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 come to Melbourne, Florida where my parents reside. The world works in mysterious ways.
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 special favorite of all time aka the Goat Cheese Spiked Brussels minus the butternut squash, and this delicious cooked caprese salad (so yum x 100). This was definitely by far was my favorite Mother’s Day with her for so many reasons.
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.
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.
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!
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.)
Basically Summer screams frozen everything. I love salt and I love sugar aka I go nuts for combinations with hints of both – why not mix them together and get crazy?! However, since I’m ‘adulting’ that means make some swaps for healthier ingredients… Rather than adding traditional chocolate in the recipe I swapped for chocolate protein powder which allows for a bit more protein compared to a regular dessert.
Back to the grind. Spent the weekend brunching, laughing, and lounging. I try to do bulk cooking on Sundays but I was a weeeee bit too lazy so meal prep day was moved to Monday. Now I’ve got leftovers for all my lunches – perfect.
I’ll keep this educational piece short and sweet… These recipes are super easy and the ingredients are good for you! Yes, good for you. The more variety, the better. Think color, think antioxidants. Lastly, these stuffed peppers are perfect for vegetarians – not only are they filled with varied vegetables but quinoa is a complete protein. Not all complete proteins need to come from meat, poultry, or seafood! However I wanted seafood so I put together the fixings for my favorite shrimp recipe.
Ingredients for the stuffing!
End result = stuffed peppers 🙂
Fried Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
4 colored Bell Peppers with the insides/core removed
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1 whole egg
1 large yellow onion, minced
1/2 cup cilantro, minced
1 cup green onions, minced
1/4 cup peanuts, crushed
1/2 cup carrots, shredded
2 tbsp pineapple, crushed
2 tbsp garlic, minced
SPICES (4-5 shakes): Curry powder, tumeric, cumin, garlic powder, curry powder, red pepper flakes, chili powder, and ground black pepper
OPTIONAL: Sea salt
Coconut oil – enough to coat a frying pan
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Heat a frying pan with coconut oil under medium-high heat.
Add to the frying pan the following ingredients: yellow onion, cilantro, green onion, peanuts, carrots, and pineapple. Sauté well for 5 minutes.
Add the quinoa, egg, spices, and salt (if used). Sauté for an additional 10 minutes.
Remove the quinoa mixture from heat and stuff the pepper shells. Place the bottoms of the peppers directly on the parchment paper and allow the insides to face up.
Cook for 15 minutes then set on a plate for serving!
So basic – just five ingredients
Messy yummy mess of ingredients
Coconut Lime Shrimp
1# jumbo shrimp, fresh with the tails/shells removed (or frozen)
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 limes, juice (the size of a golf ball)
Coconut oil to coat frying pan
In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.
Under medium-high heat add coconut oil to a frying pan.
Toss in the shrimp mixture and cook until golden brown.
Set aside for serving or add to the plate with the stuffed pepper – such an amazing combination. Makes me want to go someplace tropical.
Mid attack with the knife then there was nothing
What else was on my plate? I did add my usual staple of greens which tends to be either kale, asparagus, or Brussels sprouts. As seen above, I added my Garlic Peppered Asparagus but unlike the linked recipe I did not add pumpkin seeds or Brussels.
Super Bowl. Wings. Those two words represent American favorites that go hand in hand. I officially coin the Super Bowl as a free pass to indulge lightly. Those football players are burning some serious calories and shedding sodium so it’s our duty to support them by eating!
Most of my friends looooooove wings, and I was going to a party, thus culinary thoughts went wild in my head. This dish is filled with flavor and best of all is that none of it was sodium (salt) based!
Did you know, too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, fluid retention/water weight, thirst, puffiness around the eyes, and swelling to the extremities? Maybe rethink the salt shaker next time OR do a ‘1-2’ count when using a shaker to prevent adding too much salt. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for a Healthy Eating Pattern recommends consumption of less than 2300 mg of salt daily. Here’s some food for a thought, a teaspoon (tsp) is equivalent to 2300 mg of salt. No wonder there were times when I couldn’t bend my fingers or my eyes looked tired – I’m guilty of having a heavy hand with the salt shaker at times. It’s a love/hate relationship.
4# chicken wings with the skin (dry with paper towels before using)
1 large bundle of cilantro, minced (1 1/2 cup)
1 large bundle of green onion (1 cup)
1 cup raw peanuts, chopped
4 tbsp chili powder
3 tbsp ginger, minced
2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp tumeric
2 tbsp powdered ginger
2 tbsp coconut flour
1/3 cup sesame oil
3 tbsp ginger, minced/grated
2 tbsp apple vinegar
1/2 cup EVOO
2 tsp black pepper
Juice of a medium lime (1/4 cup)
OPTIONAL or as desired: sea salt
Phase 1 of the Wings
Green Onion/Cilantro Topping
Phase 2 of the Wings
Super Bowl Ready!
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large cooking pan (disposable tin) lay out the wings and top with black pepper. Cook for 15 minutes.
Separately under medium-high heat sauté the green onion, cilantro, coconut flour, sesame oil, EVOO, peanuts, garlic, ginger, lime juice, apple vinegar, and dry spices (chili powder, red pepper flakes, powdered ginger and turmeric).
Remove wings from the oven and cover with the green onion and cilantro mixture.
Cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes until desired texture/crispiness is achieved.
Garnish with cilantro and/or peanuts prior to serving. If your friends are afraid of life without salt – add it at your own discretion.
O-M-G. I’m obsessed with this bread – I won’t lie but it’s almost finished and I made it like yesterday. I’ve been playing around with flavors in my kitchen since the weather has been cold… Then again, who am I kidding, it’s like 60-70 degrees in Texas. My mom always made banana bread when I was a kid and frankly I needed a taste of home but sans the gluten and dairy. Basically I changed my mother’s recipe and just kept the bananas.
Potassium. It’s a very important mineral and bananas are loaded with it! What does potassium even do? Well, it’s a mineral that helps to keep your heart, nerves, and muscles working properly. Thus when dehydrated many individuals chug energy drinks with potassium but sometimes its easier, healthier, and cheaper to opt for actual food sources. Other good food sources of potassium include oranges, pomegrante, dates, tomato and tomato-based products, potatoes, winter squash, avocados, broccoli, dried/refried/baked beans, milk, nuts and seeds, and some salt substitutes.
2 medium yellow bananas, ripe
3 frozen bananas, defrosted
2 tbsp light coconut milk
3 whole eggs
1/2 cup almond butter (or other nut butter)
1/2 cup coconut flour
4 tbsp coconut oil (+extra for greasing the pan)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp of vanilla
1 or more tbsp cinnamom or pumpkin pie spice
Pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp (or 1-2 grinds) sea salt
1 cup fresh raspberries (or other berries)
2 tbsp mini milk chocolate chips
Bottom banana layer
Time to add berries
Finished berry layer
Finished product with the special final layer
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grease a loaf pan (or pan that is about 9×5 inches) with coconut oil OR you can line with parchment paper.
In a blender combine the eggs, coconut oil, coconut milk, almond butter, 2 fresh bananas, and 2 frozen bananas.
Fold in the coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, and sea salt. Blend all ingredients until mixture is homogeneous.
In the greased pan pour half the mixture then set aside.
Using a small bowl mash up the defrosted banana and berries.
Evenly the mashed fruit over the mixture in the pan.
With the remainder of the banana mixture, fold in the chocolate chips and mix, then pour over the berries. Use a spatula to try and spread the mixture evenly.
Cook for 60-70 minutes or until a knife/utensil can be inserted and removed clean.
Allow to cool then serve with your finest tea, wine, or coffee.