Monday, November 28, 2011

'Tis the Season for Baking

'Tis the season for baking…and baking, and baking. Not only are baked goods an almost-required ending to holiday meals, but they make special gifts for friends and neighbors. If you’re tired of the same ol’ Christmas cookies, why not give your loved ones a baked good packed with great nutritional value? 
 I just made this Cranberry Walnut Banana Bread for a friend who was under the weather, and it was a real pick-me-up! Packed with protein, fiber and good old-fashioned banana-bread-goodness, it’s a surefire way to make someone’s day a little brighter. The cranberries add a little holiday color and a dose of antioxidants!

 To give as a gift, wrap in colored cellophane and tie with a bow. It may become your favorite banana bread ever. 

Cranberry Walnut Banana Bread

 4 ripe bananas 
1 egg, beaten 
1/4 cup melted butter 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour 
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
½ cup dried cranberries

 Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a loaf pan.

 Mash the bananas in a bowl. Stir in egg, melted butter and vanilla.

 In another bowl, stir together remaining ingredients. Add dry ingredients to the banana mixture and mix with a wooden spoon. Be sure not to over mix. 

 Pour batter into buttered loaf pan. Bake until a toothpick stuck into the bread comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes. 

Slice and serve with love.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An LA-Kind-of-Week…and a word about Gluten

Looking upwards toward the balcony full of celebrities, McKenzie said, “My life feels surreal right now.” 

Not because we were attending the Tuesday night elimination show of Dancing with the Stars—although that certainly could have done it—but because of how far we have come in the past year. 

Nourish is growing.  And we’re thriving.  And it’s so incredibly exciting.  Which is what brought the two of us together in sunny Los Angeles—to give a presentation on positive body image for the Domestic Violence Awareness series at College of the Canyons.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

Back to Dancing with the Stars. 

We have a new friend and mentor, Murray, who has taken us under his wing, helping us grow our business and gently nudging us forward toward our bigger dreams.  He also happens to work with Dancing with the Stars, which is how we ended up sitting a few rows back from Kris Jenner, watching a breathtaking guest performance of the Michael Jackson tribute by Cirque du Soleil.

We had barely made it to our seats on time, first fighting LA traffic from Venice Beach Hollywood and then tottering from the parking garage to circle the blocks surrounding CBS Studios in our five-inch heels, looking for the right entrance.  We made a video of ourselves laughing, but we probably think its way funnier than you would, so we won’t torture you with it.    

No matter what your opinions on reality shows, celebrities or Hollywood—going to a performance of a live television show is exciting.  After the show taped, Murray gave us a back-stage view of the studio, walking us past the press interviews of the celebrities and dancers to the production studios where the sound, graphics and video are controlled.

Here are us in the Red Room. 

Our night at Dancing with the Stars launched a great week for us, and one that seemed oh-so-LA. 

For starters, we left our Venice Beach hotel each morning to grab our ubiquitous Americanos and begin our day with a walk in the sun.  We strolled down the boardwalk and by Muscle Beach, stopping to play on the adult monkey bars, to end on Abbot Kinney Boulevard for a nibble of breakfast at Gjelina’s take-out stand.  Our first morning there, we ended up having a conversation with Tim Robbins about vegetarian, vegan and raw foods and restaurants.

No big deal.

Every time we give a presentation together, we confirm to ourselves we’re doing the right thing.  We love speaking to groups, and we usually get at least one person who says, “Your presentation made a difference to me today.” 

College of the Canyons was no different.  Our presentation, Nourishing Yourself Body and Soul:  Learning to Love Yourself from the Inside Out, carries a special message to young and old alike—we’re all unique and talented as individuals, and we need to learn to love and appreciate ourselves for our exceptional gifts without comparing ourselves to others or to society’s supposed ideal.    

This message seems especially important in the shadow of Hollywood.

What better way to end our week in Los Angeles than with a business meeting—at a yoga studio?  Our last morning in LA together, we donned yoga pants and headed to Santa Monica to practice yoga and talk business strategy with another entrepreneur.  Not at the same time of course.    

Like we said, it was an LA-kind-of-week.      

And we haven’t even talked about the food yet.  Los Angeles is a food-lover’s dream.  Restaurants with sustainable food philosophies abound, and we sampled many of them. 

To our delight, LA restaurants don’t seem to be catering to the gluten-free fad, as we enjoyed some of the best bread ever And pizza.  Did you really think we wouldn’t search for the perfect pizza?  And we found it, along with a bounty of other delicious bites.

At Gjelina

Almost every dish at Gjelina was spot-on perfect, from the beet and burrata salad to the roasted brussels sprouts to the savory lamb meatballs.  But the pizza was the real winner.  Crisp-tender, charred and lovely, with a variety of distinctive toppings, like lamb sausage and squash blossoms.  We were happy, happy girls.  As were our friends, who enjoyed the multi-course feast with us.  It’s a great place to share food, albeit a bit loud.  But the atmosphere is cool, with exposed lighting fixtures and an expansive, multi-level live edge wood bar.

And Sotto.

Registered Dietitian disclaimer inserted here:  We are Registered Dietitians, and we don’t promote overeating or excess.  We encourage eating real food.  Food you recognize.  Food you love.  In moderation.

So we’re not above eating lard.    

Sotto serves thick-sliced, crusty and chewy artisan bread, smeared with a delicious, savory and slightly-salty layer of lardo pestato, or pureed lard.  It was an oh-my-heavens moment. 

Other than the bread, the highlight of the night was a special—the server described it as a southern Italian-style chilaquiles, made with flatbread instead of tortillas.  Topped with a fried egg and layered with a luscious sugo, it was, in one word—luscious. 

Top it off with Sotto’s excellent sourcing of ingredients, and it climbs toward the top of our LA dining list.

We met a friend at Mozza for a late lunch.  Owned by partners Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, Mozza has been on our must-try list for a while now.  It doesn’t disappoint.    

Burrata seems to be omnipresent on Los Angeles menus, so we caved in to the burrata with garlic-toasted bread and charred tomatoes to start.  So, so good.

As was the pizza, topped with sliced Yukon gold potatoes, bacon and a glorious orange-yolked egg.

We stumbled on The Tasting Kitchen by accident, and were oh-so-happy we did.  Starting with the crusty, tender-crumbed La Brea Bakery bread (from the original bakery in Los Angeles) served piled high on a rustic wood board with butter and olive oil, followed by a deeply rich Bolognese sauce clinging to housemade lasagnetti, and a whole grilled branzino on a bed of chanterelles.

Real food, eaten with people we love.

Life is very, very good.

We know we talk a lot about our love affair with great bread and pizza.  Nothing is as satisfying as a crusty (Lisa), tender (McKenzie) piece of still hot from the over bread dipped in olive oil or smeared with a thin layer of butter…or lard.  You must be wondering?  Isn’t bread bad for me?  What about gluten? 

Well….here’s our answer.

Gluten Is Not the Enemy

Bread. Gluten. Pizza. Gluten. Pasta. Gluten. More bread. Gluten.

As you may have guessed, we eat a lot of gluten. And we feel bad for the poor little protein these days. It’s been getting a bad reputation, and we don’t think it’s completely fair. So here we are, coming to the rescue – hoping to save it.

What exactly is gluten? Why should some people choose to avoid it? And why should others choose to stick with it? What’s all the hype about? Let’s break it down for you.
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats responsible for giving baked goods their elasticity, volume and texture. For example, chewy, dense breads have more gluten development (a fun little elastic network that develops during baking) than light, flakey pastries.
Many people now understand the common foods containing gluten, such as:
breads, crackers, cereals, pancakes, pasta, pizza, granola bars, and other baked goods such as cakes & cookies. 

But, be careful!
Gluten can also be found in:
marinades, sauces  & gravies, salad dressings, processed deli meats, candy (including some chocolate), ice cream, cream soups (and some broths), nutritional and herbal supplements, and even some drugs  & over-the-counter medications.
Because gluten is often used as a filler, stabilizer, or thickener in food products.

So why should some people choose to avoid gluten? Well, some people are allergic.

There are different levels of gluten sensitivity, including gluten intolerance and celiac disease: 

Celiac disease is a digestive disease. When individuals with celiac disease eat foods with gluten in them, they experience an immune response. This response results in damage to the small intestine and causes food and nutrients to pass through the digestive system without being absorbed. The result is not a pretty picture.

Unlike Celiac disease, gluten intolerance is not triggered by an immune response and does not result in permanent damage to your intestines. For people with gluten intolerance, gluten is poorly digested and causes symptoms such as abdominal pain, extreme bloating, and the other symptoms mentioned in Pepto Bismol commercials.

And why should some people stick with gluten?

While it’s possible to meet your nutritional needs when following a gluten-free diet, it does make it more difficult. Many gluten-free products on the market are made with refined flours and have been stripped of their important nutrients during the refining process. Not to mention, gluten free products can take a toll on your wallet and often on your taste buds.

Our suggestion?

While staying away from gluten is recommended for people diagnosed with Celiac disease and gluten intolerance, there is no scientific reason for avoiding gluten if you do not have the disease or another related medical condition.

If you have been diagnosed with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, enjoy gluten-free grains such as rice, corn, quinoa, buckwheat and millet and other naturally gluten-free foods such as nuts, beans, lean meats, cheese, fruits, and veggies. Taking a multivitamin will also help fill in any nutrition gaps. 

For those of us without gluten allergies, focus on choosing whole grains naturally full of fiber and nutrition. And better yet, enjoy eating healthy, gluten containing foods guilt-free! The gluten-free diet is not beneficial for everyone and is not meant for people eager to jump on the next big fad-diet bandwagon.

See? Gluten really isn’t that scary after all. Bread anyone? We’re hungry…

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sweet Potato & Bean Chili

With autumn in full swing, something about spending the night in and watching a good movie with a big, warm bowl of soup or chili sounds just so…nourishingSoups, stews, and chilis are always a great go-to meal because they’re easy to prepare, you can load them with nutrition, and they make great leftovers.

This chili recipe comes courtesy of our friend and fellow dietitian, Marcy who made this for us last year. Ever since we had our first bite, we've been hooked! This recipe takes a nice spin on a classic chili by using sweet potatoes, one of our favorite seasonal veggies.

If you’re short on time, using canned beans as opposed to dried ones can make your life a whole lot easier. Just be sure to use low sodium varieties when available or rinse them off before tossing them in. You can also add all the ingredients to your slow-cooker in the morning of afternoon and by dinnertime, it will be ready to eat! 

Sweet Potato and Bean Chili

 Makes 6 servings


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder (optional)
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth or water
2 medium dark skinned sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into ½” cubes
2   15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1   15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2   14.5-ounce cans diced fire roasted tomatoes

Cooking Instructions:

1. Heat olive oil in large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until golden brown. 
2. Add garlic, spices and herbs and stir 1 minute. 
3. Add broth or water and potatoes. Cover pan; reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are almost tender, about 15 minutes. 
4. Add tomatoes with their juices and beans. Simmer uncovered until chili thickens and potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes. 

Ideas for topping are salsa, shredded cabbage, guacamole, a dollop of low-fat Greek yogurt  or cheese.

Copyright 2010, Marcy Johnson, Original recipe.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Eating Well in the Big Easy…Local Style

Usually, McKenzie and I are happily connected at the hip, traveling and working together.  But I took the past two weeks to visit with family and friends, ending with five days in New Orleans to spend time with my Dad and explore the city’s rich food culture.

Registered Dietitian warning and disclaimer here:  Rich might be a grand understatement.  When Emeril declared, “Pork fat rules!” New Orleans took him literally.  You’re hard-pressed to find a dish in New Orleans absent from bacon, lardon, guanciale, cracklins, lard, fat back, ham hock or some other form of the little piggy. 

But that didn’t stop me from enjoying every bite.  See 5 Tips for Traveling & Eating Well, below.

My self-appointed mission during my stay in the Big Easy—expand beyond the beignets and café au lait to explore New Orleans restaurants committed to supporting local farmers, fisherman and producers.  I didn’t have to look far, beginning with the restaurant named for NOLA’s favorite animal—the pig. 

Cochon, co-owned by chefs Donald Link and Steven Stryjewski, serves a modern Cajun menu featuring locally source ingredients and humanely-raised meats.  This year, Stryjewski won James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef South If the Louisiana cochon with turnips, cabbage  and cracklins I relished for lunch is any indication, it’s a well-deserved title. 

Owned by the same chefs as Cochon, Herbsaintlocated on St. Charles Street, wins in my book as one of New Orleans’ top restaurants.   Entering the romantic, dimly-lit dining room immediately felt like the perfect antidote to a day of exploring the raucous French Quarter, and the playful French- and Italian-inspired, but distinctively Southern menu did not disappoint. 

Herbsaint nuances the idea of eating local by highlighting the beauty of the ingredients--a mizuna salad with fried black-eyed peas; Louisiana jumbo lump crabmeat over a chilled pumpkin puree; plump Louisiana shrimp tossed with tasso and okra over a crispy grit cake; and a wicked version of pasta carbonara made from housemade spaghetti tossed with guanciale and topped with a panko-breaded and fried poached farm-fresh egg.  I repeat:  Wicked. 

And to top it off, the best dessert I have ever tasted.  Really.  Just listen to this:  Warm chocolate pudding cake served with salted caramel sauce and cashew ice cream, and topped with cocoa nib caramel corn.  It sounds—and tastes—like poetry.  I did share—reluctantly. 

Boucherie, located in the quaint Carollton community, serves creative Southern cuisine.  On a glorious sunny day, after a long walk along Magazine Street, I fell for a lunch of not-so-ordinary corn pudding, paired with a NOLA IPA.  Crispy-crusted savory cornbread filled with fresh corn pudding smothered with okra and drizzled with buttermilk—De-li-cious. 

Celebrity chef and philanthropist John Besh has created a farm-to-table restaurant empire in New Orleans, with a bevy of restaurants and chefs who support and showcase the bounty of Louisiana farms and waters.  After dining at both Dominica and Restaurant August, I posit he and his restaurants live up to the hype.

Dominica, located in the Roosevelt Hotel in the Central Business District, features the rustic, Italian-inspired creations of Chef Alon Shaya, the roasted goat shakshuka notwithstanding.  Settled into the corner of the warm, slightly-swanky dining room, we oohed and ahhed over the chewy, blistered wild mushroom pizza topped with bacon and a farm-fresh egg.  We loved every minute—and every bite.

Where dining at Dominica could be a regular, weekly occasion for locals, Restaurant August doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a place for celebrations and special occasions.  When you enter the historic, mahogany-paneled dining room with its soaring ceilings, it feels special—luxurious. At Restaurant August, we settled in for a three-hour dinner that reads like a seasonal foods playbook—an heirloom beet salad with crabmeat, local bacon and quail eggs; beautiful, meaty local shrimp on merliton; and poussin with a ragu of white beans and wild mushrooms.  The poussin—or young chicken—had been poached and then dipped in a whiskey-spiked batter and fried, with the result being a delicately crispy, tender, airy, unbelievably-light crust surrounding succulent meat.  Really, really, really good.  And yes, we shared dessert—a chocolate napoleon with salted toffee ice cream.   

Lastly, a tour of New Orleans food isn’t complete without a visit to the iconic blue and white Garden District institution, Commander’s Palace Operated by the legendary Brennan Family, Commander’s Palace Chef Tory McPhail elevates old guard New Orleans cuisine by sourcing almost all ingredients within 100 miles and reinterpreting the old classics with a fresh spin.  We had saved the grande dame of New Orleans fine dining for last, and by the time we got to the last day...we were tired of eating.  So instead, we sat in the garden and enjoyed an afternoon drink.  Dad sipped a Sazarac, the traditional Nawlins cocktail made from rye whiskey, and I had a Bellini, made with local beaches soaked in liquor for months and then pureed and topped with sparkling wine. 

It was a very good ending to a very good—and very delicious—week.  I was ready to go home and eat some vegetables—without the pork fat.   
5 Tips for Traveling & Eating Well

McKenzie and I are both big believers in exploring a region through its food.  Be it fish tacos or grit cakes, we’re always game to experience the local cuisine.  We have a few quick tips for eating well on the road.     

1.      Be adventurous When you’re traveling, try something new!  Don’t waste a meal on something you can eat at home.  Try the roasted goat shakshuka or the alligator fritters.  Turtle soup?  Of course.  That’s not on the menu in many (any?) Los Angeles or Bellingham restaurants.   

2.      Share We are Registered Dietitians, after all.  While we love to eat, we exercise portion control.  Our rule of thumb—order one appetizer and one entrée or four small plate items per two people.  It’s always enough food.  And the more people you have at the table, the more food you get to taste!

3.      Don’t skip meals Skipping meals always backfires.  You think you’re “saving up” for a great dinner, and then you way overeat—usually beginning with the bread basket—because you’re famished.  Try to snack your way through the day, searching out unique food finds for breakfast and lunch.  Never had a Satsuma?  Have one for a snack.   

4.      Stop when you’re full Listen to your hunger cues.  Hopefully, you’ve taken our advice and snacked throughout the day and are now sharing a wonderful dinner with your friends.  Eat slowly, reminisce about your day, relish in the food you’re sharing with those you love.  Pay attention to when you begin to feel full.  Your body will thank you!  And even better, you’ll feel like eating breakfast the next morning.

5.      Walk. A lot We love to explore a city or region on foot.  Whether it’s pounding the concrete in New York City, walking the boardwalk in Monterey or exploring the trails around Seattle, walking is the best way to see and experience a place.  Even more, it’s good for your heart, your body—and your soul.