Friday, January 30, 2009

pasta shop

100_2280 I’ve been wanting to eat at the pasta shop for ages now, because they supply a lot of the fresh pasta for the casinos and restaurants in Vegas.  Talk about going to the source!  If you are ever near Tropicana and Eastern in Vegas, you HAVE to give this restaurante a try.  It’s seating area is not very big, so it would be advisable to make reservations in advance.  Dishes are in the price range from 12.95-23.95, but are worth every penny.  Wow, the depth and dynamic flavors of their dishes are out of this world.  It’s your traditional pasta comfort food, but soooo much better and authentic.

100_2269 For an appetizer we decided to try their artichoke special.  This is very traditional Italian food.  I usually wouldn’t order this, but the artichoke was sweet yet tangy and flavored the olive oil balsamic mixture that we dipped our garlic bread in. 


100_2274 For the main course, I had the chicken davita, which was a mix of lightly breaded chicken, fried eggplant, mixed vegetables, pasta and fresh mozzarella.  What really amazed me about this dish was the pasta sauce that gently coated the fresh, spongy pasta.  There is just something about fresh pasta that is like no other.  It’s delicate and spongy, and very different from dried pasta.  The sauce had to be made with sweet bell peppers because it tasted like it was simmered and reduced down for hours.  So sweet and full of rich tomato flavor.  I couldn’t stop eating it! 

100_2276 Chris had the baked rigatoni, which was your traditional pasta, sauce and cheese, but it was different, not generic and definitely not non-fat!  You could tell it was home-made, full of love.  Our friends, Mike and Melissa, had the chicken marsala, which we had a bite of.  I usually don’t ever get chicken marsala, but this is something I would want to get again.  It was rich, yet sweet with the marsala wine and caramelized onions. 

100_2271Paired along with all of these dishes, we brought a Fireblock Grenache ($15 corking fee), which worked perfectly.  It was fruity and mellow to blend with all  the different flavors, but still had a nice oaky bite to it, but not too powerful.  I would say this is a great beginner red wine, but very enjoyable.  If anyone can find this wine in Vegas, I’ll personally buy you and me a bottle because we can’t find it anywhere!  My mom has to truck it from North Carolina because we did find it there.  For dessert we had the traditional tiramisu.  And while it could have been stronger on the espresso flavor, it was creamy rich, yet light and satisfying all in one.  The Pasta Shop is definitely a place I would love to go back to.  The service was great, the waiter sarcastic and friendly, the ambience eclectic and the food . . . amazing.



Italian is my favorite food by far and I love supporting great local restaurants.  What’s your favorite local restaurant and why?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

all the colors of the rainbow


A good way to gauge the nutrient density of what you eat is to see how many colors are on your plate.  The more colors the better!  Nutrient density is just a term used to figure out how much calorie bang for your buck your are getting in the foods you eat.  For example, a colorful salad has way more nutrients packed into it for not that many calories, while a candy bar is calorie dense, it doesn’t really have that many nutrients.  So the salad is more nutrient dense.  Pretty easy, right?  You want to make the calories you eat the most nutrient dense and give you the biggest bang for your buck.  A good way to start eating healthier, without focusing on calorie this, numbers of that, is to simply incorporate more colors into your diet. 

We don’t even know all the synergistic properties of fruits and vegetables yet, but eating whole foods is much better than taking a vitamin as an excuse to eat crappy.  Although I do take a regular multivitamin every so often to make sure I’m hitting all my bases.  All those phytonutrients work together somehow to keep us healthy and help prevent many chronic diseases like cancer.  It’s amazing to me how nature and the foods we eat can do this!

100_2260My salad I had for dinner tonight was like an explosion of flavors in my mouth!  I took romaine salad greens (the greener the better, so iceberg isn’t the best choice), topped it with some marinated vegetables I made from the Splendid Table Cookbook (you have to try this one!), mini heirloom tomatoes from Trader Joe’s (look at the purple one!), some dried fruit and creamy goat cheese.   I am a big fan of contrasting flavors and the tangy yet sweet marinated vegetables with a slight crisp, along the sweet and plump tomatoes and the creamy goat cheese just sang! 

100_2267 Then for the main I decided to make the Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers I featured on my Happy New Year post.  Wow, these were good.  If you haven’t tried fontina cheese, I would HIGHLY recommend it.  It’s a semi-soft cheese that tastes like buttery toast and melts in your mouth.  I also topped them with an aged Parmesan from Trader Joe’s.  This is the real stuff.  It has such quality flavor that you don’t even need to use that  much, which is good because it is 12.99/lb!  I only get this stuff every once in awhile, but it is so worth it.  And the walnuts!  Every few 100_2256mouthfuls you get a nice toasty crunch inside.  I only baked it for 30 minutes covered at 450 this time and the peppers came out nice and soft.  Then I added the cheese on top and baked for another 10 minutes.  So delicious I ate the whole darn pepper!


Here are some more pics!


     Ahhh . . . that glorious rind says it all











Flavor Explosion! 










Oooeeeyyy  Gooooeeeyy Fontina!


Yum in my tum!


What’s your favorite vegetable, and what’s your favorite way to use it in recipes?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New take on a old favorite


Oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfasts.  It’s full of whole grain goodness, protein, fiber and keeps me feeling full till lunch time.  It’s also very versatile as you can see here from katheats.  It’s viscous soluble fiber (-glucan) has been clinically proven in numerous studies to help lower and manage LDL cholesterol (this is the bad kind), and reduce heart disease risk.  It essentially acts like a sponge and soaks up water and bile acids to be excreted by the body.  This then signals the liver to convert circulating LDL cholesterol to new bile acids, and ultimately lowers serum cholesterol. 

So how much should we be eating?  It is recommended to consume 5-10 grams/daily.  You can aim for 3 grams/day of glucan soluble fiber in oats or barley, and aim up to 10.2 grams of psyllium husk to meet your daily requirement.  In 1/2 cup of oatmeal there is 2g of soluble fiber, or you can have a nice bowl of barley soup.  Psyllium husk is usually found as a dietary fiber supplement (2 tbsp of psyllium powder), and can be mixed in your favorite recipes without adding a weird taste.

What are some other functional foods out there to help reduce heart disease when combined with an overall healthy diet?

  • Plant sterols/stanols – get up to 2 grams daily divided over 3 meals (many products have these added now, like OJ, spreads, etc)
  • Soy protein – up to 25 grams daily of this nutritious, cholesterol free protein source.
  • Tree nuts and peanuts – great source of polyunsaturated fat, get 1.5 ounces or a large handful

Here’s a recipe to try to get your daily oatmeal quota.  It’s not the traditional way to make oatmeal, but it is darn good!


Baked Oatmeal Triangles



  • 2  cups  water
  • 2  cups  fat-free milk
  • 1/4  cup packed brown sugar, or a nice dark honey
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon (I like mine warm and spicy so I add more)
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1tsp freshly grated nutmeg 
  • 1/4  teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 cups steel-cut oats (sometimes I sub 1/2 cup quinoa for some of the oats)
  • 1 cup roasted sweet potato/yam (or you can add mashed ripe banana)
  • Cooking spray
  • Favorite condiments:  low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, scoop of peanut butter, any kind of nuts, any kind of fruit, cinnamon, drizzle of honey, the possibilities are endless  You could also make an egg sammy with the oatmeal layers?


To prepare oatmeal, combine 2 cups water, 2 cups milk, 1/4 cup brown sugar/honey, spices to your liking, raisins and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat; stir in oats and quinoa (if using). Reduce heat, and simmer low 45 minutes or until very thick.  Make sure to watch it carefully, because it likes to burn.  Once it is nice and thick, add the sweet potato and mix well.  Spoon oatmeal into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray; cool to room temperature. Cover and chill overnight until set.

In the morning, preheat oven to 450.

Using a sharp knife, cut oatmeal into 8 equal rectangles; cut each rectangle in half diagonally to form 16 triangles.  Or you can cut them into any shape!  They won’t be too firm, so be careful getting them out.

Place triangles on a silpat-lined or sprayed baking sheet and sprinkle with additional cinnamon (optional) and bake at 450 until nice and crispy, about 15-20 minutes.  Let set up for 5 minutes out of the oven.   

Serve on top of cottage cheese and yogurt, alongside your favorite fruit.  I like to top mine with some crumbled walnuts as well for some good fats!

Yum!  These are also great to heat up for a quick breakfast during the week.



What are some ways you get your daily fiber intake?  What obstacles are keeping you from your best heart health?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

fajitas, just like in a restaurant!

Well, my workout schedule fell off the bandwagon last week, but I am determined to get back on and keep truckin’ this week for sure. It just didn’t seem like I could catch up last week, especially with the new recipes I wanted to make. A good rule of thumb for me is to try one new or more time consuming recipe a week, otherwise if there is too much prep work or weird ingredients to get, it’s hard to get it done along with other things. So, I’ve made that realization and tried to get as much prepping done this weekend, so I wouldn’t be straggling during the week or forced to grab fast-food last minute. Planning is everything!

100_2243One of the things I did prep for was fajitas, adapted from Tyler Florence’s recipe. The marinade for these is perfect and you can use either flank steak or chicken. I also made some of his guacamole. I was so happy to get a good batch of avocadoes because sometimes you buy some hoping for a nice green, buttery center to be disgusted with a brown, rotting one! Yuck! I’ve had that happen too many times. But these ones were all great :)


(adapted from Tyler Florence)


  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 3 chipolte chilies, in adobo sauce
  • 3 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1.5 pounds skirt or flank steak, trimmed of fat or chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • Lime juice, olive oil, optional
  • 12 whole-wheat tortillas, warm
  • Guacamole, recipe follows
  • Good quality store bought salsa (optional)
  • Non-fat greek yogurt
  • 2% cheddar cheese


In a bowl combine all the marinade ingredients (up to 1 tsp salt). Using an immersion blender, puree the marinade until smooth. You can also use a food processor. Transfer to a re-sealable plastic bag and add the steak/chicken, seal and shake to coat. Refrigerate the meat for at least 8 hours or overnight to tenderize and flavor the meat.

Preheat a ridged grill pan on high heat.

Drain the marinade from the meat. Lightly oil the grill or grill pan. Season liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill the steak or chicken over medium-high heat and cook for 5-7 minutes on each side (140 degrees for the beef, 165 for the chicken) and then transfer to a cutting board and let rest to redistribute juices and carryover cooking.

Once the meat is off the grill pan and resting, add the bell peppers and onions tossed with lime juice and olive oil, if using. Grill the mixture for 7 to 8 minutes until the vegetables are just barely limp.

While the peppers and onions are cooking, heat up the tortillas on a warm pan or in the micro with a damp pamper towel.

Thinly slice the meat against the grain on a diagonal.

To serve:

Spread some guacamole on a tortilla, top with a few slices of steak, peppers and onions, cheese, salsa and greek yogurt if using. Roll up the tortilla to enclose the filling. Enjoy!



  • 4 ripe Hass avocados
  • 3 to 4 limes, juiced (I like it tangy)
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 serrano chile, diced fine
  • 1 small tomato, seeds removed and chopped
  • 1 big handful fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Halve and pit the avocados. With a tablespoon, scoop out the flesh into a mixing bowl. Mash the avocados with a fork, leaving them still a bit chunky. Add all of the rest of the ingredients, and fold everything together.

Lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole so it doesn't brown and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.


How do you keep motivated and on track with your workout schedule? Do you plan your meals before hand?

Friday, January 23, 2009

breakfast for dinner

I’m sure we all have those times when breakfast sounds really great for dinner for some reason, especially because it is pretty easy to whip up.  100_2234It’s kind of weird at first to break the routine, but it really works.  Honestly, I didn’t have some of the ingredients for the recipe I wanted to make, and didn’t feel like getting them, so I settled on this one because I did have them on hand.  There’s always Plan B!

We call this Friquisha . . . (snazzy name right?) like a Frittata and a quiche in one, without the fattening pie dough like crust, but still with great flavor.  Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy a quiche every now and then, because it is just a perfect combo.  This recipe is definitely a good compromise, especially for those of us who want something a little on the lighter side.  This could also be a great brunch fair.

For this recipe I used one of my favorite baking dishes that I recently found.  If you haven’t tried baking with silicone I think you should give it a try.  Other than the funny smell it has during the first few 100_2233bakings, it really works great and everything pops right out of the flexible mold.  I usually bake the friquisha in a large round dish, but decided to try the muffin mold for lack of time.  These are great for breakfast on the go because you can just pop one in your mouth!


Friquisha with Sweet Potato Crust

Serves:  5-8

For the crust:

  • 1 large sweet potato, or russet potato, shredded and drained of liquid
  • 1/2 cup 2% sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt and pepper to taste

For the Filling:

  • 9 eggs
  • 1/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt or non-fat half-n-half
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 cup 2% sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • salt, pepper and Mrs.. dash to taste
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 1/2 turkey sausage links, crumbled
  • 8 asparagus spears, peeled and chopped (for this one I used zucchini)

To make crust:  Pre heat the oven to 450 F.  Combine shredded potatoes, cheese, egg, and seasoning.  Press a thin layer into the bottom and sides of a 9 in silicon baking pie dish, or a 12-cup muffin tin.  Bake for about 10 min. until set and crisp.

To make filling:  Combine eggs, yogurt, basil, cheese and seasoning with whisk in a large bowl.  Meanwhile, sauté sausage, onions and mushrooms over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan to caramelize and cook through.  Add asparagus or zucchini until tender and golden.

100_2231Place sausage mixture into bottom of hash brown crust, top with 1/2 egg mixture, repeat layers with sausage mixture then egg mixture. 

Bake at 375 F for about 40-50 minutes for the large dish, and 20-25 minutes for the muffin tin until the tops are golden and the center is no longer too jiggly. 

Serve with a crisp salad or a side of fresh fruit!      













Do you or your family enjoy breakfast for dinner?  What is your favorite?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

what the heck is sumac?

As you may have noticed from my other posts, I really like to experience and experiment with different ethnic cuisines, especially Mediterranean and Greek.  There are so many great spices and flavors inherent in these cuisines that can take dishes to a completely different level without a lot of added salt and fat. 

180px-SumacFruitWhen I first saw this recipe from Jamie Oliver, along with a spice I had never heard of before I had to try it!   Sumac is a dried middle eastern spice that comes from a shrub with red berries and is used in recipes to impart a bright, lemony flavor.  It probably isn’t in your local grocery store, and it seemed like I was on a wild rat race to find the darn thing!  I finally found it at an Indian Market near UNLV.  Boy does it smell flavorful and bright, be careful not to take in too much! 100_2236

Because this dish is perfect stuffed into a nice warm pita, I had to go to Amena Bakery to get the best pita in Vegas!!!  Actually all their food is awesome and the owners are really great.  It is sad to say that they may be going out of business.  You have to go visit if you are near Decatur and O’Bannon in the Trader Joe’s shopping center.  You won’t be disappointed.


Lamb is another one of my loves.  Many people are afraid of it, but is so delicious and has such a better flavor than beef, but not gamey at all.  There is also a great butcher that we found on Horizon Ridge that has all kinds of great things, including wine and spices.  Check out Branded Meats for all your needs.

On with the recipe . . .


Lamb Kofta Pita



  • 1 pound ground lean shoulder or neck fillet of lamb
  • 2 heaping tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 level teaspoon ground chili pepper (in the original he calls for 1tbsp!)
  • 1 1/2 level tablespoons ground cumin
  • 4 level tablespoons sumac, if you can find any, or 1 lemon, zest finely grated
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A good handful shelled pistachio nuts
  • A few handfuls mixed salad leaves, such as romaine, endive and arugula, washed, spun dry and shredded and any other veggies on hand
  • A small bunch fresh mint, leaves picked 
  • 1 lemon 
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large flatbreads or pita from Amena Bakery
  • 4 heaping tablespoons non-fat plain greek yogurt


Place most of the thyme, chili, cumin and sumac (reserving a little of each for sprinkling over later), a little salt and pepper and all the pistachios into a food processor. Put the lid on and keep pulsing until mixed.  In a large bowl, combine well with ground lamb.

Divide the meat into 4 equal pieces and get yourself 4 skewers. With damp hands, push and shape the meat around and along each skewer. Press little indents in the meat with your fingers as you go - this will give it a better texture when cooked  (Alternatively, you can also shape into small patties, which I did since I don’t have any skewers).

In a bowl, mix the salad leaves and mint and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil if desired.

Grill the kebabs until nicely golden on all sides (I used a grill pan). Meanwhile, warm the flatbreads/pita for 30 seconds on the griddle pan or under the broiler, then divide between plates and top/stuff each with some dressed salad leaves or any other veggies on hand.

When your kebabs are cooked, slip them off their skewers onto the flatbreads/in pita - you can leave them whole or break them up. Sprinkle with the rest of the sumac, cumin, chili and fresh thyme, and a little salt and pepper.  Drizzle with some of the yogurt before serving.  So much great flavor!  Happy mouth :)


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Let’s get active!

Going to the gym and being active is like a release for me, especially since I don’t dance as much as I used to.  Even if I didn’t really feel like going, once I just go and do it I feel sooo much better and wonder why I didn’t want to go in the first place! 

Many of you out there may be wondering what my gym schedule looks like and how I stay trim with as much as I like to eat and cook all the time.  Well, here is my most recent gym schedule (I go to las vegas athletic club)with a few scheduling adjustments here and there . . .

  • Monday – Abs(30min) and Kickbox (1 hour)
  • Tuesday – Hip Hop (1.25 hours)
  • Wednesday – Body Pump (weight lifting - 1 hour) and sometimes Hip Hop(1.25 hours)
  • Thursday -  off day
  • Friday – spin (1 hour)
  • Saturday – off day
  • Sunday – Body Pump (weight lifting – 1 hour)
  • Chris and I always try to get a good bike ride in on the weekend if the weather is nice (about 25 miles)

When I was dancing I used to go for 2.5 hours/day 5-6 days per week!  In addition to dance team and pilates.  Wow, as I look back I don’t know how I did it.  It was sure a lot of fun though. 

Good memories . . .        At Nevada Ballet Theatre (on the left)


On the UNR Dance Team (in the middle)



If you EVER get the chance to do pilates on the machines like the reformer and trapeze I highly, highly recommend it.  It lengthens and slims, while toning and building strength.  You will definitely see results!  I would love to get certified in this eventually, but it’s a little out of my price range to do right now. 

Speaking of being active, there are new guidelines out now as many of you have heard about.  To be healthy and prevent many chronic diseases, it is important for those of us under 65 to get at least 30 minutes of moderately intense cardio 5x/week, or 20 minutes of vigorously intense cardio 3x/week along with strength training 2x/week.  You’re body will thank you in the long run.  Most importantly do something that you truly enjoy, whether it’s walking around your neighborhood or playing with your kids.  I go to classes because that is what I’m used to and feel comfortable with, but everyone is different.  And of course, don’t make working out an excuse to eat poorly because you will only see great results if you combine both physical activity and an overall healthy and balanced meal plan.   

I really find that it helps if I plan my schedule a week before and see what activity I will have time for because it always changes.  And then if Plan A doesn’t work out always plan for Plan B.  I also always take my gym bag in my car, so there is never an excuse!  But, I won’t lie there are some days I just say the heck with it . . . I need a day off! 

Just stick with it and most importantly have fun!       


Monday, January 19, 2009

easy yet elegant

100_2222There’s nothing like pasta and wine for a laidback weekend dinner. This recipe is fairly easy to put together, yet still nice enough to serve to dinner guests. Sweet basil and roasted cherry tomatoes are paired up with the hearty, juicy meatballs and gooey fresh mozzarella cheese! And what is better than that?

We also tried a new wine with this dish that paired really well: Layer Cake Malbec 2007. When you think of a layer cake you think of moist, chocolate cake, layered among rich, whipped butter cream, right? Well, if you can imagine, this Malbec actually has all those sweet and rich characteristics coming through the wine. I would have to say Layer Cake is the perfect name for this wine. Full of fruit and berry up front, yet rich with mocha and cocoa back notes as it goes down. It flowed beautifully with the sweetness of the basil and tomatoes and stood up to the heartiness of the meatballs. Make sure you serve this wine at 63-65 degrees at the most, because as it warms up the fruit disappears and more tobacco stands out. Weird as it sounds, serving wine at the right temperature makes all the difference in finding harmonious flavor notes and lip-smacking goodness in a wine.

Another great thing about this wine is that it was $15 at Trader Joe’s. I believe that most really great wines out there are $15 or less. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a wine to have it taste really great. Just experiment and find what kind of wine suites your palate. Don’t buy some $50 bottle of wine just because of the price tag and label. Make sure you speak to the store’s wine expert or sommelier before dropping that much cash. A lot of times they may have a personal pick of theirs that won’t break the bank. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing, really expensive wines out there (uh . .em . . Insignia), but it’s not necessary!


This says it all . . .

My old grandfather made and enjoyed wine for 80 years. He told me the soil in which the vines lived were a layer cake. He said the wine, if properly made, was like a great layer cake, fruit, mocha and chocolate, hints of spice and rich, always rich. ‘Never pass up a layer cake’, he could say. I have always loved those words.

A little candlelight to set the mood . . .


Pasta with Meatballs, Mozzarella and

Fresh Tomato Sauce



Serves 4-6

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef (96 percent extra lean)
  • 1/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs (I used a leftover ciabatta loaf and ground it in the food processor)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp Various spices like Italian herbs, herbs de provence, Mrs. Dash (whatever you have on hand)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup white wine or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved and seeds squeezed out
  • 8 ounces orecchiette pasta (looks like little ears)
  • 1/2 pint bocconcini (about 20 balls, cut in half)


  1. Set a large pot of salted water to boil. In a large bowl, combine turkey, breadcrumbs, garlic, egg, 1/4 cup Parmesan, 1/4 cup basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and spices; mix to combine. Form mixture into about 1-in meatballs, or what size you prefer.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil over medium. Add meatballs, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over and cooked through. You may have to do two batches.
  3. Whisk the wine or broth with the flour in a small bowl and add this mixture to the meatball pan and scrape up all the browned bits just until thickened.
  4. Place halved tomatoes on a foil-lined broiler pan and place under broiler until slightly charred and the skins start to come off, set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling water until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain, return to pot. Add bocconcini, meatballs with sauce, tomatoes, and remaining 1/4 cup basil to the pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to your liking and serve with a yummy wine!


Saturday, January 17, 2009

yogurt + cereal = yum

I love yogurt and could have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner!  It is rich, creamy and full of calcium, protein and probiotics.  And because I don’t like soggy cereal, adding it to yogurt helps it keep 100_2205that “crunch” a little bit longer and is a great way to add some whole grains and fruit to a healthy menu.

I usually have plain yogurt and really enjoy the Wallaby brand because it isn’t as “tangy” as most plain yogurts out there.  Plain yogurt usually has much more calcium than flavored yogurts (40% or 400mg).  Plus if you add fruit, you’re adding a bit of natural sweetness and your palate can adjust over time.  Another yogurt that I love is Trader Joe’s thick non-fat greek yogurt.  It is so rich and creamy, almost like having dessert!  Greek style is much thicker and has a higher protein content than regular yogurt.  I use non-fat greek yogurt in many different recipes in place of sour cream, mayonnaise and salad dressing to cut down on fat and add some calcium.


Today for lunch I decided to have a nice bowl of yogurt with cereal and fruit.  I am a cereal addict!  I usually have about 5 or 6 different types of cereal in my pantry, and like to mix them all up.  I also like frozen wild blueberries in the winter because they are so darn expensive if you buy them fresh.  Once they melt a little, their sweet blue juice flavors the yogurt.  Feel free to add any kind of fruit you enjoy.  I also had a 1/2 of a pear.  Another great addition to yogurt which adds flavor without calories or fat is cinnamon.  Cinnamon adds such a rich and warm flavor to the creamy, milky yogurt and is a natural combination.  I also had a small peanut butter sandwich with pumpkin butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon.  This is also a great combination, and I usually add banana slices, but didn’t have any on hand.  You should try it!

Here are some of my cereals in my pantry now . . . It always changes


Here is a nice picture of the melting blueberries, so yummy!


And here is my peanut butter, pumpkin butter sandwich sprinkled with cinnamon of course!  Couldn’t resist that drip of goodness . . .













Hope you are having a great weekend!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I love pasta!

After getting home a little later than usual, I decided to make something that is really quick and easy, but still very filling and comforting.   I would have to say that pasta is absolutely one of my favorite things (among many others), especially good ol’ Italian food.  There is just nothing like it in my opinion. 

Here are the steps, so easy!

  1. First I boiled some leftover pasta (which I always have somewhere)
  2. Sauté various veggies in a pan with a little olive oil, mrs. dash or any of your favorite Italian seasonings.  You can also add some chicken sausage in there too, but I didn’t have any on hand.
  3. Warm up some marinara sauce (I had some leftover homemade sauce in the freezer)
  4. Then assemble to your liking:  I placed about 1 cup pasta on the bottom (I was hungry!), 2/3 cup sauce, a big scoop of veggies (more the better), 1/3 cup of fontina and mozzarella cheese, sprinkling of parmesan. 
  5. Place under a pre-heated broiler and broil till golden brown and bubbly!  Sprinkle some fresh basil on top.  So yummy and so easy!   


After visiting with my grandma, who is in town from NC, I was still kind of hungry (gasp!)  So I had a small bowl of cereal with chocolate almond milk and a few grapes.  I know it sounds weird, but the chocolate almond milk from Almond Breeze is soo good!  Now I’ll have plenty of energy stores for spin tomorrow at 6am.  Wish me and my bum good luck :)

More protein is not always better

There is a misconception out there that the more protein the better, especially for weightlifters or people that want to gain mass/lose weight quickly.  Actually carbohydrates are really one of the most important things for our active bodies because our bodies prefer glucose as an energy source first, and then if glucose isn’t in good supply it will usually go to protein and fat to break down for energy.  So if our bodies have the right amount of glucose in supply for exercise, we can preserve and increase our muscle mass (replenish glycogen) while decreasing body fat.  The Atkins approach is probably the worst “diet” for an active person, because carbohydrates are essential.  Without enough carbohydrates in the daily menu, you’ll actually lose some muscle mass if your body has to breakdown and use amino acids for energy.  And the reason people lose a great amount of weight on this “diet” is because for every gram of glycogen (this is essentially energy in the muscles) there is a fair amount of water attached to it.  So, it is mostly water weight!  And that is also the reason why, when people do go off this “diet” they tend to gain all their weight back, in addition to slowing their metabolisms from the loss of muscle mass.  Ok, I think I’ve got my venting out :)  

But, what about all those protein shakes out there claiming to build lean muscle mass to get ripped in no time flat?  Honestly, you don’t need the protein shake if you are incorporating enough lean protein, complex carbohydrates and some good fats into a balanced diet.  I usually use these for added convenience and portability, but they are not absolutely necessary and can be quite expensive!  That’s about $50 of wasted money!!  It’s not only the protein we eat really that chisels our muscles, but the work that we impose on them.  All those little tiny tears in the muscle that happen during a workout causes them to rebuild a little bit bigger each time if we eat properly.

The average person needs 0.8g/kg of protein a day.  So for a 130-lb person this would be about 48g.  One chicken breast (3 oz or a deck of cards) has about 27g of protein.  While protein is definitely important in a person’s daily menu in building/maintaining our muscles and immune system, most Americans tend to get plenty of protein.

For endurance athletes it is recommended that they get 1.2-1.4 g/kg of protein/day and resistance trained athletes get 1.4-1.7 g/kg per day.  This is very dependent of the individual athlete and the sport they are in.  So a 130-lb endurance athlete would require about 71-80g of protein/day.  A larger 180-lb male doing intense resistance training would want about 114-140g protein/day, which is completely doable with wholesome foods. 

As a dietitian, we always say to get your daily nutritional needs from wholesome foods first if at all possible.  How much of a nutritional bang for your buck (calories) are you getting?  There are still many compounds within foods that all work synergistically together that we don’t even know about yet.  Simply taking a vitamin as an excuse to not eat well doesn’t really work in the long run in prevention of many chronic diseases.  But, there are certain situations out there when certain foods won’t work, and then we analyze and assess different options.  So, eat good food first most of the time and your body will thank you!

I think this quote is a little harsh, but fitting:

"Don't dig your grave with your own knife and fork."

- English Proverb

There will be more to come on what to eat for an active lifestyle and to make the best of your hard work!  . . .

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

added convenience

Even though I enjoy making my own creations or using leftovers for lunch, sometimes it’s good to let someone else (uh-em . . .the microwave) do the work for you! 

In the future I would like to post more about new products or ingredients that I try, and this one seems to be a good starting point.  When I do get a few frozen meals, the brand that I prefer is LeanCuisine.  Most of the meals that I have tried from their line always have a really great flavor and don’t taste like . . . blah as most of you I’m sure have experienced.  They also have a pretty good nutritional profile.  More on those later. . .  

Another great omediumne I’ve been trying is Kashi.  I really enjoy their bars and cereals, so I thought I would give their new chicken rustico sesame pocket bread a try.  It was really good, like having a nice Italian meal all bundled up in a whole-grain sandwich roll.  Inside there is chicken, mushrooms, roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and of course the whole-grain goodness of Kashi on the outside.  It was actually quite filling too with 300 kcals, 4g fiber, and 18 g protein.  It did have 670 mg of sodium (28%) which I a bit high for a 2300mg/day suggested allotment for the average person, but can definitely be included in a well balanced eating plan.

Pre-portioned frozen meals can be a great way to lose weight or keep calories in check when we don’t feel like whipping up something ourselves.  It is very important to keep an eye on the sodium content of frozen foods, because they tend to be higher to help with preservation and improve taste.  

I like to eat little meals throughout the day, so I will probably have another snack later this afternoon to hold me over before dinner (I think it will be leftover split-pea and ham soup with grilled cheese- Yum and lots of fiber!).

Are there any frozen meals that you particularly enjoy?   


*Please Note*  I am not affiliated with or endorse any brand names that are posted on this blog, and only show pictures solely based on my personal experiences.      

Sunday, January 11, 2009

just say no to store-bought pizza dough . . .

Or at least when you have a little extra time and want to try something fun. . . . Making your own pizza dough isn't really all that hard.

At first I used to buy the pre-made pizza dough where you just had to plop on the ingredients and put it in the oven. Yea, it was convenient, but it tasted mass produced and had a bunch of weird ingredients I couldn't even pronounce in it. I guess it has to have all those in there so it can be shelf stable and not mold for weeks on end. Then I decided to buy the real pizza dough that you had to form yourself. This was easy because all the rising was done and you just had to roll it out. It was nice and rustic, but I wanted to try my hand at the real thing. The pizza dough recipe that we always use is a whole-wheat version adapted from CookingLight and it comes out really well. I encourage you to try your hand at your own pizza dough, because your efforts will be rewarded and it's much cheaper than buying the pre-made stuff.

Instead of making pizza this time around, we made calzones. These are great because you can pretty much take any of your favorite ingredients, toss them inside the dough and bake! We also had a food party where each person got to make their own calzones with a variety of different toppings to choose from. It was a lot of fun!

I would also recommend using a pizza stone to cook the pizzas or calzones. It gives it that pizza oven texture without having the pizza oven. We also use a pizza peel to transfer the calzones with some cornmeal on the bottom to prevent the dough from sticking.

Let me know if any one tries it!!

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

(adapted from CookingLight)


2 (12-inch) pizza crusts, or about 7-8 calzones

Note: To freeze, follow directions for kneading dough and then freeze (see below)


  • 1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1- 1 1/4 cups warm water (100° to 110°)
  • 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • Additional spices I like to add: garlic powder, herbes de provence
  • Cooking spray


Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes until it gets foamy. Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, wheat flour, oil, salt and seasonings; stir until well blended. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky). You can also do this in a stand mixer.

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Divide in half; roll each dough half into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface. Or form into 7-8 oblong rectangles for calzones. Make sure to slice several small slits on top of the calzones so steam can escape before baking and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil.

Note: To freeze, follow directions for kneading dough and shape into 2 balls. Coat with cooking spray and place in freezer in a zip-top plastic bag. To use them, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85º), free from drafts, 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Shape as instructed.

For ours we sauteed some chicken sausage, mushrooms, and zucchini. Then we added some fresh basil, shredded mozzarella, fontina and goat cheese on top. We placed them on the pizza peel, generously sprinkled with corn meal, transferred them to a pre-heated pizza stone in a 500 F oven and baked for about 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Serve with a nice side of marinara to dip!

Filling the calzones . . .

Forming the calzones . . .

Enjoying the fruits of our labor with a nice side salad and glass of wine . . .

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