Category Archives: flexitarian

On My Mind Monday 3.12.12

newspaper | photo: mconnors

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  This is my snapshot of what I find interesting.  Information about health, nutrition, and/or holistic living.  Here’s what’s on my mind.

Well, it’s Monday.  For growing numbers of people that means it’s Meatless Monday.  Choosing to eat a meatless meal one day a week can have a positive environmental impact.  The Environmental Working Group has produced a brochure called Meat Eaters Guide To Climate Change and Health. It raises some interesting points including the fact that uneaten meat is responsible for 20% of greenhouse gases.  That ties in pretty heavily to Jonathan Bloom’s latest column about not wasting meat.  Definitely something to think about when you’re planning dinner.

Pi Day is coming.  For the geeks among us it’s a fun celebration.  3.14159 is as far as I remember the value of Pi.  So this Wednesday, celebrate and have some pie.  I’m not sure what kind I’m going to make yet but I do know I’m going to be using my newfound perfect piecrust recipe.  Remember, it doesn’t have to be sweet to be a pie, savory pies count too.

Ag Gag Rules – Apparently Iowa would rather consumers not know what really goes on in commercial agricultural operations.  They’ve just passed a bill, about to be signed into law by the Governor, that will allow for stiff punishment for anyone attempting to film operations without the owners permission.  Given the many videos that have come out of such efforts which show inhumane and in some cases barbaric treatment of these animals I can understand why the industry doesn’t want them filmed.  It makes them look bad.  What I don’t understand is why there is no big push to stop this behavior.  Instead of hiding it in the dark so consumers can see it, I believe our food system should be openly viewed by all so that consumers can understand where their food comes from and how it is produced.

Meat Nutrition Labeling – turns out that last week the USDA’s required meat nutrition labeling started.  I suppose it’s not a bad thing to have labels on the meat letting folks know how much is a serving and what the nutrition breakdown is.  But this label isn’t complete.  In my opinion it would be better if it also let you know how the animal was raised.  What it was fed.  How much antibiotics were given to the animal during it’s lifetime.  How much hormone?  These are all important factors that affect the quality of the meat but, more importantly, the health of the animal; ultimately that translates to your health.

Edible Packaging – Being touted as a possible way to reduce or eliminate plastic waste I think this has the potential to be a good idea.  Some of the challenges as I see it:  (a) are you really going to want to eat off the shelf edible containers after they’ve sat in the dust and been handled by who knows how many people?  (b) what exactly is the edible substance made from?  I’m not convinced that it won’t be another suspicious food waste product disguised as GRAS  (c) will people really eat it?  I suppose if they don’t the hope is that it will be biodegradable and break down more fully.

Tony Geraci is on a mission to reform school food and create a model that school cafeteria’s all across the country can follow. Can’t wait to see this film.

Mediterranean Rice Salad

Recently I went to a party and I needed to bring a dish to share.  The food theme of the evening was Mediterranean.  Wanting to make something fresh and different (and more than just the typical hummus and pita or a Greek salad) I rummaged around in my pantry and put together this amazingly delicious rice salad.  One of the great things about this dish is that it makes use of fresh vegetables and fresh herbs.  I love salads like this, often preferring them the next day after the flavors have had a chance to meld and blend.

It was a big hit at the party and my family was rather disappointed that I didn’t bring home more leftovers. I got two thumbs up from the kids (my personal taste testers) and they told me that I should definitely make it again.

Mediterranean Rice Salad

1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 red sweet bell pepper seeded and diced
4 spring onions, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 cup assorted olives, diced
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained and diced
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 bunch parsley, de-stemmed* and minced
1tablespoon minced basil leaves
4 cups cooked basmati rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together, toss well, let sit 2-3 hours for flavors to develop.


*When I de-stem herbs like parsley or cilantro I’ve learned a little trick that makes it very easy:

Leave the herbs bound together, wash well to clean and shake dry
Holding the stems use a chef’s knife and chop at the leaves in a short brisk fashion moving down the stems
Rotate the stems and repeat on another side until all sides have been shaved
Remove band holding the stems together
Throw the stems in your compost bin
Pile chopped leaves together and mince

It probably took longer to write that than it takes to do it.  Once you do this you’ll wonder why you ever de-stemmed leafy herbs any other way.

zucchini zoodles

Zoodles And Sausage

It’s zoodle season

It’s zucchini season, that means LOTS of zucchini and a distinct need for more recipes. And while zucchini bread is really delicious, there’s only so much of that that you can eat in one season.

Below is a dinner that I made recently using zucchini noodles or zoodles. One of the great things about this dish, aside from using up more zucchini, is that it’s quick, easy, and very tasty. It’s an assembly style dish. You cook each of the layers individually and when you get to the last layer dinner is done.  Most of the time is spent in prep-work, the actual cooking doesn’t take too long.  I do keep the dish in the oven in between layers (set to 250 degrees) to make sure everything stays warm.

Making zoodles

These days with so many people eating gluten-free that means no pasta. The challenge is that there are so many delicious recipes out there that use noodles as a base.  My favorite solution is to make zoodles. You can even use the oversize-on-their-way-to-baseball-bat sized zucchini.  Of course, you can use the smaller, more tender ones too, really, in this case, any zucchini will do.

Previously the best way to make zoodles was to use a vegetable peeler, carefully peeling each side. This meant you had a leftover core with lots of seeds in it.  Sure you could cut up the core and throw it into your recipes, but somehow it always seemed to get just a little gloopy. Nowadays some genius has invented a zoodler that does it for you. Not only can you make noodles from zucchini, using this amazing device you can “zoodle” a whole bunch of different vegetables like carrots, beets, and more.  It’s a fabulous way to add more veggies to your diet.  

So grab your zoodler and let’s get going…

Zoodles and Sausage
  1. 1 package pre-cooked, chicken cilantro sausage
  2. 1-2 zucchini, turned into zoodles
  3. 3 tablespoons olive oil
  4. 1 large sweet onion, diced
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 1 large tomato, diced
  7. 1 green pepper, diced
  8. 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  9. 1/2 cup minced cilantro
  10. sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the skillet
  2. Add 1/2 of the diced onion and the garlic
  3. When the onion starts to soften turn down the heat slightly and add the zucchini
  4. Toss and cook the zucchini for approximately 5 minutes until it is coated in oil and warmed through
  5. Place zucchini and onions into a serving dish
  6. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet
  7. Add the rest of the onion
  8. When onion starts to soften add bell pepper, tomato, and tomato paste
  9. Saute until bell pepper starts to soften
  10. Add salt and pepper to taste
  11. Spoon mixture over zucchini noodles
  12. Place sausage in the skillet and heat until browned on the outside
  13. Remove sausage from skillet and slice into bite sized pieces
  14. Sprinkle sausage pieces on top of dish
  15. Garnish with cilantro
  1. If necessary you can make this dish ahead.  Simply reheat in a 300 F degree oven for about 20 minutes until all of the ingredients are warmed through
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy

Yummy Lunch Wraps

Any time you see food beautifully prepared it means someone has had their fingers all over it.  Julia Child

Rice paper wraps can be a fun way to make a meal or snack.  You hydrate the wrap in a bit of water and then roll it around whatever you want for a filling.  Cool, tasty, and very satisfying.  If you keep these in your pantry you will always have the start of a delicious wrap.  I buy mine at the Asian store however many mainstream grocery stores are starting to carry them as well.
This is what hubby and I had for lunch:
Laying out all of the ingredients: (clockwise from the top):
organic baby spinach
dulse (a very yummy seaweed)
organic, preservative free turkey
sweet bell peppers
rice paper wraps
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
(realized they didn’t make it into the picture)
Assembling the wraps is a bit finicky.  You need to start by wetting the rice paper. I use a dinner plate with a little water in it to set the paper in, let it soak for ten seconds, flip it over and soak again, then use it.  It’s very sticky at this point so you need to be careful in how you handle it.
Lay out all of your ingredients in the middle of the paper giving you enough at the “top” and “bottom” to be able to fold over before you roll the sides.  I also lay out the filling just a little to one side which make the end of the roll work out better.
Add some fresh fruit and it’s a really satisfying and delicious lunch.
This was my plate (on a lunch size dish).  I decided to be honest and use this first roll so you could see they don’t always turn out perfectly.  They still taste great. 
You can fill your rice paper wrap with anything you like, hard cooked eggs, other veggies, sprouts, dressings, avocado, whatever comes to mind as a tasty combination.  

Black Bean Casserole

black beans | photo: Paul Goyette

Unfortunately this got eaten before a picture was taken so no casserole picture.  [note to self:  learn to take more photographs of food]

Over on my Facebook Fan Page I posted a Meatless Monday menu of black bean casserole, roasted asparagus, spring onions, cauliflower and cauliflower greens.  It was a delicious dinner.  I received a request for the recipe and decided to post it over here at the blog.

I love oven roasting veggies, it’s such a simple way to put them together and really makes fabulous leftovers.  And black beans are a great flexitarian choice; they’re tasty, easy to prepare, and go well with so many different types of dishes.

Adding beans to your diet, if you don’t already eat them, is such a healthy thing to do because not only are you getting protein, you’re getting lots of fiber.  One cup of black beans provides 15 g. of fiber and 15 g. of protein.  A pretty good deal in my book.  Even better you’re also getting a lot of B vitamins, primarily thiamin and folate, plus iron, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese.

This black bean casserole is one of my favorites because with the addition of the corn tortillas it makes a complete protein.  The original recipe that I developed calls for a generous sprinkling of shredded cheese on top however due to my new dietary restrictions I am avoiding cheese.  I’ve discovered that the rice cheeses and other “fake” cheeses are just too unpleasant for my palate, both in taste and texture so I’ve been feeding what I bought to the dogs (who are thrilled) and just leave out the cheese altogether.  But if you’re a cheese fan and can eat it, use about 3/4 C.

Being where we are in the growing season at the moment with tomatoes so very expensive (and my garden burned to a crisp due to drought) I’ve turned to my favorite Pomi Chopped Tomatoes which come in a box rather than a can so there is no BPA.  When tomatoes are in season and not hideously expensive I definitely prefer them and use about four in this recipe.

Black Bean Casserole

2 T. olive oil
1 large red onion chopped small
2 cloves garlic minced (more if you like lots of garlic)
2 ribs celery chopped small
1/2 of a 26 oz box of chopped tomatoes
2 cups cooked black beans
1 t. cumin
6 medium size corn tortillas cut or ripped in half
2 T. minced cilantro
1 T. lime juice
2 spring onions chopped
sea salt and pepper to taste
hot sauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F
Lightly grease a medium round pie dish
In a pan heat olive oil, saute onion until wilted
Add celery and garlic and saute until celery is wilted
Add black beans, tomatoes, and cumin, cook until heated through
Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste

In pie pan layer 4 corn tortilla halves with 1/3 black bean mixture
(the top layer is where the cheese goes if you’re using it)
Repeat layers ending with bean mixture
Cover and bake 30 minutes
Remove from oven, sprinkle with spring onions, cilantro and lime juice

Note:  when tomatoes are in season and I use fresh I often top this with some chopped tomato


The Journey Continues

I am still on my dietary journey, each day learning to make these changes.  Yesterday I had a moment where I really missed cheese.  I just wanted to make myself a big chef-style salad.  In the past it would have been no meat and perhaps two kinds of cheese.  Now it’s meat, no cheese.  And knowing that I couldn’t have the cheese made me want it more.

After the first two weeks of my dietary changes I am now adding in more vegetables and fruits.  The testing that I did broke my food sensitivities into 3 categories, high sensitivity, moderate sensitivity and low sensitivity.  For the first two weeks I ate nothing on the list, even the low sensitivity list.  It got really boring.

I have a confession to make.  I don’t like cooking for myself.  I much prefer to cook for others.  I like eating with others and I certain love when people cook for me.  But if I have to cook specifically for me…not so much.  And because of my dietary changes I was doing a lot of that.  And it got boring.  For anyone who knows me, that’s a surprising statement.  I LOVE food, I like thinking about it, talking about it, researching it, helping others with their food.  I love food.  But because of the restrictions I am on it I started to become less enthusiastic about my food.  I figured out a few dishes that were dietarily compliant, figured out how to add back in the meat slowly (still working on that) and tended to live on the same 8-10 recipes.

Now that I’m able to add other foods back in I am all of a sudden much happier.  In part I am now able to eat an expanded list of foods which is always a good thing.  Plus many of the foods on the low sensitivity list that have been added back in are grillable veggies. In the summer that is one of my all-time favorite ways.  (If it was winter I would be making vats of soup!)  I like to make up several large salads, grill a huge batch of veggies and then make composed plates by adding in a protein.

I am learning so much from this experience.  Part of it is a deeper respect for some of the dietary changes I sometimes ask folks to go through as we work together on their journey toward health.  I have had my own journey and have certainly done many of the things that I ask clients to do (such as a candida cleanse) but this time around the process seems much more mindful.  As I journal my food choices and how my body is responding to the reintroduction of meat I am much more aware of how I feel and why I am making some of these choices.  In many ways to a much greater extent that ever before.  I am also learning to understand some of the complexities that can lead to boredom with food.   I am grateful for this deeper understanding of myself but also because I believe it helps me to better help others.

And the journey continues…

Walking The Walk

I love what I do, how I am able to help people learn to eat well so they can be well.  I also work hard to take care of my own health through nutrition and other means.  I feel like I am in good shape and know that I have come so very far since the health care crisis of 2003 that lead me to this career.

Part of my changes, way back when, was the adoption of a vegetarian diet.  I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis after more than ten years of misdiagnosis as IBS.  The Nutritionist suggested that I consider eating a vegetarian diet for three months to allow my gut to heal.  I felt so good on the vegetarian diet that I didn’t look back.  I was able to eat a balanced diet and to learn how to stay healthy with this eating pattern.  This is something that many many people do.  According to a 2008 study by Vegetarian Times over 7 million Americans follow a vegetarian diet.  More than half of them do so for health reasons.

I know that some people try vegetarian diets but ultimately wind up becoming carbotarians instead.  Thinking that because they are not eating meat that means they should eat lots of pasta and other simple carbohydrates.  Being a vegetarian isn’t difficult but it does require thinking about your protein and fats and, oh yeah, you do need to eat vegetables.  Many, if not most, carbotarians eventually wind up going back to eating meat because they get so sick by not supporting the needs of their body.

I’m confident in my knowledge as a Nutrition Educator, I’ve helped lots of people feel better with learning to eat the right way for their body.  And no, that does not mean I make everyone become a vegetarian.  We work together to help you find what works best for your bio-individual body and then we go from there to build a nutritional plan.  I have always said that I was a vegetarian because it best met my body needs and my focus is to eat in harmony with my body.  I’ve also been fond of pointing out that our dietary needs change throughout different cycles of our life, otherwise we would all still be drinking breast milk.

So imagine my shock when I received the results of a recent food sensitivity test (which I have never taken before) which indicated that I had some very serious food sensitivities going on.  I feel good, I look fine, I struggle a bit time-to-time but I put that down to the UC which I manage without medication.  The results of the test appear to indicate that I have a fair amount of inflammation going on in my gut and what I had been attributing to one thing was actually something quite different altogether.  I now need to make some significant changes to my diet.

The bottom line is that I am highly sensitive to dairy products (cow and goat) and eggs.  Darn.  That’s a significant source of protein for me.  Considering my options I feel that it would be best for me to add lean meats back into my diet, a big change after all these years.  I’ve also had to write a rotation diet for myself.  I’ve created a number of them for clients but never imagined that I would wind up doing this for myself.  I hadn’t realized how comfortable I’d become with my vegetarian diet, my inclination when reaching for breakfast is eggs, my idea of a great snack is a yogurt parfait with fresh fruit.  Because I am committed to my health and my body I know that for at least the next three to six months those are no longer part of my diet.  I am hopeful that by avoiding them and doing an intestinal repair and recolonizing program I will be able to at least add them back in on a rotation basis when this is all done.

In the meantime I am reminded on so many different levels how the only thing that is constant is change.