Smokey Shrimp Quesadillas

13 Mar IMG_5651

You know how there are just some foods that are life-changing? As in, “How the heck did I live my life without it”? Well friends, I’m about to introduce you to a food (or rather an entire brand of food) that is now a permanent part of my fridge.

Introducing Burnett Dairy and Wood River Creamery cheeses!

I was sent a sample pack of this cheese a month or so ago and instantly fell in love. I’ve always had a soft spot for great cheese, and this cheese is SO good! My sample pack included a variety of flavors of cheeses, so naturally, I had to try each one immediately.
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My absolute favorites were the Rosemary (which won the 2013 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest) and the Hickory Smoked Shredded cheese (yes, that’s correct, FLAVORED shredded cheese!)
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I will admit that I loved the Rosemary so much that I hid it in the back bottom of the fridge, just so I didn’t have to share!

I am in love with the idea of flavored shredded cheese (I mean, why hasn’t any one else come up with this brilliant idea?). This Hickory Smoked shredded cheese is delicious by itself (ask my daughter who kept sneaking handfuls of the shreds), but my mind was swimming with ideas on how to incorporate this into a recipe. So was born Smokey Shrimp Quesadillas.

There really isn’t a wrong way to make a quesadilla, you can put pretty much any type of meat, seasonings and veggies inside, but my quesadillas include shrimp, sauteed peppers and onions, taco sauce and Hickory Smoked shredded cheese.
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They key to a delicious quesadilla is to spray your pan with non-stick spray. This will give you an extra-crispy crust (instead of a hard, dried out crust).  To make, simply spray pan (preheated over medium-high heat), lay a whole wheat tortilla in the pan, layer desired ingredients (don’t forget the cheese) and top with a second tortilla. Cook for 3-4 minutes (or until golden brown). Lift up quesadilla, re-spray pan, then flip tortilla to cook the other side.

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Cook an additional 3-4 minutes until the second tortilla is crispy and the cheese inside is gooey.
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Enjoy. I mean, REALLY enjoy!

Full Disclosure: I received a free sample of these cheeses, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

10 Things You Should Never Say to a Pregnant Woman

10 Mar

With baby #3 due to arrive any day now, and my sense of humor waning, I thought I would post a top 10 list of things you should NEVER say to a pregnant woman.

Working in a public setting and with a large variety of people, I have been bombarded (or maybe assaulted is a better word) with questions or comments from people.  *Note, each of these was said to me personally (most of which in the last 2 months).

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So, without further adu…

10 Things to NEVER Say to a Pregnant Woman

1. “You are Ginormous! You can’t take offense to that because you are pregnant.” Is ginormous even a word?  I still had 4 weeks to go in my pregnacy when this amazing blip was said. And yes, I sure can take offense to you calling me a word that is a combination of gigantic + enormous.

2. “Are you having twins?” This phrase should NEVER, EVER be uttered to a pregnant woman (or any woman). Nothing good will ever come out of this question. 

3. How did THAT happen?  (said while looking at my belly in disbelief). My response: “Ummm… well one night, my husband and I…..” Really, what would be a proper response to this question? I learned about where babies came from in 5th grade guidance.

4. “OMG! Look at your belly. It is HUGE! You still have a month to go. What are you going to do?” My response: “I guess get bigger?” What choice do I have? Trust me, this belly isn’t making my life any easier… AND “How much BIGGER are you going to get?” As big as I need to. I’m growing a baby here, folks, not posing for Glamour magazine.

5. “You look like you’re going to POP! You’re pretty big. It looks like you’re going to have a baby soon!” – All of this was said by a complete stranger while physically grabbing and shaking my stomach.  I don’t even know how to respond to everything that is wrong with this. First of all, unless invited, NEVER touch a pregnant woman’s belly.  Secondly, see #4 in response to commenting about size. Lastly, babies don’t “pop” out of bellies.  There is a process, called labor… it’s not pretty or easy. I don’t appreciate being physically and verbally assaulted.

6. “Are you feeling okay? You look really tired and pale.” Maybe it is the fact that I’m carrying around 30+ extra pounds, not really sleeping at night and it’s winter in Minnesota.  Who isn’t tired and pale this time of year?

7. You still have 2 months to go? Really? You look like you are going to pop! Listen, sir,the only thing that is going to “pop” is you if you keep hurling insults my way.  

8. “Congratulations on expecting. When are you due? Is this your first?” My response, “No, this is #3 for me”. To which the customer replied “Oh, so you take your children to daycare? I would NEVER do that to my kids.” Okay, so we just went from friendly conversation to you offending me by saying that I am somehow harming my children by choosing to work outside the home. Good day!

9. You can’t have… (fish, peanuts, salt, sugar, honey, spicy foods, raw vegetables, coffee, feta cheese….) Thank you for your concern, however, I am very confident that I am choosing foods that are safe for both me and baby. Food is kind of my thing…

10. “I had such bad hemorrhoids when I was pregnant. How are your hemorrhoids?” (asked by a complete stranger in the cereal aisle). Ummm… I’m not comfortable talking about my butt in the cereal aisle… Thank you for your concern. I did, however recommend a high-fiber cereal. :)  - Unless you are a close family member or friend that I would normally discuss said issues with, please don’t ask…

What are some of the craziest things people have said to you while pregnant and how did you react?  Maybe we can write a book!

Roasted Sweet Potato Black Bean Burritos

3 Mar Sweet Potato Black Bean Burritos5

Our meatless meal this week was one of my favorites: Roasted Sweet Potato Black Bean Burritos.  It is no secret that I have a weakness for any foods with cilantro and lime juice, but when you throw in smoked paprika, black beans and other roasted vegetables, WATCH OUT!

This recipe is also great as a make-ahead freezer meal. Prep once, eat twice!

The process is really simple and the recipe is very flexible. Subsitute vegetables to suit your tastes or what you have on hand. Don’t have black beans? Try pinto beans.

To make, first peel and dice sweet potatoes, red pepper and onion. Combine with 1 small can of green chiles (or jalapenos if you like it spicy), chili powder, smoked paprika, ground cumin, salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.

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Rost in a hot oven (425 degrees) for 20 minutes. Stir in 1 can drained black beans, chopped cilantro and the juice of 1 lime.

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Place approximately 1/4 cup mixture on a whole wheat tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese and roll up.

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Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and spray with non-stick spray. Lay rolled tortillas flap-side down and cook until golden brown. Sweet Potato Black Bean Burritos
Flip and cook until both sides are toasted.

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Look at how cripsy-crunchy this little guy is! I can’t wait to sink my teeth into him!
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You can eat whole, but I prefer to cut it in half to see all the colorful goodness! Serve with salsa, guacamole, sour cream or gobble up as is. You won’t be sorry.
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Roasted Sweet Potato Black Bean Burritos

All you need:
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped small
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 small can diced green chiles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teasoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 lime, juiced
8 whole wheat tortillas
2 cups shredded cheese

All you do:
1.Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix together sweet potatoes, onion, red pepper, chiles, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.
2. Spread vegetables on a large baking pan. Bake for 425 degrees for approximately 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.
3. Remove roasted vegetables, stir in black beans, cilantro and lime juice.
4. Lay out a tortilla, scoop approximately 1/4 cup vegetable mixture onto the center of tortilla. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and roll up. Repeat with remaining tortillas and toppings.
5. Preheat large skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with non-stick spray. Place tortillas in skillet (seam-side down).
6. Cook tortillas until golden brown. Flip until both sides are crispy.

*To freeze: Prepare the burritos stopping before cooking. Place the uncooked burritos in a resealable bag and freeze. To reheat, thaw then cook in skillet until golden brown.
OR
Prepare completely. Freeze after cooking. To reheat, microwave for 2-3 minutes or until hot.

Pineapple Mango Salsa: A Tropical Treat

27 Feb

So my facebook newsfeed has recently exploded with photos of people in warm, sandy places. Since I am surrounded by piles of white, fluffy snow, lots and lots of snow (not to mention well-below average temperatures), I decided to treat my taste buds to a tropical experience.
PIneapple Mango Salsa
Ta-dah! Pineapple Mango Salsa. This stuff is so good I have been known to eat half of it with a spoon before letting a chip or piece of fish even close!

Many people are intimidated by fresh pineapple and mangoes because they aren’t sure how to cut them up. It really is simple. There are many different ways, but I’ll show you how I like to get it done.
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How to cut a pineapple

1. Twist off the tip leaves.
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2. Cut into quarters (from top to bottom).
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3. Cut the core out of each piece.
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4. Cut the outside skin off of the fruit (making sure to cut off any renegade “eyes”).
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5. Cut into pieces (for the pineapple salsa you will want to chip it up nice and small).
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How to cut a mango

1. Stand up with the stem facing up.
2. Using the stem as a guide for where the pit is, cut off one “cheek” of the mango (follow the hard pit.
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How to Cut a Mango
3. Flip the mango and repeat for the second side.
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4. If I am going to be dicing up the mango (like for this salsa), I will score the mango first.
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5. Flip the mango inside-out then cut off the peel.
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6. *If I want the mango sliced, I usually will peel each cheek separately then slice.

Easy-peasy!

So, now on to the Pineapple Mango Salsa Recipe.

Pineapple Mango Salsa

All you need:
1/2 fresh pineapple, peeled and diced
1 fresh mango, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 lime, juiced
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 onion, peeled and diced
salt and pepper to taste
jalapeno (optional)

All you do:
1. Combine all ingredients and let sit for at least 30 minutes for best flavor.
2. Serve with chips, fish, chicken, (or a spoon!)
Pineapple Mango Salsa

We had the salsa with fajitas. Yum! Yum!
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The Truth about Breastfeeding and Peanuts

24 Feb peanuts_onwhite8-Adjusted11

If you are a pregnant or nursing mother (or parent at all), the world can seem like a scary place. We are constantly bombarded by “experts” telling us to do this or don’t do that, eat this but don’t eat that, say this but don’t say that (by experts, I’m referring to anyone who has two lips and a loud voice).

Most of the time people really do mean well, it is just that they haven’t taken the time to do the proper research. Wikipedia is not a reliable source for health information, neither is that magazine, “news” outlet or TV show. You should be getting your health information from a reliable source like a healthcare professional (like a registered dietitian), quality website (anything with .edu, .org, .gov are all good starts), or research studies. But even then, you have to remember that just because one study finds something, that doesn’t mean it is the gold standard.

I recently helped a first-time mom with a few nutrition questions. She came to me wanting advice on how to eat a healthy diet so that her son gets everything he needs (she is nursing). Her first comment was “I know that I need to avoid nuts and dairy, but is there anything else?”

I tried my best not to cringe at her question but rather to get a better idea of her knowledge and to help her learn more about some great food options.
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It used to be recommended that pregnant and nursing women avoid many of the common allergens (fish, seafood, eggs, milk, nuts) until the child reaches upwards of the age of three. That’s a long time to go without a PBJ (peanut butter and jelly) sandwich!

New research (2008-present) shows that there is no reduction in food allergies in children when mom avoids nuts during pregnancy or nursing. In fact, the opposite has been shown. Moms who eliminate nuts from their diets during pregnancy and nursing (and who delay introduction to the child) show a higher rate of peanut allergies in children. Source.

Even mothers who have a family history of nut allergies are encouraged to not limit nuts from their diet during pregnancy and nursing. (Of course, if mom has a nut allergy, then nuts should never be eaten.) In fact, it has been noted that mothers who eat the most peanuts (and dairy) throughout pregnancy have babies with the lowest rate of asthma and food allergies. If you think that your baby is reacting to something you are eating, please talk to your pediatrician for more information. This is reassuring news for this peanut butter-loving mom! I’m not sure what I would eat for breakfast if it wasn’t for my whole wheat bagel and peanut butter.

Peanuts are a great source of protein, folate and healthy fats (all necessary during pregnancy and nursing). Try this delicious Peanut Mushroom Burger, or Grilled Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich and kick up your next meal!

So for all you expecting and new moms, don’t delay! Grab a slice of bread and a scoop of peanut butter and enjoy.

Additional resources for quality evidence-based nursing information:
La Leche League
March of Dimes
American Acedemy of Pediatrics
Cambridge Study

What Does a Dietitian Really Eat?

20 Feb

Like most of my fellow dietitians, I am frequently asked what I eat. Most of the time people assume that I eat according to their pre-conceived thought of the “best diet”: vegetarian, vegan (tried it, see how that turned out), organic, nonGMO, gluten-free, raw foods. But those that know me best know that I really do live by the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the time I try to make quality choices and the other 20% of the time, I splurge (guilt-free).

There is a relatively new disordered eating pattern called Orthorexia which is an extreme or excessive preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity. So what’s the big deal? The diet of orthorexics can actually be unhealthy, with nutritional deficits specific to the diet they have imposed upon themselves. These nutritional issues may not always be apparent. Social problems are more obvious. Orthorexics may be socially isolated, often because they plan their life around food. They may have little room in life for anything other than thinking about and planning food intake. Orthorexics lose the ability to eat intuitively – to know when they are hungry, how much they need, and when they are full. Instead of eating naturally they are destined to keep “falling off the wagon,” resulting in a feeling of failure familiar to followers of any diet.

I read an article about a woman who was crying in the grocery store because she couldn’t decide which was a better choice, kale or swiss chard. She became overwhelmed by the pressure of choosing the “perfect” food.

Let me tell you a little secret, any and ALL fruits and vegetables are a great choice!

We let others guilt us into feelings of failure and inadequacy. Fear is a powerful motivator that many different people and groups use to persuade us that we are poisoning our body if we don’t follow their food rules.

Eating should NOT be scary or stressful. Eating should be pleasurable. That’s why making small changes over time and trying to follow the 80/20 rule really are important.

So, as an ode to the age-old question of what I eat. I’m posting my lunch for today (thank-you hubby for packing it)!

Supreme Nut Burger
Leftover Supreme Nut Burger on a whole wheat bun. I did add a bit of chipotle mayo for an added zip.

fried potatoes
Fried Potatoes (diced potatoes pan-sauteed with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper).

Seven Layer Salad and Cutie
Leftover Seven-layer Salad with a Cutie orange.

Don’t avoid foods you can’t pronounce. Educate yourself!

18 Feb

As a retail dietitian, I get many questions about various “diets”. By “diets” I mean a set of rules that dictate our eating habits. There are many out there. The most popular now seem to be Paleo, nonGMO, clean eating and gluten-free.
With many of these diets the trend is to avoid any foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce or foods that grandma didn’t have in her kitchen.

Sounds simple enough and I do think that the concept comes from a good place. The goal is to minimize processing and artificial ingredients (which, for the most part is a good thing). However, there are many instances which these rules don’t apply.

Improving the quality of foods you eat is a great way to improve your nutrition. Knowing how to do that can be challenging. It seems everywhere you turn, the advice changes. Social media, TV, the gym and even well-meaning friends can all be misleading. Just like fad diets don’t work, there is no blanket statement that can define how we should eat. Educating yourself on each ingredient is the best way to choose a food.

To eat only eat foods that you can pronounce (or that were in your grandmother’s kitchen) would severely limit what you can choose. If you were to choose foods that fit the above criteria, you may be limiting some amazing (and nutritious foods). Think about foods and ingredients like arugula, quinoa, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), lactobacillus bulgaricus (good bacteria in yogurt), hummus, kohlrabi, amaranth, edamame, swai, kumquat, pummelo and kefir — just to name a few.

Instead of being scared away from foods that are unfamiliar, take time to educate yourself on how they are made and where they come from.

Try this delicious Roasted Edamame recipe for a protein-rich afternoon snack.
roasted edamame

Roasted Edamame

Serves 6 (1/2 cup each)
All you need:
1 1/2 tsp Hy-Vee chili powder
½ tsp thyme leaf
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt
2 (12 oz each) pkgs frozen shelled edamame
2 tbsp olive oil

All you do:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl combine chili powder, thyme, garlic powder and salt. Add edamame and oil and mix well.
2. Spread beans in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring once, until edamame begins to brown.
Nutrition facts per serving: calories: 170, carbohydrate: 12g; protein: 12g, fat: 10g; sodium: 210mg; fiber: 6g

Bittersweet Chocolate Truffle Cake: A Valentine’s Day Tradition

13 Feb 20140213-064206.jpg

Calling all chocolate lovers! Get ready for the next best thing to heaven.

My husband and I have been making this decadent treat on Valentine’s Day since the first year we were married. (ahhhhh…..)

We have always enjoyed cooking together (that is actually how we spent most of our date nights when we were high school sweethearts) and holidays are no exception.

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So today I share with you our “naughty” Valentine’s Day treat.

Note: the only “good-for-you part of this dessert is the indulgent vacation you take while eating.

The ingredients are simple: Chocolate, eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla and cream. (I told you it was heavenly!)

In a double boiler, melt 1.5 pounds (24 oz) bittersweet chocolate and 3 sticks (12 oz) unsalted butter.
If you don’t have a double boiler, use a glass bowl on top of a pot of water.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine 9 eggs (yes, 9, that’s not a typo), 1 cup sugar, and 1 tbsp vanilla extract. Whip on high until pale yellow and tripled in volume. 20140212-201309.jpg
Having cute egg-crackers always helps!

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Fold together chocolate and egg mixture.

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Mix gently until combined. You want the mixture to be brown, yet still frothy.

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Line the bottom of a 10-inch spring form pan with parchment paper and wrap the outside tightly with aluminum foil.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and place in a water bath. (Which is a fancy term for putting your spring form pan into a larger pan and adding water.)

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Cover loosely with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20 minutes more. Check that the center temperature is above 145 degrees. If not, place in oven for up to 10 more minutes.

Chill cake well. For topping (yes friends, there’s more deliciousness), bring 1 cup heavy whipping cream to a boil. Pour over 6 oz bittersweet chocolate to melt. Stir until combined and pour over cake, covering completely.

Chill again. This cake takes patience to make and is best to make 1-2 days before eating. When serving, error on the small side. A tiny sliver is more than enough.

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After trying this recipe, you can send notes of appreciation and gratitude directly to me. Haha!

Bittersweet Chocolate Truffle Cake

All you need:
30 oz bittersweet chocolate, divided
3 sticks (12 oz) unsalted butter
9 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup heavy whipping cream

1. In a double boiler, melt 1.5 pounds (24 oz) bittersweet chocolate and 3 sticks (12 oz) unsalted butter.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine 9 eggs, 1 cup sugar, and 1 tbsp vanilla extract. Whip on high until pale yellow and tripled in volume.

3. Fold together chocolate and egg mixtures.

4. Line the bottom of a 10-inch spring form pan with parchment paper and wrap the outside tightly with aluminum foil.

5. Pour batter into prepared pan and place in a water bath. Cover loosely with foil. Bake for 20 minutes then remove foil and bake an additional 20 minutes.

6. Chill cake well. Bring 1 cup heavy cream to a boil. Pour over 6 oz bittersweet chocolate. Stir until melted and combined. Pour over cake, covering completely. Chill again.

Healthy Valentine’s Day Treats

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As a registered dietitian there are certain expectations when it comes to celebratory snacks. People expect something beyond the traditional fun-sized candies for Valentine’s Day from my children.

I have to say, I am all too happy to oblige. Not because of the expectations, but because I like the process of coming up with a new, creative idea. Plus, anytime I can make fruits and vegetables a “treat”, count me in!

In anticipation of a busy week ahead, we made our valentines tonight. The winning treat? Cutie clementines – one of my kids’ favorites!

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Hey “Cutie”- Will you be my Valentine?

What other creative valentine ideas do you have?

Muesli: The Breakfast of Champions!

31 Jan Muesli

On cold winter mornings, I love a nice, hot breakfast. Most weekdays I grab a whole-wheat peanut butter bagel and banana as I scramble to get myself and the kids ready and out the door. So when we have more time on the weekends, I like to sit down and enjoy my breakfast.
Muesli
One of my favorite hot breakfasts is Muesli. This is a slight twist on the traditional oatmeal. Muesli varies, but typically it includes oats, other grains, dried fruit and seeds/nuts. You can make your own mixture or pick up a pre-mixed package such as Bob’s Red Mill. My muesli includes rolled oats, wheat, rye, triticale, barley, almonds, date crumbles, raisins, sunflower seeds and walnuts.
Muesli
I used water to make (in my Pyrex measuring cup of course) then added a bit of milk, honey and cinnamon. Add a few slices of ripe banana and you will have a very satisfying (and easy) hot breakfast.

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