Paleo Recipe: Spiced Acorn Squash with Bacon

I don’t advertise it… but I am a Crossfit lover.

  • I love doing those WODs. (WOD = workout of the day)
  • I love having a coach.
  • I love not having to decide what my workout will be that day.
  • I love lifting and working out beside my friends.
  • I love kipping pull ups (although, I still believe in strict pull ups as well…), handstands, and wall balls.
  • I love my muscles.

So, why don’t I talk about it more?

1) Mostly, I don’t want to hear people warning me that it’s dangerous.

Crossfit, like any other serious physical pursuit, can be dangerous. But, it’s less dangerous when you’re being smart about it and making safety a number one concern.

What usually gets in the way of safety is the ego/pride. A person thinks – “If they’re doing it, I can do it.” Well… maybe you can’t. There are people at the gym that can do much more than I can because they’ve been doing it longer than I have. If I thought I could do anything they could do… then that would be like me saying that all the hard work they did to get there was unnecessary.

I’m a person at the gym that would be happy to tell you, “This workout is not worth you getting hurt. You’re doing it wrong. Scale down. Stop if you need to.” I’m lucky that I workout at a Crossfit gym where the coaches are willing to say the same thing.

2) There aren’t many pictures of me lifting… because I don’t want to scare/intimidate you.

I’m not one of those girls that can post pretty pictures of me lifting weights and feel normal about it – mostly because I am past the point of my weight being “cute” and more to the point of my weight being scary. I’ve been muscular my entire life. I don’t like to be noticed for my strength/muscles most of the time. I just like to use them. This is probably just my self-esteem and desire to not be constantly on display to be judged publicly.

I also don’t care to post my weights or times on Facebook because the majority of my non-athlete friends probably have no idea what is good or average weight to be lifting anyways and my athletic friends (especially the former throwers) expect me to be strong and are probably crushing my weights in the gym everyday on their own.

3) Crossfitters are known for going Paleo; and people automatically assume I’m “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

As a dietitian, you have to watch what you say and support in the realm of food. I post one thing about paleo acorn squash and I can get a million (<

There’s nothing wrong with being paleo – I just find it more restrictive than necessary. Crossfitters do what they want. By mere association, I have started cooking more paleo recipes so that my favorite cavemen/women would be able to eat with me.

Many of them are eating FAR healthier as a “paleo person” than beforehand (mainly because the diet stresses meat/protein and vegetables with a little fruit/nuts and a lot of fat). So, I guess I am pro-paleo if that’s what it takes for you to get on track.

So, to reiterate – just because I post paleo recipes does not mean I’m telling everyone and their mother to avoid grain, dairy, and legumes.

Sidenote: Since I started eating less dairy with my paleo friends, I do notice I have a lot less acne. It’s a miracle. I am now considering cutting dairy out of my diet or at least severely limiting it.

Recipe: Paleo Spiced Acorn Squash with Bacon

healthy vegetable ideas

healthy vegetable ideas

This recipe was so good – I decided to post it. It’s almost the shape of a heart… so maybe it’s perfect for your Valentine’s Day dinner???

Serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Small/Medium Acorn Squash, cut in half and scooped out seeds
  • 1/2 lb of bacon
  • 1 C Pecan Halves, raw
  • 1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Cracked Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil (or bacon fat)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Get the Acorn Squash ready (cut in half and scoop out seeds).
  2. In a glass Pyrex dish, place Acorn Squash halves, face down, in 1 inch of water.
  3. Bake for 40 minutes or until soft to touch. Remove from oven, drain water from pan, flip acorn squash halves over (face up) and rub with olive oil. Drizzle Maple Syrup (1/2 tsp each) and sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice. Place back into oven for an additional 10 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, cook bacon and remove from heat. When bacon has cooled, chop into smaller pieces and set aside.
  5. In a dry skillet, heat pecans until toasted.
  6. Once toasted, add all spices to hot pan with nuts. Then add the maple syrup. Continue cooking in hot pan until nuts are dry again.
  7. Once dry, place nuts on cool plate and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.
  8.  When acorn squash is finished in oven, fill with cooled pecans and top with bacon. Serve and enjoy!

A Note to the Diabetics: Half of a medium acorn squash is 22g of carbohydrate. With the maple syrup drizzle and pecans – I would estimate this to be around 30g prepared. Plenty of carbohydrates left for adding something else to your meal. This side would count as the majority of your fat for the meal – so I would recommend adding a lean protein, non-starchy vegetable, and 1/2 piece of fruit.

Acorn Squash Mash

Drugs, Knives, Love and Yoga

A Story: The Yogi Master who did drugs.

yoga

I was listening to a health conference on the internet over a year ago when I learned an important lesson as a dietitian/human.

The presenters in the conference had been invited to speak because they accomplished some huge feat in supporting wellness in the world with their profession.

This particular speaker was a sought after yogi master. I was surprised by what she had to say…

I was into drugs for a lot of my life as a young adult. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t stop using. I did all these things to try to quit – like going to drug rehab, hiring professional hypnotherapists, and getting accountability partners. But it didn’t really help. Because at the end of the day, I was trying so hard to CUT this part of myself away. I wanted to deny myself and be someone different. I wanted to love 70% of myself and hate the other 30%.

The more I tried to hate that part of myself, the less I succeeded.

At my turning point, I realized I am a whole person. Trying to CUT parts of myself away hurts and I can’t do it. I stopped trying to CUT and decided to LOVE that particular part of me. Once I achieved this, I realized I could start to allow it to be EXPRESSED differently.

I’ll explain. The part of me that liked doing drugs was an extremist. I am very passionate; and when I do something, I go all the way. Once I recognized this, I was able to find a new outlet for that part of myself and started nurturing it instead of trying to deny it. I went from being an extreme drug user to an extreme yogi, and I love that part of myself now because it’s presenting in a way that’s healthier for me.

It’s still there. I haven’t changed. I’m all in or nothing – but I can appreciate that part of me now.

Try as hard as you can, you can’t cut out core aspects of your personality. You can’t stop being you. People who think they can be someone else are lying to themselves. They’re hiding or ignoring parts of themselves that they think are unlovable. But, you shouldn’t feel like that.

You can love yourself despite your difficult traits. You can love other people despite their difficulties and weaknesses.

Don’t cut.

Flip it and learn to use those traits in different ways. That’s what I hope to teach the world.”

This is something I see over and over again in our culture.

  • This part of you is acceptable. This part of you is not.
  • This part of you is good. Talk about it.
  • This part of you is bad. Hide it.
  • I would love him/her if he/she didn’t…
  • You really need to stop being this way…
  • Stop overreacting.
  • Why don’t you care more?

We’re different. We all cope differently and experience life in different ways.

Yesterday, I made a cheeky comment about people who are grumpy in the morning, but it wasn’t right. The fact that I am a morning person and some people are not does not make it okay for me to shame them or make them feel bad about it. (I do still think you should be eating breakfast… and I think it warrants some introspective thought as to the reason you’re not a morning person. But a non-morning person is not a bad thing).

My patients really struggle with loving their body because it’s not the way they want it to look. But I tell you, it does not work to hate your body. You have to stop punishing yourself and start appreciating yourself – flaws and all. Start trying to understand WHY your personality is presenting in this way and see if you can find another way.

It’s hard to do, but it’s the hard that makes it great.

I’m not a bundle of joy to be around all the time. I try hard to work on my attitude and my coping mechanisms so that I am joyful more often than not. But I fail. And if someone could love me (or if I could love myself) – despite my weaknesses, despite my flaws, despite my differences – then I would be one lucky girl.

My suggestion is to work on accepting yourself as you are RIGHT NOW. If you’re not where you want to be, then work on the presentation of these difficult traits rather than trying to cut yourself in order to fit in or be feel completely loved/accepted.

Who could you be helping to love themselves today?

Breakfast Frittata and Grumpy Morning People

Some of us are morning people.

And some of us wake up ready to crush the happy morning people.

sunrise dreamcatcherI’m lucky to be in the first category.

It really is a hard thing for a morning person to understand why everyone else would not want to be awake at the best hours of the day. It’s simple. I sleep for 7-9 hours and I wake up feeling re-energized and ready to get moving.

One of the first things I feel like to do in the morning is to eat a yummy breakfast. Some of you think that cereal and milk does the job. I say you can do better.

Unfortunate People with Unfortunate Lives. The non-morning people…

I have some patients that say they “just aren’t hungry in the morning,” and that’s why they “can’t eat breakfast.” I have a very simple solution for that problem. If you aren’t hungry for breakfast – try eating every other day. I guarantee after 24 hours of fasting, you’ll be feeling pretty excited for that breakfast coming your way at 5am. The problem is… they always think I’m joking when I say this.

Not joking.

Some people cannot fathom going to bed hungry though. They say something like, “If I’m hungry, then I can’t sleep. I’ll go get something to eat or a warm glass of milk to drink to help.”

This comes from being an infant and needing comfort in order to sleep. You want to be breastfed by your mother, I get it. But you’re not a baby anymore.

Maybe we can learn self soothing.

Today I had a patient tell me that he’s recently hired a sleep specialist to help him put his 11month old baby on a regular sleeping pattern. People actually get paid for this…

You know what this sleep consultant does? They tell the parents to leave the baby for different intervals when the baby is crying at night. The baby wants to be held, but they’re trying to un-train this. So the baby cries… and cries… and cries.

The parents are told to go in at intervals. The first time the baby cries – they wait 5 minutes before going in. The second time 15 minutes. Each time it gets longer and longer. The idea is that the baby should find ANOTHER WAY TO BE COMFORTED.

After listening to him describe the process, I decided I want to be a sleep consultant for adults who think they should eat all kinds of crap before they go to bed and nothing when they wake up. Maybe they’ll pay me the big bucks for this kind of thing.

200 dollar advice: If you’re using food to help you sleep at night then maybe you should stop using it, cry about it, and figure out a different solution.

Could life be this simple?

^^Things to consider.

For all of you that successfully navigate this problem in life and feel ready to wake up smiling and eager to have breakfast… try this recipe out. It’s a winner.

Recipe: Spinach Tomato Breakfast Frittata

Serves 4.

Spinach FrittataIngredients:

  • 8 Cups raw spinach
  • 1Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 5-6 eggs
  • 1/2 C Milk
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 C parmigiano reggiano
  • 1 C chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil chopped

Directions:

  1. Saute spinach and olive oil in a large skillet until just wilted.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, and salt.
  3. Add the egg mixture to the skillet. Top with cheese and tomatoes and let cook until bottom is cooked and top is slightly runny (see picture below)
  4. Turn on broiling element for oven and place under broiler for 5-7 minutes or until top of frittata is set and cheese is starting to brown.
  5. Serve with some type of carbohydrate side and enjoy!

Breakfast FrittataA Note to the Diabetics: This is a non-carbohydrate, high protein entree for breakfast. You can make this ahead and reheat it for the mornings when you wake up grumpy and tired. The nice thing about a frittata is that it only takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. That’s about half as much time as a quiche would take. I served this with a couple of small oranges (15g carbohydrate each) and 1/2 glass of milk (12g carbohydrate per 8 ounces).

A Healthy Snack: Flourless Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

“Everyone should eat 6 small meals per day…” NOT!

Typically, I urge my patients to eliminate snacks from their day and stick to the three meal structure. Here are my reasons:

  1. Unconscious Eating. Snackers almost ALWAYS eat more for their snacks than they realize.
  2. Unable to Achieve “Small Meals.” Snackers have a hard time scaling back meals to accommodate the large amount of snacking they did earlier.
  3. Junk Food Central. Snacks are low in nutrient density. (In shorter words, typical snacks are usually junk.)
  4. Hard to Stop Eating. Snack companies can only make more money if they convince you to eat more snacks. Therefore, they work very hard to create an addict/junkie relationship. Snack food is MEANT to keep you coming back for more.
  5. Encouraging Hunger. Snacks made of mostly carbohydrates can actually cause you to be hungrier and overeat later in the day.
  6. Never Fasting. Just like it’s important to have time WITH your food. It’s also important to have time AWAY from your food.

But, trust me. I get it. Sometimes you’re hungry and you just need something to eat to “take the edge off” until your next mealtime. Or maybe you’re not a person that needs to worry about losing weight. Maybe you have snacks in case you get stuck in a place where there is no “acceptable food” to eat.

For these situations, let me recommend the following strategies:

  1. Remove a Portion. When trying to snack responsibly, it’s important to separate your portion from the box/container straight away. No one does well monitoring intake from an endless bowl of cheese crisps.
  2. Daily Limits Help. If you like to snack often, try to limit yourself to a daily limit. This way you can eat as often as you like. But, when your snack is gone… it’s gone. Rationing is key.
  3. Keep Your Snacks Simple. The less processing the less likely you are to become addicted. Snack on foods that were available 100 years ago.
  4. 200 Calories or Less. Unless you’re a person that works out on a regular basis, you probably should try to keep your snacking to a reasonable calories amount. One bag of popcorn for 500 calories does NOT qualify as a “snack.”

So, with those rules in mind… here is your new amazing snack.

Recipe: Flourless “Oatmeal” Raisin Cookies

Healthy Snack for Diabetics

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 C Walnut Halves, Roasted or Raw
  • 2 Tbsp Raisin (mixed variety for color)
  • 1/8 tsp Kosher Salt

Directions:

  1. Place ingredients in paper bag for daytime snack.
  2. Leave the house.
  3. Ration accordingly throughout the day. I recommend a ratio of 1 walnut to 3 raisins. Salt will stick to raisins to make it taste like a cookie.

A Note to the Diabetics: This snack would be considered 15g of carbohydrates because of the raisins. However, I usually only eat 3 raisins at a time – spacing it out over several hours of the day. This ends up being pennies over the span of the day. No big impact to your blood sugar and much better for you than reaching for a real cookie.

Roasted Mediterranean Eggplant

I did not think I loved eggplant until a few days ago. Now, I am sure of it.

Eggplant Salad

One of the perks with moving from one part of the country to an entirely different part is getting to talk to people about their food. It can be sooooo different from the food I became accustomed to in Missouri.

People in Philly are very attached to their food.

Sometimes they swear it’s going to be “a life changing experience,” but it’s just like every other soft pretzel or fruit flavored shaved ice you’ve had before.

A few days ago, a patient was in my office telling me about this eggplant dish she makes for her family. The way she spoke about it made me want to love it – but I was wary that it might be a little underwhelming like all the other times I’ve eaten eggplant before.

It was not underwhelming. It was great – and I’m not the only one that thinks so. As I was taking the eggplant out of the oven to fix, two of my friend from Crossfit were sitting across from me. We had our doubts, but after we all tried it… it was three sets of two thumbs up.

This is one of those really great discoveries.

Thank you to the woman who was so “patient” while she described this recipe to me. Hopefully, this is close to what you were explaining. Either way, it’s delicious.

Recipe: Roasted Mediterranean Eggplant

FullSizeRender

Ingredients:

  • Eggplant, large whole
  • 3 T Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 C chopped fresh Parsley
  • 1/4 C chopped fresh Mint
  • 1/2 Red Bell Pepper, roasted
  • 3 T Red Wine Vinegar

Directions:

  1. Remove the top/stem from eggplant with a paring knife. Place eggplant on a baking sheet and dry roast for 40-50 minutes at 350 degrees F. Eggplant should be squishy, but not wrinkled.
  2. While eggplant is roasting, cut red bell pepper into big piece and roast over fire from gas oven burner until outside skin is blackened slightly. Chop small and set aside.
  3. Chop all other ingredients. Chop Eggplant into bite size pieces while still warm and add other ingredients. Mix well.
  4. Eggplant Salad can be served immediately as a warm side, or can be served later as a cold topping for bread or sandwiches.

A Note to the Diabetics: Eggplant is considered a non carbohydrate vegetable. I paired this eggplant salad with Mediterranean Turkey Burgers (non carb), 1 small apple (15g carb), and 1 C succotash (30g carb).

Back to School: How to Eat Vegan with Julie

This past weekend, I was SO LUCKY to have my friend, Julie, visit from Chicago.

photo 1 (10)

I think the most exciting part about hosting is cooking meals for my visitors. However, this time my visitor, Julie, was vegan and I found myself in uncharted waters.

I looked to my fridge in preparation for her arrival. I realized rather quickly that I would need to do a little shopping; and perhaps I would need to defer to her expertise on cooking meals.

Luckily, she was happy to teach.

Presenting… Vegan Cooking with Julie

Here’s a few staples you’ll want to have on hand if you ever have a vegan visitor: Veganaise, Earth Balance (vegan butter), firm tofu, nutritional yeast, vegan cheese, soy or almond milk, vegan sausages, sweet potatoes, granola, and plenty of vegetables/fruit.

There are so many people that consider “vegan diets” to be healthier. I haven’t experienced this to be true. I think there are a lot of different diets that lead to health and this is one possible option. It is definitely not the easiest option as the window of opportunity for eating food away from home gets much narrower- especially if you’re not living in a major US city. No one wants to be stuck eating French fries because there is nothing else “vegan” on the menu.

Also to note… It would be very difficult to follow a diabetic diet while vegan. CARBS are EVERYWHERE! Please check and double check your labels if you are a person with diabetes wanting to follow a vegan lifestyle.

For instance, check out this “cheese”

photo (8)

You see what happens up there? We went from a food that was no carb, half protein and half fat – to a food with no protein, half carbohydrate and half fat.

Am I the only one that finds this interesting? Yes. Okay. Moving on..

Julie and I made dinner on Friday night and it was excellent. Julie’s contribution to the menu was a Sweet Potato and Bean Burrito. I made a Strawberry and Kale Salad.

Kale. It's what's for dinner.

Our carbohydrate consumption was saved by the fact that we found some really high fiber tortillas (Mission Carb Balance – try them!). Still… our meal was probably 60grams of carbohydrate after subtracting fiber (34g fiber for one burrito).

Recipe: Vegan Sweet Potato and Bean Burritos

Vegan Diabetic Food

Ingredients:

  • 6 Carb Balance Wheat Tortillas – 10 inches
  • 1 Onion, Chopped
  • 1 Zucchini, small dice
  • 1 1/2 C Mushrooms, diced
  • 1 Can Black Beans, half drained
  • 1 1/2 Large Sweet Potatoes, cubed, boiled, and mashed
  • 2 Tbsp Cumin
  • 1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper (or a very light dusting if preferring more mild burrito contents)
  • Olive Oil, as needed
  • 1 C Cherry Tomatoes, chopped
  • Vegan Cheese, as desired

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet – combine onion with 1 Tbsp Oil and sauté. Add black beans and seasoning (cumin and cayenne) and let simmer for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  2. In a separate smaller skillet – combine zucchini and mushrooms with 1 tsp olive oil. Sauté over very low heat. Remove when cooked, but still al dente.
  3. In a sauce pan, boil water and add chopped sweet potatoes. Boil until soft and then drain water. Mash with electric mixer or masher.
  4. Prepare burritos – approximately 1/2-1 C Sweet Potato, 1/2 C Black Bean Mixture, 1/4 C Vegetables, sprinkle of tomatoes and cheese. Wrap tightly and fit into a Pyrex or metal dish.
  5. Bake burritos in oven (400 degrees F) for 10 minutes to “set the burrito.”

Enjoy!

A Note to the Diabetics: This is a meal with several high fiber ingredients. You may want to subtract the fiber and count it as ~52g instead of 86g. It would probably be a good idea to test before and 2 hours after a meal like this. If your blood glucose doesn’t jump more than 40 points, then you’re probably good to go. If not, try to scale down your portion for the next time.

Breakfast: Fresh Guacamole with Toasted Cumin

Your Introduction to the Ancient Spice, Cumin.

  • What is Cumin? It’s possible some of you are unfamiliar with “cumin” as a spice; but you’d probably recognize it. Cumin is the major seasoning in taco spice!
  • What is an Ancient Spice? I call cumin an ancient spice because it’s been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years. Several ancient spices like cumin, turmeric, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, garlic, and cayenne have medicinal and health benefits – some known, and some undiscovered. This is part of the reason they were passed down.

Cumin is generally sold as “cumin seed” or as “ground cumin.” I would recommend you try buying the seed. Don’t make the mistake I did and think you should put it in whole. Cumin seed is meant to be toasted and then it’s meant to be ground.

I remember the first time I learned seeds could and should be toasted for the full flavor. I was at a conference in Napa Valley put on by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America. A chef at the front of the room was toasting cumin and I could smell it from my seat 100 feet away. It was memorable. I went home and looked at the cumin seed in my spice cabinet with a new interest.

How to Toast Cumin…

These seeds are great. Buy them whole, toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat. When they start to put off a really wonderful cumin smell, take them off the heat and grind them up in a spice grinder. Tada! Fresh Toasted Cumin – soooo much more flavorful than buying the cumin the jar that’s already been ground.

The cumin will be great for the guacamole breakfast you’ll be eating in few seconds/hours/days/months. (Come on! You gotta’ try it!)

Here’s the delicious breakfast I sat down to eat this morning:

Guacamole Breakfast

Pictured Above: Baby Swiss Chard and Spinach with sliced Strawberries, Green Onions, Drizzled Olive Oil and Raspberry Blush Vinegar. 2 Scrambled Eggs with 1 Tbsp Mexican Cheese Blend, 1/4 C Fresh Guacamole, 1 Large Apple (30g carb), 1 C 1% Milk (12g carb). Nutrition Information: 46g carbohydrate, 578 calories.

The first time I made guacamole for Peter (my roommate), he refused to call it guacamole. He called it “avocado salad” because he claims it has too many tomatoes and other things to be “real guacamole.”

However, this morning he walks into the kitchen and asks, “What are you making? Guacamole?”

And I said, “Ah HA! You DO acknowledge this is guacamole!”

He just shook his head, smiled at me, and left for work.

Recipe: Fresh Guacamole with Toasted Cumin

Fresh Guacamole

Ingredients:

  • 1 soft avocado, cubed
  • 1/2 C cherry tomatoes, cut
  • 1/4 C chopped red onion
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp fresh ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Juice of 1 Lime (~2 Tbsp)

Directions:

  1. Cut Avocado in half and twist it apart. Lodge knife into the pit and remove. Score (crosswise cutting) the avocado in the skin and scoop into a bowl with a spoon.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes, cilantro, cumin, red onion, lime juice, and salt.
  3. Mix with spoon until ingredients well integrated.
  4. Serve immediately. If wanting to save guacamole leftovers for later, place into a zip lock bag with zero air and seal. This will keep it from going brown.

A Note to the Diabetics: Guacamole is considered a vegetable and a healthy fat. This is not a food that will impact your blood glucose. Chips (8-10 tortilla chips = 15g carb) are commonly served with traditional guacamole. I would argue that guacamole is not dependent on a chip to get from the bowl to your mouth successfully. Try them with scrambled eggs. You might like it. :)