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The Blog: Flourishing Foodie
Heather Hands, a registered dietician, has an awesome eating philosophy: Eat plenty of salad, and then some cake.
What is your current ingredient obsession?
Avocados—I just can’t seem to get enough. I eat them smashed on toast in the morning with a little salt and pepper. I add them to salads, rice dishes, and cream them into pasta sauce. When I’m feeling a little lazy, I’ll sprinkle an avocado with some salt and eat it with a spoon.
As a registered dietician, what’s the question you get asked most often and how do you answer?
People often ask me if eating gluten-free is healthy. If you cut gluten from your diet, you are not going to magically become healthier by mere avoidance of the protein, unless you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. You could potentially become unhealthy if you substitute the whole grains in your diet with pre-packaged, processed gluten-free foods. For people choosing to cut gluten out of their diets, it can be done in a healthy way, but it takes some careful planning to ensure that you are getting all of your vitamins, minerals and fiber from other foods. I tell people that if they are concerned about celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, to make an appointment with a dietitian or gastroenterologist for further testing.
You say you love salads—what makes a salad great to you?
My salads must be colorful, crunchy and fresh. When I am making a salad for lunch or dinner, it usually makes up my whole meal. It’s important that it leaves me feeling full for hours, so I’ll often add some sort of protein and possibly a whole grain. I like variety within my meals, and a salad can provide the perfect medium for a number of ingredients from fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, fish, cheese, tofu, couscous, quinoa, croutons—the possibilities are endless. It’s an opportunity to put all of your favorite ingredients into a bowl and cover them in a healthy oil-based dressing. For me, it is the perfect meal.
You also talk about loving rich, healthy oils—what are your favorites and why?
At home, I use Partanna extra-virgin olive oil in almost every meal that doesn’t require heat—salad dressings, pasta sauces, dip for bread, drizzled over finished dishes. Besides containing healthy monounsaturated fats, fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants, I use it because I enjoy the taste. If I am making an Asian-inspired dish, I will often turn to sesame oil for flavor. For all other frying/cooking I use canola oil for its healthy fat profile, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 and -6), and its mild taste. It also has a relatively high smoke point, which makes it ideal for cooking at higher temperatures.
You love cake as much as salad. What is your all-time favorite?
I pretty much love all cake—vanilla, chocolate, coconut, banana, carrot, but if I had to choose just one, it would have to be this chocolate cake with ganache filling, and chocolate buttercream frosting.
Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and cofounder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.