Kale, Pear, & Chia Smoothie: Superfoods Unite!

After a weekend of crappy eating (eg. bagels two nights in a row?! Who am I???), I craved, no I NEEDED something clean. Clean and green. Something light, refreshing, and healthy for breakfast…something like a kale smoothie perhaps? Yep, you guessed right…that is exactly what I had in mind. I have been on quite the kale kick lately (for example, my Lemony Kale, Brussel Sprouts, Shrimp & Quinoa dish the other night). And honestly, that’s nothing to be ashamed of…the two bagels this weekend, however…now that is something I should be worried about. Nonetheless, my bagel-consuming weekend led me to this smoothie in the end, so I can’t be too upset.

Kale, Pear, & Chia Smoothie:

Makes 1 nutritious smoothie

1 heaping cup of frozen kale

1/2 banana, sliced

1/2 pear, chopped

6 oz non-fat Greek yogurt

1 Tbsp Chia seeds

2 Tbsp water

1 tsp honey

Combine the ingredients in a blender and blend until you get a creamy, smooth consistency. It’s that easy!

A few tips:

  1. Put the yogurt and banana in first – that way the blender doesn’t freak out when you throw in the frozen kale.
  2. If you have fresh (not frozen kale), use a frozen banana. No frozen banana? No problem! Just use a couple of ice cubes and omit the water.
  3. If this isn’t sweet enough for you, add more honey. Or omit the honey if you’re looking for a sugar-free option. The choice is yours.

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So there you have it, folks – my first kale smoothie! And hopefully you’ll be brave enough to try it too.

What are your favorite green smoothie recipes?

Lemony Kale, Brussels Sprouts, Shrimp & Quinoa

I will start off by saying this is my new favorite dish. I’m not kidding, it’s that good. And filling, and healthy, but most importantly, so good. And kale and I have had a rough start. As a nutrition student and health fanatic, you would think that I was the first one to jump on the kale bandwagon, right? Wrong. Trust me, I tried. Back in Kalamazoo, Waterstreet had a Smokey Kale Salad, easily the most popular salad there, especially since the cafe was commonly frequented by health conscious foodies. I tried it. Multiple times. And? Nope, not for me. Alright, so that was strike 1.

Strike 2 came when I attempted to make kale chips. Were they horrendous? No, but something went wrong along the way and they did not look nor taste how I was expecting them to, especially with all the rave about kale chips.

DISCLAIMER: I am NOT hating on kale chips, I’m sure they are fantastic and I just did not make them correctly…I will admit that.

So why would I give kale a third chance? Most people aren’t even given second chances, and here I was giving kale a third chance. Well, I will tell you why. Kale is arguably the most nutritious green leafy vegetable there is, and sometimes you have to override your feelings (and taste buds) and eat something just because it is so darn good for you. That, and how am I supposed to be a good dietitian in the future if I don’t even like kale? So I gave it a try…again.

And?

DING DING DING, FOLKS WE HAVE A WINNER!

I’m a believer! (finally, phew!)

And it is all thanks to this delicious dish that I crafted:

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Lemony Kale, Brussel Sprouts, Shrimp & Quinoa:

Makes 2 servings

1 1/2 cup kale, frozen, thawed

1/3 cup water

1/2 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 red onion, julienne

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups Argentinian red shrimp, thawed

2/3 cup Brussels sprouts, rinsed, halved

Herbs de Provence (to taste)

Garlic Pepper (to taste)

1/3 lemon

1 cup quinoa, cooked

lemon slice (for garnish)

Cook quinoa. You can find a recipe/instructions to cook quinoa here. In a medium pan, heat kale and water over high heat for 2-3 minutes, until boiling. Then, cover and turn heat to low for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile in another pan, heat oil over medium heat. Toss in the onions and cook for about 4 minutes, until they are slightly translucent, then add the garlic for about 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and let cook for a few minutes before tossing in the Brussels sprouts. Season with Herbs de Provence and garlic pepper, and let the mixture cook until the shrimp and Brussels sprouts gain a golden color, and the shrimp is fully cooked. Turn the heat off and combine the kale with the mixture. Squeeze the lemon juice over the mixture and stir. Top quinoa with the vegetable and shrimp mixture. Garnish with a lemon.

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Now for the important part…take in the colors, textures, and flavors of this dish…out of this world right?

Now you know why my faith in kale has been restored.

Bon appetit!

Recap of Last Week: Valentine’s Day + IKEA trips

Last week was a whirlwind of a week, and it seemed to flash by in what seemed like a day. Earlier in the week, I received a nice Valentinesque-surprise from my best friend. P1030711

Leave it to your friends to know what you want most even when you don’t know it yourself.

And then when Valentine’s Day rolled around, I received a few surprises from my valentine. First a care package (to cure my home-sick heart)…

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Complete with Kalamazoo essentials like Waterstreet coffee and Chocolatea tea, kitchen staples like soymilk, spices, oatmeal, flaxseed, wild rice, bulgur, and most importantly….CHOCOLATE. Yes, I received chocolate from two of my favorite people…there’s a reason they rank so high on that list (their amazing personalities of course…but sending me chocolate doesn’t hurt!).
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And roses! Yes, even from Michigan, my boyfriend makes sure to brighten my day with beautiful, red roses. Mind you, this is our first Valentine’s Day apart since we have been dating, and yet I still felt special and unbelievably loved.

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Accompanying a love (and chocolate) filled Valentine’s Day, was a journey to IKEA.

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And I don’t mean a one-trip, happy-go-lucky journey…

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No, going to IKEA to buy any kind of real furniture is an investment. Involving both your time and money…and every ounce of energy that you possess. 500 Days of Summer tricked us all (including me) when they showed that oh-so cute scene of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel frolicking through IKEA. Here’s the reality: there are two types of people who shop at IKEA: dedicated parents/adults who know what they’re doing/what they’re looking for/where their kids are at all times…and me, the young, lost puppy who seems to be wandering around aimlessly in circles throughout the store. Eventually, I found the bedroom section, after which the selection process began…and let me tell you, after sleeping on a deflated mattress for almost a week, any bed seemed comfortable. Luckily for me, I had an employee guide me through the steps of buying a bed…I’m certain that if I had it my way, I would have walked away with one of the display mattresses and called it good. But yes, for your information, if you are buying a bed for the first time, there’s more to it than that. And then on top of that, you have to worry about getting it home. The reality of living in New York is that transporting large furniture (like beds) is like a business of its own, with way too much paperwork and fees for me to handle. But I did it, I found a bed, and after another trip, bought it and had it delivered to my apartment.

I rode the water taxi home, something that I believe is a reward for making it out of IKEA in one piece.

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Bye IKEA!
P1030762Hello, Statue of Liberty!

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And the next day, I took what was delivered to me in boxes, and assembled a bed.

All by myself.

I think it’s safe to say I’m proud of myself.

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How to Accidentally Deflate an Airbed + Apple Cinnamon & Flaxseed Oatmeal

So I’ve got a funny story for you. Not funny like slap-on-the-knee funny, but funny in the sense that you might feel a little bad for me and give me a virtual it’s going to be alright pat on the back. That kind of funny.

Here’s a little bit of a background:

When I moved to New York, my parents graciously packed me and all my necessary belongings (or those that could fit in their car) and shipped me off. My bed, however, was left behind and deemed not worthy of the price required to move it as well. A queen-sized, high-quality air mattress replaced it as my temporary bed until I got settled in enough to buy a bed.

Well, I figured that buying a real bed would come on my own terms, and I would hopefully have a steady income first to off-set the costs. Little did know, that would NOT be the case…

While I was curling my hair on Saturday, I burnt my hair with the curling iron, panicked, and went to go run my hand under cold water. What I didn’t do was think through my actions and make sure not to drop the curling iron within close vicinity to my airbed. I came back to a very discomforting sound of my airbed deflating. Yes, my bed was gashed by a curling iron and deflated. See folks, that’s the problem of not having a real bed. That, and the comfort that goes along with owning a real bed. So, needless to say, I slept on a deflated air bed that night, aka the ground…and by slept I mean I spent more time awake than sleeping.

While you might feel bad for me, let me reassure you that this is the first bump I have had since moving to New York. Everything else has been great, and the city has kept a protective and comforting arm over my shoulder.

Anways, the next morning I woke up, expecting to have my usual breakfast, which you can read about here, and discovered that I was not only out of bananas, but peanut butter as well. No worries though, since oatmeal is so versatile I decided to go with the flow and change up my oatmeal routine. Luckily, I had prepared the oats, cinnamon, and soymilk the night before.

This oatmeal variation is just as filling, just as healthy, and just as delicious as my Creamy Crunchy Banana Oatmeal:

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Apple Cinnamon & Flaxseed Oatmeal:

Makes 1 bowl of oatmeal

1/4 cup old-fashioned oats

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup milk of choice (I prefer vanilla soymilk)

1 apple, chopped

1-2 tsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp ground flaxseed

1 Tbsp almonds, sliced, diced, or chopped

There are two ways to go about this:

My preferred way (just because I like to save time in the morning) is to prepare the oats the night before and let them soak in the milk and cinnamon in the refrigerator all night. To do this, combine the oats, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and milk in a tupperware container and stick it in the refrigerator the night before you plan on eating the oatmeal.

That way, in the morning you can just focus on preparing the apples and then combining them with the rest of the oatmeal.

In a bowl, placed the apple chunks, squeeze the lemon juice evenly over the apple chunks, and top with 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Stir the mixture so that the cinnamon is evenly distributed among the apples. Heat it in the microwave for 1 minute. Then, stir in the prepared oatmeal, flaxseed, and almonds. Heat in the microwave for about 2 minutes, and let it cool for about 1 minute.

Note: if you did not prepare the oats before, no worries! Just put the ingredients all together once the apple mixture has been heated, and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Make sure to watch your oatmeal so that it doesn’t boil over in the microwave.

Then enjoy!

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So what’s the deal with flaxseed anyway? Why is it good for you?

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Well, flaxseed has three main components that make it beneficial for both overall health and weight loss:

It is rich in:

  1. Fiber, so not only does it keep you full, but it helps with digestion and constipation as well.
  2. Lignans, which have antioxidant properties and can help protect against cancer in two ways: by preventing or slowing the  growth of tumor cells, and by inhibiting hormone metabolism enzymes.
  3. Omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower cholesterol levels, especially LDL-cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), which potentially lowers your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

The best way for flaxseed to get digested in your body (and for you to reap all the benefits) is to consume ground, rather than whole, flaxseed. Flaxseed is sold commercially both in ground and whole states, so you can either buy it ground, or grind the seeds yourself at home with a food processor or coffee grinder. I choose to buy it ground to save the hassle, but that’s just me.

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Delicious and heart healthy? Take that Cheerios!

Wish me luck in finding a cheap and affordable real bed soon!

Blizzard-Worthy Vegan Sweet Potato & Quinoa Chili

So by now, many of you know of Nemo as not just a cute clownfish, but as a massive storm that hit the Northeast. Despite the build-up and the hype (and school closing),  I was not as personally affected by Nemo as anticipated. Yesterday, after braving the wind, freezing rain, and snow for a good 8-mile elliptical/treadmill workout at the gym, I planned on going to Trader Joe’s to gather the remaining ingredients I needed to create a vegan chili masterpiece in an attempt to survive the blizzard. Apparently, everyone else in Manhattan had the same thought – the line outside of Trader Joe’s was enough for me to change my mind, that and the fact that I didn’t even have an umbrella to shield me from the increasingly painful bursts of freezing rain/snow. Defeated, I bought some fresh produce from a street vendor and went home, hoping that my chili wouldn’t disappoint me as much as my attempted trip to Trader Joe’s did.

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A bundled up Alena slightly resembles Cheburashka, an old Russian cartoon character, don’t you think?

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Luckily, I had the main staples in my cupboard at home, and would only have to make a few substitutions for the chili.

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Quite the spread, huh?

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Blizzard-Worthy Vegan Sweet Potato & Quinoa Chili:

Adapted from http://www.milkfreemom.com/vegan-quinoa-sweet-potato-chili/

Makes 6 servings

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

one 6 oz can organic tomato paste

1 Tbsp oregano

1 Tbsp paprika

1 Tbsp chili powder

one 15 oz can black beans(low-sodium), rinsed and drained

one 15 oz can Great Northern white beans (low-sodium), rinsed and drained

32 oz vegetable stock (I used “Better than Bouillon” – try to find low-sodium version if possible)

2 large tomatoes, chopped in thick chunks

1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped

1 cup dry quinoa

salt and pepper to taste

cilantro (for garnish)

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook for 8-10 minutes until they are soft. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato paste, oregano, paprika, and chili powder, then cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add the beans, vegetable stock, tomatoes, and sweet potato chunks and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the quinoa and then season with salt and pepper. Stir, stir, stir, and keep cooking the fragrant mixture about 25-30 minutes, until the quinoa and sweet potato chunks are cooked thoroughly (the quinoa should form rings around the seeds and the sweet potato should be soft), and the chili has thickened (as chili should). Garnish with the cilantro and enjoy!

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A few tips to make this chili-making experience (and most any cooking experiences) exciting and not stressful:

  1. Read the recipe thoroughly before you start cooking.
  2. Gather all the ingredients and cooking utensils/pots/pans that you will need for the recipe. This saves you from panicking later when you’re frantically searching for the oregano.
  3. Put the ingredients in the order that the recipe calls for.
  4. Chop/dice/slice all the vegetables/produce that your recipe calls for before you even heat the oil. Also, open any cans and drain if necessary. TRUST ME.
  5. Create rhythm. If you’ve followed the steps/tips I’ve listed, the process should be fun and rhythmical, almost like dancing!

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Now, although I hope you don’t have a blizzard to worry about, I do hope that you’ll have a reason to make this delicious chili. Not only is it vegan, but it is PACKED with protein, fiber, vitamins, and FLAVOR.

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Bon appetit!

Lean Green Omelette

Let me start this off by saying…my boyfriend makes the BEST omelettes. I’m not kidding, they are to die for. We went to the Dominican Republic a few weeks ago on vacation and ate omelettes EVERY SINGLE DAY. Probably not the healthiest choice either of us have made, but man were they delicious. And we were on vacation. The same man made them every morning and it was fascinating to watch – he made it seem as if were an art form. Omelette making an art form? You probably think I’m crazy, if you didn’t already. 

P1020846Beach bums in the D.R. – watch out!

Well, anyways Chase adopted these omelette-making skills and perfected them…and now he is the best omelette-maker I know. I know, I know, you’re probably jealous of me now (and you should be).

So today, after my 90 minute cardio workout (insane!), I was, to say the least, STARVING. And not only was I hungry, but I wanted to refuel myself. I’m usually not the one to eat more than one egg in a sitting but I felt it was necessary.

And I missed Chase. So I whipped up an omelette (literally). And yes, it was the right choice.

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In order to incorporate all of these delicious vegetables (and to satisfy my grumbling stomach), I decided to make a 2-egg omelette. Yes, I know there has been much debate on the unhealthiness of eggs, and their contributing role in raising cholesterol levels…however, there has been more recent research done on how dietary cholesterol actually does not significantly raise blood cholesterol levels, and that only a small amount of the cholesterol you consume passes into the bloodstream. Blood cholesterol levels are impacted much more by consuming saturated fats and trans fats. That being said, those with heart disease or cholesterol problems should still limit their intake of dietary cholesterol to less than 200mg/day. If you don’t believe me, check out this awesome article by the Harvard Medical School: www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/egg-nutrition. If you still don’t believe me or if you do have high cholesterol or are at risk for heart disease, use egg whites instead of whole eggs. I promise it will be just as delicious.

Anyways, nutrition facts aside, back to the omelette-making business. The key is to cook the vegetables first, then combine them with the egg(s), whip, and cook.

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Lean Green Omelette:

Makes 1 omelette

1/4 medium red onion

1/2 large green bell pepper

1 cup spinach leaves

1/2 Tbsp olive oil

2 eggs (or 2 egg whites for the cholesterol-friendly version)

sea salt (to taste)

black peppercorn (to taste)

garlic pepper (to taste)

Chop the onion, bell pepper, and place in a bowl with spinach. Heat 1/4 Tbsp olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Toss in the vegetables, and let them cook for about a minute or two (until the spinach has wilted). In a bowl, combine the cooked vegetables with 2 eggs, whip with a fork, put the remainder of the oil (1/4 Tbsp) on the pan, and pour the vegetable/egg mixture in until it covers the entire pan. When the bottom is golden in color, flip it over onto the other side (bonus points if you get it flipped over in one piece!). Let the other side cook until it too is golden, fold the omelette and transfer to your plate.

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Talk about green!

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If you’re enjoying this for breakfast, you could accompany your omelette with a small piece of toast. However, if you’re like me and want to make it a full meal (and have a Trader Joe’s conveniently located within walking distance to your home), I suggest you pair it with a piece of whole wheat bread smothered with Trader Joe’s Red Pepper Spread with Eggplant and Garlic. 

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It is absolutely delicious. And addicting. And pairs great with this fabulous omelette.

What’s your opinion on the egg/cholesterol debate?

“You dreamt, you believed, you aspired and you achieved.”

This post is honor of my parents. My outstanding, loving parents. Who believe in me no matter what crazy decision I decide to make next.  Like moving to New York for example. They probably didn’t think it was the most logical, well-thought out decision I had ever made, but boy did they support me. And drive me and my precious belongings to the city, a (not-so short) ride of about 11 hours. So yea, they’re pretty awesome. And today, I got a little surprise in the mail: a little reminder that my parents really do love me, a card that they wrote, that among other things said:

“You dreamt, you believed, you aspired and you achieved.”

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At my Honors College graduation…aren’t we cute?

Another thing my parents gave…my love for fruit. My undying, dedication to almost every fruit you can think of, everything but papayas…those are a different story. We have plenty of fruit in my household everyday, but it doesn’t last long. A basket of fruit will be gone in the course of a day…and I’m an only child.

And so with my love for fruit, came a curiosity of incorporating non-traditional fruits into traditional dishes. Like yogurt parfaits, for example…sure strawberries and blueberries are a predictable choice, but what about pomegranates?

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Pomegranates are full of antioxidants, Vitamin C, and B vitamins…all that for only about 100 calories per fruit…there’s a reason they’re called superfruits.

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As great as this fruit is, it makes you work for it. Deseeding a pomegranate is not an easy task. It’s going to get messy, the seeds will go flying, and your white shirt will have pomegranate juice specks all over it.

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Hint:

NEVER, ever wear a white shirt while deseeding a pomegranate. If this is common sense, however, pretend I never said nor did that.

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Pomegranate & Pepita Granola Greek Yogurt Parfait:

Makes 1 parfait

1 6-oz container of 0% fat Greek yogurt

1/2 pomegranate 

1/4 cup pumpkin flax granola (I prefer Nature’s Valley Pumkin Flax Granola)

In a bowl, combine the ingredients together, swirl, and enjoy. This is perfect as a snack, a light lunch, or a post-workout meal.

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The Greek yogurt alone provides 18g of protein for only 100 calories, making this a low-calorie, protein-rich meal. P1030562The granola not only has pumpkin seeds, but flax seeds as well, both of which are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

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Yum!

Mom and Dad, if you guys are reading this, I love and miss you!