It's Fall Ya'll

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It’s Fall Ya’ll

Time flies when you’re having fun? I think that’s how the saying goes. Or is it time is slow as molasses? Truth be told it’s been a little of both these past few weeks. Between the anticipation of Hurricane Irma, the clean-up post Irma, and then some family stuff going on, it’s been a little stressful these past few weeks. I know that all these things shall pass, but while in the moment it can feel a little overwhelming. I know for me it was all the build-up of the storm – a possible category 5 Hurricane hitting Miami – and to evacuate or not? The back and forth between family members. Yes, there was some stress.  While we were lucky here in Miami, Key West was hit more directly and Hurricane Irma was not even the cat 5 they were expecting. To say the Keys is quite devastated is an understatement. Then within the next week there’s word of Hurricane Maria – we do know here in Miami the possibility of hurricanes, it is hurricane season. But we haven’t had a direct hit since 2005. I don’t know that Miami would’ve been able to sustain a cat 5 – note to all the cities, keep up-to-date on cutting back your trees.

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Talk about some overgrowth of debris that shouldn’t have been. All these natural disasters in general can create stress. We’re having a few programs with Baptist Health South Florida this week, so check them out:

Sweat out the Stress

How to Talk to your Kids about Natural Disasters:

I’ll be going down on Thursday to Marathon, FL with a group from my team. This is an opportunity for the community down in the Keys to come and get information on various resources that are available to them. There will be a free lunch provided and truth be told, I’ll be there just to listen to people’s stories. It’s so important for people to be able to talk about what’s happened. Let it all out and release the stress. I’ve been wanting to get involved and give back to the community. To the first of many…

Resources For The Keys


NEWtrition Facts Labels

Last blog I wrote about the new nutrition label and talked specifically about the “Added Sugars” line Read about it here if you missed it. This time I’m showing you just a few things from the ingredient list that can be misconstrued or misinterpreted. It’s not as if there aren’t clues. You just need to read the fine print, it’s why the food companies have lawyers (duh!) Here are just a few tricks/marketing ploys to make foods sound healthier than they really are. Hence confusion and hence why I’m writing about it.

“Unlock Your Coffee’s Latte Potential” – Yeah, you read that right. To make a latte with just 6 oz. of coffee, you’d need a seventh of a can, which is about 9 tablespoons (not sure how you’re going to measure that seeing as you have to submerge the nozzle in the coffee). That equates to 120 calories, 6 grams of saturated fat, and 4 teaspoons of added sugar or more depending on how many tablespoons you really end up adding in. Last time I checked a latte was made with espresso and steamed milk. This One Touch “Latte” is made with creamer – sugar, coconut oil, gums, artificial flavors, etc. I’m all for quick and easy, but I know a certain company that makes an espresso machine that can give you the real thing in seconds. And it isn't this product.  Just saying.

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The complete cookie – I saw these the other day in a supposed health food store. The company boasts that their cookies have 16g of protein. So glad my cookie could provide me said protein. (I seriously hope no one is eating cookies to get their protein…oh wait, that’s why this product was created). They call their product “baked nutrition”. I call it adding protein (pea isolate, brown rice, and wheat gluten) but that doesn’t equate to nutritious cookies which is what they’re inferring. Each 4 oz cookie has 360 to 400 calories (their label only lists half, but that’s a half a cookie and we all know you’ll be eating the whole thing). These cookies are also baked with mostly white flour, sugar, and margarine. Pretty sure as a dietitian I wouldn’t call that “baked nutrition”.

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Spinach Flavor Wraps – they market their product as having “no artificial flavors” but they don’t market their product as having no spinach to speak of. Hmm. Oh wait, that wouldn’t sell. Not to mention people don’t like vegetables, so anything to make people think they’re eating vegetables and doing a good thing. Infuriating. There is some spinach powder added after the white flour and shortening but that’s just part of the other seasonings – garlic and onion powder. And to top it off they add blue and yellow dyes to make the wrap green. Here people are thinking they’re buying a green wrap for the spinach and all they’re getting are green-dyed wraps. Pretty sure someone’s trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Shame on you Mission.  Good thing I’m here to help.

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I've been on a recent kick of making chia jam.  I've made raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, and now blueberry.  I won't say which is my favorite, I'll leave that for you all to decide.  But it's the easiest homemade food item I make.  I understand it takes time to do, but the truth is you can control how much added sugar you add (or don't add) and that's the beauty of having things homemade, you have the control.  At least that's why I started the "all things homemade" kick awhile back.  When I made the strawberry chia jam the strawberries were SO sweet I didn't add any extra sugar (maple syrup in my case) because they didn't need it.  I used frozen blueberries this go around because berries are getting pricey at the store.  The frozen berries worked well (I doubted they'd work and thought they might be too mushy...but they worked perfectly!)  I'm not sure if the chia jam will look aesthetically pleasing using apples, but that'll be my next fruit to try.   Why the chia jam fix as of recent?  Let's just say that we're taking the butter off the toast and subbing the fat for the carbs due to some heart disease in this here family of ours.  I think the truth is in general you want to use moderate amounts of all foods.  But a certain family member of mine was found to be using WAY too much butter on his toast.  And due to recent occurrences we have switched from the butter to the jam for now.  Here's the simple recipe for easy chia jam with any fruit:

  • 2 cups fruit

  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste

  • 1-2 tablespoons sweetener or your choice (honey, agave, maple syrup)

  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds

Prepare the fruit as needed.  Remove stems, pits, seeds and skin as needed.  Chop large fruits into small pieces.  Berries can be left whole.

Transfer the fruit to a saucepan and set over medium heat.  Cook until the fruit breaks down and becomes syrupy, 5 to 10 minutes.  Mash the fruit with the back of a spatula or a potato masher, leaving it as smooth or as lumpy as you like. 

Off the heat, stir in 1 tablespoon of the sweetener of choice and lemon juice.  Taste and add more sweetener or lemon juice to taste.  Stir in the chia seeds. 

Let stand 5 minutes, until thickened. This won't quite reach the firm consistency of regular jam, but will noticeably thicken.  If you'd like a thicker consistency, especially with very juicy fruits, stir in more chia seeds, 1 teaspoon at a time.

Transfer to a jar or other storage container.  Store in the fridge for about 2 weeks.  The jam will thicken further and become more set once completely chilled.  The jam can also be frozen for up to 3 months.  And if you'd like to get rid of the visible chia seeds, puree the jam with a blender or with an immersion blender.  

Voilá. Easy chia jam with any fruit. No need to buy store bought jam anymore!

Voilá. Easy chia jam with any fruit. No need to buy store bought jam anymore!

Prior to the storm and then the week after, I wasn't able to cook as much as I would've liked.  But there were things like getting power back and cleaning up debris that took precedence.  All the stress from the storm actually made me not want to cook.  It surprised me.  But suffice it to say, I'm back!  Cooking up a storm (ha, see what I did there...too soon for a hurricane joke?  Quite possibly, but laughter helps relieve stress!) Since I've been back in the kitchen I've made two vegan desserts.  It always stirs up nutrition conversations with people - just because it's vegan doesn't mean it's healthy.  Truth.  I do try to experiment, not only to stay up on the latest trends but also to see how things taste.  Plant-based eating is on the rise.  The only thing I will say is that at times I don't like some of the replacement items - i.e. vegan butter, vegan cream cheese - and the reason why I don't like some of those items is because I often wonder if they're any better than an original product (with just one ingredient?)  I made a gluten-free vegan carrot cake for a co-worker's birthday last week: 

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It was definitely enjoyed by all - I loved making the "flax egg" and having a cake turn out without having any eggs - nutrition science nerd.  If I had had more time I was going to try to make a cashew version of the "buttercream" frosting.  It used only real ingredients, no processed cream cheese.  I had so much extra frosting leftover from the cake, I made vegan cupcakes today: 

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But I only made them because I wanted to make the maple caramel you see drizzled on top.  Currently it is 84° here in Miami, but it is fall ya'll.  Maple, pumpkin, and apple flavors here we come!  The cupcakes did not disappoint, but let's be real, cake is cake and desserts should be enjoyed in moderation - almost all are in my freezer (yes, cake products like bread freeze REALLY well).  It's just one way I can portion sweets out - and even though they're in the freezer I am able to manage and not overeat them (I've shared this before but I include sweets here and there in order to avoid the tendency of many people to overeat sweets because they avoid them).  Don't worry I made real food this week also.  I even created my first veggie quinoa patty - stay tuned for the recipe this week!  Have a great week!