Vegetarian · Veggies!

Eye Love

I’ve had to wear glasses since I was 5 years old.  The story of how my parents discovered that I needed glasses is quite amusing, actually.  I ran into walls.  A lot.  I’m not talking about just bumping the wall as I walked through the doorway.  No, I would walk right into a big solid wall with no hesitation and sometimes hit so hard that I would fall backward.  My parents just thought that I was “a little slow” (their words, not mine).  We won’t even talk about how disturbing it is that they thought I might be developmentally challenged yet they just shrugged it off…it was the ’70s and things were different then.  Anyway, when I was in kindergarten, my teacher noticed that I couldn’t see the chalkboard and relayed that information to my parents.  My life was changed forever.  Despite being teased incessantly as the only kid in class with “four eyes”, I flourished with my new-found ability to see.  As time went on, the huge bug-eyed frames of the ’80s gradually got smaller to fit my narrow face, and in my teens I began wearing contact lenses.   Finally, I could fit in with my peers!

I may have a strong visual impairment, but my eyes have always otherwise been healthy.  Today I went to the eye doctor, though, and he found a tiny hole in my retina.  It’s nothing to be alarmed about at the moment, but it could potentially grow and I would have to have laser surgery.  There was no traumatic event or infection that caused the hole, and according to the doctor this is something that can just happen spontaneously.  This, of course, got me thinking about eye health and what we can do to take care of our peepers on a daily basis.  Getting the proper nutrients is a good start.

The carrot is famous for being good for your eyes because it has beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, but there are plenty of other foods that offer eye-protective nutrients as well.

There are two other noteworthy precursors to vitamin A, lutein and zeaxanthin, which give foods a yellow or red color.  Good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include squash, egg yolks, and green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale.

Anti-oxidants such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and vitamin C protect the eyes from age-related damage.  We all know fish (especially fatty fish like salmon) have a lot of omega-3s, but they can also be found in walnuts, flax seeds, and soybeans.  Vitamin E can be found in nuts and seeds, avocado, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, and brussels sprouts.  Vitamin C is famously found in citrus fruits, but is also abundant in red peppers (raw), green leafy vegetables, squash, and sweet potatoes.

And zinc is important for delivering vitamin A to the retina so it can work its protective magic.  Zinc is found in meats like beef and chicken, eggs, and beans.

You may have noticed that some of the foods have more than one eye-protective nutrient, so they give your eyes extra love.  Eggs have the dynamic duo lutein and zeaxanthin as well as zinc.  Green leafy vegetables also have the dynamic duo and vitamins E and C.  Squash has vitamin C and, big surprise, the dynamic duo.  The list goes on.  With all of these options, we should all be able to easily eat for healthy eyes.

AcornSquash

This stuffed acorn squash recipe has several eye protective ingredients and it is filling and delicious.  I actually was inspired when I found a recipe from Molly Yeh that used walnut “sausage” crumbles.  I’m trying to eat less meat, so I felt the need to try it and see if it really tastes like sausage.  Her recipe called for cheddar cheese and I didn’t have any on hand, so rather than going on the short walk required to get to the grocery store, I used Parmesan cheese and I was very happy with the result.  The combination of spices really makes it taste like sausage, and the walnuts have a great meaty texture. The recipe makes more crumbles than you need for this squash, so I have been using the leftovers in grain bowls and salads.  Any Italian sausage can be substituted if you prefer meat, but if you try the walnut crumbles, you won’t miss the meat.  I also made my own pesto, but of course you can save time by using store-bought.  Regardless, I’ve included the recipes for the walnut “sausage” crumbles, pesto, and stuffed squash below.  Enjoy!!

acornsquash2.jpgPesto Stuffed Acorn Squash with Walnut Sausage Crumbles
Servings: 4
Serving Nutrition: 379 calories, 10.9 g protein, 20.1 g fat, 43.7 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
2 acorn squashes, cut in half
1/2 c walnut sausage crumbles
1 c cooked farro
1 c mushrooms, chopped
1/2 c diced onion
1/2 c spinach, chopped
1/4 c pesto
1 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Lay 2 halves of squashes cut side up on baking sheet and scoop seeds out with a spoon. Rub or brush flesh with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over cut sides of squash.
3. Bake squash for about 30 minutes, or until slightly tender.
4. Meanwhile, combine sausage crumbles, farro, mushrooms, onion, spinach, and pesto in a bowl and mix well.
5. Once squash is removed from oven, scoop 1/4 of the filling into the center of each squash half where the seeds were scooped out. Push the filling down with your spoon to pack it in.
6. Sprinkle parmesan evenly over each squash half.
7. Bake for another 20 minutes, or until squash is fork-tender.
8. Garnish with a little basil & serve.

AcornSquash3

Walnut Sausage Crumbles (adapted from Molly Yeh’s recipe)
Servings: 8
Serving Nutrition: 155 calories, 4.2 g protein, 14.7 g fat, 2.2 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
1 c toasted walnuts
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried onion
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 c grated parmesan cheese

Directions
1. Add all ingredients to a food processor.
2. Pulse until you no longer see chunks of walnuts and the mixture begins to clump together in crumbles.
3. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.

Basil Walnut Pesto
Yield: About 1 cup (8 servings)
Serving Nutrition: 98 calories, 1.4 g protein, 9.6 g fat, 2.6 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
2 oz fresh basil (about 2 cups)
1/2 c onion, roughly chopped
1/2 c spinach
4 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (or parmesan cheese)
1/4 c walnuts
1/4 c olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp each salt & black pepper

Directions
1. Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender.
2. Pulse until smooth.
3. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.

Easy recipe · Snacks · Travel

Road Trippin’ Into 2019

I am so far behind on finishing this post, and for that I apologize!  I am happy to say that I have officially submitted my dietetic internship applications and I can get back to regularly cooking and sharing on here.

As you may know, I spent a couple of weeks over the holidays on the road moving my BF from Brooklyn to Arizona, and it was a pretty awesome trip, albeit a little rushed at times.  We kicked it off before the sun came up on December 28, stopped in Dallas for some family time and New Years festivities, then continued westward to the Phoenix area. Day 1 was the most notable because we made a few stops along the way. First, we did a quick driving tour of the Gettysburg battlegrounds. That was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Admittedly, I didn’t pay much attention in high school history classes, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the events that shaped our world. Due to the government shutdown, some of the monuments in Gettysburg were closed, but we at least got to peek into the cemetery where Lincoln gave his famous address, and we spent quite a bit of time at Little Round Top, the site of a famous battle involving troops mostly from New York and Texas (the original NY vs TX standoff).

After several more hours of driving, we stopped for dinner at The Tavern in Abingdon, VA then checked out The Martha Washington Inn just down the street, both of which served as hospitals for Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.  Unfortunately,  I was way more interested in eating my dinner than photographing it, so I have nothing to show you.  Trust me when I say, though, that The Tavern is worth checking out if you’re in the area and I can definitely recommend the baked salmon with tomatoes, feta, and spinach.  It was delicious.  The Martha Washington Inn was interesting as well.  It’s a gorgeous mansion that is supposedly haunted.  We thought about staying there, but I was a wimp and didn’t think I would be able to sleep a wink.  Maybe another time.

After we filled our bellies, we went a little further down the road into Tennessee to check out the Christmas lights all around the Bristol Motor Speedway then take a lap of the track.  Although I wasn’t driving and we were only going about 30 mph, it was pretty cool to be on a real NASCAR track.  The angle on that thing is no joke. My BF said it felt like we were going to tip.  I couldn’t feel it from the passenger seat, but it looked steep so I’ll take his word for it.

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Days 2 and 3 were just a lot of driving – across Tennessee, down into Arkansas, then into Texas for a bit of a break from the driving.

After spending a few fun days ringing in the new year with my family, we got back on the road.  It took what seemed like an eternity to get out of the state of Texas.  Seriously, I lived there for the first 31 years of my life and still had no comprehension of exactly how huge that state is until now.  There wasn’t really much to see on our drive through west Texas except oil derricks and refineries.  On the plus side, I saw my first tumbleweed when it rolled into the middle of the freeway and I had to swerve to avoid it.  Luckily, there weren’t any cars around us at the time.  The route we took through New Mexico into Arizona wasn’t really all that scenic either, but 2 days after we left Dallas, we ended our trip in Phoenix.  We spent a few days exploring, then sadly I had to hop on a plane back to NY for a dietetic internship open house.

IMG_1169

How did we survive 5 days trapped in a car together?  My coworkers had given me a book of “Would You Rather?” questions, and that kept us occupied for long stretches.  It’s a really fun book – the questions stimulated a lot of conversation, so definitely check it out if you have any trips coming up.  We did a lot of belting out the tunes whenever we could get a clear radio station.  Ok, maybe it was mostly me doing the singing.  Alright, alright, it was really only me, but I did it to entertain us both!  We also  talked a bit of trash about the cars flying past us.  Seriously, there are some insane drivers out there, and we ranked Tennessee number 1 for the worst drivers encountered on this trip.  They drive crazy fast and cut people off…and a lot of them are in very large trucks.  Scary.

What did we eat?  Eating on a road trip can be tricky because roadside eateries and gas stations don’t generally have many nutritious options.  Sometimes we needed to just get out of the car and sit down for a meal, so we went with it and did the best we could, but we definitely would not have felt good by the end of the trip if that’s all we had to eat.  We planned ahead and brought nutritious snacks so that we knew we were at least getting in some good nutrients along the way.  The snacks really were clutch.  We had trail mix, chocolate & peanut butter snack balls, cheese, oranges, and smoothies.  One of the smoothies we took is one of my long-time favorites – Dark Cherry Oat Smoothie.   I packed them in reusable squeezy pouches like the ones they sell kids’ applesauce in.  Those pouches are awesome…I got them on Amazon for the trip and now I use them to take smoothies to work with me.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a tasty smoothie recipe to add to your breakfast (or snack) game, look no further!

CherryOatSmoothie

Dark Cherry Oat Smoothie
Servings: 2
Serving Nutrition: 253 calories, 7.3 g protein, 12.4 g fat, 31.6 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
1/2 medium banana
1/4 c rolled oats
1/4 c plain Greek yogurt
1 c frozen dark cherries
1/2 c vanilla unsweetened almond milk (or whatever type of milk you prefer)
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1/4 c shredded unsweetened coconut
1 handful of spinach or kale

Directions
1. Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth and serve.