January of 2018 is a month I’ll never forget and in particular Saturday, the 28th. My mother called and notified me that she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) earlier that month shortly after her 70th birthday. After months of grueling radiation she hit remission however it was short-lived. On my birthday in October I received a call that changed my world. My mother changed, my family changed, and I changed. She was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma called Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL) stage four and for her it is incurable since it will always come back. Recently she has been deemed in ‘remission’ and is about to start a chemotherapy maintenance drug to keep the cancer at bay and hopefully it shall extend the years she has with us free of pain.
As a Registered Dietitian everything was tested for me. I no longer felt motivated to help people since I felt helpless with my own mother. I became bicoastal to help my parents whether it was to simply be a distraction with laughs or to navigate the muddy medical terminology world. She endured several setbacks and hospitalizations which tested her resolve but she fought and she’s never looked more beautiful to me.
This past April I left my thriving career in San Francisco, California to permanently come to Melbourne, Florida where my parents reside. The world works in mysterious ways – since I met my future husband who is Melbourne based. Now we have the privilege of sharing a new adventure with my parents – a baby boy that is due around Thanksgiving.
For several months my mother has followed a ‘neutropenic‘ diet. This is basically a diet of sterilized food otherwise known as a way to limit the amount of bacteria in the diet which is necessary with immunocompromised individuals. Many including my mother think of this way of eating as ‘bland’ and ‘downright awful.’ Foods to be withheld on a neutropenic diet include: certain canned foods, undercooked meats, raw foods (fruits, vegetables, oats, and nuts), protein powders, unpasteurized dairy products, and much more.
Mother’s Day this year was not to be impacted and so I decided to come up with a menu of foods that were tasty but followed the right protocols since she was feverish. Due to her lack of an immune system going out in public was out of the question due to fear of catching the average cold which would be much worse for her. The menu included: grilled lobster and shrimp, corn on the cob, my Goat Cheese Spiked Brussels minus the butternut squash, and this delicious cooked caprese salad (so yum x 100).
In a basic caprese recipe the tomatoes and basil are raw but in my version it was cooked. This allowed my mother to eat one of her favorite recipes that she hadn’t had in months. Sometimes all it takes is some creativity and proper cooking techniques to have mouthful of flavor.
3 large heirloom tomatoes (yellow, red, multi); thick slices
Fresh pasteurized mozzarella (8 oz); diced
EVOO for the pan
Fresh basil leaves; shredded
Crushed black pepper
Prior to the recipe preparation ingredients were well washed thoroughly with warm water.
Under medium heat add EVOO to a frying pan and sear each tomato slice then cook each side for about 1-minute.
Layer the tomatoes in a serving dish.
Add the shredded basil to the frying pan and turn off the heat. Gently cook the leaves until slightly browned/shrunken in size.
Evenly toss the mozzarella and basil atop the tomato.
Drizzle balsamic vinegar atop the tomatoes and season with sea salt and black pepper.
Pair with your favorite protein and some other fun sides.
Zoodles are the new noodles and now Sunday has gotten even healthier in my book! Now you can have your pasta Sundays sans the guilt and gluten. This meal is a great way to fuel up for the week and have some leftovers for lunch(es) and/or dinner(s).
Now grab a spiralizer and get to work! I’m a fan of the Kinzi brand which is great for creating a healthy alternative to spaghetti by using various vegetables to become ‘noodle-like.’ Some vegetable options that are great for spiraling include zucchini, squash, carrots, and beets.
3 yellow squashes (ea); raw and spiralized
3 beets (ea); raw and spiralized
3 carrots (ea); raw and spiralized
4 c of cherry tomatoes; halved
2 tbsp garlic; minced
1/3 scallions; minced
1/2 c olive oil
1/2 c cilantro; minced
Eyeball amounts to create an Italian blend: chili powder, garlic powder, coriander, clove, garlic, cardamon, cumin, and salt
12 oz sausage of choice
In a saucepan combine the olive oil, garlic, cilantro, and scallions to simmer over medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes. Toss in cherry tomatoes and cover saucepan allowing the tomatoes to cook in the oil mixture for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat.
Saute the raw zoodles with a splash of olive oil until slightly tender then remove from heat. Divide the zoodles into four portions. Drizzle the tomato mixture over the zoodles.
Cook sausage as usual and chop into various chunks. Top the zoodles and tomato mixture with sausage.
I’ve got news! In a week from today I start my journey West. I recently accepted a position in San Francisco… Time for a whole new adventure. I am super excited and nervous but I will channel that energy for something positive. About five months ago I set out to change my career and well, it finally happened, anything is possible.
Fall weather has me reaching for everything pumpkin when I have a sweet tooth but when I want something savory then I reach for butternut squash or sweet potatoes. I am over pumpkin at the moment; my savory taste buds have kicked in, hence this recipe was born.
Butternut squash is an excellent way to increase your dietary fiber as well as nourish your body with vitamins A & C. With the winter months upon us your skin needs these vitamins more than ever (#makeyourskinglow).
1# Brussels sprouts; quartered with roots removed
1# butternut squash; diced
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
3 shredded pieces of proscuitto
3 tbsp crumbled goat cheese
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar
To taste: 1 tsp sea salt
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a bowl toss the following ingredients well: Brussels, butternut squash, olive oil, black pepper, goat cheese, proscuitto, and sea salt.
On a parchment lined baking sheet spread out the Brussels and butternut squash.
Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the vegetables.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Set aside and serve with your favorite entree (or in my case, eat from the baking tray and pass out in a food coma).
I seriously love all things pumpkin. You can tell the moment you step into my home – pumpkin scents everywhere. Now that it is almost fall there are some gourmands here and there… Imagine, it’s only September which means there is still time for me to up my game even more. Look out friends.
Pumpkin. What do you know? Well for starters: 1) High in fiber which helps with satiety and blood glucose control, 2) High in antioxidants as well as vitamin-A and vitamin-C which supports retinal function, hair, skin, and nail growth/support, and 3) High in water content thus if you’re slacking with fluids this will help. This awesome beta carotene/orange goodness is full of flavor which can be enhanced by spices such as cinnamon, cumin, and of course, pumpkin pie spice. This recipe is a wholesome way to get all your nutrients in while on the run and has been a breakfast lifesaver!
1/2 cup pumpkin; canned
2 frozen bananas; softened
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp almond butter; smooth (unsalted)
2 tbsp dry oats
1 1/2 scoops vanilla protein powder of choice
4 tbsp chia seeds
1/2-1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
6 medium-large strawberries; fresh and chopped
Combine all ingredients sans strawberries and mix/mash well until a homogenous mixture is formed. Divide pumpkin mixture among two mason jars or similar containers.
Top with chopped strawberries and seal with a cover.
Refrigerate overnight or 2-3 hours prior to consumption.
Italian? Yes. Herbs? Yes. Pizza? Kinda of… Minus the bread and cheese. Frittata? Yes. Should you make this? Absolutely.
Are you looking to change up your breakfast routine? Well, this is a hearty change that will leave your mouth watering for more. This is also good for those of you like myself who love the ‘Reverse Diet’ aka breakfast for dinner which is what I do at least 150 days a year. This recipe is loaded with antioxidants, protein, and slow digesting carbohydrates that will fuel your goals.
I previously mentioned utilizing the bulk section at local grocery spots can help you to select, try, and obtain fresh spices at a lower cost and control your portion to ensure freshness. I recently loaded up on fennel seeds hence its addition to this recipe and it is fabulous. Fennel is sweet due to its composition of anise which has a similar taste to licorice. If you are trying to boost your fiber intake – try fennel. In addition to its fiber content fennel also has antioxidant, mineral, and vitamin properties.
10 whole eggs
1/4 cup fresh or canned/drained yellow corn
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
8-10 cherry tomatoes; quartered/slivered
1 cup raw kale; chopped
2 ounces prosciutto; chopped/ripped into various sizes
2 tbsp fresh sage; minced
1 sprig rosemary; minced
1 tbsp parsley; chopped
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
OPTIONAL: 1/2 tsp sea salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
On a stovetop heat up a frying pan over medium-high heat to toast the corn, fennel seeds, and black pepper. Toast for 5-8 minutes until fragrant and/or slightly browned then remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients and the corn from step one.
Oil a circular pan and pour in the egg mixture from step two.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until a knife can be inserted in the center and removed without residue.
Set the pan aside, inhale, allow to cool, slice, and serve.
Oh hey… It’s almost fall which means my favorite time of the year is coming up aka apple and pumpkin galore. Yes, I already got my PSL fix with my obvious modifications (almond milk for regular milk and no whip).
This dish literally came to me as I was craving for something sweet yet slightly tart with a crunch. I wanted to use the ingredients I had at home without having to run out to grab something processed, sugary, and high calorie. Are you looking to impress someone with your cooking skills but without breaking the bank, filling up on calories, and killing your schedule? This recipe is totally for you.
1 large Granny Smith apple; thin slices
1/2 cup dry oats
2-3 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp coconut sugar
2 tbsp coconut oil; melted
1 handful walnuts; chopped
Layer Two in Progress
Finished Layer Two
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Coat a small circular cooking dish/pan with coconut oil.
Cover the bottom of the dish/pan with half of the apple slices then sprinkle oats, coconut flakes, and cinnamon on top – this is layer one.
Cook for 10 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and prepare layer two. Cover the first layer with the remainder of the apple slices allowing for the center to be without any apple slices.
Sprinkle walnuts in a circular motion outside the center that is void of apples then add a few in the center.
Combine the melted coconut oil and coconut sugar then drizzle over the apple slices. Add the remainder of the sugar/oil mixture to the center that is void of apple slices.
Cook for 10-15 minutes depending on the level of crispiness desired.
Smoothies are out this year. Didn’t you know? Bowls are in. The crunch, the chew, and the swirl of a spoon is the latest craze. I am a major fan because I find that eating with a spoon rather than drinking my food allows for me to digest slowly, calm myself before the day begins, and appreciate each ingredient.
If you do not do this already, you should – check out the bulk section at your grocery store! The bulk section allows you to try ingredients that you may or may not have heard of. Best of all you can select the amount of each ingredient which allows freshness and helps with portion control.
The ingredients in this ‘Berry Walnut Bowl’ are super refreshing, energizing, filling, and nutritious. Best of all this bowl is sans gluten and dairy. Start your day with the right fuel!
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup dry oats
3 tbsp unsweetened almond or cashew milk
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes
2-3 tbsp water (depending on thickness desired)
1/2 banana; sliced
handful of frozen raspberries
1 scoop of protein powder (unsweetened or flavored)
handful of chopped walnuts
In a bowl mix all the ingredients listed for layer one.
Allow to set in the refrigerator uncovered for at least 30 minutes.
Remove from the refrigerator. Distribute each ingredient from layer two in horizontal fashion in the bowl.
Return to the refrigerator to set further…
Or if you’re impatient like I am, grab a spoon, dig in and mix up the ingredients!
This salad literally takes FIVE minutes to prepare if not less and it only has FIVE ingredients. Basically if you want something super easy to prepare – this is it! This salad is both crunchy and tangy making it the perfect compliment for whatever your entree fancy may be! As soon as I made this salad, I literally couldn’t keep my hands off of it, mouthgasm 101.
If you did not know, cucumbers are an excellent source of hydration, and a single 8-ounce cup is just as hydrating as an equivalent amount of water. Cucumbers are low in calories and rich in anti-inflammatory properties. Even though there are many, many more benefits of cucumbers to discuss, I will list my favorite which is their ability to cool and soothe (Hint: think of when you’ve sipped on cucumber water at the spa or when you’ve put cucumbers over your eyes to relieve puffiness).
2 medium sized cucumbers; cut into thin circular halves
1 cup cherry tomatoes; halved
2 heaping tablespoons of dijon mustard (seed based – I love this one from Trader Joe’s)
3 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
In a tupperware container combine all ingredients then cover and shake well.
Summer may be winding down, but the temperatures are still rising, especially in Texas. Bikini season is still going and that means healthy eats! However, if you’re like me, bikini season is all day, every day. These flavor rich bites are a fantastic addition to your morning routine if you’re looking for a workout boost, post-workout snack, or mid-day snack for extra energy. Not only are the bites easy to make but they are packed with ‘good for you’ nutrients and mouthgasmic worthy. If you like berries and nuts – this creation is definitely for you.
Now let’s talk shop. These bites contain: chia seeds, coconut flakes, cashews, raspberries, dates, protein powder, a banana, and some water. Basically these bites are a mouthful of antioxidants and protein with natural sweet flavorings. Next time you’re opting for store bought energy balls, snacks, or protein bars with ingredients that are unpronounceable or contain numbers, try these, you’ll know exactly what you are eating.
2 cups raw cashews (soaked/drained)
1 cup raspberries (frozen or fresh)
1 medium banana (fresh)
2 heaping tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
5 large medjool dates (pits removed)
1 tablespoons chia seeds
3 tablespoons warm water
1 scoop Vanilla Vega Protein Powder (this protein powder can be found just about anywhere – Target, Amazon, Whole Foods, Vitamin Shoppe, Costco, and GNC)
Toss cashews and water into a blender and pulse/blend until soft.
Add coconut flakes, banana, and dates to the nut mixture then pulse/blend until the mixture is homogeneous.
Remove cashew mixture from the blender. Fold in the raspberries and chia seeds utilizing a fork. Use the fork to mash up some of the berries so that they are not whole.
Line a cooking sheet with parchment paper.
Use a tablespoon to create scoops to drop on the parchment paper. Aim to make each portion half the size of the tablespoon utilized.
Freeze for 4-5 hours then remove from the freezer and store in a parchment paper lined airtight tupperware container.
Recently a friend asked about cooking curry at home rather than going out… She wanted a good ‘date night’ type recipe, and frankly, she asked the right person. This dish is quick and easy so that while the chicken (or other protein is cooking) is tenderizing you can clean and/or get all glammed up. The quick run-down on this recipe is that it is gluten-free, dairy-free, a great source of protein, antioxidant rich, and loaded with flavor. The leftovers from this dish taste amazing (ahhhh-mazzzzzing) reheated. On a final note this dish does not have to be made with chicken rather other proteins such as shrimp, turkey, or beef can be utilized.
1.5# chicken tenders; chopped into chunks
1 can (8 ounces) light coconut milk
1 medium size zucchini; sliced/halved
1 cup red and orange bell peppers; strips
3 heaping tablespoons of unsweetened coconut flakes
2-3 ounces water
1 medium size yellow onion; minced
4 bay leaves; whole
3 springs rosemary; minced (fresh)
Coconut oil to heat up the frying pan
2 (or 3 if you want a bold taste) tablespoons of each spice: tumeric, garlic powder, and ginger, and paprika
3 tablespoons of curry powder
1 teaspoon of cinnamon and black pepper
If you want an extra kick: 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (probably my favorite ingredient)
To taste: garlic salt or sea salt
Veggies + Coconut + Spices
DYI Spice Bottles with Chalk Labels
Under medium heat add coconut oil to heat up a large stir-fry pan then add the yellow onions. Cook until carmelized.
Add the water and coconut milk – stir well. Allow the mixture to heat up well for about 5 minutes then add the chicken, coconut flakes, vegetables, and spices (including the bay leaves and rosemary).
Stir the mixture well until homogeneous for 5 minutes then reduce to low heat and allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes either covered or uncovered.
Serve atop your favorite rice. (I used basamati rice with some spicy southwest seasoning for an extra kick.)