A Thanksgiving to Remember

If you’re coming into this week with slightly tighter fitting pants, I hope your hearts are at least a little bit fuller as well. This past week Philip and I packed up and headed to Iowa to spend a few quality days with my family; I left feeling thankful and blessed for be a part of such a wonderful, loving family.

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Even though we were only there for about three days, we were able to fit in a lot of fun! I may be biased, but my niece (who is turning 5 this week) and my nephew (who’s 2) may be some of the cutest kids ever. They thought of all kinds of games for Uncle Philip and Aunt Kara to play and it was so much fun. From games to books to tea parties to running around, we certainly were not left “bored” for long. :)

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A Guiltless Holiday: Here is How to Do it

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For some, the holiday frenzy has already started. For others, it all begins this week. The five-plus weeks of holiday indulgence from holiday parties, family dinners, and the continuous smorgasbord of sweets in the office has officially hit. Stress, social eating, and schedule overload can be the perfect storm for overeating.

Most of us start the season with good intentions, thinking to ourselves that this year will be different. But as we see another plate of those Oreo truffles being passed around, our willpower collapses and the temptation can no longer be resisted. I know, I’ve tried doing that before in the past, too.

The good news is – you don’t have to resist! As a registered dietitian, I give you full permission to have that Oreo truffle, pumpkin pie, or Grandma’s fudge without the guilt or remorse. Finding a balance between restrictions and overeating, such as allowing yourself a treat once in a while, may actually be what you need to keep the weight off this holiday season and throughout the New Year.

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Smoked Sausage with Kale & Quinoa Skillet

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We’re just a little over a week and a half away from Thanksgiving and I’m this excited about it! My brother and his family are flying in to Iowa for the week (whom we haven’t seen since April (!!)), so we’re making the most out of the trip and having a Thanksgiving/Christmas/Birthday celebration jammed into a short 3 days while we’re at my parents’ house. I literally can’t wait.

Since we’re doubling the weekend with Thanksgiving and Christmas (Thanksmas?), Philip’s and my annual candy making has commensed so my side of the family doesn’t miss out on some of our favorites. :) This past weekend Philip and I took advantage of our free weekend and broke out our Hoerr Family Confectionary tub to get started for the year. It’s been so much fun making new traditions with each other and this one is definitely one of our tastiest traditions. ;) The day went even more smoothly since we had success making caramels on our first try this year…this for sure put a better mood on the day. :)

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While the desserts are fun to make (and eat!), I also love the food that actually goes on the table for the Thanksgiving meal. Last year Philip and I hosted Thanksgiving and had a great time prepping everything, but this year we just get to enjoy our time with family, help where needed, and bring a side dish (and only because I couldn’t let the holiday slip by without making something).

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I have a few ideas on what to bring as a side, but haven’t narrowed it down completely yet. If you’re in a similar situation and are trying to think of some meal ideas for next week when you need a festive and seasonal, yet quick, meal to pull together when family is around, this Smoked Sausage with Kale & Quinoa Skillet has you covered. This skillet is hearty enough to be a main entrée, but you could even make it into a side dish to accompany the turkey for something a little different.

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Butternut Squash Gnocchi

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Happy Halloween, everyone! How is it already the end of October?! I mean, seriously, how did that happen. Halloween means tomorrow is November (November!), Daylight Saving Time starts soon, and all stores will be decorated for Christmas by tomorrow. While everything seems to be flying by a little too quickly, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for the holiday season that’s upon us.

Philip and I don’t have costumes this year, but we do have our candy ready to hand out to the cute trick-or-treaters. I wrote a post last year about why I hand out candy, but this year I’m also supporting the Teal Pumpkin Project by having a few non-food treats set aside for any kiddo who have food allergies or intolerances and can’t enjoy the candy. I think this is a great way to include everybody in the fun and even Philip admits, my non-food treats are pretty awesome. ;)

While I love handing out candy for Halloween, I do think there should be some limit to how much candy the kids enjoy at one time once they get home. I’m sure most families have a rhythm down for what works for them and their kids, but I loved this idea from Sally, a dietitian and mom who blogs over at Real Mom Nutrition, about the Switch Witch. I’ve heard about this witch a couple times this year now and I think it’s a great and fun way to let kids have the candy they want, but then switch out the rest of the candy for a toy or other prize that the witch leaves overnight. It’s definitely an idea I’m keeping in my back pocket for whenever we get to that stage.

But for now, I stashed away a couple Snickers Peanut Butter Squares for myself (re: all of the Squares that were in the variety pack. :) I knew sampling one was a bad idea…) and made up a batch of this delectable and appropriately fall Butternut Squash Gnocchi to enjoy after the trick-or-treaters have had their fill. Like I always say, it’s about finding the balance. ;)

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Chipotle Turkey-Apple Chili

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Have you ever been so excited to go to a new and different place but, while absolutely loving the excitement of it all for the first bit, after a while you start to realize how much you miss home and all the things you loved about it? That’s kind of how I’m feeling about the change in seasons. While I’m so excited for fall with the cooler temperatures, sweatshirts and leggings all day-everyday, and all the fall foods, a part of me is longing for those long summer days, easy shorts and a t-shirt, and warm weather. I mean, summer was just here! And now…it’s not. :(

Perhaps the dreary weather has me feeling wistful, but one thing that has reminded me again just how wonderful fall can be is this Chipotle Turkey-Apple Chili. Your classic chili can sometimes seem more fitting for a cold, winter evening, whereas this turkey-apple chili could not be more appropriate for fall. I’m coming at you with yet another apple recipe this week! This was another of the many recipes I made using the apples Philip and I picked a couple weeks ago.

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Spiral Cinnamon Apple Bread with Caramel Glaze

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Ever wonder what a dietitian does on her day off? Personally, speaking for myself only here, she spends almost the entire day in the kitchen balancing between making healthy apple carrot cinnamon muffins (which are just as much delicious as they are healthy) and this over-the-top dessert bread: Spiral Cinnamon Apple Bread with Caramel Glaze. I mean, how can you not look at that beaut and not want some of it?

This weekend Philip and I had a completely free weekend. No work. No being on-call. No home projects to complete. And we intentionally didn’t plan any activities. It was so perfect in every way. Just imagine: Windows open, candle burning, music playing, and me dancing about the kitchen, swiftly moving from one thing to the next as our kitchen begins to smell as good as the candle burning.

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Kitchen Updates: Round Two (We Painted Our Cabinets!)

Man, it sure feels good to be back! Hi, all! It’s been a hot minute since I last dropped in…actually, after looking back, it’s been about a month (!), which I’m not really sure how time flew past that quickly. I didn’t fully intend to leave you hanging for that long, but we’ve been doing lots of fun things (successfully fulfilling my year of fun) and also have been extremely busy (as you may have guessed from the title of this post)!

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With fall here and routines and schedules back in place, I may try to get to posting more regularly around here. Although, it certainly has been feeling a lot like summer this past weekend. I don’t know how to react. I’m sitting outside as I type this in shorts and a t-shirt, however, inside I have a pumpkin spice candle going and a basket of freshly picked apples on the counter…I’m still clinging on to summer, yet am so ready for all things fall at the same time.

Anyway, let me fill you in on our fun summer adventures before getting to what I’m most excited to share…because these kitchen cabinets were a labor of love! Emphasis on the labor part of that sentence. :)  (continue reading…)

Pesto & Chicken Sandwich Melt with Homemade Basil Pesto

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Hello again, everyone! I’m coming into the work week with a little extra summer glow (re: burn) on my face, a very satisfied stomach, and the feeling that I have officially experienced summer. If you follow me on Instagram, then you may have seen that this weekend Philip and I made a trip to Iowa to experience the Iowa State Fair. It was a picture perfect day for the fair—mid 80s, sun shining, slight breeze, and absolutely no humidity. It was like we were meant to be at the fair that day. It was warm enough to want the delicious nitro ice cream there (think extra smooth ice cream that’s frozen quickly with nitrogen), but not so hot where our appetites left us…we definitely had our appetites! :)

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The Good, Bad & Ugly About GMOs

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been a popular topic of debate in the news for several years now, but just this year, it’s seen more attention in the media and has been gaining momentum.

First it started with Vermont, who was the first state to pass a law requiring all products containing GMOs to be labeled, beginning in July of 2016.

But then, just last week, President Obama signed a bill that requires all states to have a label of some kind on foods that have been genetically modified, overturning the Vermont’s law, in a way to prevent each state from have a piece-meal of different labeling laws.

Of course, this was a bill of heated debate. While some argue this unnecessarily creates a fear in the consumer and will increase food costs, others believe consumers have the right to know what’s in their food.

I think it’s safe to say nobody knows the answer. Like anything debatable, there are pros and cons. But it’s also safe to say that it’s a term few actually understand. Consumers have gained a vague fear of GMOs without even knowing why, simply because of what they’ve heard through the media and opinionated sources.

We do have a right to know what’s in our food, but it’s also important to have a good understanding of what that label means in order to form our own opinions.

Genetic modification is a process of taking genes from plants, animals, insects, or bacterium and transferring them into another species for a desired outcome. Rather than breeding plants or animals the traditional way, which took years, the discovery of genetically modifying organisms made it much faster to get the desired result.

GMOs made their first appearance in the mid-1990s as a way to do good – when researchers found a way to genetically modify rice to resist the floods in Eastern India. Rather than losing acres of crops, the modified rice survived the harsh conditions and was able to provide food for millions.

Several more possibilities have been developed since, such as Gold Rice, which produces a precursor to vitamin A to help prevent blindness in developing countries.

Since becoming commercially available in 1996, GMOs have taken over much of our food supply with about 90 percent of the corn and soybeans produced in the U.S. being genetically modified. Over half of the sugar produced in the U.S. is genetically modified and 80 percent of processed foods have ingredients made from GMOs. However, very few of the whole foods we eat are genetically modified.

There are as many studies stating that engineered foods are safe to consume as there are studies that say they’re not.

Most of the GM crops in the United States either have been modified to resist herbicides (meaning farmers can spray fields without killing their crop) or have been modified to resist plant-hungry insects by naturally producing an insecticide.

On the plus side, the resistance to herbicides has helped farmers skip the need for tilling their soil, which prevents erosion and helps maintain the nutrients in the soil. With naturally occurring insecticide, crops have less dependency on the sprayed pesticides, which can be toxic to us.

All good things don’t come without their cons, though. Due to the herbicide-resistant crops, more herbicide is being applied, most of which is glyphosate, the main ingredient found in Roundup. Glyphosate, an antibiotic, can hinder our healthy microbiome in our gut and may be a carcinogen for humans.

On top of that, with 20 years of herbicide use and insect-resistance plants, we’re now dealing with herbicide resistant weeds and insects resistant to the GM crops, meaning stronger herbicides and pesticides are being applied to crops.

The struggle is real, and it lies mostly in the gray area. How can we help the most poverty-stricken people – who most need this technology in order to prevent blindness or to stay in business – while on the other hand, realize that the direct benefit to the consumer isn’t as well defined when most of the crops in the U.S. are genetically modified corn and soybeans.

Genetically modified organisms, while developed over 20 years ago, are still in their infancy in research standards. Long-term studies still need to be conducted and more knowledge needs to be gained. For now, the debate continues…

The New & Improved Nutrition Facts Label

It seems like every time I turn around, there’s a new discovery being made in the field of nutrition, new research being conducted, or a new dietary recommendation out that needs to be followed.

I love that I’m in a field that’s constantly evolving, growing, and changing. But there’s one area that hasn’t changed for over 20 years and has been, not surprisingly, falling behind – the Nutrition Facts Label. Of the many nutrition-related questions I get asked, the Nutrition Facts Label is at the top.

It’s the label that adorns every packaged food item, informing you of everything from the serving size and calories to the percentage of vitamin A found in your bag of potato chips. It can be a confusing label to try to follow with all the numbers and percentages filling up such a small space.

Yet, with all the information you can gather from the label, it still seems to be missing some valuable information.

It’s been a long time coming for the Nutrition Facts label to get a major overhaul. This may be the reason why professionals in the nutrition field gave cheers of delight – myself included – when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in late May that a new look was going to be coming for the label in as little as two years.

Better yet, the changes are ones I completely agree with and believe will help consumers make easier, more nutritious decisions when comparing foods.

So, what changes will be being to see on the label? Here are the major changes and how they’ll affect you and me.

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On the left, is the current Nutrition Facts Label. What the revised label will look like is on the right. Source: http://www.fda.gov

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