Friday, January 27, 2012

Real Food Sweeteners

We like giving Martha Stewart a run for her money in the baking department. Nothing is quite as comforting as a house that smells of freshly baked cookies or a warm pie out of the oven. We love baking at home because we know exactly what we’re putting into the recipe, and subsequently, our bodies.
When it comes to choosing ingredients to put in our homemade goodies, we generally like to stick to ingredients that are as real as possible. That is, choosing unrefined and unprocessed ingredients such as whole grain flours and unrefined sweeteners whenever we can.
These are some of our favorite sweeteners.

Honey has a satisfying flavor that adds moisture to baked goods. It contains antioxidants and micronutrients that are good for your health. More on our love of honey here.
Maple syrup is naturally made from sugar maple trees, and is useful for baking and flavoring in sauces.
Blackstrap molasses is a rich, less-processed sweetener that contains many health-promoting nutrients like iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium.
Unrefined sugar, or succanat, is made from cane juice and resembles brown sugar.  It is a healthier alternative to refined sweeteners.

If you enjoy to bake like us, allow yourself to enjoy one serving of your finished product; and then, to reduce temptation, freeze the rest. Cookies & muffins freeze well and make for a great snack or little treat when you’re craving something sweet. Take comfort in knowing you can enjoy your hard work over time and when you really want it.

And now, for a recipe.

 If you haven’t noticed by now how much we appreciate Cynthia Lair's real food focused recipes, here is her recipe for Pumpkin Pecan Muffins. This recipe calls for honey, molasses, and unrefined cane sugar – all sweeteners we fully appreciate. We love these muffins as a snack or for breakfast when we're on the go. As Cynthia says, molasses and honey and cinnamon and nutmeg and butter made into muffins entice some love bites from your family.”

Use whole grain flours whenever possible to add some whole grain goodness.

As Cynthia says, "don't marry your dry and wet ingredients until it's just the right moment." Also, try keeping your mixing to a minimum. The secret to a good muffin  texture is using as few strokes to mix as possible.

Notice the Nourish colors? That may  or may not have been intentional...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Trend We Love: Local & Seasonal Real Foods

For both of us, the smell of freshly picked vegetables and fresh fruits still evokes memories of childhood visits to the farmer’s market with our parents on weekend mornings.

Even more than the food on display, we fell in love with the colors, the energy, and the high spirits we felt all around us. Surrounded by people who were passionate about what they were doing and the simple pleasures of sharing the results of their labor affected us in ways that, as children, we could not articulate, but as adults we now know were life-changing.

And whether it was jam canned in our kitchen or a neighbor’s, eating freshly-picked peas, or the smell of bread hot from the oven, our love for real food was inspired. Being raised on opposite ends of the continent, we were both lucky to be exposed to home grown food early in life. For me, it was mornings in Grandma’s garden stretching across the whole backyard and afternoons learning the pleasure of baking homemade buns.  For Lisa, it was a small working farm at her childhood home with a garden overflowing with tomatoes and corn, and with lambs and cows grazing in the field.

While we’re aware that buying local and seasonal foods seems to be the trend right now, and we normally steer away from fads when it comes to our eating habits, this is one we are fully on board with. And is it really a trend if buying locally grown foods was the norm for our ancestors? This fad has been around for centuries. We’re just bringing local back.

Here’s 5 reasons we think you may want to jump on the on the local, seasonal bandwagon with us.

#1. It’s better for you and the environment. Buying fresh foods, picked at the peak of their season equates to buying foods with their maximum nutrient content. After foods have been harvested and have to travel thousands of miles to reach their final destination, they lose some of their nutrients while also using a lot of fossil fuels in the process. By buying locally, you’re conserving your own health and conserving global resources.

#2. It tastes better. Have you ever eaten a tomato still warm from growing on the vine? Pulled a carrot from the soil to have as a snack? Or picked and peeled peas to eat them for dinner that night? If we could all eat our fruits and veggies this way, we would have no problem reaching our daily recommended intake. This may sound extreme, but they taste like candy.

#3. It encourages variety. Eating with the seasons sets the tempo for the year. It’s such a fun thing to see the first batch of strawberries in the summer and the variety of pears available in the fall. By eating with what’s available, you provide your body with a variety of nutrients and your taste buds with a variety of flavors. Plus, it encourages you to experiment a little more in the kitchen.

#4. It supports your local community. When you make the choice to buy locally, you’re supporting your neighbors, friends, acquaintances and the local economy in the general. Keeping money locally encourages your community to thrive. Not only that, food just tastes better when it has a story; and connecting with the hard working farmers that grew your food is the very best way to get that story.

#5. It’s fun. Going to the farmer’s market is still one of our favorite things to do. You usually run into people you know, have the opportunity to sample what’s in season, and can sit on the curb and enjoy the company of your best friend while eating some really good food.

You can also often walk away with specialty items you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get, including freshly baked scones, artisanal cheeses, or hazelnut flour (which we still have yet to use…)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chicken Schnitzel with Smashed-Fried Herbed Potatoes

Last week, we saw a guest blog on Design Sponge for the perfect schnitzel, written by the talented food stylist and photographer pair behind the Israeli blog Matkonation

The soft, striking photography—and our own vivid memories of eating perfectly cooked, crispy schnitzel spiked with tangy lemon—started a craving and inspired us to make our version for dinner that evening.

Over the years, we've developed a few tricks for making a perfectly flavorful, crispy and tender schnizel that's good and good for you.

The addition of lemon zest and fresh thyme to the bread crumbs adds a bright punch of flavor.  And we up the nutritional value by using whole wheat flour and panko bread crumbs.  By starting the schnitzel in a little bit of olive oil and butter on the stovetop and then finishing in the oven, we achieve the super-crispy crust and succulent center of perfect schnitzel without deep frying.

Here’s the recipe, along with our version of Lola's smashed-fried herbed potatoes.  Delicious.  And heart-warming.  Enjoy with a fresh green salad, preferably with someone you love.

Chicken Schnitzel

Serves 4

2 large chicken breasts (preferable organic or humanely raised), about 1 ¼ pounds
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 egg
Dash hot sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Zest of one lemon
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 - 3 teaspoons butter
2 – 3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut each chicken breast in half and pound until very thin.  This is a bit easier if you place the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound with a mallet. 

Prepare the coating.  Get out three large shallow bowls.  To the first bowl, add the whole wheat flour and season with sea salt and pepper.  To the second bowl, whisk together the egg, hot sauce and Dijon mustard.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  To the third bowl, whisk together the whole wheat panko bread crumbs, fresh thyme and lemon zest.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

Coat each of the chicken breasts.  Dip one chicken breast in the flour, turning to coat, then in the egg, then in the panko bread crumbs, making sure the chicken breast is fully coated. 

If you use one hand for dry ingredients and one hand for wet ingredients, you will prevent doughy fingers. 

Set coated chicken breast aside on a plate and repeat with remaining breasts.  For the best, crispiest result, refrigerate for about an hour, to let the coating set.  If you don’t have time, then go ahead with the recipe.  It will still be great.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add butter and olive oil.  After butter melts and begins to foam, add the chicken breasts to the pan.  Be sure not to crowd the pan.  If the pan is too small to hold all of the breasts with room on each side, fry them in batches.  Cook the chicken breasts until deeply brown, about 2 minutes per side.  Place pan in the oven to continue cooking until chicken breasts are cooked through, about 5 minutes, depending on thickness.  Chicken breasts should be firm to the touch. 

Serve with lemon wedges.

Smashed-Fried Herbed Potatoes

This recipe was inspired by the smashed-fried potatoes served at Tom Douglas’s restaurant, Lola, in Seattle. Mix up the herbs depending upon the rest of the menu—try rosemary, thyme, dill or tarragon.

Serves 4

12 baby potatoes, such as baby Yukon gold
2 – 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place baby potatoes on a baking sheet and bake until tender, about 12 – 15 minutes, depending upon their size.

Remove from oven and let cool slightly.  With the flat side of a chef’s knife, flatten each potato slightly to smash it.  The inside of the potato should be creamy and soft.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add olive oil and smashed garlic cloves.  Cook garlic about 30 seconds, or until fragrant.  Remove garlic from oil and discard. 

To the garlic-scented oil, add red pepper flakes.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Add smashed potatoes and season with sea salt and black pepper.  Cook potatoes, about 2 – 3 minutes each side, until potatoes are browned and crispy. 

While potatoes are cooking, mix together the lemon zest and fresh parsley. 

Once potatoes are done, toss smashed-fried potatoes with lemon zest and parsley mixture.  Serve hot.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Shopping for Real Foods

In our ideal world, grocery stores would only be stocked with real foods; they would mimic our local farmer’s markets. They would have fresh & frozen fruits and veggies, unrefined hearty breads, eggs with deep orange yolks, melt-in-your mouth cheeses, sustainably raised meats, bulk bins galore, local honey, homemade goodies, and of course, a little chocolate. Can’t forget chocolate.

But, since we both know our dream grocery stores aren’t quite a reality, we have 5 tips to help simplify your shopping adventure. After reading these, you can be confident your cart will contain only real food, and even better, you can be confident you are only putting the highest quality foods into your body after you unpack your bags.

#1. Shop the perimeter. Ask yourself, “What foods are in the grocery store aisles?” We can think of sugary breakfast cereals, candies, soda pop, frozen dinners, chips, packaged cookies, and “instant” meals or side dishes just to name a few. These foods, or “food-like substances” as Michael Pollan would say, may also contain high fructose corn syrup, trans fat, artificial colors and sweeteners, chemical preservatives, and a whole lot of sodium.

Now ask yourself, “What foods can be found on the perimeter of the store?” Fresh fruits and veggies, cheeses, eggs, meats, and breads come to mind. These foods are all examples of real foods – foods that haven’t necessarily experienced extensive processing before they’ll reach your taste buds.

#2. After you shop the perimeter, be selective with the aisles. We wish it was easy enough to just say, "skip the aisles all together," but we realize this is fairly unrealistic. So, when it comes time to brave the scary jungle of the grocery store aisles, may we advise you to make a bee-line to these few things?

Spices. Adding spices does a lot to boost flavor to meals and side dishes without adding unnecessary sugar or fat.

Bulk bins. These little bins are our secret haven for beans, lentils, grains, dried fruit, legumes, and nuts.

Canned beans if you’re short on time – just make sure to rinse them before tossing them into your recipe.

Whole wheat pasta.

Commonly used condiments and spreads including nut butters, jam, honey, and maple syrup. To ensure you are purchasing quality products, read tip #3 below.

Baking essentials like sugar, flour, baking soda & baking powder (We describe the difference between these two ingredients here.) We whole- heartedly approve of home baked goods because you know exactly what your putting in the recipe, and subsequently, your body.

#3. Know what to look for in the ingredients list. We’ve noticed that when most people glance at a package’s label, they tend to get hung up on the nutrition content including sugar, fat and fiber grams. While these are important to consider in part of a well- balanced diet, we have found that if you focus on eating real foods with an emphasis on fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, the nutrition content takes care of itself. Real foods are naturally void of any added sugars, contain zero grams of trans fat, and many are also high in fiber. When you purchase packaged products (such as peanut butter or jam), our hope is that you select products as real as possible. Ideally, the ingredients list will be as short (5 ingredients or less) and consists of words you can recognize and pronounce. Real foods have only one ingredient: itself. Hazelnuts, eggs, chicken, avocados, milk, strawberries. It’s a little harder to pronounce or recognize additives such as ethylchloroisothiazolinone, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and E 102 tartrazin -- these are not found in real foods.

#4. Be skeptical of nutrition claims. “A chocolate bar with half my daily recommended need of fiber?!” If a claim seems too good to be true, proceed with caution. While some food products with these claims may be high in fiber and/or claim to help reduce heart disease, they may also contain added sugars, salt and artificial ingredients. Also read the fine print. There’s often a catch. We may sound like a broken record, but if you focus on eating real foods with an emphasis on fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, you can rest assured you are providing your body with optimal nutrition. We know apples, almonds, salmon, oats, and kale are good for us. No nutrition claim needed. The other beauty of eating real foods is that we don’t need to question their long term effects like we often do with supplements, food additives, and artificial ingredients.

#5. Allow everything in moderation. Just because we’re Registered Dietitians and real food advocates doesn’t mean we’re “perfect” or expecting “perfection.” We simply want to inspire individuals to choose real foods the majority of the time and to love their bodies. Loving your body involves not only fueling it with wholesome foods, but it also involves practicing self-compassion.  When you allow yourself to enjoy some of your favorite treats from time to time (yes, even processed, packaged ones) without thinking of them as "bad" or "wrong," you relieve yourself of unconscious feelings of deprivation which can often lead to overeating ("I blew it already anyways, so might as well have more..." Sound familiar?) Instead of feeling like you "gave in," think of it as though you allowed yourself to have something you truly enjoyed.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Defining Real Foods

At NourishRDs, we are on the mission to inspire others
to eat real food, love their bodies, and laugh a lot.
Our food philosophy is simple: Eat real food and share it with those you love.
What exactly do we mean when we say, “real food?”
Ask yourself these few questions to find out…

Can you imagine it growing?
It’s easy to picture rice growing in a field an apple growing on a tree, or a fish maturing and growing over its lifespan. It’s more difficult to imagine a garden of marshmallows, a stream of diet soda, or Pop Tarts being picked at the peak of the season.
How many ingredients does it have?
Real foods have only one ingredient: itself. Hazelnuts, eggs, chicken, avocados,milk, strawberries No ingredient label necessary.

What has been done to the food since it was harvested?
If you have a difficult time pronouncing or recognizing an ingredient on the food label, the food has probably been through some extensive processing. Terms such as “refined,” “bleached,” “hydrogenated,” and “chemically treated” are all examples of processes that make foods less whole and less real. Because real foods have been minimally processed, they provide our bodies with optimal nutrition.
How long has it been known to nourish humans?
If the answer is 1000 years, it’s probably a real food. When we eat real foods, we don’t need to question their long term effects which we often do with food additives and artificial ingredients. Real foods also don’t necessarily need the same FDA approval that drugs, supplements, or food additives require.
Adapted from “What is a Whole Food? Ask yourself a few questions” by Cynthia Lair.
March 21, 2008
You can learn more about Cynthia on her website, Cookus Interruptus -
where they teach you how to cook fresh local organic whole foods despite life's interruptions.

We love Cynthia so much, we included her on our Pinterest Board,