Pumpkin Smoothie

Had a major craving for a smooth, cool and creamy pumpkin smoothie for lunch today. Had this with an egg white sandwich and half a banana with the obligatory peanut butter 😉

Pumpkin Smoothie (serves 1)

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other milk)

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 frozen banana

1/2 Tbsp ground flax

1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder

3-4 ice cubes

Method:

1. Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

2. Serve with sliced banana, more ground flaxseed, chopped walnuts or more pumpkin if desired!

Note: Double the ingredients for a larger portion or 2 servings.

Plans for 2014

Hi guys,

As promised, here is what I have in mind for 2014. Some of it is related to my career change (i.e pass my Graduate Oral Comprehensive Exam and the RD exam) and other stuff is personal.

1. As noted above, pass my Graduate Oral Comprehensive Exam and the RD exam, and earn my MS in Food & Nutrition. (tentative time frame: May – July 2014)

2. Move – either back to NYC or to Florida!!! (Warm weather calls to me….)

3. Get back into running shape. My running  really fell to the wayside in 2013 due to various injuries and being swamped with schoolwork. I did do 3 triathlons, but I’d really like to get back into running some road races – without getting injured. So the goal for 2014 re running is to train conservatively, increase mileage & intensity SLOWLY, and to do at least 1 (hopefully 2) half-marathons plus some shorter races. Currently, I’m eyeing a half at the end of April, and then another mid-May for the Spring. Any races for rest of the year will depend on where I move to over the summer (yikes!!)

4. Plan and cook more ‘meals’ rather than throw something together at the last minute (like stir-fries or omlettes). My schedule at school was so crazy this semester that I ate the same meals over and over again…never used my crockpot or my juicer…things I will be rectifying in 2014.

5. Juice! I bought a basic juicer off someone on craigslist, and have yet to use it. Fail. So come 2014, I WILL juice …. at least 4 times to justify the cost of the juicer 😉

6. Go see my nephew in Atlanta! Not sure when but this has to happen!

7. Get a job (Ahh!) Cannot believe I will be graduating and back in the working world again… (hopefully)…Wish me luck on this one!

What are your plans for 2014? Any specific goals or major life changes taking place?

Fluffy Coconut Flour Pancakes

Made this on a random whim on Christmas Day and they came out pretty good  – surprising for me 😉 This version of coconut flour pancakes is fluffier than my last one, and  just as delicious. You can use regular eggs instead of egg whites (or 1 egg plus 2 egg whites); that might make the pancakes denser (and probably tastier!) so let me know if you do try the recipe that way.

Fluffy Coconut Flour Pancakes (makes 6 small pancakes)

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Ingredients:

1/2 coconut flour

3/4 cup egg whites

1 small or 3/4 large banana, mashed

1 tsp flax (can add more)

1/2 – 1tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder

Method:

1. Spray a griddle with cooking spray (or use coconut oil) and heat on medium heat.

2. While griddle is heating, mix all the ingredients in a bowl until smooth.

3. Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto griddle (if using a large griddle, you can make a large batch of pancakes at once).

4. Allow to cook for approx. 1 minute until firm, then flip and cook for an additional minute until done.

5. Repeat with remaining batter.

Nutrition Info: 300 calories, 48 g carbohydrate, 24g protein for the entire batch (50 calories, 8 g carb, 4 g protein per pancake if making 6).

Highlights of 2013

Hello again! I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with their loved ones. I went to a friend’s place for the Eve, but unfortunately was sick all day on the 25th 😦 I didn’t go anywhere but actually had a nice relaxing day at home, dug out my old camera, baked (recipes to follow in a separate post!) and started a new book! The only things I’ve read for the past few months are research articles and textbooks, so that was a nice change – and thoroughly enjoyable. I started Catching Fire which is the second book in the Hunger Games series (yes, I know I’m behind the rest of the world with reading, but better late than never!). Anyway, I’m feeling better today and thought I might do a brief recap of the best of 2013. Here goes:

January – Can’t remember much anything special in January (whomp, whomp..) but I may have taken a trip to NYC (?)

February – Trip to Miami with some dear friends from NYC. This was an absolute blast – so glad I went – had an amazing time, and of course I love Miami.

March – Hmm…again, can’t remember anything special. Though I think I busted my shin in March 😦

April – Winding down a semester at school (an all-consuming part of my life)

May – Shin was getting better, finished finals, went to NYC, got my hair straightened again (!) (Love it straight), then started summer classes.

June – Went to NYC again, saw my brother’s graduation, then drove some friends to a Tough Mudder event in PA. Another fabulously fun day with them! Turned 35 and had a fabulous B-Day dinner in the Big Apple with my friends there.

July – A blur. Enjoyed the summer, pool time, did 2.5 summer classes, resumed training again for my first Tris (in August)

August – Finished summer classes, my nephew was born!!!! Did a Warrior Dash with my friends from NYC, and my first two triathlons (back to back!!). These were part of the Cranberry Trifest organized by SunMultiSports and it was another crazy but awesome weekend. The races were extremely well organized and I highly recommend them if you are looking for a Tri. Started my clinical internship for my dietetics program.

September – Went to Atlanta twice to visit my nephew and my parents (who were visiting form India). Didi another mini-Tri to finish off the season.

October – A blur with school work, internships and work.

November – Another blur (repeat of October) with Thanksgiving at a friend’s place.

December – Finished my clinical internship (learnt an incredible amount!) …and that’s it. I know – my life has been consumed with school work and my dietetics program but it’s all good, and something I really do enjoy.

Anyway, I’ll be adding another post soon on my plans and goals for 2014. It’s going to be a big year for me since I’ll be finishing my graduate program in Nutrition, taking the RD exam and moving. I have some other things I’d like to accomplish too so stay tuned!

WHat are your thoughts for 2014? Any major plans? Any highlights from 2013?

Coconut Flour Pancakes (gluten free)

Good Morning! Summer is over (blah!) and I guess I’ll have to reconcile myself to cooler weather approaching (still in denial). Anyway, I woke up super- early this morning with a major craving for pancakes – which almost NEVER happens. I’ve read (and tried) random recipes for 2 ingredient, almond flour and coconut flour pancakes but many of them end up either being too crumbly or too banana-y. So I threw together this concoction and the result was surprisingly (miraculously??) quite good – by my standards anyway! 🙂 So without further ado, here’s the recipe for my version of Coconut Flour Pancakes (gluten free) and yummy! Makes 2 servings; 3 pancakes/serving.

Coconut Flour Pancakes (gluten free) 

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp coconut flour

1/2 cup eggbeaters

1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp unsweetened almond mik (or other milk of choice)

1/2 mashed banana

2 tsp. ground flax

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp. baking soda

pinch salt

Method:

1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, or use a food processor (easier and faster!)

2. Spray a non-stick frying pan or griddle with cooking spray or oil, and heat on medium heat.

3. Use 3 Tbsp batter for each pancake. Let the pancakes form and cook on one side (1-2 min) before flipping. Cook on the other side for 30 seconds – 1min. Repeat with remaining batter.

4. Top with peanut butter and banana slices (my preference!) and devour.

Nutrition (per serving of 3 pancakes – no toppings): Approx. 100 calories; 12 g carbs; 7.5 g protein; 1 g fat

A Runner’s High

Hello folks!! Hope your summer is going well – although I’m sad that it’s almost over 😦 I start classes and my hospital internship in a week and although I’m looking forward to the experience and starting the last leg of my RD journey, I’m sad to see the summer end. I only managed 1 trip to the beach this year (pitiful I know) due to classes and work etc.

Anyway, this past week seemed more depressing than any other week during the summer …and I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it was the thought of summer ending, anxiety over my upcoming races, frustration….and/or probably also the fact that I was exhausted and my legs felt like lead all week long. In hindsight I should have a taken a couple of days off from working out – but the Type A personality in me refused to do so and still wanted to do some “easy swims” during the week. Anyway, suffice it to say that I didn’t run the entire week – and that may also have contributed to my pissiness. Well…I ran 6 miles today (granted I stopped twice to get water and stretch but I still did it)…and the pissiness has gone 🙂 Maybe it’s a runner’s high or maybe I just snapped out of it – but I firmly believe there’s truth in the “runner’s high.” I love all kinds of activities – swimming, biking, weight training, yoga….but the runner in me still loves a good run. There’s something about running that just makes me happy – and I don’t get that same feeling from cycling (maybe swimming)…but it’s hard to say. Anyway, long story short, I’ve been really slacking on my running lately and it shows. So it’s time to change that, especially with a stressful semester coming up. My goal is to run 3-4 times a week…short or long, doesn’t matter…just do it. I will probably be a healthier, happier, calmer and less pissier person for it 🙂

What activities help keep you calm and make you feel more centered? For some it’s yoga, meditation, or walking. For others, like me, it’s a mixture of running, swimming and yoga…

Summer Reading

One of the things I always loved about summer was the chance to catch up on my reading. Reading for fun that is…not the “textbook and research article” reading that has marked the last few months years of my life. A long, long time ago I would read all kinds of fiction –  from travel biographies to classics and Russian novels. Lately though, it’s been reading on specific areas of nutrition…geriatric, pediatric, medical etc. Well this summer I actually managed to pick up and finish a book for fun – one that one of my friends lent me, and I’m so glad that I spent some lazy afternoons (and late nights) reading it.

Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner turned out to be a great summer read; it was light-hearted and yet it delved into the complexities of relationships, marriage, divorce and parenthood with compassion and with a refreshing clarity. Weiner, who has written Good in Bed and In Her Shoes among several other books, leaves you with a quiet sense of liking for the characters – and with a strange sense of calm about your own life. It reminds you that no-one is perfect, no relationship is perfect and everyone has  flaws and doubts as well as strengths and weakness. I finished the book early this morning (thanks to a miserable bout of insomnia) and it left me with a weird feeling of “I know my life isn’t perfect but that’s OK,” and one of the phrases from the book that really stuck with me was “There’s no right way to live your life. You just do the best you can.” (Weiner, Fly Away Home, 2011). I think sometimes we all need to remember that when we’re feeling a little frazzled or unsure of some decisions.

I’ve already read Good in Bed and In Her Shoes, but I think I’m going to order her other books and try to get some more light-hearted reading in before my crazy Fall semester starts. Anyway, if you’re looking for an easy and enjoyable read that makes you feel good, I’d recommend Fly Away Home. And if you do read it, let me know what you think!

Anyone else read any good books this summer?

 

Grain-free Granola

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Grain-free Granola

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sliced almonds + 2 Tbsp whole almonds roughly chopped

1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup walnuts coarsely chopped

1/4 cup flaxseed meal

1/4 cup almond meal

1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/4 cup canned pumpkin

1/4 chopped dates (could use dried cranberries instead)

1/4 cup egg whites

1 Tbsp honey

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 325 F.

2. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients above until thoroughly combined. Spread onto a large baking sheet lined with foil (use a cooking spray or coconut oil to grease the foil so that the granola doesn’t stick).

3. Spread mixture onto the foil and bake for 18-20 minutes, removing once to stir at 10 minutes. Check the granola periodically after 15 minutes to prevent burning.

4. Allow to cool completely before storing in a jar/tupperware container in the fridge (maintains crispness).

Makes about 11-12 1/4 cup servings, about 130-140 calories each (Total calories for recipe = 1520)

Topping ideas: sliced berries, bananas, coconut or almond milk, or yogurt!

Thoughts on Paleo

Good Morning! Hope everyone is having a great summer and a fabulous weekend! My summer has been filled with grad classes, some pool-time, work and some messing around in the kitchen. Some of you may know that I’m doing a graduate degree in Food & Nutrition and am in a Dietetics program to be an RD. If all goes well, I’ll be done next summer – and then comes the big job hunt and move (hopefully to Florida!).

Anyway, being in the field of Nutrition I’m always fascinated by any developments in this area – and lately I’ve become more curious about the whole Paleo Lifestyle. Now I’m not saying that I’m suddenly “going Paleo,” – all I’m saying is that I’m intrigued about really understanding the science behind it. I whole-heartedly support the idea of eating minimally processed food and avoiding packed goods as much as possible. That being said, I also know that with our busy lifestyle it’s almost impossible to cook form scratch all of the time – and we inevitably end up buying and consuming some packaged and processed items. Keep in mind though that we also live a very different lifestyle from our “Paleolithic ancestors”…They didn’t have modern technology or office jobs and packed schedules – and for them, survival was the primary goal. WIth that in mind, I often question some premises of the popular Paleo diet – specifically the move towards consuming more animal fats and saturated fats.  I don’t think I’m quite on board with it simply because our lifestyle is so different – I’m not out hunting for my food or dragging carcasses home for dinner, nor do I wonder about when my next meal will be. I don’t need to “starve” for long periods of time due to a lack of food…so do I really need to eat like my Paleolithic ancestors? Shouldn’t I just try to eat more whole foods…like vegetables, meat, fish, fruit nuts etc but not necessarily as much saturated fat?Bottom line is –  I don’t think we need to try and emulate our ancestors to a T, but eating less processed foods is certainly a good idea!

I’m also intrigued by the argument that grains and legumes lead to inflammation in our bodies (an argument presented by some authors of Paleo books), and that the insulin response is what leads to obesity. Actually – insulin is not the bad guy here. Insulin is a hormone in your body that helps certain cells (those with insulin receptors) remove glucose from your blood and use it for energy. So if  you are about to embark on any exercise, supplying your cells with energy is a good thing! Perhaps what the authors are arguing is that we consume too many carbohydrates (particularly processed carbohydrates) in our diet and have excessive glucose-insulin responses in our body….(?). To be fair, I haven’t read any of the books on Paleo yet – but I ordered a couple yesterday to really try and understand the authors’ viewpoint. Once I’ve read them and thought about it, I’ll follow up with another post on this subject.

In support of Paleo though, I do believe that we should consume more of our carbohydrates from unprocessed sources such as vegetables and fruit and less from processed flours. There seems to be an increase in gluten sensitivity and celiac disease in the last few years as well as allergies to peanuts etc, and I wonder if it’s due to the high degree of processing in our food industry. I’ve been eating gluten-free for the last couple of years and have noticed a huge difference in how I feel – no more chronic fatigue, anemia or migraines and that’s why I’m also really curious about the premise behind a grain free diet. I may actually try an experiment and go grain-free for a couple of weeks – just to see how I feel on a more “Paleo” diet (though I will still be eating legumes I think). Anyway, one of the recipes I’ve had on my mind for a while is a Grain-Free Granola (nothing new…there are a whole bunch of recipes for Grain-Free/Paleo granola on the internet). But I made a batch this morning after looking at a few recipes and then coming up with my own. (I’ll post it shortly in a separate post). It was actually fairly easy to make and isn’t as dense as some of the Paleo Granola recipes out there. Yet it was surprisingly quite filling with some berries, sliced banana and coconut milk…so it may become more of a staple in my breakfast (need some variety from eggs and smoothies!)

Anyway – enjoy the rest of the weekend and look out for my granola recipe. I’ll be back at some point with my thoughts on Paleo – after I’ve read a few more books on it!

Summer Lunches

I recently saw a tweet about having a smoothie for lunch during the hot summer months. Smoothies are usually more of a breakfast or lunch “add-on” for me  (I eat a lot) 🙂 but they can certainly make a meal – or at least a large portion of it if you use the right ingredients. They key to a good smoothie – one that will keep you satisfied for a few hours, is to use a combination of carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein in your concoction. Toppings can then include some more healthy fats in the form of nuts/seeds/nut butters, or some more carbs in the form of granola, cereal or sliced fruit. You could also pair the smoothie with a slice of whole grain or gluten-free toast w/an egg or egg white, some sliced fruit & nut butter or a hard-bolied egg for some added nutrients and satiety.

Here are some tips on making a satisfying smoothie:

1.  Choose your base: 1/2 cup almond/soy/dairy/coconut milk + 1/2 cup water (can also do just 1 cup of your milk of choice)

2. Add in your fruit and vegetables. Some possible combinations are:

– 1/2 frozen banana, 1 cup baby spinach (or kale); 1/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, OR

– 1/2 frozen banana, 1/2-3/4 cup sliced strawberries (fresh or frozen), 1/4 cup fresh blueberries (optional), OR

– 1/2 frozen banana, 1/2 pineapple, 1/2 cup spinach

– 1/2-3/4 cup frozen or fresh pitted cherries, 1/4 avocado

– 1/2 cup chopped mango, 1/2 cup chopped pineapple, 1/4 avocado

Tip: Using a frozen banana or avocado makes the smoothie really creamy. The avocado adds healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals too…and the banana is a great source of carbs and potassium!

3. Add in your protein option: 1/2-1 scoop of a protein powder, or 1/2 cup Greek yogurt

4. Add in your healthy fats: 1/4 avocado, or 1 Tbs nut butter, or 5-6 almonds, or 1 Tbs flax or chia seeds

5. Add in a few ice cubes and blend away!

Top with: 1-2 tsp chia or flax seeds, 1/4 cup granola or cereal, or 1 tsp nut butter w/sliced fruit, or 1-2 Tbsp walnuts

Enjoy!!

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