A {Quick} Trip to Earth Fare

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Happy Tuesday, friends! I hope you all had a lovely weekend. In some ways I feel like I had an extended weekend due to being out from work on Monday for a few appointments with my husband in Birmingham. On the way home, we decided to stop by Earth Fare since our little town of Tuscaloosa doesn’t have one. We decided to go after a late lunch just so we wouldn’t compulsively shop based on our hunger level (very smart for us).

 

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What I really appreciate about this grocery store is the commitment to properly label “local” items. I’ve been on a “local” kick lately after working on a piece for a publication about restaurants in Tuscaloosa that use local vendors. I’m also a big fan of a grocery store that focuses on “wholesome” eating whether it’s avoiding artificial colors/flavorings or avoiding synthetic growth hormones.

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One of the things that I wish we had gotten but didn’t due to extreme fullness was the pasta. It all looked so delicious!!

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We did come away with a few goodies including beer and dessert. If it’s any redeeming factor, we opted to get one single beer to try and I just got individual macarons instead of a whole lovely dozen 🙂 The beer ended up being a little too strong in the coffee department but still tasty nonetheless.

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These are salted caramel, pistachio, and chocolate macarons. The long day of appointments warranted something sweet. Definitely #winning macaron

 

Do you love Earth Fare? If so, what are your favorite products? How about favorite grocery store? As far as every day groceries, we really love Publix, but that may be because it’s right by my house. However, if we had an Earth Fare down the street, I’d shop there every day. Let’s talk and let me know what you think 🙂


The Best Roasted Vegetables EVER | Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right During National Nutrition Month

Hello folks! And a happy Wednesday to all of you! Since the theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” I thought I’d share a delicious roasted vegetable recipe. If you Google “roasted vegetable recipes” and one of the first things that pops up is a link to a recipe called “The Best Roasted Vegetables Ever” then curiosity makes you want to find out if these are truly the best roasted vegetables ever 🙂 Today’s recipe is from The Wednesday Chef. I invite you to check out her blog; it has some pretty delicious looking goodies!

Happy veggies

Now I’m going to be honest. I love my vegetables, and I sure do love roasting them. But, I’ve got to come clear about why I hopped on the vegetable train last night. I get in the habit of calling my husband on the dot at 4 p.m. every day to get a game plan for dinner. Typically we decide if we’re doing leftovers, takeout, or one of us is cooking. After my husband told me we had the leftover pork and some deer meat he cooked last night, I knew that wouldn’t suffice for a well-rounded meal.
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There’s something about veggies that just makes me giddy. I really think it’s the variety of colors. I veered away from the original recipe just a bit with the addition of a small sweet potato. I love my beta-carotene, but I REALLY love a little bit of starch.IMG_1964I decided to use the beautiful dish my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas this year from Sur La Table. This picture doesn’t give this piece justice but let me just say, IN.LOVE.

IMG_1971Veggies are chopped up and ready for a mixing with herbs and olive oil.

IMG_1984Gorgeous, beautiful color!

IMG_2006And here’s a close up of the veggies post roast. DE.LISH,US!

And here’s the recipe!

Roasted Vegetables
The Wednesday Chef
Serves 6 as a side dish

1 medium onion
1 medium or 2 small carrots
1 zucchini
1 eggplant
2 small potatoes
5 small tomatoes
1 red or yellow pepper
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Dried herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary, wild fennel are all good choices – either individually or combined in some form)
4 to 5 tablespoons of olive oil, plus more to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (180 C). Quarter and slice the onion thinly. Dice all the vegetables into pieces that are approximately the same size (no larger than 1/2 inch). Pile the vegetables into a baking dish so that the vegetables lie a few inches thick. Season with salt, pepper and herbs to taste and then pour the olive oil over the vegetables. Mix thoroughly but gently – you don’t want to destroy the tomatoes before the dish goes into the oven. Now check the vegetables to make sure they are well-coated and glistening with oil. If need be, add more oil.

2. Put the dish in the oven and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Halfway through the cooking process, remove the dish from the oven and very gently stir the vegetables so that the ones at the bottom come to the top. Towards the end of the cooking process, stir a second time. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Check for seasoning and serve.

Now, if you’re a newbie at roasting vegetables and want to try other roasted veggie combinations, some of the best tips and tricks can be found from 100 Days of Real Food so please check it out!

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I'm Blogging National Nutrition Month


Taking Time with Meals and Snacks

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With the “spring forward” time change upon us, I thought I’d talk a little about timing. For some folks, timing and length of meals and snacks can make a difference in weight gain or weight loss.

Timing Your Meals

When it comes to the timing of our meals and snacks, avoid going longer than 4 hours without eating anything (ideally you want to try to eat about every 2 ½ to 3 hours). If you’re in a meeting or running errands during a meal time, make sure to at least have a snack (trail mix, peanut butter crackers, pretzels, etc.,)  to tie you over until you can get an actual meal. If you’re going out with the girls for dinner or any other meal, try to avoid being ravenously hungry when you get to the restaurant. To do this, have a snack such as a small peanut butter sandwich or an apple about 30 minutes to an hour before going out to eat. This snack will help curb your appetite so that you’re still hungry enough to enjoy your main entrée but you’re not so hungry that you mindlessly eat copious amounts of chips and salsa, bread and butter, or any other pre-entrée items that are usually served at restaurants.

Taking Time with Your Meals

Are you a quick eater?  Hectic schedules and society in general tend to make us eat quickly out of necessity. Unfortunately though, rapid eating leaves little opportunity for our body to provide us the sensation of fullness. It takes about 15-20 minutes for our brain and stomach to communicate that we’ve eaten something and give that full feeling. Often times, we end up eating so quickly, that within the first 5 minutes of eating, we’ve already eaten the volume of food it takes for our stomach to feel full BUT since the brain and stomach haven’t had time to communicate yet, we keep on eating and eating until about 20 minutes later we feel that “overfull” feeling (I call it gross full or that level of fullness that makes us want to unbutton our jeans or take off our Spanx) since our brain and stomach have finally caught up with us.

Slow down your pace of eating so that it takes you at least 15-20 minutes to eat your meal. One way to accomplish this is making sure to put down the fork in between every bite of food. Sometimes we end up eating so quickly and we end up already having the 4th bite of mashed potatoes ready to go on our fork before we’ve even completely swallowed our first initial bite!  Other ways you can slow your pace of eating include taking a sip of water (or other low calorie beverage) in between bites of food or even having conversation in between bites of food. Slowing down your pace of eating not only helps with getting full off of a smaller portion size but also allows you to take time to really enjoy and savor each bite of food.

And…..March is National Nutrition Month! This year’s theme is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.”  By timing our meals and taking time with our meals, we can really enjoy and savor how delicious and healthy food can be. I’ll be having more upcoming posts about National Nutrition Month, including my upcoming trip for the Alabama Dietetic Association annual meeting so stay tuned!!


I'm Blogging National Nutrition Month


My Health Reboot Portion Plates

Hello friends! My goodness it has been awhile since my last updates, and boy do I have a lot to catch up on!

This week our Alabama Obesity Task Force held its quarterly meeting in Clanton, AL. My colleague, Dr. Lauren Whitt, who directs the employee wellness efforts at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, shared a really cool product from MyHealthReboot.Com. This is a new company that Dr. Whitt has been involved with and just launched the page and their products a week or so ago. The first product they’ve launched is a children’s portion plate, based very similar to the Choose My Plate graphic. These neat little plates also come with a placemat and dry erase marker where kids and parents can color in and check off the food groups that are eaten throughout the day. What I love about the plate the most is the color schemes/designs that are currently available. Being a company based in Alabama, the company offers an elephant plate (The University of Alabama) and tiger plate (Auburn University) for the kiddos. They also offer a green apple plate that can appeal to all nutrition lovers.

Image My Health Reboot is also featuring a 2nd Helping program that will provide a plate to a child in poverty for every plate that is purchased on the website. I can’t wait to order one to check out in person and even consider for fun stocking stuffers this Christmas. If you end up trying this product with your child or clients, let me know what you think!


Oven Roasted Corn and Okra Salad

oven roasted corn and okra salad

Okay clearly I have been on an okra kick lately! I’m not sure what’s gotten into me, but ever since buying some okra a few weeks ago at the farmer’s market, I haven’t been able to stop myself from purchasing this amazing vegetable another time.  I am happy to say that this recipe was inspired by this recipe from Cook Up a Story Blog that I am so happy was shared in the comments to my Sauteed Okra with Heirloom Tomatoes and Bacon dish from a few weeks ago. I love both corn and okra so when it was suggested to me to try them together, I could not resist. The delicious flavor of the roasted okra was well paired with the contrasting sweetness of the corn that I roasted in the oven, off the cob. If I had to make this recipe again I’d likely use a little less okra (I bought 2 lbs and used all of it) so that I could roast the corn and the okra on the same cookie sheet.

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Ah take a look at this beautiful okra from the farmers market!!

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After I washed up the okra, I chopped it up, only omitting the heads and placed them on a cookie sheet.

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After coating the okra, I seasoned with freshly ground black pepper, ground sea salt, and a little sprinkle of some garlic powder. After seasoning, I put the okra in the oven pre-heated to 425 degrees then started to work on prepping my corn. I knew that I’d have to use a separate cookie sheet for the corn and from the recipes I saw on the internet, it looked like the corn wouldn’t need as much time to roast but would need an oven temperature adjustment (~475 degrees).

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Picked up this package of corn from Publix grocery in my city.

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I feel like I made a mess during this process but was still able to avoid not losing too many kernels. Next time I am going to plan to use this technique with a bundt pan.  🙂

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All 4 ears of corn with the kernels removed raw off the cob. I did the same light drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder as I did with the okra. About 8 minutes into the okra cooking I raised the oven temperature to about 475 degrees. At the 10 minute mark I added the corn in the bottom rack of the oven and roasted both the okra and corn for an additional 15 minutes with an additional 5 minutes at the end rotating the corn and okra to the top rack to broil on low for a little teeny extra browning 🙂

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Okra out of the oven!!

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After the veggies finished roasting, I added an additional drizzle of olive oil, some extra salt and pepper to taste, garlic powder (although I think that minced garlic would be really nice with this too) and a few shakes of red pepper flakes to give it some kick.

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We ended up pairing this concoction with some steaks off the grill. I apologize for the blurry picture; I honestly didn’t want my husband to catch me “again” taking pictures of my food before eating it….and I was pretty anxious to get to try all these yummy flavors in my mouth 🙂

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And without further ado, here is my recipe:

Oven Roasted Corn and Okra Salad

Ingredients
1-2 lbs okra, washed and chopped
4 medium ears corn
sea salt or kosher salt grinder
freshly ground black pepper
garlic powder (or minced garlic if available)
red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions
Begin by preheating oven to 425 degrees. Wash okra, chop into 1 inch or so sections, removing the “head” but leaving the tails. Place chopped okra on a cookie sheet, drizzle lightly with olive oil and using a brush or hands, make sure okra is lightly coated. Next add 1 tsp or so of sea salt or kosher salt followed by black pepper and garlic powder as desired. Place in oven and set timer for 10 minutes. While okra is cooking, wash raw corn and remove kernels from cob; place raw corn on a separate cookie sheet and oil and season in the same way the okra was prepared. At the 8 minute mark on the oven timer, increase your oven temperature to 475 degrees. When the timer goes off at ten minutes, add corn to your bottom rack of the oven and roast both okra and corn for an additional 15 minutes. If you’d like to get some additional browning on your okra or corn, alternate the vegetables to the top rack and broil on low for about 5 minutes total or as desired. After roasting and broiling is complete, add cooked vegetables to a mixing bowl and mix together, adding an additional drizzle of olive oil, sea salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder (or 1 tsp minced garlic) along with a few shakes of dried red pepper if you want it spicy. Serve warm.

There really is no specific way to make this dish and you may find yourself wanting to experiment with the oven temperatures a bit. The next time I try this recipe I will likely heat the oven to 475 from the get go and also use a tiny bit less olive oil on my okra to yield a slightly crispier texture. If you try out this recipe, please let me know how you like it and if you had some additions so that I know some things to try next time!! 🙂


Sundried Tomato Pesto Pasta with Chicken

sundried tomato pesto pasta

Hi folks! I do believe it’s been awhile since my last post- my husband and I did some traveling to a wedding in Virginia and also visited DC for a quick trip which I will be sharing soon. However today I wanted to highlight a delicious recipe I made for me and the hubs this past weekend. I currently follow the Food Network’s facebook page and saw that they had shared Giada’s recipe for pasta with homemade sun-dried tomato pesto. I decided to make it while also adding some meat to be more appealing to my husband 🙂

As you can see, I went with the Barilla plus penne pasta (as I used before with my balsamic basil summer pasta recipe)… it was on sale again this week at my grocery store and since I enjoy the texture and added protein and fiber, why not? 🙂 You may also note that I didn’t have any freshly grated Parmesan but instead using some leftovers in our fridge by Sargento.

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As far as protein goes, I went with chicken breast cutlets, though I think that chicken sausage or similar would be just as delicious.  I added sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and garlic powder to each side of the chicken and then brushed the tops with olive oil to seal in the moisture while roasting. I had 1 lb of chicken breast cutlets roasting at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes.

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While my chicken was roasting and my pasta was cooking according to package directions, I started to create the pesto. I added the whole jar of sundried tomatoes, including the olive oil it was packed in.

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Next I thoroughly washed the 2 packs of basil I bought- at first I only washed enough for the “1 cup packed” that the original recipe called for but then went with using both packages.

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Add your basil, garlic, and salt & pepper to food processor and give it a go!

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It doesn’t look like it yields very much to go over the pasta but I had to remind myself that I would also be using the 1 cup reserved pasta water to moisten the mix (in the end, I ended up using about 1/2-3/4 cup of the reserved pasta water for this dish)

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Mix in your pasta as well as some of the reserved pasta water to your liking.

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Along with the Parmesan cheese, I added some additional sea salt and black pepper to taste…I also chopped up the cooked chicken (I used kitchen shears) and mixed it in as well.

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I forgot to take a picture after this, but I decided to sprinkle about 1/4 cup of additional Parmesan cheese on top and baked this in the oven (at 375 degrees since my oven was still set there from the chicken) for about 20 minutes prior to eating with my hubs 🙂

I really hope you like this recipe— looking back in hindsight, I wish I had added more garlic but overall I really liked this dish. I think I ended up using a good bit of the pasta water since I knew in the back of my head that I would be sticking this in the oven and did not want the pasta to dry out. I like the fact that this isn’t an abundantly sauced pasta and it provides a lot of great flavor. My husband said it was so filling and flavorful without feeling overly rich or heavy— I will consider that a win! 🙂

RECIPE

Giada De Laurentiis’ Penne with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Recipe (with a few additions from Sheena :))

Ingredients
12 ounces penne pasta
1 (8.5-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
Garlic powder
2 garlic cloves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb chicken breast cutlets (or any other meat that you would like to add)

Directions
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. While pasta is cooking, prepare chicken breast cutlets by adding to lightly greased cookie sheet— sprinkle chicken on each side with sea salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Brush tops of chicken with olive oil prior to roasting in oven at 375 for about 15 minutes or until reaching an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Meanwhile, blend the sun-dried tomatoes and their oil, garlic, salt and pepper, to taste, and basil in a food processor and blend until the tomatoes are finely chopped. Transfer the tomato mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the Parmesan. Add the pasta to the pesto and toss to coat, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Cut cooked chicken into bite sized pieces and add to pasta mixture. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt, black pepper, and red pepper. If desired, sprinkle about 1/4 cup shredded/grated Parmesan on top and bake in oven f0r 20 minutes at 375 degrees.


4th of July Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

Hi friends! Today I wanted to share a few quick tips to help you keep up healthy habits during the 4th of July holiday. Cookouts are infamous for copious amounts of red meat, alcohol, and high calorie side items; luckily though, cookouts also provide great opportunity for enjoying fresh veggies and fruit, especially on a hot day!

  • Do NOT show up to the get together famished.  Though “saving up your calories for the big meal” sounds like a great idea, it can do more harm than good by setting you up to eat overly large portions.If your cookout or gathering is at lunch, make sure to have breakfast beforehand….if it’s in the evening, have a light breakfast and lunch- you get the idea 🙂 Having a snack 30 minutes to an hour before eating can help avoid eating “with your eyes” and let you take your time to enjoy the foods that you really want to eat.
  • Eat slowly…take at least 15-20 minutes to consume your meal. It takes about 15-20 minutes for our brain and stomach to communicate that we’ve eaten something and give that full feeling. Often times, we end up eating so quickly, that within the first 5 minutes of eating, we’ve already eaten the volume of food it takes for our stomach to feel full BUT since the brain and stomach haven’t had time to communicate yet, we keep on eating and eating until about 20 minutes later we feel that “overfull” feeling (I call it gross full or that level of fullness that makes us want to unbutton our jeans or take off our Spanx). Putting the fork down in between every bite of food or taking a sip of a low calorie beverage between bites can help you pace your eating.
  • Build your plate using the plate planner method: 1/2 of your plate as veggies, 1/4 of your plate with starch, and 1/4 of your plate with protein (try also using a smaller plate if available). Often times we make about 3/4 of our plate something starchy like mac n cheese and potato salad with a hunk of meat on the side and no veggies in sight. Making a plate that has non-starchy vegetables as the star can help you feel full (from the water and fiber content of the veggies) without excessive calorie intake. This brings me to my next point…
  • Eat the ‘healthiest foods’ first. Having those veggies full of water and fiber can help slow digestion and provide that feeling of fullness. Additionally, having something that contains protein and some fat (maybe in the form of olive oil in a salad dressing) can help you feel full sooner.
  • Make sure to drink ample amounts of water throughout the day. If your cookout is outside, chances are you may get dehydrated more quickly outside due to the heat. If your “non-water” beverages contain alcohol or caffeine, these can also exacerbate the need for water due to their natural diuretic effects. If you need to be more convinced on the need to hydrate in the heat or strategies for naturally flavoring your water, check this out. Also, if you’re wanting to be mindful of calories from alcohol, be sure to look at my previous article comparing calories from different types of alcoholic beverages.
  • Be mindful of foods that do not provide fullness. Potato chips, crackers, and other types of refined carbohydrates can pack on unnecessary calories without providing a sensation of fullness. This can lead to mindless eating of these munchies. Instead, choose items that have a high water and fiber content, like a salad or some fresh fruit. If you want something salty, having an item with protein such as peanut butter, nuts, or hummus can be a nice option.
  • Try to be active during the day. Sure after eating a big plate of food, we totally want to crash on the couch. Instead, think about going for a family/friends walk in the afternoon or playing a game of flag football. These activities can keep you from being sedentary during the day and also allow you to socialize with your friends and family you’ve been wanting to spend time with 🙂

I hope you find these quick tips helpful 🙂 Please feel free to share your own strategies when it comes to holiday eating. And for those of you doing some traveling for this summer holiday, please check out a post from my fabulous RD friend, Cindy at Newlywed Nutrition— she has some great tips for eating healthy on the road including the best choices at gas stations as well as how to pack snacks for your car.

Happy 4th of July, friends!


Counting Calories in Your Alcohol


Happy Friday folks! With summer in full swing and 4th of July holiday cookouts just around the corner for many of us, I wanted to share a quick post concerning calories in alcoholic beverages. With many of my patients, calories from alcoholic beverages tend to be an afterthought when it comes to accounting to daily calorie consumption. However, I’ve also got a few folks who account for their calories from alcohol so much that they skip meals and snacks so they have enough calories allotted for weekend drinking. This is something we should definitely avoid doing. The way to find a nice balance is making sure you eat routinely throughout the day and be mindful & aware of your liquid calories so you can plan your drinks accordingly. Below I’ve listed a few quick tips (this list could go on forever) to keep in mind while when drinking, especially if you’re outside on a hot day:

  • Avoid Drinking on an Empty Stomach– in fact, make sure you have a meal or snack with a nice mix of carb, protein, and fat (maybe some delicious cheese and crackers) to help slow down the absorption of alcohol and avoid getting sick
  • Stay Hydrated in Between Alcohol Drinks– this is going to be really important on a hot day, especially as the alcohol will serve as a diuretic, making you even more dehydrated. If you’re going for a mixed drink that includes both alcohol and a carbonated, caffeinated beverage, water intake is going to be even more important, so drink up on the H2O and water containing foods such as delicious watermelon
  • Watch What You’re Munching On While Drinking– ever notice that at some bars they put out salty snacks like peanuts or Chex mix? Salty snacky foods like this promote us to drink more as a way to combat or even complement the salty goodness we’re eating so make sure you watch any “mindless” eating that may occur while drinking that can attribute to unnecessary calorie consumption
  • Have a Designated Driver– I know this doesn’t have anything to do with nutrition per se, but I care about your safety and had to include this quick PSA

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I wanted to share a few beautiful and HELPFUL graphics from Wine Folly which is a GREAT website for all of you wine loving enthusiasts!

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But what if you’re a beer person? They’ve got you covered!

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If you’re wanting to go with a “lighter” choice in alcoholic beverage, the folks at 213 Pounds to Happiness share their favorite lighter alcoholic beverages.

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For a complete listing of calorie content in some of your beverages of choice, including liquors that may not be addressed above, please visit CalorieKing.Com which I enjoy recommended to my patients often. I like to consider a “one stop shop” in terms of looking for the nutrition information on various food items, including commercial restaurant dishes. This tool can be especially helpful when looking up calories in beverages…especially alcohol!

Last but not least…please drink responsibly, friends! This includes but is not limited to drinking and driving, drinking while pregnant, and drinking in excess. Okay, that was my last PSA 🙂 Happy Friday folks!


Balsamic Basil Summer Pasta Salad

balsamic basil summer pasta salad

Today I’m going to share a recipe of one of my most favorite pasta salads. I originally got this recipe from a close family friend after she brought it to my parents’ house for a family get together.  If I’m ever tasked with bringing something to a potluck, especially on short notice, this is my go-to item. Any of my friends, family, or co-workers that have been to a potluck function with me have likely tasted this at some point in time. Some of the things I love most about this salad is how well the basil enhances the taste of the pasta along with the sweet and salty tones of grape tomatoes, feta cheese, and olives. Overall however, I really like how this dish is so quick and easy to make!  P.S. this would be totally great dish to bring to an upcoming 4th of July get together 😉 😉 😉

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When I headed to Publix to pick up the ingredients, I spent a good bit of time trying to decide which pasta to pick up. I noticed that Dreamfields pasta that boasts 5 grams digestible carbs/serving (still very questionable on this) had a penne rigate, but since I had tried their pasta before with some sundried tomato chicken sausage, I figured I’d go with something else.

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I noticed the Barilla Plus pasta had a decent bit of protein per serving but not necessarily as much fiber. Though the Dreamfields contained less sodium as well, I found myself going with the Barilla, since I was accounting for cost as well 🙂

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$1.19 vs. $3.79 per box sounded like a great deal to me!  The Barilla also had about an ounce more in the box compared to Dreamfields.

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Getting all my ingredients together: fresh spinach (on sale!), Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette (sale!), Barilla pasta, fresh basil, 1 container grape tomatoes, slided olives, and crumbled feta cheese (yuuummmm)

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You want to start by cooking your pasta per package directions— I always like my pasta al dente.

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While your pasta is on the stove, start prepping your other ingredients. Wash your grape tomatoes thoroughly, slice length-wise and set aside.

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Next you’ll want to grab your basil- wash it down and dry thoroughly with a paper towel. I like to get the basil leaves, put them in a little stack and roll them up for quick cut as you see below. Fancy folks like to call this technique, chiffonade.

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You can place your chopped up basil in the same bowl as your tomatoes.

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You’ll do the same chiffonade technique with the spinach. I personally like to remove the stems from the spinach leaves. I bought a 9oz bag and ended up using about 1/3-1/2 of the bag. It’s more so personal preference as to how much spinach you want in there. You are also more than welcome to add more than one package of basil, or enhance the flavor by adding dried basil in addition to the fresh that has been chopped up. I used a good bit of spinach simply because I wanted me and my husband to get a good serving of veggies from this dish 🙂

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Once your pasta is done cooking, drain and let cool.

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I only waited about five minutes before I decided to proceed with the pasta. You’ll put your pasta in a large bowl (you want something big enough so that you get mix up the ingredients pretty well) and add your balsamic vinaigrette…I only use about 1/2 of the bottle so that the other 1/2 can be saved to add to the pasta the next day if needed. Don’t worry about seeing some of the dressing towards the bottom of the bowl or the pasta not appearing to absorb it; once you add your other ingredients, everything tends to mix pretty well.

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Next you’ll add your feta cheese— you can use plain crumbled feta cheese but sometimes i like going with the flavored ones like basil and tomato. I bought two 4 oz cartons and ended up using about 1 1/2 cartons. Again, it depends on your preference for how much cheese you want in there. Letting your pasta cool down can also be helpful in preventing the feta from getting “mushy” in your pasta. *I should have waited for my pasta to cool a little bit longer. Oh well, c’est la vie.

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Next you’ll add your bowl of chopped of veggie/herb goodies and mix well.

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Drain your olives and add those in too.

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I decided to do a little bit of fresh ground black pepper and mixed again

So there you have it! I used Newmans Own Balsamic Vinaigrette simply because that’s what the original recipe that was given to me called for. I’ve used the Publix brand tangy balsamic before and was really just not a fan. If you have a personal favorite balsamic or like to get fancy and make your own (I wasn’t feeling too motivated when I made this dish to get fancy with it) then I’m sure that would be super delicious too! I primarily made this dish this past week per my husband’s request… he told me he noticed that I don’t make a lot of the things I used to whenever I was “pursuing him”/dating him, which included this pasta salad…hahaha. I”ve included the recipe below for your use. If you make it, please let me know how you like it or anything you did to enhance it. I’m always looking for tips 😀

Balsamic Basil Summer Pasta Salad

Ingredients
1- 14 oz box penne pasta (or whichever you prefer)
1 package fresh basil 2/3-1 oz)
4 oz fresh spinach (I bought a 9 oz bag from the grocery store and used about 1/3-1/2 the bag)
4-6 oz crumbled feta
1 small can black olives
16 oz bottle Newmans Own Balsamic Vinaigrette (or any other brand you like)
1 container grape tomatoes
ground black pepper, to taste

Directions
Cook pasta per package directions, drain and set aside. While pasta is cooking, prepare other ingredients: slice grape tomatoes length-wise and set aside, chiffonade entire package of basil and about 4 oz of spinach (or as much as you’d like), set aside with tomatoes. In a large mixing bowl, add pasta and about 6-8 oz vinaigrette. Next add feta cheese, mix, then add remaining ingredients and mix well.

The pasta usually tastes best after chilling in the fridge overnight so the flavors can meld. The leftover dressing can be mixed in just prior to serving  as needed.


Hydrating in the Heat

It’s hot, y’all…or at least it is here in my neck of the woods in Alabama. With this heat though, I wanted to write up a quick post encouraging us on the importance of staying hydrated throughout the summer. If you’re physically active in the heat, it’s even more important to be mindful of hydrating yourself properly. Outside temperature raises our core body temperature so just think how much more our body temp is raised when we’re exercising in the heat! I’ve mentioned on here before that sometimes our body will mimic the feeling of hunger to prompt us to drink more water. Waiting until you have the classic dry lips and parched mouth before drinking anything is waiting way too long.

Here are some common signs of dehydration:

  • nausea (ick!)
  • dark-colored urine or infrequent urination (you want your urine to be a light lemonade color vs. dark yellow…please note that some supplements/vitamins will discolor urine to a funky color)
  • constipation (if you’re trying to kick up your fiber intake for any reason, make sure you up your fluid intake as well or you’ll be doing more harm than good!)
  • dry lips, mouth, and skin
  • increased body temperature or hard breathing
  • headaches
  • apathy

It’s easy to sweat off a couple pounds during exercise in the heat. As appealing as this sounds in terms of quick weight loss, think about weighing yourself before and after workouts to determine how much sweat/fluid loss occurred. You’ll want to make sure you drink about 2 1/2 cups water for every pound of weight loss during exercise.

BUT WHY DOES OUR BODY NEED WATER?!

  • removes waste from our body
  • keeps stools softer (yay!)
  • improves/enhances mental function
  • carries nutrients, oxygen, and glucose to the cells giving you energy
  • helps strengthen muscles

If you’re struggling to make sure you’re getting enough fluids throughout the day, buy yourself a cute and fun water bottle as a way to have water as a convenient beverage choice. This may sound silly, but also using a smart phone device with an alarm/calendar to remind you of various points in the day to have your water (it sounds silly but we use our phone for everything else, why not use it as a way to get into a hydration habit?) can be helpful as well. A lot of my patients aren’t crazy about plain water and also want to avoid artificial sweeteners from products such as Crystal Light, Mio, etc. If that’s you, try naturally flavoring your water with slices of your favorite fruit(s) to steep in a cold iced picture of water throughout the day (think about when you go to the spa and you see the containers of water infused with slices of lemon and lime). One of my favorite “odd” combinations is letting a pitcher of water steep with slices of strawberry and mint leaves. Freezing cubes of 100% fruit juice to use to ice down your water can be a great way to get fruit flavor in your water bottle as well.

If you already drink a good bit of water but want to make sure you’re staying well hydrated in this heat, incorporating fluid rich foods can be a helpful way to maintain hydration. Having fresh fruit such as watermelon and citrus fruits with a high water concentration can be a nice hydrating treat during the summer. Salads with wonderful refreshing crisp lettuce and water-rich broccoli can also enhance your hydration. Dairy products such as yogurts and milk have a high fluid content (85-89% water) that can provide a super tasty way to stay hydrated as well! 🙂

*Avoid beverages with high concentrations of sugar, alcohol, or caffeine as these will counteract your hydrating efforts due to their diuretic properties!

Below I’ve included a very short clip encouraging folks to include water-rich foods in their diet to stay hydrated this summer.

What’s your favorite way to stay hydrated in the summer? Any tips for flavoring your own water at home or keeping yourself on task with drinking fluids?