Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Baked = Fried

I wanted to clear up a common misunderstanding that I’ve heard many times in my office over the past few months.  I’ve heard this so many times that I even started to question it myself one day. 
Here it is:
“I bake the [frozen] French fries instead of frying them.”  Meaning, they are healthy because I’m eating “baked” French fries instead of fried French fries.
Here’s the problem:
Frozen French fries are pre-fried.  Yes, you are saving additional fat and calories by not re-frying them (I did not even know people did this!), but, unfortunately, eating a “baked” French fry is still the equivalent of eating a regular French fry.  They were already fried and processed before they were frozen so they are already depleted of nutrients before they even hit your freezer.  Sorry. L
Here’s what one manufacturer says on its website about the pre-frying process:
Are your frozen French fries already fried?
Yes, some of our products are par fried in vegetable oil. Par frying is a hot, fast, frying method that prepares the product for the cooking instructions as noted on the package. All of our products require additional preparation/cooking prior to eating; they are not considered Ready to Eat.

More bad news:  Frozen sweet potato fries are the same way.  Please don’t think you are choosing a much “healthier” option with those.
The good news:
If you want French fries or sweet potato fries, bake your own!  It really does not take that much time, and still retains those precious nutrients that are processed out of the frozen varieties.  Plus, by using a healthier fat option, you can stay away from the artery-clogging fats and get some of those good fats!  And it’s wayyy cheaper than buying frozen.  A win-win, I say.
Here’s a recipe for oven-roasted potatoes (I add a little ketchup and it satisfies my craving for fries every time):

If you know of a brand of frozen fries that is not “pre-fried”, please let me know!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Seasonal Eating

Two of the oft-heard complaints about eating fruits and vegetables are:

1.  “I get bored with eating fruits and vegetables.”
2.  “It is too expensive to eat healthy.”

One of the easiest ways to help solve both of these problems is to “eat for the seasons”.  By paying attention to what produce is available at what times, I make sure that I don’t get bored because it’s changing every 2 to 3 months.  Summer has been wonderful with all the fresh produce: berries, green beans, corn, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, etc.  But as the weather turns colder I start to look forward to the new crop of apples, pears, grapes, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin.  Plus, buying produce that is in season means that you get it for a cheaper price, it’s more likely to be grown closer to you, and IT TASTES SO MUCH BETTER.  Seriously, don’t waste your money on blueberries outside the summer months.
If you’re wondering what’s in season right now, check out these two links:

If anyone out there has a good recipe for butternut squash, please share it with me.  I am looking for a good recipe because I’ve struck out the last few years, and we need some vitamin A!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fruit On An Empty Stomach

As a dietitian, I often get questions about nutrition claims that people hear on television or read on the internet.  One such claim that has been popping up lately is “Is it bad to eat fruit with other foods?”  This question seems to mainly come from an email forward that is attributed to Dr. Oz which claims: “Fruit should be eaten on an empty stomach.”  The article further goes on to say:
          “Let’s say you eat two slices of bread and then a slice of fruit. The slice of fruit is ready to go straight through the stomach into the intestines, but it is prevented from doing so.  In the meantime the whole meal rots and ferments and turns to acid. The minute the fruit comes into contact with the food in the stomach and digestive juices, the entire mass of food begins to spoil….”
First, there is nothing on Dr. Oz’s website or other publications that says or supports this theory, so his authorship is highly questionable.  Second, this email is so widespread that The New York Times asked a gastroenterologist for the answer.  Here is an excerpt from the article which does a great job of explaining why this is untrue:
Q:  Must you eat fruit on an empty stomach, so it won’t mix with other foods and cause fermentation and rot?
A:  “The answer is a definite no,” said Dr. Mark Pochapin, director of the Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “Fruit can be eaten at any time.”  Nothing can rot in the stomach, Dr. Pochapin said. Rotting, or fermentation, means bacterial action on food resulting in decomposition. And because of the presence of hydrochloric acid, the stomach has very few bacteria.  “One of the main purposes of the stomach,” he said, “is to sterilize food by mixing and churning it within the muscular, acid-containing stomach.”  In the days before refrigeration and supermarkets, food spoiled easily, and stomach acid helped protect the body from food poisoning, he said.  “The place where fruit produces gas is in the colon, not the stomach,” Dr. Pochapin said. The colon is loaded with bacteria and acts as the body’s sewage system.  Food takes 6 to 10 hours to reach the colon, which explains why it does not really matter when fruit is eaten, Dr. Pochapin said. Fruit contains sugar and vitamins, which are absorbed in the small intestine, and complex fibers, which pass through the gastrointestinal tract without much digestion. When the fiber reaches the colon, the colonic bacteria feed on the fiber and produce gas as a byproduct, regardless of when and with what the fiber was ingested.
The lesson:  don't believe everything you read in email forwards :)

Reference:  Ray, C. (2010, February 23).  Fruit and fermentation.  The New York Times, p.D2. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"The Cost of Delaying Marriage" Article Review

Please know that I am not trying to be offensive to anyone by posting these articles.  I think they are interesting  because of the way that I felt growing up, the messages I heard and, even after I became a believer in college, continued to hear.  This is a side of the feminist message that you rarely hear.  I encourage you to read both articles in their entirety.

The Cost of Delaying Marriage by Danielle Crittenden

“We strengthen a muscle by using it, and that is true of the heart and mind, too. By waiting and waiting and waiting to commit to someone, our capacity for love shrinks and withers. This doesn't mean that women or men should marry the first reasonable person to come along, or someone with whom they are not in love. But we should, at a much earlier age than we do now, take a serious attitude toward dating and begin preparing ourselves to settle down. For it's in the act of taking up the roles we've been taught to avoid or postpone — wife, husband, mother, father — that we build our identities, expand our lives, and achieve the fullness of character we desire.”

Although I married relatively young, I still heard, thought, and discussed many of the arguments stated in the next article:  Defending the “Cost of Delaying Marriage” by Candice Watters.  I can identify with many of the ideas presented in this article and can’t tell you how many times I discussed the following ideas with my friends during college:

Jesus is EnoughI’m not sure where this idea came from, but the author is right that “this belief seems to be an emerging motto of Christian singles everywhere”, particularly, from my experience, among Christian collegiates who are in the midst of training for future careers while coming to terms with God’s purpose of marriage and family.  I believed in college that wanting to be married somehow showed that I was not “completely satisfied” in my relationship with Jesus Christ.  In fact, this reasoning led to a completely unnecessary break-up between me and my husband for a time.  The truth is, I have never walked more deeply with the Lord since being married.

“For everyone else, the call is to marriage. To marry doesn't diminish the need for Christ. In fact, it increases it: The reason Christian marriage requires a vow is that no mere promise is enough to hold two mortals together for life. We're dependent on Christ to help us fulfill it. ”

It’s Not My Fault – Marriage is certainly not a priority on many young men’s minds.  But the author has a lot of wisdom on how young women aren’t exactly helping them get to that point:

“Now to you women, that's not an excuse to bash men. You have an important ability to help them move toward marriage. How? By esteeming it. By not being embarrassed about wanting it. By going after it -- to a point. You can nurture men toward marriage by helping them see that it contains a lot of what they're looking for, even if they don't yet know it.”

Singles Have More Fun – I’m not sure this is something my friends and I discussed in college, but it is certainly a pervasive message in modern culture and is glamorized in movies and tv shows like Sex and the City.  I think the first article has a lot to say about the reality of this situation, but for the Christian, there’s a deeper reason for marriage:  God called us to it.

“It's not about identity. It's about obedience. When it comes to marriage, we don't need a burning bush to know if it's God's will. He's already told us it is. If we're not specially gifted to be celibate, we're called to marriage. There's no third option; no lifestyle choice to remain single because it's more fun or more fulfilling or more spiritual than being married. Yes, if you're gifted with a calling to celibacy, a la Paul, then that is your duty. But if you're not -- and Scripture is clear that most of us aren't -- then our calling is marriage.”

Men are Jerks – Another pervasive cultural message that can be found in most media and women-oriented magazines (ironically right next to another article entitled something like, “How to Please Your Man”).   I know many young Christ-centered men who are anything but jerks and would be wonderful husbands.  By perpetuating this message to girls, how exactly are we setting up the future for young men and women?

There is much more to read in the article, and I encourage you to check it out.

Were you taught to believe any of these things?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Unexpected Joy in Being a Wife and Homemaker

When I first got married and started taking care of my own home, I remember a flood of memories  coming back to me when, as a child, I would spend most of my days playing “house”.  Other than “school”, I don’t think I really played anything else.  As a newlywed, there was an overwhelming sense of joy and purpose that I unexpectedly found in being a wife and homemaker.   I also distinctly remember thinking, “What the heck have I been doing the past couple of years?”  It was almost as if I had started preparing for being a wife during my childhood, but somehow those plans got kind of lost during adolescence for awhile, but finally, I was back on track to where I had always meant to be. 
Marriage has been the most fun season of life for me so far (good thing, too, since I’m planning on being married for quite some time).  Yes, there have been difficult days, and yes, it is difficult to daily learn how to die to your selfishness and put your spouse’s needs above your own.  But being a wife has been the most satisfying experience of my life to date.  And you don’t really hear many people saying that.  Instead, us girls are told to pursue our career, settle for no man, and don’t have babies too soon (or at least those were the messages I seemed to hear, watch, read, and believe).  My generation is told that high school and/or college are the “best years of your life”.  That being single and “having fun” brings satisfaction.  That husbands are “lazy and stupid” and wives tend to be “nagging and frivolous” (if you disagree with this analysis I challenge you to watch any modern sitcom about a married couple).  The problem with these messages are twofold: first, I have not found this to be true (although you may need to check with my husband about the nagging part since I may not be the best judge), so instead of preparing for marriage, I pursued other interests that left me unprepared for reality, and second, do you see how this is setting up marriages to fail?  If the “best days of our life” are spent single from 17-22 (really???) then there are two responses to this: 1.  We keep perpetuating those days until 35-40. Or 2. We get married and are bitter and dissatisfied that our “glory days” have past.  
I am writing these things to try to figure out why I believed that for many years it was wrong to want to be married.  For instance, I don’t think I would admit even in my senior year of college that I was ready to get married (Michael and I talked about it all the time but I would not tell many others that we had wedding plans).  We had been dating for the greater part of 7 years!!  But to admit that I wanted to be married or want children would mean that the party was ending too soon, my freedom would soon vanish.  I had “too much yet to be accomplished.”  I wanted to travel the world (or at least move to Florida for 6 months).  Did the thought even cross my mind that we could do it together, as a married couple?  Sadly, no.
The reason I find our culture’s view of marriage and family as so strange is that, at some point, most people will get married.  Most people, if they're honest, plan to marry and see themselves having some sort of family life.  It’s as if parents are scared to encourage and talk about a child’s future marriage, because once the idea is planted, then that child might elope at the age of 18 and “waste their life.”  Or I’m sure there are people who might read this and say, “Wait until you’re married 15, 20, 40 years….then you’ll understand why we don’t encourage it.”  And you would be right in thinking that I have not had much experience at this marriage thing so I admit that I know very, very little.  We haven’t even added kids to the mix yet!  BUT AT SOME POINT MOST PEOPLE WILL GET MARRIED.  To discourage it and act like it’s not going to happen or have a negative attitude towards it rarely sets up a successful marriage.  It is not easy to focus only on yourself for 23 years then transition immediately to focusing on another.  But God’s grace is sufficient and for that I am thankful.
I have been thinking about all of this in terms of – does my marriage reflect God’s purpose for marriage, for the glory of God?  Specifically, as Michael’s wife, do I reflect a Godly attitude in my role?  What is my attitude toward marriage when I talk to singles?  How will this change the way I parent my future sons and daughters? 
Recently, I read two bold, excellent articles about marriage in our culture.  I’m gonna share those links and my thoughts over the next few days.  Stay tuned!
I would love to hear any thoughts or suggestions that you have on this subject!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

"Why are you yelling?"

We've all heard the saying, "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."  I have found that this is true of wives, regardless if you have children or not.  It's amazing to me how quickly my mood can affect Michael's mood.  Women truly do set the emotional tone of the home.  If I come home in a bad mood, before I even realize what's happening, Michael and I are at odds over the littlest things.  Or if I am joyful, Michael is more joyful.  If Michael comes home in a bad mood, I have observed that my reaction is usually what can prolong it or temper it.

This can weigh heavily on me at times because, of the two of us, my temper tends to flare much more quickly.  In the midst of a disagreement, I tend to be the one who winds up yelling.  Michael and I have had arguments where all of a sudden, he will just stop and say, "Why are you yelling?"  Praise the Lord for a gentle, gracious husband. 

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.  Proverbs 15:4

Friday, June 17, 2011

Weekend in the South

Two weeks ago, Michael and I headed down to Nashville for my friend Brooke's wedding and to celebrate our 2 year anniversary.  It was a beautiful wedding!  It was great to see friends from college and spend some quality time with my favorite person in the world, my husband. To celebrate our anniversary, we went to Belle Meade Plantation on Sunday for brunch and to take a tour of the home.  If you know Michael at all, then you realize how much he loves me to do this with me. :)

the blushing bride
my heart needed to see them

we love each other

rockin on the porch

enjoying the greenhouse

Monday, June 13, 2011

Eat This Now: Pineapple!

One of the most unfortunate fruit tragedies of our day is that most of us grew up eating this:

And not this:

The first time I can remember eating fresh pineapple was in Hawaii when I was 16 years old.  If you come back from Hawaii and don't love pineapple then you were stubborn and didn't try it.  I was surprised to learn that the pineapple is not native to Hawaii, but was brought over from South America.  It is most associated with Hawaii, though, because 1/3 of the world's commercially grown pineapple crop is produced there, most notably at the Dole plantations.  If all you know is canned pineapple, you are missing out.  Fresh pineapple is much, much more flavorful than canned.  It's almost like a different fruit!

Pineapple is available year-round, but its peak growing season is March - July.  Most of the pineapples at the grocery store are still pretty green.  Go ahead and buy it but wait until it turns more yellow and has a pleasant smell.  Avoid buying any that are soft or have brown spots - that pineapple is past its prime.  I think one of the main reasons many people avoid pineapples is that they are not sure how to cut one up.  It is very simple and there are a ton of videos on YouTube explaining how to do it.  You don't need anything fancy except a sharp knife.

Health Benefits:

2 slices provide 50 calories, 0 g fat, 13 g carbohydrate (1 g fiber), 1 g protein

Pineapples provide:
- Manganese (a trace mineral important to bones, thyroid, etc)
- Vitamin C
- Thiamin (vitamin B1)
- Copper (another trace mineral important for many things, including acting as an antioxidant)
- Fiber

    Did you know?  Pineapple is a symbol for hospitality....and deliciousness.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    Drink Your Dessert

    Have you ever noticed how you can eat a big meal, feel very content, but yet still want something sweet at the end?  I have not been able to find a good answer for why this happens, but I am going to keep looking.  Many non-scientific sources will blame it on growing up in a household that always had something sweet after a meal.  Food historians think it originated from ancient medical ideas regarding digestion (which I honestly don't think we should count out). 

    Maybe you don't crave something sweet after a meal, but I do.  I don't think it's a habit carried over from childhood either.  For some people, eating fruit after a meal will satisfy that craving.  Sometimes this is true for me, but not always. 

    Here's the best tip I have read for taking care of the sweet craving after a meal:  drink something sweet.  I think you'll be surprised at how it can help satisfy that craving.  If you like to drink tea or soda with your meals, I suggest drinking water during the meal and then drink your tea or soda once you're finished eating.  You'll actually get to enjoy the flavor of the drink, too.  Coffee works the same way.  In college, I used to drink a glass of Crystal Light after dinner.  More often than not, I tend to be a chocolate girl, so my favorite "dessert" is a glass of chocolate milk.  This works really well for me plus it helps me up my intake of calcium and other nutrients.

    What about you?  Do you give in to the cravings or have you found a healthy alternative?

    Sunday, May 22, 2011

    A Plant-Based Diet

    In the May issue of Today’s Dietitian, there is a great article about the latest diet catchphrase.  No longer is there an emphasis on “low-fat” or “low-carbohydrate”.  The newest term that you may have heard circulating around is a “plant-based diet”.  Although this is basically what I try to emphasize to patients and what the food pyramid has been showing for decades, I’m glad that this term is being more widely used at larger healthcare organizations, like Mayo Clinic and the American Institute for Cancer Research, because anytime patients can hear something beneficial before they come to my office, the better. J
    So what is a plant-based diet?  No, it is not a vegetarian diet.  But it “emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.”  For most of us in the U.S. on a more Western diet, following a plant-based diet will be a gradual process.  The article points out that it may have different meanings for different people depending on which plant foods are available.  Animal foods like meat, yogurt, cheese, and milk are not discouraged, but simply the focus is to eat more plant foods, specifically whole, unprocessed foods that come directly from plants.
    Here is an excerpt from the article:
    “Results of an evidence-based review showed that plant-based diets reduced the risk of ischemia, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes; lowered LDL blood pressure; reduced body mass; and reduced overall cancer rate.  Risk of chronic disease reduced due to decreased intake of saturated fat and cholesterol and increased intake of vegetables with more fiber and phytochemicals, nuts, and soy proteins.  -Karmeen Kulkarni, MS, RD, BC-ADM, CDE, director of scientific affairs for Abbott Diabetes Care
    Main stumbling blocks to following the diet are preparation time and a general mindset that meat needs to be the main focus of each meal.  Both of which are absolutely hardwired into many people.  “There is an idea that meat equals protein and that you have to have lots of protein to stay healthy,” the article stated.  Boy, do I know it.  And I definitely used to think that way too.  Most people don’t realize that protein is found in all foods to varying degrees and by eating a variety of foods throughout the day, a person will more than likely consume adequate protein. 
    In January of 2008, my new year’s resolution was to eat less meat.  I was in my last year of college and starting to apply some of the nutrition knowledge I had been learning for the past 3 years (finally, right?).  It wasn’t that I cut meat out of my diet completely, but just that instead of worrying about all the “bad foods” that I was eating, I would focus more on making sure I ate more fruits, veggies, and whole grains.  Good gracious, the difference was amazing – both in how I felt and in how the weight was easily coming off.  And it’s still a work in progress.  I still discover new plant foods that I incorporate into my diet on a daily basis.
    Also, there is a new documentary called Forks Over Knives which follows a group of people as they transition from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet and the effect it has on their health. 

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Fresh from the garden...braised mustard greens

    Here's a delicious recipe for mustard greens that I found on Food Network.  The mustard greens definitely have a peppery taste that is very unique, but it is not as poignant when cooked (could be the bacon grease dulling that flavor...hard to tell...)

    Braised Mustard Greens - Rachael Ray

    Cook Time:  20 minutes
    Level: Easy
    Servings: 8

    4 slices bacon, chopped
    3 bunches mustard greens, trimmed and chopped
    2 tablespoons white vinegar
    2 teaspoons sugar
    Coarse salt
    2 cups chicken broth

    In a large skillet over medium high heat brown bacon and render its fat. Add chopped greens to the pan in batches and turn until they wilt, then add more greens. When all of the greens are in the pan, add vinegar and cook a minute. Season greens with sugar and salt. Add chicken broth to the pan and cover. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer greens 15 to 20 minutes then serve.

    Choppin greens in my mama's kitchen

    Nutrition Analysis:  This recipe did not have a nutrition analysis so I used SparkPeople to estimate.  Per serving, 34 calories, 1.8 g fat, 0.8 g saturated fat, 3.3 g carbohydrate, 1.2 g fiber, protein 2.2 g.

    Thoughts:  We had plenty of mustard greens and collard greens so we just combined the two.  Delish.

    Hubby's reaction:  Ate it all.  The first batch we made was too salty so he didn't like that.  He thought it would be better if it had tomatoes - like a BLT???

    Friday, May 6, 2011

    Hindsight is 20/20 and weighs more

    Hunger shouldn't take you by surprise.

    You don't go on your lunch break and suddenly think, "Well my goodness!  This is odd.  I suddenly feel like eating something."  And it's really not that strange when it's mid-afternoon and you've skipped breakfast and barely eaten any lunch and suddenly you're gripped with hunger which leads you, logically, to the candy machine.  Or, worse, you haven't eaten enough during the day and come home and raid the kitchen cabinets where no one is watching and you have all the time in the world.

    Hunger doesn't sneak up on you.  How many times have you regretted eating something?  And how many times was that eating precipitated by being so hungry that you couldn't think about anything else but eating that food?  It's pure science, really.  We are designed to need food.  Our body is going to get it one way or another.  Either you're going to plan ahead and feed it before you hit "the point of no return" or your brain is going to go right past that mark and make you eat a whole bag of chips before you even realize what happened.

    Plan ahead.  If you go home from work everyday starving and you tend to overeat once you're there, you need to eat an afternoon snack before you set foot in that doorway, preferably 1-2 hours before you hit the doorway.  Or if you constantly find yourself at the snack machine because you haven't eaten a big enough breakfast or lunch, you need to 1) eat a bigger meal and/or 2) bring your own snack.

    When I'm at work, sometimes people will offer me snacks or desserts in the middle of the afternoon, and I usually decline (but definitely not always).  It makes me laugh when they say "Oh, she's so disciplined.  She doesn't eat that stuff."  I don't say "no" because I'm "so disciplined" and I'm having to fight back my true desires.  Ha!  The true story is that I'm not hungry because of the nice little snack that I had planned and brought with me.  It's much more enjoyable to plan ahead and feel good about your food choices, then to look back and regret that doughnut that you ate because your stomach was growling and you didn't have anything else to eat.  Hindsight is 20/20 and weighs more.

    What about you?  Are you good at planning for that "point of no return"?  What's your favorite healthy snack?

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    How I Learned to Be Awkward

    A few weekends ago, I went back to Bowling Green, Kentucky, for a wedding shower for my sweet friend and former roommate, Brooke.  Besides Brooke, I got to see some of my very best friends in the entire world - Morgan, Katie, and Kristen.  I also had a fabulous Starbucks date with my friend and former discipler, Sabrina.  My heart wells up everytime I go back to Bowling Green.  Not because I went to school there or met these girls there, but because I became a Christian and fell in love with Jesus there.

    And these women had absolutely everything to do with it.

    In Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller (love him or hate him) says, "Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself."  I didn't really know what it meant to love the Lord before I met my friends at college.  Sure, I grew up in church.  But I did most of my growing during the six other days of the week and God was pretty much contained to Sundays.  At first, I remember how awkward it was to hear my friends say things like, "God is teaching me this right now."  Or "Look at this verse.  What does Jesus mean right here?"  Or "The Lord is so good.  Look at what he's provided."  Or even "Will you pray with me?"  It was awkward because I had never heard God talked about in day-to-day conversations like that.  God was this far-off thing that didn't really have much to do with daily life.  But to hear my friends talking daily about how God was working in their lives was fascinating to me.  And now I suppose I'm just as likely to have those awkward conversations (though not at all awkward to me now).
    The whole weekend in Kentucky made me reflect on how the Lord used these Godly women and several others to shape me and teach me.  And it wasn't really that I attended bible studies or church with them.  Yes, we did those things together, but I learned the most about trusting God from the day-to-day living with them.  I learned what they struggled with and I watched as they responded by clinging to Scripture.  We laughed and we cried together, and slowly but surely, I learned what it meant to love the Lord and to trust Him.  By his grace, the Lord started a work in me at 18 years old.  I look back at that time and stand in awe.  I am so thankful for the people that He placed in my life then and those that he has given me now.  Because this sanctification thing is certainly not over.  The weekend made me realize how I still have to be intentional about friendships and community.  Yes, I keep up with my BG friends, but he has also given me new people to learn from and do life with.  And. praise the Lord, I am "confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil 1:6). 

    I don't know why exactly I felt like sharing this on here.  Partly because I was just so overwhelmed with gratitude to God that I needed to write about it  and reflect on it.  But I also wanted to encourage anyone reading this to seek out community.  I have read several books lately that encourage you to make an effort to spend time with people who you know love Jesus.  So often we can think to ourselves, "well they didn't invite me to this" or "they didn't talk to me", so we blame our lack of effort on the other person.  I encourage you:  put yourself out there.  Be the first to start a conversation.  Invite them to do something with you.  I know that the Lord will provide community for you.  And your life will be so blessed because of it.

    1 Thessalonians 2:8 - We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, becaue you had become so dear to us.

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    Spring Garden Update Week 5

    The rainy weather has prevented me from taking many pictures of the garden lately.  I took advantage of the break in the weather to record the progress.

    Sugar snap peas

    Earlier this week, my mom told me that I needed to come pick some mustard greens.  The night I stopped by, she wasn't at home, so I ventured out to pick some of the greens which I have never cooked before.  I knew what the collard greens looked like because they conveniently had a label:

    The plant to it's right looked similar so I happily plucked off some of the leaves and went on my way:

    In case you are ever in a similar What plant is this again? dilemma.  This is what mustard greens look like:

    Oops!  Thankfully, I realized my mistake before I fixed sauteed Brussels sprouts leaves.  But Mom and I had a good laugh.  She thought a rabbit had destroyed her plant.  Nope.  Just me.
    Note to self: Don't wear flip flops in the garden.
    This weekend we fixed the mustard and collard greens, so look for that recipe later this week!

    Wednesday, April 27, 2011

    The latest and greatest: Thai Chicken Pasta

    (Post preface:  While I did have some food classes in college, the majority of what I studied was: "What's in the human body?  How does it work?  How do nutrients, vitamins, and minerals affect body processes?"  I am not a chef.  However, I am a very willing cook.  This means a few things:  1.  I don't usually create my own recipes.  2.  I spend a lot of time looking up other people's recipes.  3.  It might not always taste the best, but I can tell you 10 solid health reasons why we should eat it anyway.)

    From Better Homes & Gardens (

    Chicken & Pasta in Peanut Sauce

    Find the full recipe here.

    My dad comes over for dinner often, and he loves Thai food.  When I found this recipe online, I knew it would be a great one to have for those days when work runs late and I don't have much time to spend on supper.

    Start to Finish: 20 minutes
    Servings: 4

    • 8  oz.  thin spaghetti
    • 1  bunch  broccolini, cut in 2-inch lengths (I used broccoli because I can't buy broccolini locally)
    • 1  medium  red sweet pepper, cut in bite-size strips
    • 1  lb.  skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
    • Salt and ground black pepper
    • 1  Tbsp.  olive oil
    • 1/2  cup  bottled peanut sauce
    • Crushed red pepper (optional)
    1.   In Dutch oven cook pasta according to package directions, adding broccolini and sweet pepper during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain. Return to Dutch oven and set aside.

    2. Meanwhile, halve chicken breasts horizontally. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In extra large skillet cook chicken in hot oil over medium-high heat for 2 minutes each side, or until no longer pink (170 degrees F). Transfer to cutting board. Slice chicken; add to pasta and vegetables. Heat through. Add peanut sauce. Pass crushed red pepper. Makes 4 servings.

    Nutrient Analysis:  Calories 467,  Fat 10g, Saturated Fat 2g, Monounsaturated Fat 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat 1g, Cholesterol 66 mg, Sodium 634 mg, Carbohydrate 55g, Fiber 5g, Protein 37 g

    • I added carrots along with the broccoli and sweet pepper.
    • I would add the veggies earlier - like 5-7 minutes before cooking time is over. When you add the veggies, it stops the water boiling for a little bit.  The time it takes for the water to reach boiling again means that the pasta had to cook for that much longer and can lead to mushy pasta (not that this happened to me...).
    • Peanut sauce is spicy!  If you don't want to use bottled sauce, I know there are lots of recipes out there for peanut sauce.  Making your own sauce could reduce the sodium content of this dish and allow you to adjust the spiciness.
    • To save even more time, chop your veggies the night before.
     Hubby's reaction:  Although not a big fan of Asian dishes, he ate it with no complaints.  Dad loved it!

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    Don't let other people be your excuse

    If your response to my last post was along the lines of, "My husband would never eat that," or "There's no way my child would allow sugar snap peas on their plate," this post is for you. 

    Many, many times I have been told, "I don't fix those because no one else likes them" or "I really love [insert healthy food], but no one else in my family eats them so I don't fix them".  I get it.  I just don't think it's a good excuse.  You can't let other people be your excuse for not eating better.  Because ultimately when you miss out on good health and energy, which happens when you don't eat what you should, everyone else suffers too.

    Now, do I think that we shouldn't cook our husband's favorite foods?  Absolutely not.  I want my house to be a refuge for my husband, a place where he is prized and appreciated.  I can guarantee you that might be hampered if I served sauteed onions and black bean cakes every night.  (Both random foods that I love and he dislikes).  But if you are fixing meat and potatoes for your man, why can't you fix a side of something green for you?  Here's some tips for fixing a healthy side for yourself:
    • For fresh veggies like broccoli, asparagus, sugar snap peas, etc., chop up one serving (and by serving I just mean however much you think you'll eat.  Never feel bad about eating "too many" veggies.), add ~1 inch water and steam.  If you want, add a little salt, pepper, or other seasonings (lemon-pepper or oregano are good with broccoli).
    • Buy individual microwaveable vegetable sides.  Green Giant has a Just for One! brand.
    • Pop open a can.  Who says you can't heat up half of a can of veggies and save the other half for another night?
    • Raw veggies work great too.  Set them out on the table for appetizers or as part of the meal.
    • Fresh fruit as a side dish.  Strawberries, oranges, pineapple, bananas, and apples are all in season now.
    • Add a salad.  Easiest way to add some green to your day.
    And here's some encouragement for parents.  No, I don't have children (yet, Lord willing).  But I have had several people tell me, "My mom told me I didn't like that so I haven't tried it in [insert large number] years."  Children need to be exposed to foods.  Truth is, they probably won't like it.  Not at first.  Maybe not for the first 20 years of their life.  But the more they see Mom and Dad eating it, the more comfortable they will be with it.  Just like I talked about in my last post, we are much more comfortable with foods that we were raised on.  Much easier to learn about foods at 5 than at 50, isn't it?

    Best part of this whole principle is that my husband and I both eat foods that we didn't "like" before we were married.  Michael really likes kiwis.  I didn't think I liked kiwis, but I have always tried to buy them fairly regularly for him.  Guess who discovered that she likes kiwis?

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    "Besides potatoes, corn, and peas, what vegetables do you like?"

    I live in the Midwest.  I counsel Midwesterners.  Midwesterners eat a Midwestern diet.  Traditionally, we grow a lot of potatoes, wheat, and corn and raise a lot of cattle.  So that's what we eat.  It's what our grandparents and parents grew up on and fixed in their homes.  I often ask, "Besides potatoes, corn, and peas, what vegetables do you like?"  (Mainly because these are all starchy veggies and I'm looking for any non-starchy vegetables that they like).  In response, I get a lot of blank stares.  Not their fault.  They just haven't been introduced to other types of veggies.  However, we now have more access to different vegetables and fruits than ever before and we should use that to our nutritional advantage.

    I am going to try to do regular posts about seasonal produce that you might not always include on your grocery list.  These posts are not for you produce section rockstars (although any preparation ideas are welcome!).  These posts are for those who need to shake out of that potato, green beans,and corn rotation that's been going on far too long.  You know who you are....

    Spring produce that you should try this week:


    Sugar snap peas are one of my absolute favorite spring vegetables (although technically they are a fruit...but that's another post).  This variety of peas is a cross between garden peas and snow peas.  This results in a delicious combination of an edible pod and, unlike the snow pea, larger and sweeter peas on the inside.  The sugar snap pea has been around for a few centuries, but was not really available in the United States until the late 1970's.  No wonder our grandparents didn't eat them! 

    They are a cool weather crop and are available from late spring to early summer.  Fresh snap peas have a limited distribution throughout the U.S. and are most often available pre-packaged in the refrigerated section of the produce aisles.  You can also find them frozen, but don't expect to see them among the other canned peas because the canning process turns them into mush.  Bigger supermarkets or Wal-Marts should carry fresh snap peas consistently this time of year.  I can't find them every time that I shop at my local grocery store, but every once in awhile I get lucky.  Granted, I could probably ask the produce manager what days they are delivered, but there's something thrilling about such an unexpected surprise when I roll past the bagged salad (it's the small things in life isn't it?).

    The best thing about these peas is how easy it is to prepare them.  Many times they are sold in steamable packages and only need to be popped into the microwave.  If your package isn't steamable or if microwaving plastic freaks you out, just put them in a saucepan with ~1 inch of water and let them steam.  They honestly only need to be cooked for 3-4 minutes or just until tender.  Any longer and they will lose some of their sweet taste.  I only add a little salt and pepper.  Sugar snap peas are pretty flavor-packed and don't need a lot of extras.

    Health benefits:
    • 1 cup has 67 calories, 0.3 g fat, 11.4 g carbs, 5.2 g protein
    • Good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin (the last 3 are all B vitamins and necessary for us to be able to process other nutrients).
    • Also a source of iron, phosphorus, and potassium
    • 1 cup has 4.5 grams of fiber.  For perspective, you could eat 2.5 cups and have almost half your daily fiber requirement.
    • For anyone counting carbs, sugar snap peas are considered a non-starchy vegetable.  If you eat 3 or more cups, count it as 1 carb serving.
    When you buy them, look for bright green, firm pods and avoid any that are yellowed or speckled. 

    Anyone else love sugar snap peas??

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Veggie Burritos

    Last week while I was in Louisville, I ate at this great Mexican restaurant and ordered their veggie burrito.  It was delicious!  I came home and tried to find a similar recipe online with no luck.  I decided to try to make it myself.  It turned out pretty good so I thought I would share the recipe:

    Total Time:  30-45 minutes
    Servings:  3-4
    2 T Olive oil
    2 broccoli crowns, chopped
    1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped
    3-4 carrots, chopped
    8 oz. mushrooms
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 can refried beans
    Whole wheat tortillas

    1.  Heat olive oil on medium-high heat.  Add veggies.  Sprinkle with oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Cook veggies to your preferred level of tenderness.  2.  While veggies are cooking, heat refried beans in a saucepan over low.  3.  Once the vegetables are done, heat tortillas in the microwave for 5 seconds.  On each tortilla, add refried beans and cooked veggies.  Like this:

    After-thoughts:  I also served rice and guacamole to complete the meal.  I really liked the cauliflower in this recipe.  I do not like raw cauliflower and have always heard that they have the best flavor when sauteed which I found to be true here.  For an alternate way of cooking the veggies, I would suggest roasting them.  Sorry that I don't have exact measurements for the seasonings.  I really don't think this could be messed up though!

    Health Benefits:  I didn't analyze the nutrition facts for this recipe.  I suppose I could if you really wanted me to.  With veggies, olive oil, whole wheat tortillas, and beans, there's really nothing to feel bad about here.  Trust me.

    Hubby's reaction:  And I quote, "Do we have any taco sauce?"  Once that need was remedied, he ate two burritos.  I definitely took advantage of the fact that he commented before supper that he needed something healthy in him since he had eaten poorly all weekend (Love this man!  Just the fact that he would think that thought melts my heart).  So when I broke the news that we would be eating veggie burritos for dinner, I quickly followed it up with, "remember how you said you needed to eat something healthy???"  Best news is that he ate these leftovers the next day. 

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Spring Garden Week 2

    Despite the snow, the spring garden is 2 weeks in and we have some signs of life!  We also planted potatoes this weekend and another row of carrots.  The ground looks pretty dry, but I promise these plants have been receiving plenty of water.  Please forgive my photography skills....

    If you look really hard you can find 2 carrot plants
    Beans (soon we'll add some wire for them to grow on)
    Sugar snap peas in a pot

    Just a woman and her garden

    Poor little guy got snapped in the snow


    Isn't it cool that God designed plants to grow like this?  And cool that there are specific nutrients in these plants to meet the needs of our bodies?  What a creative God we have!

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Wasn't that me just yesterday?

    The first time I had to think about managing my weight, I was a junior in high school.  I specifically remember thinking, “This sucks.  I am going to have to think about this for the rest of my life.”  Little did I know, right?  The more accurate thought would have been, “ I am going to have to think about managing the weight of hundreds of people for the rest of my life.”  Thankfully, the Lord has been so good to me these last few years, and I’ve been able to learn how to control my weight without having to give it too much thought. 
    Anyways, once I realized that a super-skinny-even-though-I-eat-awful body wasn’t in the cards for me, I began to diet.  And it wasn’t pretty.  Fruits and vegetables?  Hated them.  Never mind the fact that I probably hadn’t tried any of them in 10+ years (so since the age of 7).  I needed to lose weight, and I wanted to do it quickly.  Does anyone remember Snapple-A-Day ? (because apparently I was too good for Slim-Fast).  When drinking my lunch panned out, I switched to eliminating an entire macronutrient – carbohydrates.  This worked for awhile, but things started to go downhill fast when I couldn’t go to a birthday party, eat at Olive Garden, or take communion.
    Eventually, I discovered that eating right and exercising regularly actually does work.  I learned to love fruits and veggies – which I promise can happen.  But changing your eating habits and exercising regularly takes some effort.  And, most importantly, doesn’t happen overnight.  The recommendation for healthy weight loss is 1-2 lbs of weight loss per week.  People don’t want to hear this.  We want to hear that we can lose at least 10 lbs by next Friday.  And here’s a confession: sometimes I find myself frustrated when someone tells me they aren’t willing to do what I recommend for weight loss because the results aren’t quick enough.
    First of all, the fact that I would even be frustrated is crazy.  Wasn’t that me just, like, yesterday???
    But, alas, I had thoughts of frustration just the other day.  And in that moment, in my heart, the Lord said to me, “Alex, isn’t this exactly like what you are doing right now?”  Because here’s the thing, I’m a worrier.  And lately, I have been anxious about some things.  And instead of trusting in the Lord and believing his promises, my instinct is to go around what I know I should do (pray, read Scripture, rest in Him) and try to get results my way.  I think this should happen or I want this, so instead of relying on God to work, I start to plan ways that I can take action to get what I want.  Yet, God is asking me to be patient and wait on Him.   
    I can promise you that eating right and exercising will lead to weight loss.  Much more awesome is Jesus' promise in Matthew 6, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  I know what he’s asked me to do for today.  And that’s all I need to know.
    So, whatever you may be worrying about today, I pray that we could "hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” 

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    The latest and greatest...

    (Post preface:  While I did have some food classes in college, the majority of what I studied was: "What's in the human body?  How does it work?  How do nutrients, vitamins, and minerals affect body processes?"  I am not a chef.  However, I am a very willing cook.  This means a few things:  1.  I don't usually create my own recipes.  2.  I spend a lot of time looking up other people's recipes.  3.  It might not always taste the best, but I can tell you 10 solid health reasons why we should eat it anyway.)

    As I plan my menu each week, I usually peruse my favorite cooking sites or the latest Taste of Home magazine to find new recipes to try.  Each week, I'm going to try to recommend to you at least one recipe that I've found and prepared.  So without further ado...

    Healthified Chicken and Broccoli-Parmesan Pasta
    Find the full recipe here at Eat Better America.

    Prep time:  10 minutes
    Start to finish:  30 minutes
    Makes: 6 servings
    8 oz. dried whole wheat pasta (2 1/2 cups) - I used penne
    3 cups fresh broccoli florets (you could definitely use frozen though)
    1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
    1 tsp adobo seasoning (homemade)
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1/4 cup light mayonnaise
    1/8 tsp black pepper
    Shredded Parmesan cheese

    1.  In a Dutch oven cook pasta according to package direcctions, adding broccoli for the last 5 minutes.  Drain well.  Return to hot Dutch oven.
    2.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine chicken pieces and adobo seasoning; toss to coat. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds.  Add chicken; cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, stirring occasionally.
    3.  Add chicken to drained pasta and broccoli.  Stir in mayonnaise and pepper.  Cook over low heat until heated through, stirring occasionally.
    4.  To serve, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
    Nutrition Analysis:  Calories 320, Total Fat 10 g (Saturated Fat 1.5 g), Sodium 380 mg, Total carb 33 g (Fiber 3 g), Protein 24 g.

    In an effort to save money and to prevent an unnecessary intake of preservatives, I have been trying to make my own seasonings when possible.  I had never heard of used adobo seasoning, a Latin spice blend, until I tried it in this recipe.  I found a recipe for the seasoning here.  It was great!  It definitely gave it an unexpected flavor that prevented this from being another boring pasta recipe.  This is not considered a low-sodium dish, but with most of the sodium coming from the seasoning, it would be easy to decrease the amount of salt you use in the adobo seasoning.

    This was a very quick dish to make.  I appreciated that the chicken was prepared with the meal and did not need to be pre-cooked.  I liked this recipe so much that I have made it two weeks in a row!

    Health Bonus: 
    Fiber from the pasta and broccoli
    Calcium from the broccoli and cheese
    Lean protein from the chicken
    Heart-healthy fats from the olive oil and mayonnaise

    Word of warning:The recipe calls for adding the broccoli to the pasta for the last 5 minutes of cooking time.  This is a very long time and results in broccoli that falls apart.  I actually liked that the broccoli fell apart because it made for a more cohesive dish and gave it a nice green color.  But if you want to keep the broccoli fully intact, I would recommend adding it only 2-3 minutes before the end of cooking time.

    Hubby's reaction:  Although he was leary at first and didn't really like that the broccoli was added to the pasta when it was cooked, he ate all of it and really liked the seasoning too.

    Let me know if you make it and/or how you would change it!