AC) and I still laugh about that today.  As a matter of fact, she emailed me the day we were there and asked if I remembered.  I thought about Uncle Fred all day!!


Of course while we were in San Diego we had some amazing food!  The first day we had fish tacos at a place called Tin Fish.  It is right in the shadows of the stadium where the San Diego Padres play baseball.  I know for some of you a fish taco sounds pretty strange but they are amazing when you find somewhere that does them well.  I prefer to have the fish (shrimp or calamari) grilled instead of breaded and fried but you can get either.  Fish tacos generally have some type of avocado cream, garlic sour cream or guacamole along with shredded cabbage instead of lettuce.  These tacos also had a little cheddar cheese and some salsa.  They were good but not nearly as good as the fish tacos we had later in the week at a place called Freddy's Mexican Food in the Gaslamp district - AMAZING!  and we happened to be there on Taco Tuesday so the tacos were only $2-$3 each!  We were there with some awesome dietitian friends so I forgot to take photos - again!!  But here's a pic of the Tin Fish tacos that I had the first day!

One mahi mahi taco and one calamari taco!! YUM!
That evening we went to a nice little restaurant in the Gaslamp district in downtown San Diego.  Sammy's Wood-fired pizza has salads, sandwiches, tapas and pizza.  Somehow we neglected to get a photo of the pizza and salad that we ordered - oops!  The next morning we went to the Zoo before attending the opening session of the conference.  Dinner was at La Bocca where I had the Osso Bucco and Fireman had the gnocchi - both equally delicious.  The Osso Bucco is only offered once per week and was highly recommended by both the Hostess and the Waiter.  Boy am I glad to have listened to them.  The meat was absolutely falling off the bone - no knife necessary and the risotto was perfectly cooked.We traded half way through so we could double the experience!  Here is a photo of the Osso Bucco with risotto.

Tomorrow, I will tell you about the other things we did and show you some photos of more amazing food!  Stay tuned for part 2 of FNCE and San Diego...........!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

From eeewwww Brussels Sprouts to mmmmmm Brussels Sprouts!

So, in general, there are two opinions when it comes to Brussels Sprouts.  One is the opinion of total disgust and the other is the opinion of total appreciation.  But, if you're firmly in the total disgust category I bet it's because you've only ever had these tiny cabbage-like veggies boil or steamed - To Death!!  Well, I predict that this recipe is the one that will convert  you to the total appreciation group.  Seriously, Fireman and I ate this whole pan of shredded and sauteed Brussels Sprouts and neither one of us could stand them while growing up.  This recipe is amazing.  You should give it a try!  Seriously!!

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon walnut oil (I used Olive Oil because it was on hand)
4 slices thick cut bacon
3/4 cup onion, thinly sliced
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and shredded (I used shredding blade on my food processor)
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts
kosher salt, to taste
fresh ground black pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, sugar, and oil; set aside.  In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp.  Remove bacon, cut or crumble into pieces, and set aside. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of drippings in pan (if there aren’t enough drippings to equal 2 tbsp, add a little butter or oil).  Heat drippings over medium-high then add onion and shredded brussels sprouts.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until just tender.  Remove from heat and stir in bacon, walnuts, and dressing.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm.  Serves 4.
Adapted from:

I found this particular recipe on the website but I also love to roast Brussels Sprouts and many other vegetables in a hot oven.  For Brussels Sprouts trim ends and peel away outer leaves.  Then quarter large sprouts and halve smaller ones.  Place in a bowl with olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette, or other vinegar and oil based salad dressing.  Toss until very lightly coated and place on a baking sheet.  Roast in a 400-425 degree oven for approximately 15-20 minutes or until browned and crisp tender.

Either way, I think you'll find a new appreciation for the humble Brussels Sprout.  Give them a try - they are especially good when served with sweet potatoes!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The best of Fall produce

Summer may be gone but that doesn't mean fresh produce from local farms is gone too!  Indiana still has loads of delicious fresh produce that's in season now.  Here is a guide to Fall seasonal produce:

From mid-September to late October look for:
  • Apples, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Grapes, Lettuce, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkins, Radishes, Snap Beans and Spinach.

Also look for these items until late November:
  • Beets, Carrots, Collards, Mushrooms, Onions, Turnips, Turnips Greens, and Winter Squash.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 suggests we consume more dark green and orange vegetables.  Many of the fruits and vegetables listed above fit into this category.  Dark green and orange vegetables are major contributors of under-consumed nutrients including folate, magnesium, potassium, dietary fiber, and the Vitamins A, C and K.  Consumption of increased quantities and varieties of fruits and vegetables has been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases and some cancers.  Not to mention that fruits and vegetables are low in calorie making them great additions when you're watching your weight.  All of us should strive to load half our plates with fruits and veggies at every meal!

The next time you're planning your weekly menu and shopping list, don't forget to pick up some fresh Fall produce.  Need ideas for how to use some of this bounty?  Try some of these!

Steam it - steam veggies until they are bright and just tender.
Roast it - roast vegetables in the oven at 425 degrees until browned and tender-usually about 15-20 minutes - try this with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets and carrots.  Toss vegetables with a small bit of olive or canola oil (just enough to lightly coat) and season with your choice of spices before roasting.
Add it - add spinach, collard, or turnip greens to lentil soup, lasagna or rice
Stuff it - apples, onions and winter squash are all great stuffed.  Fill hollowed out produce with sausage and dry bread cubes seasoned with sweet or savory herbs and spices.
Mash it - mash potatoes, sweet potatoes or winter squash.  Also try mixing any of these with mashed carrots, turnips, broccoli or cauliflower.

Enjoy it!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Polish Family Favorite - Pierogies!

With Fireman at work today and everyone else at the Purdue football game, I knew I had loads of uninterrupted time to fill.  So I thought it would be a great time to make pierogies.  Pierogies are typically semi-circular dumplings that are filled with a variety of ingredients including potatoes, meat, and/or cheese.  These dumplings are generally boiled and then fried.  This is my Mother-in-laws family recipe that we all love.  Making pierogies is a labor of love as this process is not a quick one.  First you make the filling, we use dry cottage cheese seasoned with minced onion, a tiny bit of sugar and salt and loads of black pepper.  Then you make the dough.  I like to make a double batch of dough to be filled with one pound of the dry cheese mixture.  Once the dough is made, I divide it into about 14 individual balls and cover them with a damp paper towel so they don't dry out.  I hand roll each of these dough balls into about a 5-6" circle then fill it with about a golf ball sized scoop of filling.  Then fold the dough over the filling and seal the edges well.

This is what the filled pierogies look like before boiling!

  Now you're ready to boil these babies!  Boil three at a time for 10 minutes then place them on some parchment paper and cover with a damp towel. 

Boil 3 pierogie at a time for 10 minutes

I hope you can see that the bottom pierogie is larger than the top one!  The bottom one has been boiled!
Fry 'em up!!
At this point, you can fry the pierogies in a mixture of butter and olive oil (this is my favorite way to fry them as the olive oil keeps the butter from browning too much). 
If you don't want to fry all of them, this is the point where you can freeze the extras.  Place in a container or sealed freezer bag with layers of wax paper between.  When you get a craving for pierogies, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight or while you're at work and then fry them up when you get home.  We like to serve these with ketchup.  I know, I know, it sounds really weird but you have to taste it to believe it.  I've been hooked every since I had these for the first time probably 18 years ago.  My MIL, having 7 kids, had to make upwards of 90-100 of these to feed her hungry crowd.  Keep in mind that I just made a double batch and it made 13 filled pierogies and it took me two hours and I haven't even fried any yet - that's for tomorrow!  Because this process takes so long, MIL instituted a rule that you have to say "mmmmm, thank you Mom" with every bite!!  Obviously, she gets loads of appreciation for making these but no one really talks at all when we sit down to platters of fresh pierogies.  It's the quietest meal ever with a few mumbled 'mmmm's' here and a 'pass the platter or ketchup' there.  I hope if you're feeling adventurous one day, you'll try this recipe too.  The dry cottage cheese is sometimes really hard to find but your grocer will often order it for you if you ask.  I generally get mine whenever I'm in South Bend and then freeze it until I'm ready to use it.

Was aiming for another photo, but
Fireman starting eating them
before I could!!

Homemade Pierogies

For the Filling:
1 pound dry-curd cottage cheese
salt and pepper - heavy on the pepper
1 T sugar
1/2 small onion, diced

For the Dough:
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
1 t each butter and shortening
Mix these ingredients with your fingers or a pastry blender then add:
1 beaten egg and water to make a soft dough (I'd estimate about 1/3 to 1/2 cup water for a batch of dough)

Once you have the dough mixed, cut into balls about the size of a small lemon.  Cover these with a damp cloth so they don't dry out.  Roll out one at a time and fill with about a golf ball sized scoop of filling.  Place the filling down the center of the dough and fold the dough over to make a half-moon shape.  Seal the edges by pinching them shut (you could also press with a fork).  Place the filled pierogies on parchment paper and cover again with a damp towel until all the dough balls are filled and you are ready to boil them.  Boil three at a time for 10 minutes and place back onto parchment paper.  When you are ready, heat butter and olive oil in a heavy skillet and fry over low heat until they are golden brown. I generally use 1 stick of butter and about 1/4 cup olive oil to fry all of these.  You may have to add more of each during the process. If you are making a large batch, keep the fried pierogies in a warm oven (about 200 degrees) until you are ready to serve them.  Serve with ketchup and enjoy!!
Note:  I double the dough recipe but not the filling recipe.  This generally makes about 12-14 pierogie for me.

This is obviously not the most low calorie meal I make but since we rarely get to have them, I throw nutrition to the wind and just enjoy!  Notice the brussels sprouts and carrots - I didn't say I completely forget about being a dietitian when I make these!!!  Enjoy!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What's in your glass?

Today I was contacted by a local newspaper intern who is writing a story about beverages to avoid when trying to lose weight.  She wanted my opinion so I came up with a list of 10 beverages that people intent on losing weight should avoid and I thought I'd share them with you. Please note that these are in no particular order!!

1. Regular Soda - a 20 ounce soda contains 227 calories

2. Sweet Tea - a large 32 ounce sweet tea from your favorite golden arches restaurant has 300 calories

3. Slurpee's/Slushies - a 24 ounce slushies contains nearly 200 calories

4. Fancy coffee drinks - a Grande 16 ounce cafe latte with 2% milk contains 190 calories.  Switch to skim milk and save 60 calories.  Many of the flavored, topped with whipped cream coffee drinks contain way more calories.  Did you know that the whipped cream on top contributes at least 100 calories?

5. Milkshakes - a 16 ounce triple thick chocolate shake has 440 calories while the same size McCafe chocolate shake has 720 calories!  Note, hand-dipped, hard pack milkshakes contain far more calories.

6.  Alcoholic beverages - light beer are 90-120 calories, regular beers range from 140-200 calories, wine contains 62-160 calories per 4 ounce serving, and mixed drinks range from 280 to over 800 calorie, especially for creamy, frozen drinks.

7. Energy Drinks - an 8 ounce Red Bull has 115 calories while a 12 ounce Monster has 150 calories.

8. Whole milk - an 8 ounce serving of whole milk contains 149 calories, 2% has 121 calories and 1% has 104 calories.  Skim, or fat-free milk has only 90 calories per 8 ounce serving.  Did you know that skim milk is equal in nutrition to whole milk?  The only thing you'll be missing is the fat and the calories that come from fat!

9. Juice - an 8 ounce serving of 100% fruit juice has about 110 calories while an 8 ounce Sunny D has 120 calories.  The difference in calories doesn't seem like much but the difference in nutrition is huge!  The 100% fruit juice has nothing added to juice that has been squeezed from real fruit.   The other product, along with juice drinks, cocktails and beverages contains added sugars, colorings, vitamins and minerals and only 5-10% real fruit juice.  So make sure to choose 100% fruit juice and drink it in moderation if you're watching your weight.

10. Smoothies - a 16 ounce smoothie contains about 270 calories.  Smoothies contain loads of highly nutritious ingredients - yogurt and/or milk, juice, fruit, etc.  Enjoy a smoothie for breakfast or as a snack but keep portions in mind. 

So, if you're watching your weight, drink more plain water and choose 100% fruit juice and low-fat or fat free milk but choose the last two in moderation (1-2 servings of each per day).  They are exceedingly good for you but do contribute calories.  As always, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, more whole grains and lean protein sources and exercise most, if not all, days of the week. 
To your health!!

Please note that all calories vary between brands.  The calories noted above are averages.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Green Smoothies for the Athena's

This school year our nurse was able to secure some grant funding to allow us to form a club for girls that are underserved and just need some extra TLC from positive, supportive, successful women.  The club is run by one of our recently retired teachers and the girls just love her.  The group is called the Athena's and they do different fun activities every week.  Last week they tasted homemade apple butter on homemade whole wheat bread after a nice long walk around the school grounds and discussed their thoughts and ideas for how the club would benefit them.  This week they did some gardening in the courtyard and are excited to decorate it next month with carved pumpkins and other Fall items.  They also snacked on local Montgomery County grown apples, applesauce and gingerbread muffins while they learned about a successful woman in history - Betty Ford. 
I was invited to teach the group how to make smoothies, but not just any smoothies - we made green smoothies!  First, we started off making a peach smoothie that included vanilla yogurt, orange juice and frozen peach slices.  After everyone was able to taste the first batch, we add a good 2-3 handfuls of fresh baby spinach to the same ingredients and gave it another try!  To the girls amazement they loved it!!  Many of them were completely surprised that you can't actually taste the spinach in the smoothie but it really boosts the nutritive value of the drink.  The next time you need a quick breakfast idea or an afternoon pick me up, try a green smoothie.  I promise you won't taste the spinach, but you will reap all the benefits spinach has to offer.

Green Smoothie Recipe for 2

2 cups frozen fruit chunks
1 cup 100% orange juice or other flavor
1 cup low fat vanilla yogurt
1-2 handfuls of fresh spinach leaves

Blend all ingredients and enjoy!  You can use this recipe as is or change the fruit, juice or yogurt to fit your taste.  If you don't have any yogurt, add some milk, soy, coconut or rice milk.  If you have fresh fruit, just add some ice cubes for that ice cold frothy goodness!

I neglected to take a photo of our smoothies today so I borrowed this photo from: 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Shrimp Korma turned Vindaloo

On Sunday we stopped in at one of my favorite stores any where - Trader Joe's!  I love Trader Joe's!!!  It has so many awesome products and is very reasonably priced.  The only problem is that the closest one is at least 45 minutes away so I don't get there nearly as often as I'd like.  This time I picked up the usual things I get there - low sodium chicken and veggie broths, pita chips, coconut milk, Kerry Gold Irish butter and gnocchi. I also got some of the best ginger snap cookies I've ever had. I would've picked up some wine too but it was Sunday! On this particular trip I found  some fresh garlic Naan which is an Indian bread similar to flatbread.  That is what lead me to tonights dinner. 

If you follow this blog for long, you'll discover that I love everything about food.  I like to find recipes and then modify them to make them healthier.  When I don't have time to come up with my own recipes, I turn to Cooking Light magazine and cookbooks.  I have every issue of the annual recipes cookbooks since 1996 and have found some of my all time favorite recipes from those issues.  Tonight I decided to make the Shrimp Korma recipe from the June 2011 issue but I wanted something a bit spicier.  Hence, my Kormas reinvention as a Vindaloo!!  So here's the recipe from Cooking Light with my modifications. 


Shrimp Korma with Basmati Rice


  • 2 teaspoons butter (I used canola oil)
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Madras curry powder (I used 1T of Vindaloo seasoning from Penzey's Spices)
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala (I used 1t)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided (I did not add the salt)
  • 2 cups organic vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup diced tomato
  • 1/4 cup frozen green peas (I used 2/3 cup)
  • 1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp
  • 4 cups hot cooked basmati rice
  • 1/4 cup plain fat-free yogurt (I forgot to pick some up!)


  • 1. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and onion to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Add flour, ginger, and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add curry powder, garam masala, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 30 seconds, stirring. Stir in broth and 1/3 cup water; bring to a boil. Stir in milk and tomato; reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Add peas, shrimp, and remaining salt; cook 5 minutes or until shrimp are done. Spoon about 2/3 cup rice into each of 6 bowls. Top each serving with about 1 cup shrimp mixture and 2 teaspoons yogurt.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lock the door - it's the neighbor with more tomatoes!

If you've ever had a garden, you know the joy of  finding that first ripe tomato!  You pick it and savor that delicious nothing like a vine-ripe tomato taste and dream about the next one.  Then, one day, you go out to the garden to find that nearly every tomato on your plants has ripened over night!!  Now what?  In my case, I ate tons of them then made pasta sauce and salsa for the freezer, canned tomato chutney and peeled and diced more tomatoes than I care to count to freeze for winter consumption - and I still had tomatoes!!  That's where the neighbors came in.  I went over and asked them if they'd like some tomatoes and they were thrilled to take some for BLT's, tomato-basil salad and countless other summer treats.  These same kind neighbors willingly took some of my fresh tomato bounty for a few weeks until they ran out of ideas for using them up too.  Then they seemed to always be gone, never answering their door when I rang the bell and leaving the lights off at night so I couldn't tell they had sneaked home undetected.  Now, I'm back to square one - deciding what to do with my bumper crop of delicious tomatoes!!

The lesson learned from this experience is that I shouldn't have so many tomato plants next year.  It's so hard though, when you're looking at those tiny little plants in the Spring.  They just don't look like much at that point so I always convince myself that I need at least one more - or maybe two!  At least next year I'll have this blog post to refer to when I'm deciding how many tomato plants to get!!  Chances are I'll still have too many tomatoes again next year - but that's not such a bad deal after all!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9-11

Firefighting Posters: 9/11 Firefighter "Walk of Courage" Poster Print or Photo PrintOn this day 10 years ago, I was a new student at Purdue University and I had just finished an anatomy and physiology class.  I remember being so happy to be back at school and finally heading towards a career that I love.  I decided to walk over to the Union to get some coffee and study until my next class.  As I walked into the building it was earily quiet - way too quiet for a bustling campus.  I saw people sitting in the TV areas just watching and not saying a word.  I wondered what could have them so fixated and so quiet.  I sat down among them just in time to see the second plane hit.  I was in total shock and could not believe my eyes.  Fireman, who was not even a fireman at the time, was working at a construction site when I called to tell him what was happening.  All I really wanted to do right then was go home and be with my family. 
For the next several days, or maybe it was weeks, I was transfixed by the images on TV of the events as they took place, the clean up, and the search and rescue efforts.  It was all very hard to watch back then but I find it even harder to watch now that Fireman is a fire fighter.  I will never forget that day and will remember those who gave so much in my own way.  I have had to choose not to watch all the memorials that are on TV as they are just too overwhelming.  I even skipped reading the articles in the newspaper today.
So on this day, and every day, take time to remember those that were lost, spend time with your family and be thankful for all that we have.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Daruis Rucker Rocks!!

Last night was girls night out!!  I had an awesome time with some wonderful friends from work.  We started with dinner at Muldoon's Irish Bar in Carmel.  It was a cool and rainy night just perfect for some Shepherd's Pie and Guinness Stew.  The main event of the evening was the Darius Rucker concert at the Palladium.  Darius, formerly Hootie of the Blowfish, put on an awesome concert.  He played lots of his new country stuff but also some older Hootie songs as well.  He finished by singing Purple Rain by Prince.  Our seats were actually behind the stage so we got to watch the crowd and the concert - double bonus!!  It was fun to see the wide age range of people there and to see their reactions to the variety of songs being played.  I love people watching so, in my opinion, we couldn't have had better seats!

If you get the chance to see any type of show at the Palladium - GO!  The acoustics are great and there isn't a bad seat in the house.  It's a nice, smaller venue to enjoy some popular acts. For a complete list of shows for 2011-2012 check out:  The Center For The Performing Arts 

I hear The Chieftains are going to be there on March 6.  Sounds like a good way to prepare for St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mmmmmm, chili!

It's finally raining here!!  Today really felt like a fall day - drizzling rain and cool temperatures.  A perfect day for a bowl of chili.  Not just any chili though!  I made a vegetarian chili that is loaded with sweet potatoes, bell peppers, onions, carrots, corn and black beans and... Quinoa!  Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is an ancient seed that is used as a whole grain.  This magical little seed is loaded with protein and adds a great texture to loads of dishes.  Uses it in the same way you'd use rice or couscous.  Even my meat-loving fireman loved it!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Eat your spinach

Today I begin my adventures in blogging!  Hang with me as I learn the ins and outs of the blogging world!

I spend most week days as a Nutrition Educator for a local school corporation.  It's the best job in the world for me and I can't imagine doing anything else.  Today I spent the lunch hour encouraging kindergarten and first graders to eat their spinach.  It was so much fun seeing the looks on their faces when they realized that spinach is actually really tasty.  One little girl even asked if she could go back for seconds and we all happily said YES!!  Some of the adults in the room even clapped and cheered a little!  It was the highlight of my day.

As much as I love teaching kids about nutrition, I also love cooking, baking, gardening and traveling.  This blog will follow my adventures in each of these areas!