Gettin’ figgy with it

After quite a little hiatus there consisting of family weddings, wedding showers, and mini vacations, I am ready to get back at it my friends. I apologize for being gone for so long, but sometimes everybody needs a little R&R. But don’t worry, this fall, I am back on the grind!

Not only am I about to blow your mind with this amazing fig flatbread recipe, but my following posts will update you on my latest and greatest media work and also…FALL. Fall is my favorite season. Yes, yes, yes I know, classic Mid-western love of pumpkin spice-everything, hoodie sweatshirts, crackling dried leaves of all colors, scary movies, leggings, baking (actually the only time of the year I enjoy it), Halloween, and lots and lots of football. Having lived away from Michigan in Texas before, I am always more and more appreciative of the four beautiful seasons we are blessed with in Michigan (some longer than others-clear of throat-“winter”). But before I really start ranting about my endearing love for fall, I’m going to update you on one of my favorite recipes from this past summer…Pancetta and fig flatbread.

This flatbread consists of local Grand Rapids’ pizza dough, figs, arugula, pancetta, caramelized onions, and feta cheese. So easy, yet so delicious. Let’s talk about figs for a second. This was my virgin cooking experience with figs. I have always wanted to cook or bake with figs, but have just never gotten around to it…until now. Being that I am a native Michigander and the majority of figs are produced in Texas and California, it makes sense that Mid-westerners often don’t use figs in cooking. Figs are initially native to western Asian and the Mediterranean. The beginning use of figs dates back to 5,000 B.C., which is pretty incredible if you ask me. Some of the most popular ways of fig consumption include fresh, dried, or preserved in jams or pastes. Most figs are usually in season between June and September with some even into the fall. Figs have a sweet taste, yet crunchy texture on the inside with a smooth skin on the outside.


Did I mention that prior to cooking this flatbread, my only experience with figs was fig newtons? Yep, those yummy little sandwich pastries you ate as a kid, stuffed with processed fig paste and added sugar. Delicious, yet maybe not the most nutritious. Try them raw or cooked folks. A serving of figs (4-5 figs or 1/4 cup) is low in calories and a great source of dietary fiber, potassium, and calcium. They make an easy snack, healthy dessert, or unique topping to pizzas. Be sure to try this fig flatbread before they go out of season this fall!

Fig, Caramelized Onion, and Pancetta Flatbread


Yield: 1 (~10″) pizza

Prep time: 20-25 mins, Cook time: 10-12 minutes, Total time: 35-40 mins


8-12″ Pizza crust or dough (we use Martha’s Vineyard fresh pizza doughs)

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 tsp. garlic powder

5 fresh figs, sliced

1/2 cup yellow onions, sliced

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

4-6 oz. pancetta, cubed

1 cup fresh arugula


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice the onions and pour 1 Tbsp of olive oil into a stainless steel skillet. Add onions to the skillet on medium, high heat. Let the onions caramelize for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally every 3-5 minutes. While the onions are cooking, slice your figs and chop the pancetta.


Next, roll out the pizza dough (if needed). Brush 2 Tbsp. olive oil on the pizza dough and sprinkle garlic powder on top. Spread the arugula across the surface of the pizza. Next, add the sliced figs, pancetta, and crumbled feta. Once onions are fully caramelized, spread on top of the pizza.


Bake pizza directly on aluminum foil or baking sheet in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10-12 minutes (depending your desired browning of the pizza crust).

Slice and get figgy with it!



Dessert coming right up…or is it?

Recently, I have been out of town for the last 3-4 weekends straight. In other words, another beautiful Michigan summer is upon us and Michiganders know far too well to enjoy it before it’s gone as quick as it came. These weekends have been filled with tubing down rivers, cannon-balling into brisk Lake Michigan water, wine tasting at breathtaking wineries on the Leelanau peninsula, and tooling around historical northern Michigan villages on bicycles. All the while consuming tall glasses of Chardonnay, cold beer, and fresh herb-infused cocktails without regrets. These are by far some of my fondest memories as a young adult (26 is still young right? I hope so) and I’m sure many Michiganders can agree with me on that.

Willow Vineyard in Suttons Bay, Michigan

However, by the time I get home Sunday afternoon, I tend to feel like I have grown a beer, brat, corn on the cob, and pasta salad belly resembling the size of a 2nd or 3rd trimester pregnant woman. Needless to say, my boyfriend and I are usually ready for a light dinner to cap off the weekend and propel us into another great week. I am not big into heavy sweets much anymore but I have recently wanted something also light and sweet to finish off my weekend while watching Game of Thrones. With all the local and abundant, fresh produce in season right now in Michigan, options are really endless. Also, as a dietitian, I always find great reward in transforming the idea of “dessert” into another serving of fruit for the day.

These goat cheese and pistachio-coated strawberries really hit the spot and were incredibly easy to make (thanks to two purple figs for the great idea!). Be sure to try this slightly savory, but sweet recipe this summer. This recipe will not only satisfy and surprise the masses, but is chalked full of monounsaturated fat (aka the good fats) from the pistachios and vitamin C from the strawberries. This dessert leaves you wondering if you are eating a dessert or another fruit serving…or is it both?😉


Pistachio and Herbed Goat Cheese Strawberries


Prep time: 20 mins, Total time: 20 mins, Yield: 7-8 strawberries


1/2 lb fresh strawberries, washed, dried, stems removed

4-5 oz log of soft goat cheese

1/2 tsp honey

1 cup pistachios, chopped

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped

1 tsp fresh basil leaves, chopped

pinch of salt


1. Wash your strawberries, remove the stem and lay out to dry on a paper towel while prepping the other ingredients.

2. Mash the goat cheese with a fork in a small bowl. Mix in the thyme, honey, and salt. Set aside.

3. Stir your pistachios and thyme together in a separate medium size bowl.

4. Roll a small ball, slightly smaller than a ping pong ball, of the goat cheese mixture. Then, flatten the cheese in the palm of your hand and place your strawberry in the center of the goat cheese. Fold the cheese around the strawberry until covering the majority of the strawberry. Remove any excess cheese.

5. Place the goat cheese-covered strawberry in the medium bowl containing the pistachio/thyme mixture. Roll the strawberry in the pistachio mixture until evenly covered.

6. Place your pistachio and goat cheese-coated strawberries on a plate or cookie sheet. Then, refrigerate the strawberries for 1 hour and serve.





American po’ girl

Vietnamese po’ boy for an American po’ girl? Why yes, yes, I think so. Apparently, I just can’t get away from that Vietnamese food. New Orleans’ street food has just made too much of a stamp on me. It was a week night and I was trying to use up ingredients from the fridge. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there. What I had on hand…cilantro, red onion, cucumbers, carrots, and white bread. A lighter version of banh mi came to mind and I couldn’t resist trying to make my own version at home.

Banh mi is basically Vietnamese for bread, traditionally the baguette. It is also known in New Orleans, Louisiana as a “Vietnamese po’ boy”. The baguette is generally a single-serving, making the sandwich part pretty easy after slicing the bread in half. There are several ways you can make a banh mi sandwich depending on which ingredients you choose to use. Common protein ingredients include cold cuts, sliced pork or pork bellies, pork sausage, head cheese, liver pate, or tofu (for the vegetarians). These proteins are often paired with native Vietnamese ingredients, such as cilantro, cucumber, and pickled carrots and daikon. Other favorite condiments include spicy chili sauce, sliced chilies, mayonnaise, and cheese. From my experience, when the sandwich is finished, it is dipped in a chili or soy sauce. Although my white bread was no whole grain, it was much less bread than a whole baguette, making it a lighter version. If you want something easy, fun, and completely different than your normal weekly meal, try my delicious spin on banh mi🙂


American Po’ Girl

Yield: 2 sandwiches

Prep time: 15 minutes, Cook time: 5 minutes, Total time: 20 minutes


4 slices white bread

2 oz. prosciutto

4-6 oz pepper jack cheese, sliced

2 Tbsp. light mayonnaise

2 Tbsp. white vinegar (rice vinegar can work here too)

3/4 cup red onion, sliced length-wise

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup English cucumber, sliced

1/3 cup shredded or thinly sliced carrots

1/2 jalapeno, sliced width-wise

Handful of cilantro leaves

Dipping sauces:

1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup Thai or sweet chili sauce


Slice the cucumbers (and carrots if needed) and combine with carrots and vinegar in a small bowl. Toss to coat. Slice the jalapeno and pepper jack cheese and set aside. Heat olive oil in a medium saute pan and saute for about 5 mins until translucent.

On a plate, begin to assemble your banh mi sandwich. Spread the mayo on the inside of a slice of bread. Next, add your ingredients. Mine went as follows: mayo, slice of proscuitto, pickled cucumbers and carrots, jalapeno slices, a few cilantro leaves, glazed red onion, and pepper jack cheese. I decided I wanted a hot banh mi so I placed mine in the panini grill (or George Foreman grill) for about 5 minutes. While cooking, pour the dipping sauces in two separate ramekins. Once the cheese is melted (~4-5 minutes), cut the sandwich in half and dip the sandwich in your desired sauce for each yummy bite.




Savor the Spring and Summer Flavor

A few week’s ago, I did a TV segment on WZZM 13 featuring nutrition tips on continuing the National Nutrition Month theme, “Savor the Flavor,” by growing and trying new vegetables and herbs this spring and summer.


National Nutrition Month focused on trying and experimenting with new foods and flavors; quote, “savor the flavor of eating right.” I want to follow up with National Nutrition Month’s theme by saying, “don’t stop here.” Continue your new food experiences into the spring by planting your own vegetable or herb garden. Planting your own vegetable or herb garden can almost guarantee that you and your family will be trying new foods and increasing the variety of your diet this spring and summer season, which in turn can lead to a healthier diet. So what are some key things to consider when starting your own garden?

The first thing to consider is the location of your garden. If you have the appropriate garden space, the vegetables and herbs will follow. The key components you want to consider when selecting the site of garden is:

  • Sunlight: At least 6-10 hours daily.
  • Water: Make sure your garden is located close enough to a clean and close water source.
  • Good soil: Be sure your gardening area is well drained or perform a soil test to best understand if fertilizers or organic matter are needed.

A word to new gardeners: start small. Be wary of the amount of space and time you have available to you in the upcoming months and then plan accordingly. You can plant your vegetables or herbs in various types of containers depending on the space you have available to you or how much time you are willing to dedicate to your new garden. These types of containers can range from burlap bags to planting pots to raised garden boxes. Quick note: Be sure to line the bottom of your garden bed with garden mesh before adding your soil to avoid any other roots invading your garden.

Start this spring by planting cool season crops that can last through frost and can tolerate colder/milder temperatures, such as:

Vegetables: Lettuce (leaf and bibb), Onions, Carrots, Peas, Radishes, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Parsnip, Spinach, Swiss chard, Turnip.

Herbs: For perennials, try chives, rosemary, tarragon, oregano, thyme, or sage. For annuals, try parsley, basil, summer savory, or sweet marjoram. *Quick note: Be sure to grow your perennials and annuals in separate containers for best results!

These different types of herbs and vegetables will not only improve the variety in your diet, but it will also allow the experiment with fun, new recipes, such as:

Roasted Beet Hummus

Prep time: 5 mins, Cook time: 1 hour, Total time: 1 hour 5 mins


* 2 medium sized beets, skin on

* 1 can (14 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

* 2 tablespoons tahini

* 2 cloves garlic

* 1 tablespoon lemon juice

* ½ teaspoon salt

* ¼ teaspoon cumin


Look at that rich pink color! Food is beautiful🙂


1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F).

2. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil and roast them for 1 to 2 hours (it depends on the size of your beets) or until soft and tender.

3. Once the beets are roasted, remove them from the oven and let them cool.

4. Peel the skin and chop them into chunks.

5. Place the beets, chickpeas and garlic into a food processor and blend for 1 minute.

6. Add tahini, lemon juice, salt, cumin, 1 teaspoon of water and blend until the hummus becomes smooth and creamy.

7. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt or lemon if needed.

8. Refrigerate or use immediately. Serve with pita bread or your favorite vegetables. I enjoyed mine on toast with avocado slices and an egg on the side. Delicious food is sometimes the simplest of ingredients.




Yams for the win

Recently, I dabbled in African cuisine. It is one that I can honestly say, have very little experience eating or preparing. I figured in light of trying new cuisines for National Nutrition Month, I once again should go out of my comfort zone and try something new. While perusing the web for some ideas, I came across an African yam stew. I tend to enjoy anything with sweet potatoes and also anything that’s warm and can be eaten out of a bowl, instead of a plate. Thanks to Forks over Knives for this delicious recipe! I cut this recipe in half and still had tons left over. But before we get to the recipe, let’s discuss how great sweet potatoes are for you. They are rich in vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. So in short, eat up!

African Yam Stew

Yield: 5-6 servings

Prep time: 20 mins, Cook time: 35-45 minutes



  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Anaheim or jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger, ground
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic granules
  • 1 teaspoons cumin, ground
  • 1 teaspoons coriander, ground
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 yams, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cups vegetable broth
  • 12 ounces tomatoes, chopped
  • 7 ounces garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 7 ounces black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup corn
  • 3 cups collards, chopped


In a large pot, sauté onion and pepper with water for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent.

Add ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander and red pepper.

Cook and stir for 1 minute.

Mix in yams, vegetable broth, tomatoes, beans and nut butter.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Stir in corn and collards and cook for about 10 more minutes, until yams and greens are tender.

Serve over brown rice or other whole grain.Now that’s what I call a colorful plate! I served mine with pork🙂  Enjoy!


What the Kimchi?

In honor of NNM, last week I decided to explore Korean cuisine. Before I get started, I’m just going to throw this out there right away…this post is not focused on the health or nutritious benefits of Korean food, but more about my experience and joy of Korean food (which if you remember last week’s post, enjoying other cuisines is very much a part of the NNM theme!).  Moving right along. Now, the only real experiences I have had with Korean food is “Korea Day” in elementary school, cooking Bibimbap in an undergraduate food lab class at Michigan State, and food truck Kimchi fries on the streets of Houston, Texas.

Growing up, I was lucky enough to have a Korean classmate in elementary school that decided we were going to have “Korea Day” once a year, every year, dedicated to celebrating Korean food, traditions, and culture. Here is where I tried on my first jeogori (blouse-like top with long sleeves) and chima (long skirts) and also tried Bulgogi (thinly sliced sirloin beef marinated in soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, pepper, scallions, ginger, onions or mushrooms) for the first time. Oh yes, and we were also delighted to have a “jean day”. “Jean day” at a private Catholic elementary school meant we were allowed to wear street clothes, instead of our navy and white uniform (Go Eagles!).  In other words, I was able to show off my newest “hand-me-downs” AND eat delicious food all day…life doesn’t get much better than that as a 10 year old.


When I lived in Houston, I stumbled upon a Korean-inspired food truck after a long night out at the bars. Here is where I tried Kimchi fries for the first time. LIFE CHANGER. Kimchi fries=French fries, shredded beef or pork, Kimchi, melted cheese, and a Sriracha mayo sauce drizzled on top. I will never forget sitting on that curb and eating those Kimchi fries for the first time. After I so innocently stumbled upon this lil gem, I discovered that this Korean food truck was by the same bar on the same street at midnight pretty much every weekend. [Insert evil laugh here] I then proceeded to make it a terrible habit to somehow convince whichever friends I was hanging out with on the weekends, that we should probably end up at this “great” bar. All the while, I was plotting to get more Kimchi fries. Honestly, lol right now. Sometimes, I wonder how I became a dietitian. I digress.

So what is this Kimchi I speak of? Kimchi refers to fermented vegetables. These vegetables generally consist of napa cabbage, radish, or cucumber in a brine of garlic, ginger, scallions, red chili pepper, and oyster or fish sauce. Some quick, fun facts about Kimchi. Kimchi is actually Korea’s national dish and was imperative to South Korean troops in the Vietnam War to help keep the”morale” up amongst Korean soldiers in the field. Kimchi itself actually provides a rich source of dietary fiber, vitamin A and C, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, and iron.


This week of NNM, I focused on making my own Korean-inspired Kimchi fries. Considering my brother-in-law just happened to be desiring to make homemade potstickers on the same day, we gladly headed to our local Asian market together. After we purchased our needed ingredients, we got back in the car to head home. After the last car door shut, we both looked at each other with cringed noses saying, “what is that smell?!”. We both realized the smell of Kimchi is not for the weak at heart. I’m not quite sure how to describe this smell to you, but let’s just say for future reference, double bag that sucker and tie the bag shut when transferring. Now time for the noshing.

For this recipe, you’ll need:

For the fries:

  • 5-6 russet potatoes, cut length-wise (a Mandolin slicer works best here)
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons paprika
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the beef with marinade:

  • 1 or 1 1/2 pound beef ribeye, thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 7 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

For the Kimchi:

  • 1 1/4 cup Kimchi
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar

For the chili sauce:

  • 3 Tablespoons Sriracha sauce, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (light mayo works here too)


  • 2-3 scallions, chopped
  • 5 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

Start with your beef and marinade. Once you’ve added the onion, garlic, sugar, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil to a gallon size Ziplock bag, then add your thinly sliced beef. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut your potatoes into fries with the Mandolin slicer. Toss with olive oil, paprika, and salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about 30-45 minutes to your desired crispiness. Be sure to toss the fries halfway through for even browning.IMG_2602

While these fries are baking, get started on the meat. Place your marinade with the meat in a medium skillet. Cook on medium-high heat until the beef is to your desired done-ness (we cooked ours for ~5 minutes),  then remove the beef and continue cooking the sauce until it reduces/caramelizes (~5-10 minutes).

Next, mix the Greek yogurt with Sriracha sauce in a bowl and set aside.IMG_2588

Add the Kimchi and sugar to a saute-pan and cook on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Quick side note here: In my making of this recipe, I forgot to add the sugar to the Kimchi. The result: Kimchi was a little fermenting tasting…let’s just say, I won’t forget this step next time. Set the kimchi aside.

When the fries are done, either sprinkle the cheese directly on top of the fries on the baking sheet or place the fries in a baking dish before adding the cheese on top. Place back in the oven and broil until the cheese is melted (about 2-3 minutes).

Now it’s time to plate. Top your melted cheese fries with the caramelized sauce and beef. Next, top with the Kimchi, Sriracha sauce, and scallions. Voila, delicious, homemade Kimchi fries. Enjoy!IMG_2617


Giddy up NNM!

Giddy up ladies and gentlemen! National Nutrition Month (NNM) is officially underway.


This year’s theme is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right”. Specifically, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics highlights the importance of eating healthier to fit your unique lifestyle. Let’s real quick talk about that point.  Many times in nutrition education sessions, patients are commonly astounded by how small and “easy” some tips for improvement in their health or nutrition I recommend. However, what we all often forget is that it is the small and (what appears to be) easy changes that fit our lifestyle that will actually make the difference and be sustainable long term. National Nutrition Month also highlights getting back to the experience and traditions behind consuming food. In other words, always remember to enjoy and have fun with the experience of eating food, whether that be the people you are with, where you are eating, the traditions or events you are celebrating, or the amazing depth of flavors of the food you are eating.

I take this month as an opportunity to not only reflect on my health and nutrition, but also to explore the flavors of different diets from a health and ethnic standpoint, understanding that it is not one diet that fits all. I started NNM this past week with a vegan, gluten free, quinoa, black bean, pumpkin soup. Woof, that was a mouthful. Now hear me out. I am no vegan or regular gluten free-er, but like I said before, NNM is the perfect time to go outside of your comfort zone and try new diets and food experiences. And believe me, this soup was worth it. It was flavorful, nutrient-dense, filling, and incredibly easy.

Quinoa Black Bean Pumpkin Soup


Prep time: 10 mins, Cook time: 25 mins (or slow cooker), Total time: 35 mins

Serves: 4

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 red chili pepper, diced
  • 3 cups cubes pumpkin (or 2-15 oz cans 100% pure pumpkin)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup quinoa
  • 15 ounce can low-sodium black beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • For garnish:
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • handful cilantro, diced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  1. Heat oil in pan over medium heat and cook onion for a few minutes. Add garlic and red chili pepper and cook until aromatic.
  2. Add pumpkin and spices and cook for a couple minutes.
  3. Add 2 cups of the vegetable broth and quinoa. Bring a boil and cook for 5 minutes before adding the remaining vegetable broth. Bring to a boil.
  4. Add beans and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Served garnished with cilantro, avocado and lime juice.

Note: Adapted from Avocado Pesto.

Enjoy and Happy National Nutrition Month!


The Beauty of Balance


Last weekend I had an impromptu girls weekend up at my parents’ cottage in Empire, Michigan. The three other girls that accompanied me happen to be some of my favorite dietitian co-workers. We generally spend the majority of our weeks educating patients on the right diet to follow for their health condition or disease state, making sure patients get fed enough, calculating tube feeding or IV nutrition rates, or arguing with physicians to make sure they actually take our nutrition recommendations.  By the time the weekend hits, “occasionally” we like to let go a little. Case in point…


Needless to say, we had our fair share of pizza, booze, zebra onesies, nature hikes, old school rap music, and oh yes, more pizza. We threw in a little carrots and hummus one day for lunch to at least have some vegetables other than the tomato sauce from pizza. See dietitians aren’t always the food police! We definitely have our days where we don’t eat (or drink for that matter) perfectly in line with the food pyramid.

Monday was a rough one, especially after such a gluttonous weekend. Before I allowed all of those resentful feelings of excessive caloric intake overwhelm me, I reminded myself of one of the most important things about health…BALANCE.

To me, balance is key in any healthy lifestyle. Balance means you eat an extra cookie because they are fresh out of the oven or enjoy cocktails at happy hour two nights in a row because you can’t wait to catch up with good friends; then hit the gym hard the next few days after. Health is not only what you eat, but it also your emotional and mental health. A weekend filled with some close girlfriends, cocktails, pizza, and great laughs was well needed for a mental break. But nonetheless, I had to get my health back on track.

Tuesday rolled around. I decided to go on a nice 8-mile run. This isn’t normal for me-I was feeling ambitious, plus the sun was out. This doesn’t always happen late February in Michigan so I took advantage. Oh yes, and meal prep. I decided to make a winter kale salad, which included “massaged” kale, dried cranberries, feta cheese, pecans, baked chicken, sweet potato, lemon juice, and olive oil. This is one of my lunch favorites.

From a dietitian standpoint, kale is a food of the gods. It is packed full of all those great things dietitians like to spew off…fiber, iron, vitamin A/K/C, calcium, anti-oxidants, etc etc etc. Despite all these lovely nutrients, kale has always been a rather foreign leafy green to me. For a long time, I would try kale (you know, trying to be a good dietitian and all) and quite literally felt like a rabbit eating weeds from a field. I didn’t get the rave. Unless it was hidden in a soup, I said NOPE. It was not until I figured out the “massage” technique, that I actually started to enjoy kale.

So how do you massage the kale? Start by de-stemming your kale and place bite-size pieces in a large bowl. Add 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil and lemon juice. Hey while you’re at it, sprinkle a little white wine or sea salt if you’re feeling daring (or if you just happen to be drinking white wine in my case). Then get ready to get your hands dirty. Massage the kale for about 2-5 minutes. You will definitely notice a deeper green color appearing as the massaging continues. Then voila, you are ready to add the rest of your kale salad ingredients of your choice. This delicious salad should last you a solid week of healthy work lunches so feel free to sit back and relax. You now don’t have to worry about what you’re going to eat for lunch until next week🙂

With that, I’m going to leave you with this breathtaking photo to remind you that balance should always be a priority in your health and try not to be so hard on yourself.



Pho the love of nosh

MMmmmmmmm Pho.

That delicious Vietnamese noodle soup. Also the word that I feel so awkward saying out loud. I commonly hear it pronounced as “foe” (very tempting), but it is really pronounced “fu” (almost like saying foot without the -ot). See that helps, right? Glad we got that out of the way. Now on to what pho actually is.

Pho, a popular street food in Vietnam, is a noodle soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, fresh herbs, meat of your choice, and several garnishes. The garnishes vary based on the region of Vietnam. Northern pho tends to have wider noodles, lots of green onion, and fewer garnishes, such as fish sauce, vinegar, and chili sauce. Southern pho is usually sweeter and with a greater variety of fresh herbs. Additional garnishes in southern Vietnam include lime, bean sprouts, cilantro, fish sauce, and chili or Sriracha sauce. From what I have read, the broth is key. Stewing for several hours of the day with beef bones, oxtails, flank steak, charred onion, charred ginger and spices, such as star anise, roasted ginger, roasted onion, black cardamom, coriander seed, fennel seed, and cloves. This combination of spices can be bought as a package deal, which includes a cheesecloth to place the spices in, at your local Asian market (which makes that part of the process very easy).

Ready for the meat sweats? Well you’re about to get ’em. Steak, fatty flank, lean flank, brisket, tripe, meatballs, chicken, or pork are the variations of meats commonly used in pho. Pick your poison. I chose beef sirloin and beef chuck, mainly because almost all butchers were closed on Sundays so I didn’t have much to choose from.

My favorite part? This…


(Charring the onions and fresh ginger over the stove for the broth) Or this. It’s a tough call…

GarnishesGarnish, garnish, garnish, garnish. The options are endless. For me, it’s all about the garnishes. From top to bottom in the photo, I used basil, chili sauce, baby bok choy, bean sprouts, green onion, limes, cilantro, and sliced jalapenos. In my mind, if you have a plethora of garnishes, people can make their pho as amped up as they desire. So where did my love for pho begin you ask? One of my favorite cities…New Orleans. New Orleans suburbs has one of the largest populations of Vietnamese people in the United States, as it is one of the many places Vietnamese fled to after the Vietnam War. I can’t say I’m upset about it. Not the war of course, but the food. So how did mine turn out?

PhoDELICIOUS. If you have not experienced an authentic bowl of Vietnamese Pho, you NEED to get on that. Or make it yourself🙂 On to the recipe…


  • 2 (3-inch) pieces ginger, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 onions, peeled
  • 1 pound beef chuck, cut into 2 pieces
  • 2 scallions, cut into 4-inch lengths
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce (or to taste)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 8 star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 black cardamom pod
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 pound dried pho noodles
  • 1 pound beef sirloin, then sliced paper-thin against the grain


  • Sliced jalapeno
  • Chopped scallion
  • Cilantro
  • Mung bean sprouts
  • Thai basil
  • Lime wedges


Start by charring your ginger and onions. Use tongs to hold the ginger and onions over an open flame, or place it directly on an electric burner. Turn until they’re lightly blackened and fragrant about 3 minutes. Set aside.

Place the beef chuck in large stockpot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and thoroughly clean the stockpot. This process will give you a much cleaner broth.

Add 4 quarts fresh water back to the stockpot and bring to a boil. Transfer the meat back to the pot, along with the charred/cleaned ginger and onions. Add the scallions, fish sauce and sugar. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the beef chuck is tender, about 40 minutes. Skim the surface often to remove any foam and fat.

Remove one piece of the chuck and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Transfer the beef to a container and refrigerate. Leave the other piece of chuck in the pot.

Now add the spices. Remember my spices came in a package. So all I had to do was place them in the cheesecloth and string them to the handle of the pot while the cheesecloth soaks in the broth.

Continue simmering for another 4 hours. Add the salt and continue to simmer, skimming as necessary, until you’re ready to assemble the rest of the dish. Taste broth and adjust seasoning by adding more salt, sugar, and/or fish sauce as needed.

To serve, boil the noodles according to package instructions. Add to a bowl. Place a few slices of the beef chuck and the raw sirloin on the noodles. Bring the broth to a rolling boil and ladle it into each bowl. The hot broth will cook the beef. Garnish with your toppings of choice and serve!


Note: Recipe adapted from

Dining Out without the Heart Break

This past Wednesday, I completed my third news segment for WZZM 13 news channel here in Grand Rapids. Per usual, the segment was a great time! With Jennifer Pascua, I discussed how to dine out on Valentine’s Day without the heart break. In this segment, I take you through each course of the meal, providing you healthy tips to avoid extra calories and special food or drink choices to benefit your heart. Some quick pics of the segment…

Some key tips that I highlighted:

1. Opting out of the breadbasket to avoid extra calories from refined sugars.

2. Splitting an appetizer or trying a spinach side salad.

3. Making your entree steamed, broiled, or baked and trying an “oily” fish, such as salmon or tuna to bump up your omega 3 intake.

4. Choosing heart healthy vegetables to make up half of your plate, such as red peppers, sweet potatoes, or steamed carrots.

5. If you’re going to do dessert, choose wisely. Opt for dark chocolate over milk chocolate for added heart health benefits. If you plan on getting chocolates for your significant other, choose the smaller box, instead of the larger one.

Vday segment-chocolate

Check out the segment here!

A day later on February 11th, Today’s Dietitian magazine named me “RD of the Day” for this segment, which was completely unexpected and truly exciting “news” for me🙂 Stay tuned for more nosh in the news!