Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pumpkin Coconut Oatmeal

Since it is officially fall and with the anticipation of some more fall-like weather later this week here in NOLA, I am refreshing one of my favorite fall recipes-- pumpkin spice oatmeal.

Overnight oats are everywhere, which are fabulous for the dog days of summer, but when the weather cools off, warm traditional-style oatmeal is oh-so-satisfying.

I have clients who often tell me they aren't a fan of oatmeal, and trust me, I wasn't either growing up. But the trick is knowing how to doctor-it-up without breaking the calorie and sugar bank!

This version is flavorful and slightly sweet while provided great vitamins from the pumpkin, fiber from the oats, no added sugars, and some crunch from a little bit of coconut flakes. Best of all, it tastes like fall!

Pumpkin Coconut Oatmeal

Serves: 1

1/2 cup old fashioned oats
3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla coconut milk
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp unsweetened coconut flake

In a microwave-safe dish, combine all the ingredients and warm in the microwave for 2 minutes.

Depending on your flavor preference for pumpkin you can increase or decrease the pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice. Also, if you like your oats to have more or less liquid, you can also adjust the coconut milk accordingly!

Happy Fall Y'all!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Zucchini Lasagna Muffins

I am beyond excited to be a part of a blogging community called The Recipe Redux. Today is my first post to share with them {and you, of course}.

If you're not familiar with the recipe redux, basically, it is a monthly recipe competition that keeps the focus on delicious, yet healthier recipes. As a registered dietitian/nutritionist, {part-time/amateur} blogger, and foodie I'm thrilled to be a part of it! I'm also slightly intimidated by the process, but here goes!

Each month there will be a specific theme for the recipe challenge and for this September it's--

Freezer Meals
So my objective has been to come up with a freezer-friendly meal that can be nutritious, delicious, and utilizes summer's bountiful produce. I kept thinking of tomatoes, squash, and herbs and decided to retwist one of my fave dishes- lasagna!

So here is a vegetable-heavy, freezer friendly, RD-approved lighter & healthier lasagna for you to try.

Zucchini Lasagna Muffins
Makes: 24
4 zucchini squash, sliced
1 lb extra lean ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 {8 ounce} cans tomato sauce
1 {6 ounce} can tomato paste
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried thyme
2 eggs
2 cups part skim ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated parmesan romano cheese, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 (1-lb) blocks 2% mozzarella cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two muffin pans with nonstick spray.
Pan-grill the sliced zucchini until lightly browned {just trying to remove moisture here, does not need to be overly cooked}.
In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, sauté onions, garlic, and meat until the meat is browned and cooked through by breaking up with wooden spoon. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, herbs. Cover and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the eggs, 1/2 cup parmesan romano cheese, and peppers.
Put it all together-- place a slice of zucchini in each muffin cup. Then top each one with a little bit of the meat sauce followed by a dollop of the cheese mixture. Continue to fill all 24 muffin cups. Repeat the layer once more and top each muffin with a sprinkling of the remaining 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.
Cover with aluminum foil {tented lightly as to not touch the cheese} and bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese melts and browns to your liking.

As I noted earlier this recipe is a great way to use up any veggies you have from your garden. If you have fresh tomatoes, skip the canned ones and puree or blend some fresh tomatoes together and cook down with the herbs. You can also substitute the dried herbs in this recipe with fresh herbs {feel free to use more fresh herbs as they are not as potent as the dried ones}.

If you're wondering how this might compare to your regular homemade lasagna, let me explain. Traditional lasagna is a heavier meal. It's layered with enriched, carby lasagna noodles piled high with red sauce, meat, and lots of cheese. I like to trim down on the calories from carbs by using sliced vegetables {eggplant, zucchini, squash, etc.} over noodles, even whole wheat noodles. Next, I cut the saturated fat down by using extra lean ground beef {ground turkey breast would also be a good substitute} as well as choosing reduced fat/part skim cheeses.

I made these into muffins rather than one large dish so that you can pull out a few when needed for a quick and easy weeknight dinner or to defrost for a healthy lunch without needing to reheat a whole pan. These would make for a great hearty winter's meal or pack 'em and share them with friends {especially new moms}!

So there it is. My first recipe redux contribution. I hope you try it and share what you think!

Enjoy and have a fabulous week!


Friday, September 18, 2015

Spicy Chicken Sausage & Seafood Green Gumbo

I don't know what we're going to do when {or if} the day comes that we no longer will be living in New Orleans. While on vacation a few weeks ago we got a taste of what it would be like to not have the food choices like we do in New Orleans and let me just say, I found myself thinking like I'm Reese in Sweet Home Alabama saying, "Guess I'll just have to order something from New York!" {or New Orleans in my case}!

When that can't happen, I'll have to try my best to make my own version of my favorite dishes. I think this can work, but truthfully, it will never taste exactly the same.

One of my favorite things in the city is the Seafood Gumbo at Mondo's in Lakeview. Their menu changes often and I haven't been able to get this item in quite some time so I decided to experiment with my own version.

My version incorporates the same elements of the gumbo at Mondo's because they both contain seafood and and kale {no, kale is not traditional, but it's one component I love about this dish}! My twists also include decreasing the fat and calorie content by not have a large contribution of fat from butter or oil and flour to make a traditional roux. I also have decreased the expected sodium content by using unsalted stock and lower sodium add-ins. You won't miss the salt because the spice from the seasoning and the chicken sausage gives this a nice kick!

Spicy Chicken Sausage & Seafood Green Gumbo

Serves: 6

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
64 ounces unsalted seafood stock, divided
1 onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 kale leaves, washed, stemmed, julienne

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce                                                                         
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
4 dashes Louisiana hot sauce

freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 chicken sausage, sliced (Such as Aidell’s or Al Fresco)
½ lb frozen crawfish tails
¼ lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, & tails removed
1 cup frozen okra pieces
Preheat a large heavy-bottom soup pot or Dutch oven, to medium heat. Add the olive oil and flour to make a roux. Using a whisk, gently but consistently stir the flour into the oil so that it is evenly distributed and cooking.  Pour in about ¼ to ½ cup of the stock and continue to whisk to allow the roux to incorporate and come together (about 5 minutes).
Then, add the chopped, onion, celery, pepper, and garlic and allow to sauté in the roux for about another 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add the kale and once it has wilted, add the remaining stock along with the seasonings (Worcestershire, herbs, and hot sauce). Bring the mixture to a boil then cover, reduce heat and allow to simmer for about an hour.
Add the chicken sausage, crawfish, and shrimp and allow to cook for another 30 minutes. Add the okra about 10 minutes before completion so that they can defrost and warm through, but not turn slimy.

Serve warm and enjoy!  
Have a relaxing and fun weekend!



Friday, September 11, 2015

Slow Cooker Steak Fajitas

With the unofficial end of summer behind us and fall just around the corner, it's time to dust off that slow cooker and start thinking of warm recipes to keep you comforted for the cooler weather that's approaching.

Who am I kidding, I live in New Orleans and it's still blazing hot and humid. It doesn't actually feel like fall until October, if we're lucky, maybe not even til November. For someone who loves loves loves fall, this time of year is always a bit hard.

That's why I turn to pumpkin flavored everything, lots of fall-like recipes, and pretty decorations to keep me in the autumn mood like everyone else in the country.

Slow cooker recipes are typically thought of for fall or winter meals, but truthfully, it can be used at any time during the year! It's especially great for working new moms! We often think of roast, beans, soups, and stews as go-to slow cooked meals, but I put a twist on some fajitas recently that I am excited to share with you.

This recipe came about as I was exhausted on a Sunday even though it was my 'turn' to cook dinner {we're sharing the duties with the demands of the baby since I love to cook but often don't have the time or energy these days}. We always pick lean flank or skirt steak as our meat of choice for fajitas and I thought, "hmm... super lean meat is good with a low and slow cooking method to tenderize the meat. Why not pull out the slow cooker!" It's a win-win all around!

The end result is super tasty, healthy, and relaxing meal!

Here's what I did:

Slow Cooker Steak Fajitas
Makes: 4 servings

1 whole flank steak {as little marbling or fat as you can find}
1 onion, sliced
1/2 cup no salt added stock {vegetable, chicken, or beef- whatever's on hand}
2 limes, juiced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

whole grain tortillas
queso {I used queso fresco but you could use a reduced fat cheese of choice}
Sweet peppers, sliced
avocado, diced
grilled corn

Throw everything into the slow cooker and allow to cook on low for 4-6 hours until the meat pulls apart easily with a fork.

Notes: You can really add more onions, peppers, and even garlic based on your preferences. We like to ward off vampires in our house so I always error on the side of more garlic. I would have added the peppers {bell or sweet} into the meat and onion mixture to slow cook, but the hubster doesn't like 'em so I just added them fresh to my fajitas.

This recipe is much healthier than if you were ordering it to go because you can trim saturated fat and calories by picking lean meat like flank steak. Also, the calories are decreased by omitting any oil for frying and the salt content is controlled by using no salt added stock and not any additional salt other than what's found in the Worcestershire sauce. Finally, you get some fiber in from the type of tortillas you pick.

I hope you get to try this recipe ASAP! It's totally worth it!

TGIF y'all!


Monday, September 7, 2015

Mommyhood part dos

When my daughter was just a couple months old I shared my first edition of Mommyhood.

{I'm not going to reread the first edition because I might get emotional at how quickly time has passed and she has grown already so you'll have to forgive any repetition.}

Today I'm sharing part two as there have been some new things to share in our wild experience of being parents.

{Side note: I get to call it mommyhood rather than parenthood because I am the author (sans husband help) and I get to do things like that. Haha! That makes it sound like he hasn't been helping and supporting me. Maybe I should give the hubster some credit since he has picked up the slack on some things like making dinner and some household chores. Emphasis on some though... of course, there's always room for improvement.} 

Okay, let's get started so that I can help to enlighten new moms or soon-to-be mommas about what's to come and probably just give the rest of y'all a good laugh.

Things I've learned since becoming a mommy:

1. Pacis.
I've spent too much time to recall finding pacis, losing pacis, buying new pacis to replace the lost ones only to them find them and lose them again. You follow me? We've left a glow-in the dark one in Massachusetts {consider it a souvenir from the Miller family New England}, I have a few other's on a 'to find list', and I found one recently on our driveway, of course, only after it had been run over by the car. I guess that's what I get when I leave them in the hands of my almost-eight-month-old who likes to repeatedly drop things and make me pick them up like we're playing mommy-daughter fetch. For the lost ones though, I've come to the conclusion there are little paci-stealing gnomes taking them just to make tired mommies feel like they are losing their minds.

2. Returning to work.
On a not so humorous note, going back to work has been the absolute hardest and emotionally draining aspect of this whole learning experience.

It doesn't help that I am the type of person who doesn't want to miss out on anything and this child changes and learns so quickly that I don't want to not be around for something. Maybe it'll get better when she's older when she's not changing, growing, or learning so much. I mean she'll just be boring then, right?

One thing that has helped me cope has been to remind myself that there are lots of working moms out there that have been in your shoes. My aunt caught me on a 'bad' day and took a moment to also remind me that if I wasn't working, I'd probably feel like I was missing out. Perhaps, she's right. The grass is always greener on the other side.

I have heard from mommy-friends that you establish a 'new normal' where it doesn't necessarily get easy to leave your child, but it becomes part of your normal schedule and you get used to it. I haven't gotten there yet, nor do I think I will for a while. We'll see.

3. Daycare.
I may have to dedicate a whole separate post to this topic, but basically you're likely to be that mom. The one who always has special requests. The one who is probably receiving eye rolls from the teachers after you walk out the door. To make you feel better, I've heard from many friends, family and clients that every mom feels like they are that mom. You only want what's best for your child and when you can't care for them while you're at work, it's hard to trust others to do a good job. Hopefully they really are in a safe, loving, caring, and encouraging environment.

Alright, enough of the challenges onto some positives:

4. Feeding your baby new foods is fun - at least for me!
Again, this will be a whole post or even new section on the blog, but it is so fun to pick out new foods to introduce and watch her expression when she tries them for the first time. We've gone from the skeptical frowning look in the very beginning to mouth wide open when she sees the spoon coming to all out diving her open-mouth forward to lean in for the food. Sweet potatoes are her favorite, just like her Momma. I make her own food and love it, even despite skepticism and comments from her teachers.

5. Hearing your baby truly laugh or giggle is the most contagious, relaxing, and rewarding sound.
Andrew is the best at making her laugh.

6. There's now a new bracket within the baby age category.
Before my baby was born every baby looked the same. But now, my 7 1/2 month old definitely looks like a completely different age group than a newborn. She almost looks toddler-ish to me {sometimes} and I have to remind myself that she's still an infant{thankfully}.

7. I still want to capture every moment I possibly can.
Which makes #2 all the more difficult.

8. You may be sleep deprived for a long time. Longer than you expected. And, somehow, you'll learn to function.
It is made easier when you wake up to your baby's beautiful toothless smile.

Despite the sting of pain I feel at the quickly aging and changing process, I can only imagine the joy, love, and happiness she will continue to bring as she starts to talk, walk, play, and develop into a toddler.

{photo credit to First Blush Photography}

Thursday, August 27, 2015

My 7 Pregnancy Essentials

I can't believe my little girl is now 7+ months old! She seems so big to me now and it is the most bittersweet part of my life. I am thrilled and excited with all the things she learns and does on a daily basis, but I'm saddened by the fact that I know her time as a baby is short and going by all too quickly.

This time last year I was actively working hard during the day at my jobs and then coming home to prepare for LEM. Those long days of working two jobs and then coming home to have more stuff on my to-do list made for some pretty tiring days.

Due to the strains for pregnancy whether it's fatigue, stress, etc. there are a few things that were essential to the comfort of my pregnancy. Whether you are, were, plan to be pregnant or know someone is/was/will be, these few pregnancy essentials may make their experience all that more enjoyable.

{This is what happens when you try to have an impromptu photo session with your baby and props. What I planned had quickly turned {no pun intended} into LEM grabbing everything in sight.}

7 Pregnancy Essentials
1. Bath Pillow // 2. Hot/cold pack // 3. Lip gloss/balm/chapstick // 4. Lotion // 5. La Croix // 6. Healthy snacks // 7. Journal

#1 & #2. My pregnancy was pretty painless for the most part. I had some light nausea in the beginning and fatigue, but nothing compared to others and nothing that really through me for a loop. I know, I'm not trying to rub it in, by any means. I did have a few occurrences of some pretty intense neck/upper back pain in my third trimester {probably tension headaches} that my stubborn self would not take any medicine to relieve. So I relied heavily on the first two items. The pillow helped cushion my head, neck, and back so I could put comfortable and relieving pressure on whatever area was troubling me. The bath is relaxing itself, at least for me, but for the pain I was feeling, the pillow was a helpful asset. When the bath didn't work, the hot/cold packs were vital to bringing to work and extra long days with prenatal/birthing classes when I needed to anticipate the pain.

#3 & #4. I don't know if it was the New Orleans climate towards the later half of 2014 along with pregnancy hormones but my skin got very dry, despite the humidity here. I am fortunate enough to not have stretch marks in my heredity, but the same lotion was helpful to keep my lips and hands soft and smooth.

{Looks like she likes La Croix, too! Like mother, like daughter.}

#5. La Croix became like a best friend during my pregnancy. Not only was it hydrating, but also sweetener-free, and versatile. I would use it to make a beachy or holiday mocktail {for the holiday mocktail I just mixed the cran-apple version with sparkling grape juice.

{Well, she wasted no time testing these out}. 

#6. I'm always going to be on the lookout for healthy, portable, and convenient snacks. To stay energized and satisfied throughout the day here are my go-tos {pregnant or not}:

Protein Bar
Chobani Simply 100
Cucumber Avocado Sandwich
PB Sandwich Thin
Mini peppers + 100 calorie guac cup
fresh fruit + nuts or nut butter 
#7. I am a to-do list person. I write down everything I need to do so I can check it off throughout the day. A journal was perfect for me to track my food and beverage intake {the few times that I actually did this} as well as make notes of special changes or feelings experienced throughout pregnancy. It was also a place where I could remember questions to ask the doctor at our next appointments. I've even carried this over to continue with notes on LEM's birth and growth.

So there you have it. My nutrition and non-nutrition-related pregnancy essentials to help you enjoy that chaotic, but beautiful time of life.


Friday, August 21, 2015

6 Recommenations for Gaining Weight

You must be thinking, "Gain weight? What? Who on Earth would want to do that." Yes, it's true though, not everyone on the planet wants to lose weight. There are the small fraction of people that actually want or need to gain weight. In fact, I have two of them in my family and one of them was, unfortunately, admitted into the hospital last week.

Part of LEM's namesake & Andrew's 97 year old grandmother is an adorable, sweet, and loving Southern lady and is one of those rare few who need to gain weight.

But Granny C is not alone. You may probably be surprised to hear that I actually work with a lot of individuals who need to put weight on. Typically someone in this case has always been "smaller" their whole life and has struggled gaining weight. Other cases may consist of healthy weight individuals who have a new diagnosis or change in their life that also happens to affect their appetite. No matter what the reason may be, weight gaining tips can be quite similar to weight loss tips {at least in some regards}.

Here are some of my recommendations for those that need to actually put on some pounds.

1. Eat smaller, more frequent meals and snacks a day.

This helps to boost and rev up our metabolism and provide more energy. Additionally, this is great for those that need to eat more because they won't feel that they are ever too full to eat. Smaller, more frequent eating meals they can eat less at one time - just more often.

2. Make sure to include protein with meals and snacks.

Protein is key here for preserving muscle mass for energy, strength, stability, etc. and can often get overlooked sometimes. The portion size doesn't have to be a lot, just an ounce or two to start will help.

3. Exercise, if possible.

Granny C probably can't do much exercise right now, but if someone you love can go for a walk, do some chair exercise, or even participate in physical therapy. It may seem counterintuitive since they'll be burning more calories and we want to preserve the weight and prevent weight loss, but these sorts of physical activities helps to stimulate their hunger levels.

4. Separate fluids from meals.

Having a glass of water before a meal fills up our stomachs to make us feel full sooner {therefore, we can eat less at our meal}. So if someone is trying to gain weight, it would make sense to use meals for calorie-dense items and save water for hydration in between these meals so the stomach is over burdened at one time.

5. Add liberal amounts of fat whenever and wherever you can.

Put simply, fats are very calorie dense. For you and me that means we need to be mindful of their portion size on everything from olive oil - butter - peanut butter - salad dressing - avocados. For them it means, it's a great way to add a lot of calories in a little quantity, which is perfect for their small stomachs and appetites.

This is probably the easiest way to add lots of calories without them having to eat more volume of things. It just involves adding butter/margarine/oil to anything {carbs like pasta, rice, bread, oatmeal, grits, but don't forget about veggies and even meats}! I will say, though, that there are definitely more healthier fats than others. So, if possible, it's best to load up on heart-healthy unsaturated fats that come from plants, like nuts, nut butters, olive oil, etc.

6. Let them eat what they want.

This goes for everyone, but we shouldn't be wasting our time and calories on things that we don't really enjoy. Same for those wanting to gain weight, if they like ice cream or cake, then let them eat cake! If they don't care for oatmeal, that's fine, something else can be substituted.

Smoothies are a great way, especially for the elderly, to get in some much-needed fluids along with high calorie nutrition. You can change out the flavors to make it more suited to the individual's taste {i.e. substitute with different fruits, or omit fruits altogether and use a chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry flavored protein powder for a homemade milkshake}.

Simple High Calorie Strawberry Banana Shake:

1 scoop protein powder or 6 ounces Greek yogurt {flavored if desired}
1 cup strawberries {or other fruit of choice}
1/2 banana
1/2 cup ice cream

Place all ingredients in a blend and puree until smooth and combined.
Happy Friday, y'all! Have a fabulous weekend!