Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Recap: FNCE 2013

Last week was the Academy's Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo in Houston. I have never been to Texas before and was thrilled to enter the land of cowboys and rodeos... or at least that's what I had in mind. My flight to Houston was smooth sailing. Nobody sat next to me so, I picked up my feet and slept for 4 hours straight. Houston, we do not have a problem.

After I dropped off my bags at the hotel, I met up with my friends and mentors, Sharon Palmer and McKenzie Hall for a tapas lunch at Batanga.  I haven't seen these two since my California dream ended early September. Our times together are always filled with undeniably good food and laughs. We shared the chickpea puree (aka hummus) with flatbread, yucca fries which came with a very interesting banana ketchup, and a kale salad. This was just what I needed for a pre-conference meal.

And we were off to the convention center...

McKenzie and I were hired by the Tomato Products Wellness Council to work at their booth in the expo hall. The booth was looking fierce! Everything was tomato red, including a beautiful Coach purse that was the grand raffle prize. It was an amazing opportunity to work for Roger, the main man behind Tomato Wellness. On Sunday night, he hosted a classy tomato cocktail hour filled with bar bites and elaborate wine tastings. While at the booth, I met more dietitians than I ever expected to before arriving to FNCE. Whether it was a quick, "Hello," or a "Nice to meet you," I was on cloud-9! Keri Gans, David Grotto, Bridget Swinney, and Corinne Dobbas were just some of the dietitians I had the pleasure of meeting. I think my face in the picture below just screams, "A young dietitian's dream come true!"

David Grotto & Me.

When I wasn't at the tomato booth, I was wandering around the convention center halls. More tables of dietitians, books, and products lined the aisles. There was so much to soak in I had to keep a notebook and a camera on me at all times. This is when I ran into the fabulous, Robin Plotkin. I had been anticipating this moment since the time I stepped foot into the conference. I have been an intern for Robinsbite since May and have never met the woman! Since she is located in Texas and I am in New York so, our conversations consist of a lot of video chats and conference calls. Once we spotted eachother, in person, it was as if we had already met years ago. She gave me the biggest bear hug I will never forget! Robin was accompanied by the lovely Regan Jones and Holly Grainger, both two dietitians I look up to as a student in dietetics.

Chef Ryan Perra at The Grove Restaurant.

The rest of the conference included networking events, dinners, and lots of wine. These were great opportunities to not just say, "hello," but carry out an actual conversation with some experts in the field. At the Oldways reception, they announced the new Vegetarian and Vegan Diet Pyramid with the help of their nutrition consultant, Sharon Palmer. Later, at Ashley Koff's Allergen reception, dietitians were encouraged to speak up in an open ended conversation to fight the good fight and discuss solutions to food allergies and intolerances. I have to send a special shout out to Ashley for the amazing swag bag that was filled with yummy goodies.

After attending FNCE 2013, this RD-to-be is feeling motivated, inspired, and ready to take action! After spending hours upon hours in class, this was the perfect reminder of why this career choice was indeed the right one. There is so much to look forward to as I graduate this December.

{With a lot to celebrate - McKenzie and I finished off strong with sangria & dessert}

Monday, October 28, 2013

Perfectly Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I was so excited to buy my first pumpkin of the season. There are a million and one things you can do with pumpkins - carve jack o' lanterns, decorate/paint them, bake a pie (Yes...I'm still a child). Oh! The many, many things you can cook with pumpkins! Let's not focus on the big picture here, but, rather the tiny seedlings that come packed inside one plump pumpkin.

 One-quarter cup serving of pumpkin seeds comes packed with powerful minerals - magnesium and zinc. This punch of magnesium plays an important role in bone health and synthesis of DNA; meanwhile, zinc promotes immune health and awakens your senses to smell, taste, and touch all the beautiful things fall has to offer! Today, pumpkin seed oil is commonly seen as a popular treatment method for prostate enlargement. Researchers are continuing to analyze this association, but previous studies advise men to dig in! Foods high in zinc and magnesium have been shown to aid in prostate health.

Cut back to the beautiful scents and tastes of fall. The toasted smell of pumpkin seeds roasting in the oven may be one of the best scents to fill your house. Take one bite and you're immediately in heaven. Even though this is all fun and games, roasting pumpkin seeds comes down to a science. If you leave them in a minute too long, they may burn; and if you leave them in a minute too short, they won't have that crunch. So, my advice to you is keep a careful eye on these seedlings while they're in the oven for the perfect pumpkin flavors.

How to Roast the Perfect Pumpkin Seeds:

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degress.

2. When carving your pumpkin, separate the seeds from the flesh. Using a colander, rinse the seeds well, removing any excess strings.

3. Place seeds on a layer of paper towels. Press down on the seeds, removing any water that remains.

4. Spread seeds out onto a baking sheet. Drizzle on a tablespoon of olive oil and shake on some salt and pepper.

5. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Stir every 5-8 minutes. Bake for another 5 minutes for a little extra crunch and toasted flavor. Add a teaspoon of cinnamon or spice of your choice!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Oven Baked Rosemary Parmesan Sweet Potato Fries

Happy Wednesday! Here is a recipe for your enjoyment...

2 large sweet potatoes
1 tbsp + 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp parmesan cheese
1 tbsp + 1 tsp rosemary, dried
1 tbsp minced garlic, dried
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Wash and peel sweet potatoes. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and continue to cut into wedges.
3. Place sweet potatoes on a pan, then add olive oil. Mix well. Sprinkle fries with parmesan, rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper. Use your hands to mix the sweet potatoes and spices. Each fry should be well coated.
4. Spread the fries out onto the baking sheet. Place in the oven and let bake for 15 minutes, then flip. Continue to bake for another 15 minutes.
5. Let fries cool and serve with the condiment of your choice. Enjoy!

Total baking time: 30 minutes
Servings: 3

Friday, October 18, 2013

In honor of oatmeal.

New York City houses a unique collection of specialized cafes, offering several varieties of one specific item, like the Peanut Butter & Co. Sandwich Shop and Sarita's Macaroni and Cheese (S'MAC). Here, you will find classics at their best! Watch out...there's a new specialty in town, boys...OatMeals. This one-of-a-kind, one-stop-shop features everything oatmeal.

Salted Caramel Apple

Oatmeal is on fire! If you've checked out any of the most popular food blogs recently, oatmeal recipes fused with lots of fall flavors are trending.

How did I come across this oat-rageous find? Last semester, as I sat in my food service management class, I became a restaurant entreprenuer! I was challenged to create my very own restaurant including the design, menu, and management style of the establishment. Since I tend to go through food fazes, oatmeal was my meal of choice. Whether it was for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I was stirring up a creamy bowl of oats. This is when I came up with my very own cafe (on paper that is), Only Oats.

Little did I know, I wasn't the only clever one in this big city. Samantha Stephens was already ahead of the game. Located on West 3rd street, in the big apple, was the home of OatMeals.

Take a step inside..

The walls of OatMeals are decorated with Samantha's personal collection, antique boxes of oats. A large blackboard is hung on one wall displaying the extensive list of signature bowls and build-your-own options.

In order to complete my project, I sat down with Samantha to discuss her OatMeals journey. While in college, the freshman 15 crept up on Samantha, just like it does with so many of us. As part of her freshman 15 fight, she chose a healthier path and began eating oatmeal for dinner. She found creative ways to spice it up and now shares her favorite recipes with all of New York.

The menu at OatMeals features "Signature Bowls," which are further broken down into the comforts, the hot & bothered, the savory spice & everything nice, and the happy endings. The lucky girl that I am was given the opportunity to try one of these famous oatmeal bowls. I gave the salted caramel apple a go...and it was an excellent choice! Sweet, salty, savory...what more could I ask for in a single bowl of oats?

What will you try?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Nutrition Student's Guide to FNCE 2013

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference is right around the corner. This year, it is being held in Houston, TX, beginning October 19th, 2013. As a young professional, who is just starting to make a name for myself, FNCE is the perfect networking opportunity. Thousands of dietitians from around the country gather together to meet each other and learn about upcoming nutrition trends. The only way I can explain this web of emotions is almost like going to the Oscars. Dietitians who I consider famous and who have been stealing the spotlight on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest suddenly become real, walking the same halls as... moi. Imagine coming face-to-face with Ryan Gosling or George Clooney. The typical girl would probably look something like this: pale as a ghost, weak at the knees, and stumbling over her own words. Well, that's probably someone like me, when I come to face-to-face with an A-list dietitian. I sure hope I'm not the only one who would feel this way, which is why I have created a handy dandy guidebook to get you (aka ME) through this Hollywood scene of stardom.

1. It's not what you know, it's who you know. 

The definition of networking is forming connections. These connections, or relationships  may just offer substantial benefits, like a job, or a referral. Networking also allows for the exchange of ideas, feedback, or a new perspective on a familiar topic. For students, speaking with experts in the field can lead to invaluable advice as we take our first steps towards becoming a registered dietitian. By putting ourselves out there and in-the-know, we have allowed ourselves to gain leadership skills which look all so important on dietetic internship applications. 

2. Make goals and commitments. 

I admit, sometimes I'm a little shy, which is even more of an incentive to speak up! In order to prepare yourself to let your personality shine, devise a plan. Make a mental note to introduce yourself to a specific number of people and collect this number of business cards. To accomplish these goals, you may have to get out of your comfort zone and physically make yourself visible in the room.  

3. Dress to impress. 

This is a professional event, not an 8am biology class. According to The Network Journal, about 55% of a first impression is based on how you present yourself. A first impression can be formed within as little as seven seconds of meeting, leaving little time to make it a lasting one. An appropriate wardrobe, proper posture, and a winning smile will create instant connections and will ultimately make you memorable.

4. Follow up for lasting connections.

You have said hundreds of hellos and your bag is filled with business cards. Now what? Keep in touch! Networking involves staying in touch with the connections you have made. Send an email to those who really stood out, thanking them for their time or advice. A thank you card can go a long way, if someone really stood out in your mind. Attend events regularly to become recognizable. You, too, can offer important resources and information. Send an invitation to an upcoming event or a recent article that pertains to a topic of conversation you had. 

Most importantly, be yourself! Confidence is key. 

...And don't overindulge at the expo. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Quinoa Stuffed California Sweetpotatoes

{By posting this recipe we are entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Sweetpotato Council and are eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. We were not compensated for our time.}

Never have I ever seen such beautiful sweetpotatoes in all my life. I like to think of myself as a sweetpotato connoisseur, yet I'm not sure what people think of me as I rummage through the pile at the market. I like to choose only the brightest and cleanest of the bunch, but sweetpotatoes are often marked with bumps and bruises - something almost impossible to avoid. When I received a box from the California Sweetpotato Council, my dream of the perfect potato came true. Each sweetpotato came wrapped in a blue cloth to preserve its beauty. I unraveled these little sweethearts and they were beyond perfect. Flawless! Absolutely flawless!

There are so many different types of potatoes- russet, yam, yukon gold, french fingerling, little did I know there are several types of sweetpotatoes too. Vivid pink and purple potatoes made up the contents of my hand-picked box... and then there were...white. Hm, maybe a mistake? No, sir. Say hello to the Hannah Sweetpotato- same rich, sweetpotato flavor, just with lighter skin. 

So, besides sweetpotatoes being the prettiest and the sweetest, they are also completely and utterly nutritious. The sweetpotato is ranked at the top of its vegetable class, coming packed with fiber, protein, and vitamin C. Not to mention is abundance of vitamin A. 

And now, I invite you to sit back and enjoy a savory, stuffed sweetpotato. 

Spinach & Quinoa Stuffed California Sweetpotatoes

4 California sweetpotatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
2 tbsp garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups spinach, fresh or frozen
1 cup quinoa
1 tbsp Goya adobo seasoning
2 tbsp. parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 eggs, poached

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash the sweetpotatoes and use a fork to prick holes in the skin of each potato. Place potatoes on a baking sheet and let bake for 40-50 minutes. 
2. While the potatoes are in the microwave, heat a pan with olive oil. Add onion and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (garlic should be brown). Add spinach to the pan and cook until completely wilted.
3. Combine quinoa and spinach in a bowl. Add adobo, parmesan, salt, and pepper. (See directions for quinoa below). Mix well.
4. Take sweetpotatoes out of the microwave and cut a slit down the center of each. Spread open the potato and fill with a large spoonful of quinoa stuffing. Top off the potato with a poached egg. Repeat for each potato and serve. 

Directions for quinoa:
Add 2 cups of water to a pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down until water is at a simmer. Add the quinoa and let cook until water is completely absorbed (approximately 15 minutes).

Friday, October 4, 2013

Antioxidants: What Are They?

Our body’s cells are involved in an ceaseless fight against the damaging effects of free radicals.  These unstable molecules can cause damage to cells and DNA, leading to the development of chronic diseases. Free radicals naturally occur in the body from the breakdown of food and antioxidants can play an important role in protecting our healthy cells from these hazardous effects. Research suggests that increased intake of antioxidants can decrease risk of cancer, heart disease, and age-related macular degeneration.

The body has a unique ability to make antioxidants in times of need and stress. These specific types of antioxidants aren't as effective at protecting our cells as those found in dietary sources, which makes a healthy lifestyle so important (National Cancer Institute, 2013). Plant foods are rich in a variety of these powerful compounds, including: fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Dietary antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A and C. There are tons of articles and blogs reaping the benefits associated with flavonoids in green tea and resveratrol in red wine. In fact, it is the pigments in antioxidants that provide fruits and vegetables with their beautiful, vibrant colors. Current recommendations made by the American Heart Association include 4.5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. 

There is conflicting evidence on the effect of antioxidants on decreased risk of chronic disease. This topic of interest is something to be investigated further to conclude the relationship; however, several studies encourage the intake of antioxidants as protection against destructive free radicals in the body. It is evident that a diet filled with whole, plant foods- fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain numerous beneficial nutrients that act synergistically to protect our bodies from diseases such as, cancer, heart disease, and age-related macular degeneration. Those at risk for these conditions should follow a diet that is aligned with the current recommendations and Dietary Guidelines

 Try my recipe for a Citrus Edamame Salad that's bursting with colorful antioxidants!

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