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.
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.
Bread, buns, and cakes stress me out sometimes. I try to find gluten-free options in the store that are appealing but lately none stand out. I’m in the mood for texture/grittiness but without the wheat. Rather than buying overpriced gluten-free options I opted to make my own… These cakes are pretty darn good if I may say so.
I am heading out of town this weekend and wanted to use everything in my pantry/refrigerator… Successfully did just that. The recipe calls for quinoa which is a fantastic gluten-free grain. It is a great protein source for vegetarians and vegans since it is a complete protein – contains all of the nine essential amino acids! Had a taste tester who said these were like a healthy but yummy version of hush puppies hence the name!
2 tbsp garlic, crushed or minced (when in a bind I opt for ready-to-use garlic products which are a staple in my refrigerator – I love the Roasted Minced Garlic from Spice World)
1 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp sea salt or ‘to taste’ (I did about 3 full grinds of my salt – equivalent to 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp black pepper; ground
1/2 tsp red pepper; flakes
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, olive oil, eggs, asparagus, garlic, and flour, stir well.
Add the necessary spices (S&P) then stir well or mix with your hands.
Under medium-high heat drizzle olive oil in a large saucepan then using your hands create Ping-Pong shaped balls and place on the pan. Keep a space between each ball then flatten with a spatula.
Allow to heat each side for 3-4 minutes until slightly browned then finish with a 30 second-1 minute sear on each side.
Set to the site on a cool plate or wire rack.
These cakes are absolutely heavenly when added to a salad, topped with meat, or topped with cooked veggies.
xxx – Sarah
To cook quinoa: Combine 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water bring to a boil atop stove then reduce to a simmer and cover. I usually allow it to sit out on the stove top covered for 2-3 hours then start utilizing it by itself or in other recipes such as this one.
Tables during football parties and fall gatherings tend to be filled with wonderful dishes that are usually heavy, fried, and/or cream based… I encourage you to change it up with this pickled dish. Everyone loves a good pickle – therefore why not spruce things up with some color and a powerful taste? Also, this dish is vegetarian, gluten-free, kosher, and dairy-free for your guests who may follow certain dietary specifications.
One of the ingredients utilized in the dish for the ‘pickling’ was mustard seeds derived from mustard plants which are sparse looking yellow dandelion-like delicate flowers. The flowers can be added to a bouquet for color and variety, or they can be matured to form brown pods which hold the seeds and are removed before they can further ripen/burst. The mustard plant leaves and stems are also edible like any other greens.
When added to the pickled mixture the seeds add a nutty taste to the dish. There are several variations to the seeds – those white and brown in color are commonly used for pickling. These seeds may be little but they pack quite a punch. The seeds are filled with phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidant properties. Notable benefits include their high content of essential oils and plant sterols which may play a role in lowering blood cholesterol levels.
3 cucumbers; thinly sliced
1 small, sweet yellow onion; sliced, diced, and slivered into various sizes
1 cup, white vinegar
2 tsp brown mustard seeds, whole
1/4 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup mango, diced or chunks
1 cup yellow/red/green bell peppers; minced (variety is optional)
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 avocado, diced
In a medium saucepan over high heat combine the pickling ingredients, brown mustard seeds, sugar, coconut oil, vinegar, salt, and sugar, then bring to a boil. (If you prefer your onions cooked like I do – add the onions to the pickling ingredients otherwise they can be added later.)
Remove the pickled mixture from heat and set aside for 20-30 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers, peppers, mango, and onions (if not cooked in step 1).
Stir the pickled mixture into the large bowl with the cucumbers.
Chill mixture for a minimum of 3 hours to overnight for a delicious yet tangy taste.
Prior to serving add the diced avocado into the mixture and toss.
Well… I must admit that I have been cheating on my website with eDietitians aka writing for them. Whoops. I recently wrote an article for them in June and just finished my latest article for the October edition. The June article can be accessed at: http://edietitians.com/2014/06/14/fit-and-vegetarian/. The article for the october edition is based on HIIT modality of training aka high intensity interval training therefore stay tuned!