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Happy New Year – Pressure Cooked Oatmeal

It’s the beginning of a new year!  My resolution is to continue to be mindful of wellness.  I walked my typical 45 minutes and came home and ate my traditional, favorite breakfast, steel-cut oatmeal with strawberries, blueberries, and ground walnuts. Yum!

Before I laced up the shoelaces, I prepared to cook the oatmeal in the electric pressure cooker.  The process is very simple and I make enough to enjoy for the week.  I take 1 cup of uncooked steel-cut oats with 4 cups of water. Place in the pressure cooker and set time for 10 minutes on high.  Then I set out on my 45 minute walk… in that time, the pressure cooker would have completed the 10 minutes cooking cucle and the pressure will have released naturally.  I just place in a bowl, add 4 sliced strawberries, a 1/4 cup of blueberries and an ounce of ground walnuts and serve.  

This is a nutritional powerhouse of a breakfast.  It contains approximately 383 calories while providing almost 11 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber.  There are numerous other benefits with the antioxidants in the berries and the soluable fiber in the oatmeal which has been shown to help lower cholesterol and helps to regulate blood sugar.

Happy New Year!

Pressure Cooked Pinto Beans

I remember many years ago purchasing an old fashioned pressure cooker.  My wife asked me “Why?” as she didn’t have any use for one.  She reminded me of the horror stories of individuals having pressure cookers explode in their kitchens.  However, I like gadgets and it was “on sale” and so I became a new owner.  The new unit remained in the box, unused, for about 2 years.  Finally, I sold it at a yard-sale.

Fast forward 3 years later and once again I entertained the idea of purchasing a pressure cooker.  And again, my wife asked me “Why?”, reminded me of the horror stories and as an added bonus reminded me of the last purchase that sold new in the box at a yard sale.  However, this time I was certain that it would be put to use.  This time would be different, especially since this was an “electronic” pressure cooker.  Again, it sat unused in the box.


A year later, friends told me of how they cooked their dry beans using a pressure cooker.  The benefit was that it only took about 45 minutes and didn’t require presoaking the beans.  So, I now had a purpose for my electronic pressure cooker.  Today, these devices are being marketed and very popular. One of the more popular names is that of  “Instant Pot”.  I’ve since found many more uses which has all but made our slow cooker a relic of the past.

Let me first focus on cooking beans in the electronic pressure cooker, specifically pinto beans.

First, I’ve found cooking ½ pound or 1 pound to be most convenient.  A ½ pound dry is basically the equivalent of two 15-ounce cans of cooked pintos – 1 pound will yield 4 cans cooked beans.  You can weigh the dry beans but basically 1 cup of dry pinto beans is equivalent to ½ pound and 2 cups of dry pinto beans is equivalent to 1 pound.

A quick search of the internet and you’ll find methods of cooking dry beans in the pressure cooker.  To reduce foaming (which is common when cooking beans) most recipes will recommend adding cooking oil.  However, adding cooking oil adds calories.  I’ve found that adding oil is unnecessary when using the electronic pressure cooker.  However, if you wish to use oil when cooking then add 3 tablespoons of oil when cooking ½ pound or 1/3 cup of oil if cooking a pound.

To cook ½ pound – place a cup of sorted and rinsed pinto beans in the pressure cooker.  I always sort the beans which is to say I sift through the beans, removing any bad beans, debris and/or stones.  I then rinse and place these beans in the pressure cooker.  Add water to the 3-cup mark within the pressure cooker pot. Cover and secure the lid. It is important to make sure the pressure cooker valve is set to pressure (not steam).  Set cooker settings: timer to 45 minutes and pressure to high.  Once cook time is complete, allow for natural release of pressure. At this point the beans are ready to eat.

Pinto beans are very versatile and can be used alone over bread, rice, or potatoes.  They can be used for burrito filling, tacos, or a host of other uses.   Beans are a great source of protein – adding 8g per ½ cup cooked serving.  The same serving adds 8g of fiber (32% of daily value).

A team of researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University, published in Nutrition Journal an article titled “Bean and rice meals reduce postprandial glycemic response in adults with type 2 diabetes: a cross-over study”.  The researcher found that the consumption of beans improved the glycemic response which is to say that the consumption of beans improved blood sugar.  This is especially important for those having Type 2 diabetes.  The fiber in beans improves the glycemic response.



Thompson SV1, Winham DM, Hutchins AM (2012), Bean and rice meals reduce postprandial glycemic response in adults with type 2 diabetes: a cross-over study, Nutrition Journal 11-23


Lentils & Quinoa with Avocado & Tomato

Here is an easy meal which utilizes the rice cooker.  Basically, you place a cup of lentils, cup of quinoa (be sure to rinse thoroughly), and a quart (4 cups) of water in the rice cooker and cook using the brown rice setting.   I cut up a potato and placed in the steamer tray so that it would cook at the same time.  Once the rice cooker chimed , I removed the equivalent of a medium potato and a cup of the cooked lentils and quinoa to which I added ½ an avocado and a slice of tomato with some spice (I used Mrs. Dash and a little pepper) to mixture and voilà!

This meal is vegan, gluten free, high protein, low sodium, low fat, high potassium, high fiber and tastes delicious. Often I’m asked “where do you get your protein?” and I usually exclaim “I eat it!”  Lentils provide significant high quality protein.  Quinoa is another high quality protein source.  Combined together you definitely consume 24g of wonderful plant-based protein.

A recent study published in the June 2015 edition of the British Journal of Nutrition found that a legume-based therapeutic lifestyle change (TLC) diet reduced inflammatory markers in Type 2 diabetics. Specifically, they found that by replacing two servings of red meat with legumes (lentils, chickpeas, peas, etc.) over a 3 day period significantly reduced inflammation (Somayeh Hosseinpour-Niazi, 2015). Inflammation has long been linked to diseases such as diabetes and vascular disease. Reducing inflammation through diet and exercise will help to improve outcomes. What foods contribute to inflammation? The answer is food that contain saturated and trans-fats such as red meat, margarine, whole milk, potato chips, and the list goes on.


Somayeh Hosseinpour-Niazi, P. M.-G. (2015). Non-soya legume-based therapeutic lifestyle change diet reduces inflammatory status in diabetic patients: a randomised cross-over clinical trial. British Journal of Nutrition, 1-7.



National Nutrition Month 2015 “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle”

It is National Nutrition Month! As a Nutrition & Dietetic Technician, Registered, professional I believe it is very important to focus on nutrition. Each year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics sponsors this powerful campaign promoting sound lifestyle choices with regards to nutrition and exercise. This year’s theme is entitled “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle.” I encourage everyone to determine to make a positive choice and improve your life today through adopting a healthy lifestyle.

I have renewed my personal commitment to improve my own eating and physical activity habits. This is rather a broad goal and so I’ll initially focus on reducing intake of fat and added sugar with the added bonus of building physical activity into my day.  In the process, I hope to gain some energy and lose a few pounds.

First step, eat out less! This should be easy, right? Wrong. Let’s face it, eating out is convenient. True, eating out less should be easier on the pocketbook with the added bonus that you can know exactly what you’re eating. But eating out is simpler and reduces work such as preparation and cleanup. My work life keeps me busy and if that weren’t enough I’m also a dietetic student enrolled in Rutgers’ Coordinated Program for Dietetics. My schedule is hectic and so time is very precious commodity for me. Therefore, I will look to create multipurpose food that with a little ingenuity can be used to create a variety of meals.

This past weekend, I made “Chick-Ala-King” a vegan variety. It consists of rice (a staple in my home), peas (wonderful protein and fiber source), Chick’mmm Gravy and Butler Soy Curls. A serving provides a whopping 22g of plant-based protein, 12g of fiber, with only 1g of saturated fat, zero cholesterol, and an excellent source for B-vitamins and iron. The gravy is spectacular and makes 16 cups which is plenty to be used in a variety of ways. The soy curls are a great vegan substitute for chicken and is non-GMO, high fiber, and an excellent source of protein and iron. I’ve included the web site links below for those wanting to know more. The soy curls also store well as they come dehydrated.  This particular meal consisted of a cup of rice (use brown rice for a healthier choice), covered with a cup of the gravy, mixed with ¾ cup of curls, and ½ cup of peas. The result was an amazing culinary delight which competes with the non-vegan version on so many levels.  I will warn the reader, this meal is little high in sodium and so if you are on a sodium restricted diet you may want to pass.  However, for me it was delicious and I have more gravy to put over baked potatoes or I’m even considering a Chick-n-Dumpling variation.

Chik Ala King

Chick’mmm Gravy:

Butler Soy Curls:

* NOTE: updated Nutrition Facts as of June 30, 2015

Spaghetti Night! Load up the vegetables.

Once again, I took the role of an amateur chef. The evening menu suggested Spaghetti. Usually this means quickly cooking pasta and adding a jar of spaghetti sauce. However, tonight I wanted to boost the nutritional content.   In addition, it had to be gluten-free since my wife’s physician believes she may have a gluten intolerance.

The “non-meatballs” are also known as “Neatballs” – I had previously prepared. The non-meat alternative contains potatoes, ground walnuts, gluten-free bread crumbs, nutritional yeast, and other spices. I truly enjoy the texture and taste of “Neatballs”. They are easily frozen and ready in a pinch for a spaghetti dinner or even to use in a sandwich. However, any vegetarian meatballs will do though we’d have to find a gluten-free variety.

Vegetable Medley Spaghetti and Neatballs



Vegetable Medley Spaghetti and Neatballs

1              Medium onion, chopped

1              Red Bell Pepper, chopped

1              Clove Garlic, minced

1T           Olive Oil

10oz       Organic Zucchini (Frozen for convenience)

16oz       Organic Dice Tomatoes

2c            Organic Spaghetti Sauce (Low Sodium)

2oz         Organic Spaghetti (Gluten Free – Rice/Soy)

16           Organic Neatballs (Vegetarian Non-Meatballs )


1)      In large skillet (14”), sauté’ onion, red bell pepper, garlic, zucchini in olive oil for two minutes over medium heat.

2)      Add zucchini and diced tomatoes and cook for 8-10 minutes

3)      While waiting for sauce to cook – cook spaghetti in a separate pan following preparation instructions.

4)      Add spaghetti sauce to skillet mixture and continue to cook until fully heated.

5)      Serve mixture over drained cooked spaghetti. Enjoy!


Vegetable Medley Spaghetti and Neatballs Food Label






Jolly Greens

Jolly Greens!

I’ve come to appreciate dark leafy greens especially Kale and Spinach. These “green giants” are full of important nutrients that are an important part of a healthy lifestyle. My wife determined to put in a garden. At first I was less than supportive, considering the produce at the local farmers market to be easier to obtain and more cost effective. However, the garden has produced an abundance of wonderful vegetables this year, especially Kale.

Garden Harvest

Bountiful harvest! Kale and Collards.

Kale is considered a super food. It can be rather bitter if you leave the stems. So, I always strip the leaves from the stems. Typically, I will add this to my antioxidant smoothie and enjoy a full two cups (85g) in a single drink. However, too much of a good thing is too much. Apparently, based on a study out of the University of Oregon, it was determined that the consumption of too many cruciferous vegetables  have been linked to impaired thyroid function.   Therefore I tend to put a slight limit on my intake only consuming two cups about three times a week. On off days, I’ll include other vegetables such as carrots, celery or beets.

However, here is a simple smoothie that I enjoy:


1c (140g)              Frozen Organic Blueberries

2/3c (140g)          Frozen Organic Strawberries or Organic Cherries

2c (85g)               Kale or Spinach (or alternate with another vegetable)

2T (13g)                Flaxseed Meal

1c                            Water


Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender (e.g. Vitamix) and blend until smooth. A powerful antioxidant and an excellent source of high fiber, potassium, Vitamin A and C. Enjoy!


Food Label

Food Label

Mushroom-Asparagus Risotto

Mushroom-Asparagus Risotto

Tonight I took the role of an amateur chef. Reviewing various recipes, I put together what I thought was a culinary delight. In addition, this recipe was a wonderful source of nutrition especially Vitamin A, C, and D.   There is more to celebrate in that it is also very high in B vitamins, protein, and potassium.  I used all organic ingredients including fresh parsley from the garden. The taste was amazing!

Mushroom Asparagus Risotto

Mushroom Asparagus Risotto

1 ½ c      Arborio Rice (Risotto)

1              Medium onion, chopped

8oz         Mushrooms

8oz         Asparagus, cut into 1” sections

1              Red Bell Pepper, chopped

32oz       Vegetable Broth (heated)

1T           Olive Oil

2oz         Fresh Parsley


1)      In large skillet (14”), sauté onion, red bell pepper, mushrooms for 3-5 minutes (until vegetables are soft) in olive oil over medium heat.

2)      Place asparagus in a single layer and place in 400 degree oven for 5-8 minutes. Set aside

3)      Add rice directly to skillet with vegetables and stir constantly for 2 minutes.

4)      Add 16oz (1/2) the vegetable broth and stir constantly for 10 minutes uncovered.

5)      Add asparagus, parsley, and the remaining broth and continue to stir uncovered for another 10 minutes or until rice softens.


Mushroom Asparagus Risotto Food Label

Food Label





“Life is the sum of our choices” – Albert Camus

There is much truth to this quote from the French Nobel Prize winning writer. Another quote that I have found to be closely related was written by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” I tend to apply these principles to nutrition and overall wellness. Most of us have the ability to choose what we eat and we too often choose poorly. Here is where these principles should be applied – truly a single unhealthy meal will not result in disease – but the result of lifetime of such choices can and often leads to regret. The flip-side is that if we typically choose healthy meals this will result in dividends in the form of not only more years to our life but more life to our years.

I’m not immune to unhealthy choices. Life can be so busy and stressful that we lose focus. Food is often used for comfort. The key to success is to recognize such situations, have an escape plan, and if you fall then stand up. In my own personal experience, I’ve struggled with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and in recent years weight gain. This trifecta is a dangerous combination which when left unchecked could result in heart disease, diabetes, or stroke. Many factors play into these diseases both controllable and uncontrollable. I’m powerless to change my family history, gender, or race. However, there are many controllable factors such as eating right and stress (yes – I’m convinced that we can and should manage stress).

Often these two particular controllable factors intersect. Our eating can contribute to our stress or it can help us during stressful times. I’ve personally resolved to do a better job managing my stress which has led me to be more mindful of what I choose to eat. My personal health goals and challenges are best addressed by a plant-based diet, regular exercise, adequate rest, hydration, fresh air, sunshine and trust in the Lord. Truly this is the inspired lifestyle!

I have found this wonderful cashew cheese sauce to be a great alternative to real cheese – it is much lower is saturated fat, no cholesterol, and higher in fiber. I used this most recently to top brown rice, broccoli, and black beans – very tasty! However, it is great for many uses including vegan nachos.

Cashew Cheese

1c Raw Cashews
1c Water
2T Nutritional Yeast Flakes
½ Red Bell Pepper
1t Lemon Juice
1T Corn Starch
¼ t Salt

Place all ingredients in high-speed blender (I use a Vita-Mix) and blend until sauce thickens (typically 3-4 minutes). Makes approximately 4 servings.

Single Serving Cashew Cheese

Single Serving Cashew Cheese

Carbohydrate Counting

Carbohydrate counting is a method often used by diabetics to help manage their blood glucose. The concept is basically to plan meals such that they are equal in carbohydrates. The method was originally introduced by the NIH during a trial study that concluded that the amount of carbohydrates consumed is more important than where the carbohydrates originate.

To employ this method, an individual would first need to know how many calories should be consumed daily and then using the 45-65% DV kCal(AMDR) for carbohydrates calculate the daily grams to consume. For example a 2000 calorie diet would require 900 to 1300 calories from carbohydrates or 225-325grams daily. The grams of carbohydrates would be spread across each meal and therefore if you eat three meals a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner) you would consume 75-108g of carbohydrates or 5-7 carbohydrate servings per meal (note: a serving contains 15g of carbohydrates or 60 calories).

I think it is important to state that counting carbohydrates is not the same as limiting carbohydrates. There are many who think that carbohydrates are not good and try to eliminate them altogether. First let me say that carbohydrates are necessary to good health. It is also very important to understand the balance needed between carbohydrates, fat and protein. If you lower the intake of carbohydrates then in order to get your daily value of calories it would require an increase in either protein, fat or both. There are a number of studies ongoing with regards to the relationship that fat and protein have on diabetes (see links below). The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recommends maintaining a balance of 45-65% carbohydrates, 10-35% fat, and 10-35% protein. Personally, I tend to lean (no pun intended) toward the lower side of the fat and protein recommendation and the upper end of the carbohydrates.

21 Day Kickstart – Day 17 Chinese Cruisine

Here is where we have to be careful. Traditional Chinese food is very low fat, low sodium, and high fiber. Unfortunately, many Chinese restaurants in America have adjusted their recipes to the American tastes and therefore often you’ll find foods that are high in fat, high in sodium and low in fiber.

Day 17, I found a local restaurant that offered a relatively healthy Chinese Cuisine. TOTTS Asian Food (Talk of The Town) offered a stir fry with vegetables , tofu and brown rice. A tasty meal. Although high in fiber and protein (thanks to the Tofu option), I am not so certain of the sodium levels or fat levels. It did appear to be a healthier alternative for lunch and I’ll frequent there again.