Category Archives: nutrition

A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools. ~Spanish Proverb

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Or even better…”Your stomach shouldn’t be a wastebasket.” -Dori Friedberg

Whether it’s an ancient Spanish Proverb, or a modern day nutritionist, we all know we need to take care of our bodies.  Some more than others.  I’ve always felt I was on the above average side in eating a healthy diet.  (Not counting during college and the years immediately following when I lived on popcorn and ICEE’s from the gas station).  But I don’t eat meat, only fish, lots of vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, very little dairy, NO cheese, and MODERATION is my key.  Any time I tell myself I can NOT eat something I love, like fried foods or chocolate chip cookies, I become COMPLETELY OBSESSED with them, and end up binging.  So the thing that works for me is move more, eat less.  I don’t deny myself anything, I just don’t eat much of the things I know aren’t the best for me. 

Now, according to more and more people, my diet is killing me.  They start talking about leptin and metabolic syndrome and my head starts spinning.  I have spent a lot of time online and talking to my very smart friends who are eating this way.  I would have no problem giving up dairy.  I pretty much already have, but even if I could give up whole grain bread, I still can’t wrap my head around the no farro, brown rice, quinoa, and even legumes.  NO BLACK BEANS?  NO CHICKPEAS?  NO GREEN PEAS?  But the scientific community has, for the most part, stayed on the fence.   For now, I’m going to keep reading everything I can about the science behind the whole Paleo/ancestral diet thing, continue listening to my very smart friends, but continue eating whole grains and legumes in moderation.

But when I get invited to my very smart Paleo-eating friend’s house for dinner and am asked to bring an appetizer and a salad, I have to get more creative.  Those who have been eating this way for a long time have no problem coming up with ideas, but other than meat and vegetables, I wasn’t sure what to take.  My dear husband can’t live without chips and hummus, but since those were out of the question, I made a yummy Cauliflower Hummus (completely paleo…no legumes at all), and for me I made my favorite Broccoli Hummus.  That does include some chickpeas, but not many, and it was a huge hit, even with my friends.  I tinkered around with a couple of old recipes and they were so successful I wanted to write them down so I wouldn’t forget.  The problem is, I was so busy playing around and taste-testing that I forgot to take photos.  The only photo I have is the bowl of leftovers…(regular hummus for J, and broccoli hummus).  You can see which was more popular!

There was basically none of the Cauliflower Puree left, other than a few bites that I ate by the spoonful the next day.

So here are the recipes.  I served with a ton of crudite’, and a few gluten-free crackers for J and I.  Easy peasy.


Yield:  1-2 cups, depending on the size of your cauliflower head 

*Click HERE for printable recipe

1 Large head of cauliflower (preferably yellow, as the parsley will give it a lovely green color)
2-6 cloves of garlic (my garlic was quite strong so I only used 2)
2 TBSP Almond Butter
2 TBSP lemon juice
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped (I don’t recommend using dried parsley, as the color change and taste from the fresh is so beautiful)
1/2 tsp of smoked paprika
Salt, to taste
Garnish with parsley, smoked paprika and olive oil

Separate the cauliflower into florets, cutting away the center core.  Steam or microwave until very tender.  While that is cooling, mince the garlic in a food processor.  Add the olive oil, nut butter, spices and lemon juice and puree well.  Add the cauliflower and puree until it is smooth.  Add more olive oil if needed to get the texture smooth.  Place in dish and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with more paprika and serve with veggies.


Broccoli Hummus

*Click HERE for printable recipe

Yield:  Two Cups

1 lb of broccoli crowns
2 garlic cloves
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed (or 1 cup cooked chickpeas)
2 tsp. ground cumin 
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt,  to taste
1-2 TBSP tahini (sesame paste), to taste

1.  Steam the broccoli for five minutes until tender, but still bright.  Refresh with cold water and drain on paper towels.  (Very IMPORTANT…don’t overcook or the color will be a muddy green).

2.  Turn on the food processor and drop in the garlic.  Scrape down and puree again.  Scrape down.

3.  Turn on the machine and slowly pour in the lemon juice and oil with the machine running.  Process until smooth.

4.  Add the tahini and salt to taste.  Blend well.

Serve with veggies, and/or pita. 

Helpful links about paleo, and a couple refuting it, so you can be as confused as I am!!

Whole Nine
Grain Brain, by David Perlmutter
Wheat Belly, by William Davis, MD
Built Lean, article by Charlie Seltzer, MD
Outlaw Fitness, by Josh Vales
Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber, from the NIH

Your stomach shouldn’t be a waste basket. ~Dori Friedberg – See more at:
Your stomach shouldn’t be a waste basket. ~Dori Friedberg – See more at:
Your stomach shouldn’t be a waste basket. ~Dori Friedberg – See more at:

Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Updated Veggie Meat Loaf…SOOOO Good!

Last year I posted a vegetarian meatloaf that I made for my vegetarian daughter that even my red-meat loving husband would eat.  Shortly afterwards, my husband and I gave up meat as well, so the vegetarian meatloaf has become a staple in our house.  Without the fat from ground beef, the soy crumbles just didn’t want to stick together.  It wasn’t pretty, but it was delicious.  I have tinkered with the recipe over the last few months to try to keep it from falling apart after slicing, and last night it came out PERFECTLY!  I’ve had several people ask for the recipe lately, so I’m posting the latest version.

Vegetarian Meat Loaf

*Click HERE for printable recipe

* 1/4 cup Bullseye Hickory Smoke Barbecue Sauce
* 3/4 cup Heinz Ketchup
* 1 (12 ounce) package vegetarian burger crumbles
* 1 red, yellow, or green bell pepper, chopped
* 1 minced red onion
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
* 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
* 1 egg, beaten (or 2 egg whites)
* 1 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1 teaspoon dried basil
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried parsley)
* salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 5×9 inch loaf pan.
2. Heat saute pan over medium low heat, add 1 TBSP of olive oil and saute the onion, peppers, and garlic (seasoned with salt and pepper) until soft and translucent. 
3.  In a bowl, mix together the barbecue sauce and the ketchup. Mix 3/4 of the mixture with the vegetarian burger crumbles, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and egg.  Add the onion mixture.  Season with thyme, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper. Transfer to the loaf pan (sprayed with olive oil), and press down to make it as compact as possible.

3. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven. Pour remaining barbecue sauce over the loaf, and continue baking 15 minutes, or until loaf is set and sauce is heated.

I buy these crumbles at Publix, in the produce section where the Tofu is…other stores carry different brands and they’re all pretty similar.

I also made Brussel Sprouts.  I think Brussel Sprouts are the new Sun-Dried Tomatoes.  They are EVERYWHERE!  Top Chef, Magazines, Restaurants…every menu I’ve looked at lately has them.  I think chefs have finally figured out how to cook them.  The boiling and steaming that we did 20 years ago just intensified the rubber shoe taste, so I was firmly in the ‘I DON’T LIKE BRUSSEL SPROUTS’ camp.  But a couple of years ago I tried some at ChaCha’s restaurant here in Nashville, and my eyes were opened to the yumminess that comes from letting them caramelize, and sweeten, thus eliminating the bitterness of the past.

My problem in cooking them is since we are meat-free in our house now, I had to find a way to cook them without the bacon drippings that made them so good.  I’ve tried roasting them a couple of times, but didn’t use enough oil (my go-to spray on Pam wasn’t sufficient), so they just dried up and didn’t taste like anything.  Last night I didn’t spray the oil on, I tossed them with 2-3 Tbsp. of olive oil.  (I had a pretty big bunch of sprouts…it doesn’t take a whole lot of oil, just enough to lightly coat them).  While they were roasting at 350 degrees (cut side up for 20 minutes, then cut side down for the rest of the time), I sauteed a large red onion with garlic, pine nuts and rosemary, then tossed them together and voila…they were amazing!  Almost as good as the huge bowl I ate at ABC Kitchen in NYC this week!  My husband and daughter, who have not jumped on the brussel sprouts bandwagon with me, even ate a couple, which was a success in my book.  They didn’t eat a lot, but that just meant…more for me!

I use small brussel sprouts, pull off the outer edges, trim the stem a little and cut in half.

The search for easy Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps

Almost a year ago, my daughter decided to become a vegetarian. While I respected the motivation behind her decision, I was a little bit worried about how I was going to feed my family. We had finally gotten to a place where I could make ONE dinner and everyone would eat it. But my husband does not think it’s a meal unless some form of meat is present. Fortunately, H will eat fish, but unfortunately, Jeff only ate swordfish, shrimp and lobster. Oh, and fried catfish at Sportsman’s Grille. Fast forward a year, H is still a pesca-vegetarian (eating only fish), J has added Trout, Tuna, Scallops and Halibut to his list of edible seafood, and I’ve found the best places to buy seafood in Nashville (not an easy task since we’re 8 hours from the nearest ocean).

But I can’t serve fish every night. Sometimes I have to make vegetarian chili (added meat to J’s), vegetarian pasta, and I am learning how to prepare tofu. The only experience we have had eating Tofu was the vegetarian lettuce wraps at PF Changs. And to be honest, it’s hard to tell the difference between their tofu wraps and the chicken wraps. I found a recipe online for the PF Chang’s version, but both times I made them the tofu just tasted blah…and the texture wasn’t the same. Plus, after mixing together the marinade, the cooking sauce, and the dipping sauce, and chopping up the vegetables and tofu, my kitchen looked like Haiti probably looks this morning. (Small pause for a prayer for those victims).

So I have been experimenting with the recipe, and last night I made a much better, easier version of the above recipe. I think the key is how to prepare the tofu before stir-frying. I start with a block of firm tofu, drained, and put it on a stack of 5 or 6 paper towels. Then I top it with another few paper towels and put something heavy on top (a heavy pan, a plate with a teapot full of water, etc.) After about 20 minutes, I turn the tofu over, replace with a couple more paper towels (I know, bad for the environment), and repeat the process for another 10-15 minutes. Then I thinly dice it, put it on a roasting pan sprayed with cooking spray, and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, stirring halfway through. THEN, I marinate it. When tofu is warm, it supposedly takes the marinade flavors better. When I put the recipe together about 30 minutes before dinner, the tofu got really nice and chewy and very flavorful.

So here’s the recipe:

Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps

4 Tbsp. Soy sauce (low sodium)
2 Tbsp. Rice Wine
1 TBsp. Rice Vinegar
2 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 Tbsp. lime juice

Mix above together and cover prepared tofu for 1-2 hours, or longer before stir frying.

1 block firm or extra firm tofu, or soy crumbles (see note)
1 onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves chopped garlic
1 small can water chestnuts, finely chopped
1/2 bag broccoli slaw mixture
2 Tbsp. canola, sesame or peanut oil
1/4 cup of Iron Chef Honey Garlic stir fry and marinade sauce (or similar bottled sauce)
Iceberg, Boston Bibb or Butter Lettuce Leaves

Heat oil in wok over medium heat, add drained, marinated tofu and stir fry 15-20 minutes, stirring gently until browned. You can see below how the tofu “pops” as it browns.

Remove from pan, and add remaining ingredients. Stir fry for 5 minutes until veggies begin to soften. Add a little bit of reserved marinade to deglaze if needed. Stir fry for a few more minutes as veggies continue to soften, then add stir fry sauce. Stir until veggies are done and sauce is warm. Add tofu and stir. Serve with Iceberg, Boston Bibb or Butter Lettuce leaves.

Dipping Sauce:
Lettuce Wrap Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
2 tablespoons chopped green onions

Combine all ingredients and serve with lettuce wraps.

NOTE:  Sometimes I don’t feel like going to the trouble of draining the tofu, so I substitute Soy Crumbles.  There are many different brands, but they can be found in the produce department, where you buy tofu and other vegetarian meat-type products.  They have the consistency of ground beef and work very well in this recipe because they soak up the taste of the stir fry sauce.

Where does your family’s food come from?

The summer I was six years old, my mom had abdominal surgery.  I was shipped off to stay with my grandparents at their farm in McMinnville, TN.  I remember several things about that summer, like fishing in the brook, and when Grandma taught me how to make homemade rag dolls.  We cut the basic shape out of scrap material, turned it inside out and hand stitched almost all the way around, except for one of the feet.  Then we stuffed them with small scraps of material and used the strings from the recently shucked corn from her garden to make hair.  Sewed on buttons for eyes, yarn for mouth, and voila!  A toy!  It was the coolest thing I had ever seen.

I also remember  going to the garden and apple orchard to harvest whatever vegetables were ready…tomatoes, corn, green beans, apples, okra, strawberries and squash are the ones I remember.  I also remember that I only ate some of those vegetables at Grandma’s house.  For some reason,   they tasted so much better there than at home.

They had lots of animals…cows (to be milked), kittens (to catch mice), and chickens (for eggs).  At least, that’s what I thought the chickens were for.  I loved gathering the eggs, and feeding them.  I had names for them all…Chuckie, Suzy, Betsy…and would call them by name as we threw the chicken feed all around their feet.  WARNING:  The next few sentences are not for the squeamish. One morning, Papa asked me if I wanted fried chicken for dinner.  “Sure!” I replied.  Never in a million years did I think he was talking about my little friends.  To me, chicken that you ate was the white slimy stuff my mom bought at the grocery store.  While I was busy feeding them,  Papa walked over to Betsy, the biggest, fluffiest chicken of them all.  He grabbed her by the neck, whispered, “Thank you, my friend,”  and before I knew what was happening, had slung her around in a neat little jerk, and popped off her head!  Her body fell to the ground and her legs kept going, like she was trying to run away from what had happened.  I don’t remember much after that…mostly screaming and crying and not understanding at all.  I think he tried to explain the circle of life to me, but I wasn’t having any of it.  It was a long time before I ate chicken again.

But I did…I ate chicken, steak, pork, bacon, and my favorite…Rudy’s Farm Sausage!  As I got older and became more health-conscious,  I ate less and less of it.  It became a treat, not a normal thing.  But for my parents, and their siblings, and countless others who grew up on farms and when meat was considered a luxury, the last few years of mass-produced, affordable animal products, have resulted in diets that centered around the meat.  I love to cook, and when I cook for family and friends, I never thought I could serve them anything without meat.  It wasn’t a meal, otherwise!  I understood that animals like chickens couldn’t live in the wild for very long, that they had comfortable, loving homes on a farm where they had plentiful food and places to run around in the sunshine.

Then I saw the movie, “Food, Inc.”  Actually, I watched most of it with my hands over my face in horror.  It showed that a handful of corporations control our nation’s food supply. Though the companies try to maintain the myth that our food still comes from farms with red barns and white picket fences, our food is actually raised on massive “factory farms” and processed in mega industrial plants. The animals grow fatter faster and are designed to fit the machines that slaughter them. The majority of mass-produced chickens are raised in the dark, their breasts becoming so  large that they’re unable to walk. But that’s okay, because they’re not allowed to. The antibiotics they are fed to keep them breathing in such conditions end up right there in every bite of your sandwich.  Even “organic”, grass-fed cows are slaughtered at the same slaughtering facilities as the ones raised in dark barns, eating a diet of corn that fattens them up but becomes breeding grounds for E-coli.  Those slaughtering plants stun the cows, hang them upside down by one leg, and slice open an artery so they quickly bleed to death.  Although the numbers are improving, there is a percentage of cows who are not completely stunned, and are slaughtered while awake.   Tomatoes are bred to be shipped without bruising and to stay edible for months. The system is highly productive, and Americans are spending less on food than ever before.  In the process, the food doesn’t taste like food anymore.  The tomatoes I buy at the grocery store bear no more resemblance to the tomatoes I ate on Grandma’s farm than an orange and an apple.

“Food, Inc.” is not trying to push vegetarianism.  It is just raising awareness about where our food comes from.  That a small handful of corporations are controlling not only our meat supply, but the seeds use to grow our crops.  They are methodically pushing the small independent farmers who are capable of producing food in a humane way that will safely feed us out of business.  Meat plants are “washing” beef with ammonia and chlorine to guard against E-Coli, even though just five days of feeding a cow grass could safely eliminate the risk.  Americans expect their meat to be cheap and plentiful, so there no easy solution.

My family is no longer eating meat.   Not that we have an objection to animals being eaten, but because we don’t see an easy answer to how we get it to our table.  When I entertain a group of people who I know don’t consider it a meal unless meat is served, I try to seek out grass-fed, locally produced meat.  There is a growing group of “conscientious carnivores” and a growing number of  farmers who are raising animals for meat and dairy in a humane way and offering concerned consumers a choice about what they eat.  The choices in my area are small…basically it’s Whole Foods, or sometimes I find small farmers at the farmer’s market.  Here’s a great website to find humane sources of food in your area. 

The upside is that more and more people are thinking twice about what they eat, and where it comes from.  The downside is it’s more expensive.  But  I think this is a win/win alternative: Eat less. Who needs a 24 ounce steak?

French people don’t get fat…seriously

Just got back from a wonderful trip to Paris and Barcelona, and I’m surrounded by laundry, suitcases that need to be unpacked, phone calls that need to be made or returned, office that needs to be cleaned, and mail that needs to be sorted. Combine all that with the fact that I’ve been home about 24 hours and it’s 4:30 a.m. in Barcelona, and I can barely type a legible sentence, so I’m going to do a proper post or two about the trip later. I just want to mention the one thing that struck me when I got home-the fact that the only fat people we saw in those two cities were tourists. Seriously, we noticed it a few days after we got to Paris, so we started trying to find French or Spanish people who were fat. Sure, there were a few soft bodies, maybe a couple of bellies, but nothing like the obesity that you see here everywhere you go. It can’t be because they eat low carb, or low sugar, or low fat, or eliminate alcohol, because that stuff is everywhere. From the chocolate croissants at breakfast, the basket of bread that appears at every table whether you order it or not, the unbelievable butter and cheese in Paris, the fat-laden sausages in Barcelona, and the wine that flows freely from mid-day on, you don’t see any signs of French or Spanish people doing any sort of Oprah-endorsed cleanse.

This morning, J and I did the thing I HATE to do. We weighed ourselves and neither one of us gained any weight on this trip. And let me tell you…we ate. Boy, did we eat. Jambon et fromage with frites at lunch,

Ice cream for dessert…

Lots of Spanish Ham in Barcelona…

Many tapas…which we thought were supposed to be tiny so we ordered too many of them at first…

and more wine that I want to admit to. But we walked all over the place, and we never ate between meals because we just didn’t have time. We were pretty religious about fitting in a workout every day, but still felt like we’d eaten so much more than usual that we had to have put on a few lbs. Even if we had, it would have been worth it! But so far, we’re good.

In my opinion, I think it’s two things. More movement and portion control. No super-sized plates of anything. They walk everywhere. But they enjoy life, and good food. Real food.

Maybe they’re onto something.

Disordered eating vs. living a healthy lifestyle?

I’ve written in the past about my obsession with exercise. I think it boils down to the fact that I like the way it feels when I’ve had a good workout, and it has helped prevent the weight gain that most of my relatives have experienced in their adult years. I love having a goal, like a marathon, a century, or a triathlon, and training to see the completion of that goal. I also enjoy cooking, eating, and having an occasional glass of wine or two. So, is my “obsession” with exercise, and eating well actually “disordered eating”?

Sixty-five percent of American women who responded to a national survey by SELF are disordered eaters. Eating habits that women think are normal—such as banishing carbs, skipping meals and, in some cases, even dieting itself—may actually be symptoms of the syndrome. Although disordered eating doesn’t have the lethal potential of anorexia or bulimia, it can wreck your emotional and physical health, says Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D., director of the eating disorders program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The online SELF survey garnered responses from 4,000 women ages 25 to 45 to a detailed questionnaire about their eating habits and found that most disordered eaters fall into one or more of six categories. Calorie prisoners are terrified of gaining weight, tend to see food as good or bad and feel extremely guilty if they indulge in something that’s off-limits. Secret eaters binge on junk food at home, in the car—wherever they won’t be found out. Career dieters may not know what to eat without a plan to follow; despite their efforts, they’re more likely than other types to be overweight or obese. Purgers are obsessed with ridding their body of unwanted calories and bloat by using laxatives, diuretics or occasional vomiting. Food addicts eat to soothe stress, deal with anger, even celebrate a happy event; they think about food nearly all the time. Extreme exercisers work out despite illness, injury or exhaustion and solely for weight loss; they are devastated if they miss a session.

Like me, who Bulik might describe as a calorie prisoner and an exercise addict, many “disordered eaters” piece together a mix of “destructive” habits. Others may shift between categories over the years, ricocheting from restricting to bingeing to purging, for instance.

So if I didn’t exercise 6-7 days a week, or if I ate full portions of desserts, or fast food, would I be considered “healthier” because I wasn’t preoccupied with my diet or physical fitness? I don’t think about it constantly, I just know that if I get up a little bit earlier to fit in exercise, or eat only a bite or two of a food that is caloric, (instead of the whole thing), or avoid fried foods, that I feel better and fit into my clothes. I do realize that living this way can get out of hand, and it also makes people uncomfortable if they don’t exercise or eat well, but why is it that everything has to be diagnosed away as some kind of psychological mumbo-jumbo?

Caffeine causes dehydration…NOT

I LOVE it when research validates my bad habits!!!!

In the New York Times today, the claim that Caffeine causes dehydration was debunked. They reviewed over ten studies comparing caffeine with water or placebo and seldom found a statistical difference in urine volume.

“In the 10 studies reviewed, consumption of a caffeinated beverage resulted in 0 to 84 percent retention of the initial volume ingested, whereas consumption of water resulted in 0 to 81 percent retention.”

So my 8 diet cokes per day are like 8 glasses of water per day. I can live with that.

Diet Coke is 99% Water? Cool!

I am not proud of this…

I drink at least 6 diet cokes a day. Sometimes more. I’m a certified personal trainer…I know better, but now that I’m not working as a trainer, I do it anyway.

I also exercise a lot. 1-2 hours a day, and more when it’s warm and I’m cycling. I keep thinking I should drink more water, that I’m probably perpetually dehydrated, but there is nothing better than a really cold diet coke (I try to put it in the freezer for a few minutes before I drink it). Not diet pepsi, not diet iced tea or lemonade, it has to be DIET COKE–in a can is the best.

Soooo….99% water? At least I know I’m getting my fluids…

I wonder if I get any benefit from them before I pee them all out?