Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Eating Elite or Making Choices

I am about to take off on a flight to Denver to go to the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference, so perhaps it is fitting that I have a bag of food with me. Truth is that I would have a bag of food on any flight of more than 2 hours.

Here's what I have with me today:

  • hummus, store bought
  • Mary's Gone crackers
  • dried silky sea palm
  • dried fruit
  • an apple
  • cooked quinoa
  • cooked broccoli
  • toasted Judy's breadstick with avocado and my homegrown sprouts

Now, I have no fear of not having enough to eat. Since I left at 6 a.m. and had to skip breakfast, which for me is a big deal, I wanted to be sure that I had both my breakfast and lunch. I will also use some of this food to keep me feeling good during the conference.

I don't know about you and traveling but generally I don't get enough fluid or fiber. The dried fruit will take care of that. It's up to me to stay hydrated.

Do I consider the food that I packed to be elitist? NO. I consider my food, good choices, especially compared to most airport fare.

So, go for real food. Do a little planning and don't give up your regular eating routine unless you must or choose to do so. Healthier eating is not elitist, it's wise.

My plane just arrived at the gate, which means I'm going to eat something before boarding.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sweet Potatoes with Black Beans -- One of My Favorites

OK, I am on a sweet potato kick. It's because there is a sweet potato recipe contest (sponsored by North Carolina sweet potatoes) and I am a big sweet potato fan. What's not to like? (I only enter recipe contests where I truly like the ingredients.)
One of my favorite combinations is sweet potatoes with beans. Had my computer not been wiped out last year, I would likely post my curried sweet potatoes with garbanzo beans but instead, I went with my other favorite sweet potato combo -- with black beans. I happened to have cooked some black beans in my pressure cooker the other night so this dish came together easily. You can used canned beans (or run out and buy a pressure cooker and give up those cans) if you must.

Spicy Sweet Potato and Black Bean Hash
Serves 4
This is an ideal breakfast food for me but others will probably like it for lunch or a light dinner. It can be served over brown rice or quinoa, wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla or made into a soft taco, featured in the photo, or as a side dish.

1 tablespoon oil
1 cup chopped onion
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped sweet potatoes, about 2 small to medium, peeled
2 teaspoons chili powder (not spice)
½ cup vegetable broth
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup cooked black beans
¼ cup green onion, chopped
Splash of hot sauce, to taste
Salt to taste
Cilantro, chopped for garnish

Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic for another minute. Then add the sweet potatoes and chili powder. Stir to coat the sweet potatoes with chili. Add the vegetable broth and stir. Cover the pan, lower the heat to medium and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and add the salt, black beans and green onion. Cook another minute or two, until the beans are heated through. Add hot sauce, if desired. Taste and add more salt, if you like. Top with chopped cilantro.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I Love Sweet Potatoes in Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Curried Sweet Potato Soup
Serves 4 to 6
This is easy to make and quite tasty, elevating the sweet potato to a new level in an enticingly, exotic way. It also happens to be vegan and gluten- and dairy-free. You can leave out the oil and use coconut water, and it will be low fat but still extremely delicious.

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons curry powder or Red Curry paste
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped to equal at least 3 cups
1 14 ounce can light coconut milk or 1 11 ounce carton coconut water
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice plus lime wedges for garnish
½ teaspoon salt , or to taste
Chopped cilantro or parsley, for garnish

Add the oil to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and curry powder or paste. Saute another minute or so.
Add the sweet potatoes, coconut milk or coconut water and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are easily pierced with a knife.
Using an immersion blender blend the soup until it is the consistency that you like. (I like mine smooth with a few chunks left._ Add the lime juice and salt. Taste and adjust seasonings. Top with chopped cilantro or parsley and garnish with a wedge of lime.
c 2009, The Veggie Queen

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Flax Your Baking Muscles Recipe Contest Winners

The entries ranged from cookies, cakes, muffins and pies to horse treats, with just one savory entry. They were all good, some great, and choosing was incredibly difficult.

The Grand Prize winning recipe is Libby from The Allergic Kid, who won with her recipe for Oatmeal Raisin Muffins. You can check out her post about it on her blog. Libby will win a year's supply of flax from Flax USA.

I consider everyone who entered a winner but the other 3 prize winners, of Flax Sprinkle and roasted flax, are:

And Cynthia Humphrey with her horse cookies which sound pretty good for humans, too, which she says dogs like, too, can you save a lot of money.

If you want to find out more about the recipes, leave a comment and I will get back to you.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Back to The Vegetables -- Shaping Your Plate

A conversation with Sarah Martel of Health Transitions helped me figure out the best way to tell you how to eat. I am an intuitive person and eater. I can muddle through almost anything by trusting my gut.

But I know that not everyone can do this. As I explained to Sarah how I've been unable to articulate my healthier way of eating, she told me that she's simplified it. She tells people that we are made up of 70% water, so if you eat 70% of the watery, less concentrated, foods such as vegetables and fruit, and 30% of the other food such as beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains and other dense foods, that it works out just right.

So yesterday when I put my cooked red rice into "my bowl" (yes, I try to eat out of one special, beautiful ceramic bowl), I realized that I clearly put in too much. I took half of it out, leaving about 3/4 cup, and then added my tofu and many vegetables equaling about 2 cups (leftover from my Winter Vegetables Beyond Broccoli class the prior night), and topped it with curried cashew creme sauce. That was breakfast. And I felt satisfied for hours.

So, whether it's your plate or bowl, take a look and determine if you've got the best proportion of food on it? Is it close to the 70/30 ratio that Sarah mentioned? If not, I'd suggest that you work toward that. It takes practice and sometimes things get out of whack but luckily, there is always the next meal or snack. And snacks, well that's another story (or blog post). Be on the lookout for kale chips two ways.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Nourishing the Nation with Alice Waters

Thank goodness there are people who can tell me when to turn on the TV. If I were like many of my friends, I probably wouldn't even have a TV but I have a teenager, and the two go hand in hand. Also, my husband likes to watch movies.

In any case, I found out early enough on Sunday that Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse restaurant, and now Slow Food and the Edible Schoolyard, fame was to be on 60 minutes. It was a coup of sorts that finally the media cared enough to listen to someone, and not just any someone, talk about (in her words the best that I can recall) how our food is making us sick.

When Lesley Stahl, the interviewer, said that people called Alice elitist, Alice responded by saying something such as "good food should be available for everyone." When they were at the farmer's market (this must have been filmed during Slow Food Nation which was held in September) looking at my favorite Bronx grapes for $4 per pound, Lesley asked Alice about being able to buy food like that, at that price.

Alice said that some people want to buy Nike shoes but she chooses to spend her money on good food. Hip hip hooray. (Obviously, Alice can afford both but likely doesn't wear Nike shoes no matter what.)

For some people food is a choice and for others it is about enough calories in the day. We have to straighten this out so that we insert nutrition into the equation somewhere, some how, for everyone. Think of how we might clean up the health care system at the same time -- now that's a concept.

The final part of the interview was Alice recommending that we have an edible landscape at the White House to show that we care about nourishing our nation. We need food for all, and a return of the Victory Garden. Let the White House lead the way.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Flax Baking Contest Over -- Winner Announced Next Week

If you entered the Flax Your Muscles Baking Contest I want to thank you. You will hear something about it next week. We had some great entries, with one of them a flax treat for horses. Now, that's creative. Perhaps you didn't know that flax is great for dogs and cats. At Flax USA, they make pet products, too, but you can just give your flax to your pets.

Stay tuned for upcoming contests and giveaways on this blog. I have a copy of The Toddler Cafe by Jennifer Carden that will go to a good home.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Registered Dietitian Lens I Look Through -- National Registered Dietitians Day

I have been a Registered Dietitian for 25 years. That's a quarter century. But you can't tell it by looking at me (at least I don't think so), most likely because I practice what I preach, although I prefer the phrase, I walk the talk.

My career as an RD has been quite varied -- possibly more so than for many other dietitians. I am sure that it's because I love wearing hats and have quite a varied collection. I wish that I could juggle (for real) but I only juggle jobs and responsibilities.

Here's a not-so-brief rundown of the breadth of where I've been in the RD world and where I am and what I do today.

I started my career as a dietitian in private practice. My specialty was perinatal and pediatric -- I loved working with pregnant women, new mothers and children. I especially enjoyed working with the pregnant women and helping them shape their eating habits for when they had their babies. My internship training was in that field and I knew that's where my heart was. Starting a private practice was not the usual RD route for an inexperienced RD but with a bachelor's degree in business, I figured that I could handle it. And I did. I maintained an active practice for 10 years.

Throughout my career I have always held more than one position. (If you've heard of Barbara Sher, you will recognize me as a scanner. ) I started my speaking career while I had my practice and have been doing it ever since although my focus and topics have shifted.

I also began consulting for corporations shortly after beginning my career and continue to do that and it encompasses a wide range of places from HMOs to private schools and manufacturing facilities.

My first "real" RD job was at an HMO called Maxicare. It was a great job that allowed me to see clients with a variety of needs, offer corporate wellness services, teach health education classes, ranging from stop smoking and stress management to weight management and cholesterol control and others in between. I also was allowed to develop materials and even wrote a book. (Unfortunately it was before personal computers and I wrote on company time so wasn't able to keep a copy for myself.)

One of my HMO colleagues taught nutrition at Cal State Northridge and when she switched offices, and I took her place, she offered me that job. I loved it and taught one general ed nutrition class each semester. I also started teaching cooking classes as a way to further my nutrition message.

When the HMO company started to tank, I was laid off in the 2nd round and found myself adrift, although I still had my practice and my teaching. I ended up as the Master Food Preserver for Los Angeles county and learned about food preservation -- how to can, dry, pickle, etc. Interesting topic, not a very good job for me. Luckily, I moved to Northern California and found a new job.

I worked for WIC in Sonoma County for 2 1/2 years. I was hired to develop classes for pregnant women, infants and children, and breastfeeding women. I loved the teaching but didn't care much for the paperwork. But the job paid the bills and I only worked part time while I also was teaching at Santa Rosa Junior College and doing freelance writing.

My job at the college changed from teaching nutrition to teaching cooking and I found my niche, translating good nutrition into food. I also continued to write about food, farming and cooking and develop my speaking skills.

A few years ago I wrote my cookbook The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment, which I call a lighthearted look at vegetables with more than 100 seasonal recipes.

I have now been in Sonoma County for 20 years. During this time I have consulted for companies such as Amy's Kitchen frozen foods (I recently produced their very successful 2 week diet plan), worked on a heart health research project at Kaiser Permanente hospital, also worked on a project to revamp the cafeteria at Kaiser, have given farm tours, done many cooking demonstrations for HMOs and corporations, teach cooking for The McDougall program, continued freelance writing and teaching cooking at the college and at other cooking schools. I also speak to a wide variety of audiences (and can do that for you).

I have 2 websites: http://www.theveggiequeen.com/ and http://www.pressurecookingonline.com/, this blog and my other blog: http://www.pressurecooking.blogspot.com/. I sell products that I love on my websites and I am always on the lookout for great new ideas to keep people eating well with an eye toward health. I am currently working on developing an herb and spice blend for everyday use.

Late in 2007, I produced and starred in a pressure cooking DVD, Pressure Cooking: A Fresh Look, Delicious Dishes in Minutes, which is 75 minutes long and comes with a 16 page recipe booklet with 14 recipes. I continue to do freelance writing online and in print with a foodie and environmental focus. In 2008, I became a fellow of The Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy. I have appeared on radio and TV, and have been quoted in many national magazines. All of this is in a day's work, and I love it.

My dietitian's lens colors everything that I do. I offer people in many settings a fun and interactive way to learn about nutrition. But I'll never cram it down your throat; I prefer that you take small bites and savor the flavor.

Here is what other Registered Dietitians are blogging about:

Beyond Prenatals - Food vs. Supplements and Real Advice vs. Fake Advice
Annette Colby - No More Diets! A Registered Dietitian Shares 9 Secrets to Real and Lasting Weight Loss
Ashley Colpaart - Dietitians working in food policy, a new frontier
Diana Dyer - There and Back Again: Celebration of National Dietitian Day 2009
Marjorie Geiser - RD Showcase for National Registered Dietitian Day - What we do
Cheryl Harris - Me, a Gluten Free RD!
Marilyn Jess - National Registered Dietitian Day--RD Blogfest
Julie Lanford - Antioxidants for Cancer Prevention
Renata Mangrum - What I'm doing as I grow up...
Liz Marr - Fruits and Veggies for Registered Dietian Day: Two Poems
Meal Makeover Moms' Kitchen - Family Nutrition ... It's our "Beat"
Wendy Jo Petersen - March 11 is our day to shine!
Diane Preves - Registered Dietitians and the White House Forum on Health Reform
Andy Sarjahani - Dr. Seuss Tribute continued: Green Eggs and Ham and a Sustainable Food System
Rebecca Scritchfield - Big Tips from a "Big Loser"
Anthony Sepe - RD Showcase: Registered Dietitian Day, March 11, 2009
Kathy Shattler - RD Showcase for Nutri-Care Consultation
UNL-Extension, Douglas/Sarpy County - Nutrition Know How - Making Your Life Easier
Monika Woolsey - Dietitians--Can't Do PCOS Without Them!
Monika Woolsey - In Honor of National Registered Dietitian Day
Jen Zingaro - My life as a Registered Dietitian

Monday, March 09, 2009

First Ever Pressure Cooking Radio Show -- Save Money, Cook Fast

Steve Garner, The Veggie Queen, John Ash

Recently, I was the guest on KSRO's Good Food Hour, the longest running food show in California. It's been on for 22 years.

I was the first for a couple of things:
  1. Show on pressure cooking in their history

  2. Live on-air pressure cooking

I think that the time is ripe for people to invest in a great new (old fashioned but improved technology) way to cook. It has all the elements that make it work: it's energy efficient, it doesn't require great cooking skills, the food comes out delicious and nutritious, it's fast, and you can easily turn $2 worth of ingredients into an amazing pot of soup. Add another dollar or two and you can have stew.

I prepared Shane's Fabulous Lentil Soup and my soon-to-be-famous Market Fresh Breakfast Potatoes, Tofu and Vegetables (with Small Planet Tofu) right at Bassagnani's, where people stopped by for samples.

As you can see from the set-up, I didn't have much room for cooking. But I had a great time with Steve Garner and John Ash. They called the photo that we had taken of the 3 of us, "A Rose Between 2 Thorns". I wouldn't quite put it that way since John and Steve are great guys. I thank them for thinking of me and putting me on the air to cook under pressure. It was great fun.

My only lament is that they don't have it recorded for download. Maybe next time that will happen, and there may be far less pressure.