March 31, 2015

Simple Cherry-Coconut Granola

I just felt like granola's spring sort of but cool out so something comfy sounded good. Making granola literally takes about 5 minutes and you can modify any recipe based on the ingredients you have on hand. The basic granola recipe includes combining oats and other favorite dry ingredients, then mixing in an oil and sweetener combo (maple syrup is my preference). Then you bake and serve or save. Granola freezes very well and also makes nice gifts. This simple recipe would be fun to make with children as well. Feel free to adjust sweetener down if needed as adding flavors like vanilla extract, coconut flakes and spices contributes a depth of taste so you might not need as much sweetness. Have fun! 

Simple Cherry-Coconut Granola                                         


4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut flakes
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¾ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup canola or sunflower oil
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¾ cup unsweetened dried cherries (can sub dried cranberries, raisins or chopped apricots)

1.      Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350° F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.      Combine oats, almonds, pistachios, coconut, cinnamon, salt and cardamom in a large boil. Combine maple syrup, oil and vanilla then fold into dry mixture. Spread onto the prepared sheet and bake 15 minutes, stir and then cook 15 minutes more. Granola should be slightly browned but monitor it closely so it doesn't burn.

3.      Cool granola for 10-30 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl and stir in the dried cherries and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to one month. Also freezes well.

*Original recipe by Ginger Hultin 3/31/15

March 6, 2015

Simple Potato Leek Soup for a chilly St. Patrick's

It's still really, really cold here in Chicago with record breaking lows again last night. I hope the river thaws out enough to dye it green on St. Patrick's Day in a couple weeks. There is hope for spring, however, and we might even hit 40 degrees this weekend. On the bright side, this means it is still soup weather for a few more weeks and how better to celebrate an Irish holiday than with potato leek soup? This soup is very easy and quick to make with only three steps in the instructions. Naturally vegan, I added silken tofu for creaminess, protein and nutrients. A Vitamix blender works really well for pureeing the soup, but you can use a regular blender as well, or an immersion blender for less mess. Let me know what you think if you make it. Happy St. Patrick's and Happy National Nutrition Month! 

Simple Potato Leek Soup                                                       
Yields 10-12 cups of soup

3 cups yellow potatoes, peeled and sliced into circles
2 large leeks, white part only cleaned and sliced
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 block (16 oz) silken tofu
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Fresh chives, finely chopped

1.      Simmer potatoes and leeks in vegetable broth and water, covered, for 45 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
2.      Combine soup and tofu in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. 
3.      Stir in salt and pepper and serve hot with fresh chives as a garnish.

*Recipe by Ginger Hultin 3/1/15

March 4, 2015

National Nutrition Month: Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle (and Avoid Cancer)

It's National Nutrition Month again and this year's theme is "Bite Into A Healthy Lifestyle". I like this theme because it goes beyond just eating healthy to incorporate lifestyle factors. As a dietitian, I always address fitness, supplements including vitamins and minerals and will also assess sleep, stress/emotional concerns, and smoking during my consults. 

This month I'm also studying for my "CSO" or Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition.  To qualify to sit for this board, you have to have been a practicing dietitian for at least two years and have documentation of 2000 hours in oncology nutrition experience. I've been studying a lot and I hope I pass. Mostly, this test is designed for dietitians who work in the oncology field and so most of it is things I see everyday. That being said, I do work in an outpatient setting and a lot of the information is hospital-based so I'm also having flashbacks to my days as a dietetic intern at my awesome oncology rotation at Edward Hines VA Hospital. 

During my studying, the texts and current research highlight again and again the importance of dietary and lifestyle factors for cancer prevention, during cancer treatment and for survivors to prevent recurrence and improve general quality of life. Too many of my patients end up at the Block Center because their other doctors (including oncologists!!) told them: "what you eat doesn't matter - it won't make a difference so eat whatever you want". So many oncology centers serve soda, donuts, or push corn syrup/corn oil "nutritional shakes". My patients know it's wrong and it IS according to current research. What you eat DOES matter - it matters a lot. 

Updated September 2014, the American Institute on Cancer Research provides the following recommendations for preventing cancer:

Recommendations for Cancer Prevention

  1. Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.
  2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day. Limit sedentary habits.
  3. Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods.
  4. Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans.
  5. Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats.
  6. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day.
  7. Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium).
  8. Don't use supplements to protect against cancer.
  9. It is best for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months and then add other liquids and foods.
  10. After treatment, cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention.
  11. And don't' smoke or use tobacco products.
I also recently wrote a piece for called 11 Changes You Can Make Today to Reduce Your Cancer Risk and it's 100% diet and lifestyle factors. During treatment, good nutrition is critical - even when someone isn't feeling well. Dr. Block and I wrote a piece for the Global Advances In Medicine Journal about how even when a person has no appetite, we still need to try to find the healthiest items available for them. The last thing we would ever want to do is fuel cancer with inflammatory oils or simple sugars. Finally, check out the American Cancer Society FAQ for nutrition and physical activity during treatment. They have some very clear recommendations on how to eat healthfully during cancer treatment and really highlight how what you eat does matter. 

I'll let you know if I pass the test - fingers crossed, I'm studying a lot! I guess you'll know if I add some more credentials to my name :) In good health...Happy National Nutrition Month!