Stuffed Portobellos

I made this yummy vegetarian dish for Valentine’s Day.  I served it with quinoa drizzled with aged Balsamic vinegar and a roasted beet and arugula salad.  The mushroom recipe was adapted from Eating Well magazine.

Cheese and Spinach-stuffed Portobellos

4 large portobello mushroom caps

1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

1 cup finely chopped fresh spinach

1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, divided

2 T finely chopped kalamata olives

1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup prepared marinara sauce

1.  Preheat oven to 450degrees F.

2.  Place mushroom caps, gill-side up, on parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast until tender, 20-25 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, mash ricotta cheese, spinach, 1/4 cup Parmesan, olives, Italian seasoning and the freshly ground pepper in a medium bowl.  Heat marinara sauce in a small saucepan over low heat.

4.  When mushrooms are tender, carefully pour out any liquid accumulated in the caps.  Return the caps to the pan, gill-side up.  Spread 1T marinara into each cap; cover the remaining sauce to keep warm.  Mound a generous 1/3 cup ricotta filling into each cap and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan.  Bake until hot, about 10 minutes.  Serve with the remaining marinara sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

Per Serving:  201 calories; 10g Fat (5g sat fat, 4g monounsaturated fat); 13g carbohdyrates; 14g protein; 2g fiber



February 15, 2014 at 1:13 pm Leave a comment

Chicken Fajitas with Cherry Salsa and Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Coulis

I am excited to be doing a guest blog for Meg’s Food Reality this week!  Her blog is all things gluten free since she must eat gluten free. She’ll soon be sharing one of her posts on my site and you will enjoy her sweet and cheerful nature and her wonderful recipes!  Thanks, Meg!

I have been really in to cherries recently.  Last week, I blogged about the benefits cherries can offer in regard to sports recovery.  The power of real food is amazing!

This month’s Eating Well magazine shares a lot of recipes using cherries.  This is my version of one of the recipes I tried.

Chicken Fajitas with Cherry Salsa

Serves:  4

1 teaspoon salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

zest of 2 limes

6 teaspoons lime juice, divided

1 1/4 teaspoons ground chipotle pepper

1 pound chicken breasts, skinless and boneless

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 medium white onion, thickly sliced crosswise

1 red pepper, quartered

1 cup chopped pitted sweet or sour fresh cherries

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

8 6-inch corn tortillas

1.     Mash 1 teaspoon salt and garlic in a small bowl with a mortar and pestle or a spoon until a paste forms.  Mix in lime zest, 2 teaspoons lime juice and 1 teaspoon ground chipotle.  Rub the paste all over the chicken.

2.     Heat large saute pan over medium-high.  (I actually used a pan with grill lines on it.)  Place 1 tablespoon canola oil in pan.  (Alternatively, you can grill the chicken and vegetables on a Bar-b-que.)

3.     Cook the chicken breasts in the pan until cooked through.  Remove from pan and place on cutting board.

4.     Cook the red peppers and onions in the pan, using more oil if needed.  Cook until charred, soft and tender.

5.     Slice chicken breasts into 1 inch strips.  Thinly slice the pepper and all but one slice of the onion.

6.     Combine cherries, parsley, the remaining 4 teaspoons lime juice, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon chipotle and pinch of salt in a bowl.  Finely chop the remaining slice of grilled onion and stir into the salsa.

7.    Serve the chicken and vegetables with the salsa and cheese on the tortillas.

Per Serving:  347 calories; 4g fat; 33g carbohydrate; 37g protein; 6g fiber.

Vitamin C (87% daily value), Vitamin A (38% dv), Zinc (27% dv), Potassium (25% dv), Magnesium (23% dv), Calcium (18% dv), Iron (15% dv).

The fajitas were so yummy!

I realize dessert is a “sometimes” food, but I really love to cook a yummy dessert, especially on Sunday nights when the family is all together getting re-charged for a new week!  This cake was easy to prepare and also a hit!

Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Coulis (I can’t remember where this recipe came from, but it is not mine!  I apologize.)


8.5 oz. bittersweet (60% cacao) chocolate, broken into pieces

3/4 cup unsalted butter

4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature, divided

2 egg whites

1/2 cup sugar


1 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries (8 oz)

1 Tablespoon sugar

1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1.     Preheat oven to 300°F.  Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.

2.     Melt chocolate and butter in double boiler.  Remove from heat, and whisk until smooth and glossy.  Whisk egg yolks, then stir into chocolate mixture.

3.     Beat all 6 egg whites with electric mixer on high 1 to 2 minutes, or until foamy.  Add sugar, and beat 4 minutes, or until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold egg white mixture into chocolate mixture until just combined.  Pour into prepared pan, and bake 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out mostly clean.  Cool.

4.     To make Coulis:  Combine strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice in bowl of food processor; let stand 5 minutes.  Add 2 tablespoons water, and puree until smooth.  Strain through fine-mesh strainer.  Serve Cake drizzled with Coulis.

Sooo good!  A thin slice is all you need!

This is what is blooming in my yard this week!

June 13, 2012 at 10:04 am 2 comments

Tart Cherry Juice and Exercise Recovery

Have you ever felt beat up after a tough race?  Felt sore and achy in your muscles and joints?

Intense endurance exercise can take its toll on muscles due to the stress and inflammation it causes.  Athletes can either suffer through the pain or pop ibuprofen.

Enter tart cherries to the rescue!

Most fruits, like cherries, contain antioxidants which help to protect our bodies’ cells from damage due to oxidative stress.  Tart cherries also appear to reduce inflammation and muscle damage.

In one study, marathon runners drank 16 oz of tart cherry juice 5 days before , on the day of, and 2 days after a marathon.  These athletes had less inflammation than a control group.  They also had greater leg strength 48 hours after the race.

A similar study also found that athletes’ recovery after drinking cherry juice concentrate was significantly faster compared to when they drank a different juice that didn’t have the phytonutrient content of tart cherry juice.  The study also found that the athletes returned to 90% of normal muscle force at 24 hours.  This was likely due to the antioxidant compounds which decreased the oxidative damage done to the athletes’ muscles.

As a dietitian, I always recommend choosing real foods to provide vital nutrients and performance benefits as opposed to supplements or drugs.  Here is a perfect example where one can drink tart cherry juice instead of taking an anti-inflammatory drug.  Not only do cherries provide antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties to your diet, they also offer carbohydrates, fiber, calcium and potassium.  And the phytonutrient properties of colorful fruits and vegetables have beneficial properties that we are only just beginning to discover.

Word of caution!  Cherries can cause some GI upset!  Sixteen ounces of cherry juice is about 90 cherries!  Have you ever brought home a beautiful bag of cherries and popped one after another sweet, juicy red fruit into your mouth only to experience some serious intestinal gurgling a few hours later?  Not to mention a few other unpleasantries?!

On your next endurance event, I hope you’ll try drinking cherry juice (or eating cherries) before and after your event to minimize soreness and help you recover quickly so you can hit the trails again to prepare for your next event!

I will be travelling to Michigan in July.  Bardenhagen Farms is a nearby orchard that grows the tart cherries, also known as Montmorency cherries.  I’m looking forward to going for a visit!  I’ll bet the cherry blossoms in the spring are gorgeous!  Harvest season for Montmorency cherries in Michigan isn’t until mid to late July.  Sweet cherries are available a few weeks earlier.

This is what is blooming in my yard this week:

June 5, 2012 at 4:48 pm Leave a comment

What is Nutritional Yeast?

Nutritional yeast sprinkled on popcorn?  salads?  mixed with tofu to make a scramble?  What is this stuff and why use it?

Nutritional Yeast is the go-to source for B-Vitamins and essential amino acids for a vegan and vegetarian diet.  These diets, as wonderful as they are, can be lacking in B-vitamins, especially Vitamin B-12, because B-12 primarily comes from animal products.  Nutritional Yeast contains complete proteins and is a good source of fiber.  Short of taking a supplement, nutritional yeast is a very good way to fill in the gaps that could develop in a meatless diet.

Nutritional Yeast is a deactivated yeast that is made from strains of a particular culture and grown in mixtures of cane and beet molassses.  After the yeast is harvested, it is washed, pasteurized and dried.  It is sold as a powder or flakes.

Nutritional yeast is yellowish with a nutty, cheesy flavor.  It can be sprinkled on popcorn, garlic bread and salads.  It can be mixed into smoothies, juice, cereals, soups, gravies and sandwich spreads.  It can also be added to stir fries and casseroles.

Nutrition Information of interest:

Serving size: 2 heaping Tablespoons

Calories:  60

Nutrient                                     Amount/serving                                    % Daily Value             

Fat                                                 .83g

Sodium                                       5.12mg

Potassium                             320mg                                                              9%

Carbs                                            7.2g                                                             2%

Fiber                                            3.9g                                                             16%

Protein                                         8.34g                                                        17%

Iron                                                 .77mg                                                      4%

Thiamin (B1)                             9.6mg                                                     640%

Riboflaving (B2)                       9.6mg                                                     565%

Niacin                                        56mg                                                        280%

Vitamin B6                                  9.6mg                                                    480%

Folic Acid                                240mcg                                                       60%

Vitamin B12                                8mcg                                                      133%

Zinc                                               8.2mg                                                       21%

Selenium                                    22.4mcg                                                     32%

Don’t confuse Nutritional Yeast with Brewer’s Yeast.  Brewer’s Yeast is the bitter by-product of producing beer.  Active Dry Yeast is also distinguished from Nutritional Yeast.  Its purpose is to raise baked goods, such as bread.

Nutritional Yeast can be found in most stores.  Bob’s Red Mill, and Red Star are popular brands and have recipes on their websites.  Whole Foods also sells Nutritional Yeast under their brand name.

I made a wonderful dish using Nutritional Yeast.  The recipe is from Vegetarian Times.  I can say it is kid tested and approved by mom (me), husband and teens!

Mac and Cheese Style  Cauliflower

Serves 8

Get all the creamy, cheesy goodness of mac and cheese—without the high starch content of macaroni. To make your own breadcrumbs, tear firm, fresh bread into pieces and whirl in a food processor or blender until crumbs form.

1 large head cauliflower (1 ½ lb.), cut into medium florets (8 cups)
2 Tbs. butter or margarine
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
2 cups low-fat milk
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
2 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
½ cup nutritional yeast
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 egg yolks
1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add cauliflower florets, and boil 5 to 7 minutes, or until just tender. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid, and set aside.

2. Melt butter in the same pot over medium heat. Whisk in flour, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Whisk in milk, garlic, and reserved cooking liquid, and cook 7 to 10 minutes, or until sauce is thickened, whisking constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in cheese, nutritional yeast, cayenne pepper, and egg yolks until cheese is melted. Fold in cauliflower.

3. Coat a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread cauliflower mixture in baking dish, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Spray breadcrumbs with cooking spray. Bake 30 minutes, or until casserole is hot and bubbly and breadcrumbs are crisp and brown.

I put the casserole in individual ramekins and it looked as good as it tasted!

On another note, I wanted to share some photos of what is blooming in my yard right now.  I just love how there is always something blooming from April through September.  Right now, this is what is blooming!

Happy warming up with Spring!  It makes me so happy!

May 23, 2012 at 4:23 pm 1 comment

Juicing Beets

Want beetroot juice but don’t want to buy it or don’t know how to juice?

Here is my first attempt with a video!  This is an illustration of juicing beets.  Tell me what you think!

Produced and Directed by Tad Nelson and Natalie Nelson!

May 16, 2012 at 9:00 pm Leave a comment


I just returned from a FANTASTIC weekend in Baltimore at the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) conference with Elise!  We attended lectures on subjects ranging from sports nutrition to eating disorders to the latest scientific research on nutrients.  I learned new information as well as supportive research on facts I have already shared with you on Tart Cherry juice and Beet juice.  We gathered lots of samples and I’d like to share with you a new (to me) sport chew:  Sharkies.

Sharkies is an organic energy sport chew.  They do not contain any fructose or gluten.  The ingredients are few, simple and organic.  They are a natural source of electrolytes – potassium and sodium.  And, most importantly, they taste really yummy!

I tried them this morning before my run and I felt energetic and well fueled!  Sharkies is a perfect pre-exercise and during-exercise snack for any sport:  running, swimming, rowing, biking, soccer, etc. and it is appropriate for any age – kids to adults.

Sharkies sponsored a Tough Mudder training session featuring the famous Mustache Man  one morning at the SCAN convention!  It was a fun, challenging workout and we were given a free Sharkies T-shirt as a bonus!  I also won a new Sports Nutrition book in a drawing after the workout!  Additional Bonus!  I’m still living the bonus of that workout as I have had sore buns and legs for several days!  Yeah!  (Tough Mudders NEVER whine!)

Sharkies are sold at REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc) and other locations.  There is a link on their website for a store locator near you.

April 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm 3 comments

Beetroot Juice

Yes, beetroot juice can improve athletic performance and the science supports it!

The actual ingredient in beets that gives this boost in performance is naturally occurring nitrate. Nitric oxide (NO) is a vasodilator. In other words, it causes the muscles in blood vessels to expand, increasing their internal diameter.  This in turn increases blood flow, quickly bringing oxygen to the working muscles. Another consequence of this action is reduced blood pressure.

According to one study, running speed was improved during a 5km run after beetroot juice ingestion. The rate of perceived exertion was also lower. We all want to run faster (or bike faster or swim faster or kick box harder) while feeling like you didn’t work harder!

Endurance also increased by 15% during high intensity running after drinking beetroot juice.

Six days of supplementing .5L of beetroot juice/day resulted in reduced oxygen consumption during steady-state exercise and also increased tolerance of high-intensity work rates in a study whose subjects were cyclists.

Obtaining nitrates from whole beets (or beetroot juice) is recommended because other sources may have negative health benefits. And I am all about using real food for performance benefits.

I like my beets roasted.  Cut the ends off beets and peel the skin.  Slice into 1/4″ pieces.  Place parchment paper on cookie sheet with sides.  Put beet slices on cookie sheet, pour 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over beets and sprinkle with salt.  Mix well and spread out on sheet.  Bake at 425° for 15 minutes, or until tender.

This picture is courtesy of Meg’s Food Reality.

Next week I am going to the Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) Symposium in Baltimore, MD.  One of the talks is on Beetroot Juice and its benefits.  I’ll share any updates!  Can’t wait!


Article in the American Heart Association journal called Hyptertension as cited in Science Daily (6-28-2010)

Margaret Murphy, MS, RD, LD; Katie Eliot, MS, RD, LD; Rita M. Heuertz, PhD; Edward Weiss, PhD.  Whole Beetroot Consumption Acutely Improves Running Performance;  Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, April 2012.

Cermak NM, Gibala MJ, van Loon LJ. Source Department of Human Movement Sciences, Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, The Netherlands.  Nitrate supplementation’s improvement of 10-km time-trial performance in trained cyclists; Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 2012 Feb;22(1):64-71.

April 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm 3 comments

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