Saturday, June 27, 2015

Moon Sign Book 2016

I am pleased to announce the upcoming release of the Moon Sign Book 2016 from Llewellyn Publishing Worldwide, available now by pre-order on Amazon, and in general on July 8, 2015 (Happy Moon Baby Birthday to me!). As a Contributing Author to this popular Llewellyn Annual, I take an evidence-based approach to healthy eating, nutrition, and gardening topics. Of course, because it's me, there will be some snark too. As a long-time Llewellyn reader, I am thrilled to now be one of their authors. Thank you to those individuals who have supported me over the last stressful year.

In addition to continuing my work as a Bariatric Dietitian, I have also signed with Llewellyn for the Moon Sign Book 2017, and a few other things are in the works. When it rains it pours, but eventually, you learn to tread water. 

Happy Summer!

Mireille Blacke, MA, RD, CD-N

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tofu Sriracha Hummus

Hummus is traditionally made with chickpeas (garbanzo beans), a versatile plant-based protein (15 g protein/cup). However, adding tofu to hummus makes it a protein powerhouse. Tofu, made from soybeans and also known as bean curd, typically provides 20 g protein in one cup. Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. Tofu has a low calorie count and relatively large amounts of protein, especially when compared with animal sources of protein. Tofu is also high in iron, and is often high in calcium and magnesium.


Tofu varies in firmness. In general: The firmer the tofu, the higher the protein content. Extra firm tofu contains the least amount of moisture of all fresh tofu and has the firmness of fully cooked meat and a somewhat rubbery feel, similar to that of paneer. Because the following recipe for Tofu Sriracha Hummus uses extra firm tofu, expect the moisture to settle as a puddle within the tofu's package. Translation: Take care when you open the package to prevent being splashed with liquid.

Extra Firm Tofu (Fresh)

Sriracha sauce adds a spicy kick to this hummus recipe. Named after a small town in Thailand, this bright red, multi-purpose hot sauce is made from red chili peppers, garlic, vinegar, salt, and sugar. The sauce is hot and tangy with just a hint of sweetness, which sets it apart from your garden-variety hot sauces. Be sure to adjust the level of Sriracha sauce in this recipe to your own personal taste. 

The following Tofu Sriracha Hummus recipe is vegetarian-friendly,  a bit different, and above all, easy to prepare. Involving only six ingredients and a food processor, it's quick and simple. 

1 package extra firm tofu, drained and pressed (usually 12 oz. per package)
1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
3 tsp minced garlic
6 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp Sriracha sauce
1/2 cup olive oil 

Directions: Add tofu and lemon juice to bowl of food processor. Puree until smooth. Add remaining ingredients until blended. 
Pureed Ingredients in Food Processor

See? Simple. You can season the above with salt and pepper if you'd like, but I have not found this step necessary. It's far more likely that you'll want to adjust the level of Sriracha sauce (more or less), though most people are head-over-heels with the recipe as is. 

The usual serving size is about 2 Tbsp (1 ounce), and you can expect approximately 10 servings with the listed ingredients. The final mixture will have a slightly coral color (below). I have served this Tofu Sriracha Hummus with whole grain pita chips as well as assorted chopped vegetable dippers (asparagus, baby carrots, celery, multi-colored peppers). 
Tofu Sriracha Hummus (Prepared)
This hummus works well as an appetizer or dipping sauce. Hummus can also be substituted as a sandwich spread, so feel free to experiment!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Healthy Halloween Eating (Pumpkin-Pecan Oatmeal with Pears)

Emotional eating connected to a season or a holiday can become particularly demonic at this time of year. For individuals struggling with long-term issues with weight, Halloween and the following food-filled holiday season may lead to frightening consequences in physical and psychological health. I wrote the following article for individuals who opted for bariatric surgery, often after decades of struggling with morbid obesity. However, the suggestions offered are relevant to anyone interested in improving eating habits during this season of endless apple pies a la mode, pumpkin mocha lattes, and walnut banana breads ("Yes, I'll take another slice home, thank you so much!"). 

Bariatric surgery provides us with a life-altering tool toward health and wellness if we commit to it, but we also must find adequate coping strategies to manage the emotional and psychological challenges that emerge post-surgery. Now as the autumn season reaches its glorious heights of color, scents, and tasty offerings, a wide range of memories may begin to stir, many of which are bittersweet. For example, many of us may hold memories from Halloweens past as some of the most prominent of our childhoods. For those of us that struggled with weight, and often teasing, isolation, or bullying about size, we found a temporary escape in our trick or treating costumes, becoming someone else for that special night. The autumn season still conjures potent imagery and feelings for many of us now as adults. Symbolically, holidays like Halloween and food-centric Thanksgiving may come to represent “my old life.” Post-surgery, patients may feel a sense of deprivation, loss, and resentment over the ability to enjoy certain fall foods. After a while, protein supplements and other types of “replacement foods” may seem like poor substitutes for the seasonal dishes others are enjoying. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. The authentic foods and flavors of autumn can work in the post-op diet, with some effort and planning. This whole-grain-based breakfast recipe for Pumpkin-Pecan Oatmeal with Pears is an example. 

Pumpkin-Pecan Oatmeal with Pears
1 cup non-fat milk
½ cup non-fat powdered milk
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup quick cooking oats (uncooked)
½ cup canned pumpkin puree
2 cups canned pears in juice (diced)
2 tablespoons sugar substitute (Splenda)
8 ounces light vanilla yogurt
2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans

Combine skim milk and powdered milk, sugar substitute, and pumpkin spices in a saucepan on medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes and bring to the boiling point, stirring occasionally. Add oatmeal and heat for about 30 seconds. Add pumpkin pulp, pecans, vanilla yogurt, and pears and mix. Continue to heat about another minute, until oatmeal is heated through.  (This recipe serves 4 and provides 11g protein per serving.)  

Breakfast post-surgery presents the dual challenges of maintaining adequate protein intake and fending off boredom in food choices. Think of Halloween and dress everyday breakfast ideas up in some new creative outfits.  Transform your basic egg dishes into Cajun deviled eggs, sweet potato or kale and tomato frittatas, or give tofu a try in a veggie scramble. Swirl some canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice into your Greek yogurt or cottage cheese for a seasonal treat.  Also, consider “non-breakfast” foods for breakfast, especially high-protein whole grains like quinoa and amaranth, fish dishes (consider heart-healthy smoked salmon), and roasted chickpeas.

Remember: Navigating holiday eating is about making choices, not deprivation. If you love Halloween and the autumn season, there is no need to give up one of your favorite times of year due to the “candy dilemma.” If you had bariatric surgery, why risk dumping syndrome or overindulging by having Halloween candy around in the first place? Instead of tempting yourself with bowls of candy, give out small toys to your trick or treaters. You made the decision to have bariatric surgery to improve your health and quality of life. Embrace new coping strategies and make better lifestyle choices to enjoy a fuller, healthier life post-bariatric surgery. 
The Precious Little Pumpkin (M. Blacke)

Recipe Source:

Friday, May 30, 2014

Slave to the Rind: The War with Watermelon

When one has tasted watermelon he knows what the angels eat.”
Mark Twain

As a Registered Dietitian (RD), I discuss food preferences with individuals regularly. Food favorites and aversions can be extremely personal to people, as they are rooted in childhood memories, family tradition, and cultural heritage. These exchanges ideally should be handled delicately and with finesse. And during these exchanges, we may unexpectedly uncover our own long-dormant biases. 

Yesterday, I discovered one of mine. 

I now publicly admit to loathing one of the healthiest foods on the planet: watermelon.  There is no choking incident, childhood seed-spitting torture, or other random trauma with this nutrient-packed fruit in my past, but I have avoided it for decades nonetheless. I will not eat it in its natural state, or in the form of candy, margaritas, juice, gum, or a carved out punchbowl. With all due respect to Mr. Twain’s quote above, I simply do not get it.

When counseling a client recently, this watermelon disdain apparently showed on my face. I blamed it on a fictional toothache, but mentally noted my bias. So, in order to get a grip on this problem of mine, I decided to investigate the benefits of watermelon in terms of dietary intake. 
One cup of watermelon provides less than 50 calories and no fat, so clearly we have a weight loss winner with this fruit. Watermelon consists of over 90% water, is low in cholesterol and sodium, and is a good source of vitamins A, B6, and C, as well as lycopene. Vitamin A boosts immunity and maximizes eye health. Vitamin B6 assists with immunity, nerve functioning, and red blood cell formation. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that assists the body in tissue growth and maintenance. The watermelon’s red flesh indicates the presence of lycopene, which may lower the risk of heart disease, macular degeneration, and several types of cancer.
There are hundreds of watermelon cultivars, which vary in taste, texture, and color. Not surprisingly, there are recipes for watermelon salads, smoothies, juices, cocktails, sorbets, soups, and salsas, and it can certainly be eaten on its own, or even grilled as “watermelon steak,” though I don’t know from personal experience. 
Watermelon is classified as both a fruit and a vegetable. The watermelon is cousin to the pumpkin, squash, and cucumber. (By the way, I adore those three foods to an embarrassing degree.) This relation is evident in elaborate displays of watermelon carving, but even here I admit to preferring the knife artistry involving pumpkins and autumnal gourds over these summer favorites.
Recommendations from this Registered Dietitian (RD):
1)    Watermelon has minimal calories, no fat, no cholesterol, and low sodium. With its high water content, it provides hydration along with a stomach-filling effect to promote weight loss. Watermelon is therefore a high-volume food (filling with few calories) and a dieter’s friend.
2)    As with other foods of the same family, watermelon may provoke symptoms of oral allergy syndrome, which is connected to ragweed pollen and can potentially lead to anaphylaxis if left untreated. Contact a healthcare professional if you detect similar symptoms after ingesting watermelon, or other associated foods, such as honeydew or cucumber.
3)    A watermelon’s bitter rind is often tossed away quickly. As one summer option, consider using a pickled watermelon rind (from an organic melon) to serve with grilled hamburgers. Watermelon seeds are also edible, but one cup contains 602 calories, most of which come from fat! (Unlike the flesh of the watermelon, its seeds are not weight loss-friendly.)
4)    Food Safety first! Despite the presence of the outer rind, as with all fruits and vegetables, wash your watermelon in clean, running water before consumption. Also, be sure your knives, cutting surfaces, and most importantly, your hands, are clean before you dig in! 

While I am happy to recommend watermelons professionally as I have above, I am still personally biased. For those of you who enjoy them, please have my portion, and feel free to learn more about watermelons here

To read the full article on my watermelon war in OKRA Magazine, click here.