Not a Greek Yogurt in Site

During my travels over the last few weeks, I had my fill of restaurant food. For 12 days straight, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, consumed in a place other than my home sweet home. I know there are many people that would consider this a luxury, but eating out all of the time can get old fast. By my 6th day on the road, all I wanted for breakfast was a Greek yogurt, something I was used to having every week, if not every day at home. However, in our staff lounge, the convention center only provided “regular” yogurt. No matter how much I begged, pleaded, and flirted with our lounge staff, no one could seem to find a Greek yogurt within two miles. Sad, but true.

Little did I know what was waiting for me when I arrived home one week later.

While away, Scott called to tell me that I received several packages in the mail, one being a perishable package. Lucky for me, I arrived home to find a dozen perfect cartons of Siggi’s yogurt! Now I know Siggi’s is not “Greek” yogurt per se, but after tasting it for the first time that night, I can honestly say it is VERY similar to Greek yogurt, and maybe even better! Gasp!

Siggi’s yogurt is a type of skyr yogurt – the traditional yogurt of Iceland. It’s similar to Greek yogurt in that it is much thicker than regular yogurt because it’s strained several times. Because of the straining process, it has a significant amount of protein. But, unlike most Greek yogurt brands, Siggi’s skyr is comes in several flavors, including vanilla, grapefruit, blueberry, orange, acai, and more. Plus, Siggi’s is fat free and only flavored with real agave nectar  – no sugar or artificial sweeteners.

So how does it taste? I have to admit, the vanilla and blueberry Siggi’s hold their own against any Greek yogurt I’ve tried, but the orange flavor is more of an acquired taste.

Although I am still partial to my Greek yogurt (oh how I still miss you!), Siggi’s is really giving Greek yogurt a run for it’s money.

Touring California Walnut Country

I recently had the great pleasure of touring California’s walnut county on behalf of the California Walnut Commission. The tour was quite an adventure that spanned two days – two days of learning about walnut harvesting and processing, as well as the many great benefits that walnuts hold.

My adventure started at the beautiful Citizen Hotel in downtown Sacramento where I joined a group of 20-25 other journalists and walnut experts for an elegant dinner. Prior to dinner, we watched cookbook author Mollie Katzen and Chef Michael Tuohy from Grange restaurant whip up some very easy pesto.

We all proceeded to get our hands a little dirty making Chef Tuohy’s own version of white walnut pesto. This was, by far, the best pesto I have ever tasted and not just because I made it. I am not a huge fan of pine nuts or basil in pesto, which are standard ingredients for many restaurant pestos. But Chef Tuohy’s white pesto was made with a base of cheddar, olive oil, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, and, best of all, ground walnuts! Again – the best pesto I have every tasted! Don’t worry, I do plan on posting the recipe in a few days!

Our cooking demo was followed by a three-course dinner, with walnuts playing a starring role. We also were very fortunate to hear award-winning researcher and author Dr. Brian Wansink discuss some of the pitfalls to American eating, much of which was discussed in his book, Mindless Eating.

The next morning, we were treated to a walnut-studded breakfast at Old Soul Co. in Sacramento, which included walnut scones, banana walnut sweet bread, and even spinach and goat cheese quiche with walnuts.

After breakfast, we headed to the main event – a tour of the walnut trees at Fedora Farms in Meridian, CA. Here we learned about the varieties of walnuts, how they are shaken from the tree and collected, and how they are hulled and dried before being sent to the processing plant. What I was impressed by most about Fedora Farms was how much time and care they put into harvesting quality walnuts – it really is a great source of pride for the Fedora family and for walnut growers in general. Like Fedora Farms, most walnut farms/orchards are experiencing a fantastic harvest this year. According to the California Walnut Board, California will produce a record harvest in 2010, estimated at 17% larger than that seen in 2009.

Lunch was a gourmet meal underneath the walnut trees provided by Chef Patrick Mulvaney, owner of Culinary Specialists Catering. Chef Mulvaney prepared a first-class lunch for our tour, right in the middle of the walnut orchard – very classy! Oh, and did I mention the menu included 4 uses for walnuts, including the chocolate pudding!

After lunch, we headed to Yuba City to visit the Sacramento Valley Walnut Growers, where they process, package, and distribute the walnut grown in the area. What surprised me most about the processing and packaging of the walnuts was how many steps are in the quality control process – I counted at least four but I’m sure there were more!

For dinner, we headed back to downtown Sacramento to The Kitchen Restaurant, touted as one of “the most entertaining and distinctive dining destinations in Sacramento.” This meal and whole experience truly lived up to the hype. Not only was the atmosphere like no other that I had experienced (when do you ever get to go into the kitchen of a restaurant and just hang out?) but the food was unbelievable! Granted, I did not eat all of the 6 courses because they included seafood and beef, but the presentations were extremely entertaining and amazing looking!

Aside from the highly interactive dinner preparations, I was really impressed with the fact that each dish could be, and was in my case, tailored to fit each guest’s likes/dislikes. Don’t care for frog legs? No problem! They will just replace them with tender breaded chicken made to look like frog legs – so  you don’t feel completely left out! Furthermore, as a testament to the Chef’s creative genius, 5 of the 6 courses included walnuts. After my 5-hour culinary experience, I was quite full and ready to fall into a deep, walnut-induced food coma.

Overall, the California Walnut Harvest gave me a new perspective about the growth, harvesting, and processing of walnuts. It’s not every day that I get to see a food that I love go from the tree to the table. And, although I have written about the many health benefits of walnuts before, this tour reinforced how healthy these little nuts are and how incorporating them into any meal is possible and easy.

If you don’t know by now, walnuts are one of the best, if not the best, nuts in regard to nutritional value. Don’t believe me? Check out the California Walnut Commission to see the full details!

5 Reasons To Eat Dark Chocolate Every Day

Dark Chocolate

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The health benefits of dark chocolate have been widely reported in the last few years. It has even been called a superfood due to its positive impact on a variety of health conditions. I rarely need an excuse to eat chocolate. But if you were looking for another reason to eat chocolate every day, here are five good ones!

5 Reasons to Eat Dark Chocolate Every Day

  1. Helps our Heart – Numerous studies have associated heart health with eating dark chocolate. Even recent studies have shown that the powerful antioxidants, flavanols, in dark chocolate can help prevent the activation of platelets in the blood, which contribute to heart disease. Other studies show that the antioxidants can even reverse some of the artery damage cause by smoking, although this is definitely not an incentive to keep smoking nor is it a good excuse to start.
  2. Makes You Smarter – Dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids) is a major source of magnesium, a mineral essential for brain health, while it also helps prevent the plaque build-up that leads to Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, there is evidence that chocolate boosts memory, attention span, and increase our reaction time.
  3. Boosts Our Immune System – A 2009  study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that dark chocolate has immunity boosting power, possibly helping us fight off infection.
  4. Reduces Stress – Eating about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate every day may help to reduce your stress level, particularly those with moderate to high anxiety.
  5. Helps Us Live Longer – Finally, Harvard researchers found that people who ate chocolate lived an average of one year longer than those who did not, although the association was stronger in men than women.

Have a great night everyone – I’m off to eat some chocolate!

The Do’s and Don’ts of Carb-Loading for Runners


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When I was training for my first Half Marathon, I remember loading up on pasta, bagels, and breads a few days before the race. I ended up gaining a few pounds and looking awfully chubby and pasty – so NOT how a distance runner should look! But this practice of carb-loading before my race helped me run 2+ hours and still have energy to burn in the after party.

What is carb-loading?

Runners and endurance athletes have embraced the practice of carb-loading for years. Carb-loading involves maximizing your intake of carbohydrates in order to sustain long-term, intense physical activity, such as a triathlon, marathon, or century ride. But…

Why do we need all of those carbs?

Good question! High-intensity sports, like marathon running, take a significant amount of energy to perform. The energy that we need comes from the food we eat in the form of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Our bodies need all three of these nutrients, but carbs (which our bodies turn into sugar) are our body’s main source of energy and what sustains us the longest during exercise. Hence, carb-loading may help you maximize energy storage and boost your athletic performance.

When should I load up on carbs?

Before you start jumping for joy thinking you can eat every carb under the sun, STOP and read this. Carb-loading isn’t necessary for recreational sports or activities, or even running a 10K! For runners, carb-loading is usually recommended a few days to several hours before a run that will last 90 minutes or more.

How do I carb-load my diet before a big race?

Mayo Clinic explains that traditional carb-loading is done in a two-step process the week before a high-endurance activity.

STEP 1: A week before your event, reduce your carb intake to 50 to 55 percent of your total calories. Keep in mind, 1g of carb equals 4 calories. Therefore, in a 2,000 calorie/day diet, you’ll want to eat no more than 275g of carbs per day. During this time, increase your protein and fat intake to compensate for the calories lost in reducing your carbs. Continue training as normal in order to deplete your carb stores and get your body ready for the Step 2 – carb-loading!

STEP 2: Three to four days before your event, increase your carb intake to 70 percent of your total calories, or 4.5g of carbs per pound of body weight (your weight in pounds x 4.5 = number of grams of carbs). Decrease your intake of fatty foods and scale back on training to save your carb/energy stores for the big day.

What carbs should I eat?

Back in the day, all carbohydrates were given the same importance. Endurance athletes would stock up on any and every carb they could find before a big race or sporting event. Now, after years of research, we know that not all carbs are created equal.

According to Runner’s World, before a long race, you want to take in carbs such as whole grains and fruits. These will give you slow-burning energy and help you avoid rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels. During your long training runs or your actual race, you’ll want fast-acting carbs that will convert immediately into glucose/sugar energy. Here’s where bagels, sports gels and drinks, and even candy come in handy.

What about carb intake after my event?

As I’ve mentioned before, remember to eat within an hour of your event to replenish your energy stores. You’ll want to eat a mix of carbs and protein, ie. whole wheat bagels/bread, bananas, protein bar, etc. Keep in mind, you’ll want to reduce your post-event carb intake back to normal levels, about 50-60 percent of your calorie intake.

What are the risks of carb-loading?

1) Weight Gain: On this plan and many carb-loading plans, runners/athletes will gain weight, maybe 2-3 pounds – just as I did. But don’t worry, it’s just water weight and will easily be lost during your high-intensity workout, as long as you don’t continue carb-loading post-race!

2) Digestion Issues: Limit the high-fiber carbs 1-2 days before your event to reduce gas, cramping, and overall digestive discomfort.

3) Blood Sugar Changes: Carb-loading can rapidly change your blood sugar levels. If you’ve had problems with your blood sugar in the past, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before indulging in the carbs.

Now, go forth and be smart about your carbs!

Happy running everyone!

Travel Writing To Feature Walnuts, Grapes, and Gourmet Food

Grape Harvest

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As some of you know, I have many exciting trips planned, via writing assignments, from now until the end of the year. And now, I finally get to reveal a few of them!

Chicago Gourmet: This weekend, I will be attending Chicago Gourmet as an official Foodbuzz Correspondent. I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of the Foodbuzz community and to share my coverage of the event with Foodbuzz readers. One thing I am just dying to do is interview Cat Cora, aka the first female Iron Chef and Bon Appetit Executive Chef. Keep your fingers crossed that she can fit me into her schedule!

Walnut Harvest: Just a few weeks after Chicago Gourmet, I’ll be headed to California to cover the walnut harvest. I am a huge walnut fan, which makes it so much easier to say yes to trips like this. I am really looking forward to learning more about how walnuts are harvested, how to cook with them (beyond the typical cereal, oatmeal, granola, etc.), and about their health benefits. For someone who doesn’t eat fish – or seafood – at ALL, it’s extremely important to know that walnuts have as much or even more omega 3 fatty acids than fish. Thank goodness for that!

Grape Harvest (aka Crush): Exactly one week after the Walnut Harvest, I will be heading back to San Francisco, stopping off in Napa to cover the wine scene and the grape harvest. I’m also planning to review a very popular restaurant in Yountville – can you guess what it is?

Foodie Scene: After Napa, I travel up the coast to get a taste of the foodie/tourist scene in Vancouver. Vancouver is fresh off the Olympics and has so much to offer travelers. I can’t wait to explore the city and the sites in the fresh mountain air!

I’ll be planning full stories related to these trips for both RWC and Bistro Chic. You will definitely not want to miss them or the pictures – plus, you never know when I’ll throw in a giveaway!

And speaking of giveaways…

I just realized that I forgot to post who the winner of the Mighty Leaf Tea and Sympathy Giveaway is! The recipient of the giveaway, via random number generator, is…

Lisa Smith
Posted September 20, 2010 at 5:45 am | Permalink | Edit
I Love my green tea! I drink it most during the winter months the P.M.

Lisa – be sure to send me your address and I will send you the very relaxing tea package ASAP! Thank you all so much for entering the giveaway.

Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage of my cross-country adventures!

Warm Up With My Mighty Leaf Tea Giveaway!

The official start of Fall is just a few days away. You all know how I love the fall – especially for fall running. But the cooler weather is also a great time to start drinking my favorite teas again. I drink tea quite a bit in the Fall and Winter months, mostly because it keeps me warm on those cold days but also for the fantastic health benefits. However, I tend to slack off a little from April-August when the temps start to rise. I know that many people drink hot tea all year long (like this guy), but when it is warm outside, a cold Starbucks coffee just hits the spot.

A few months ago, on a rare occasion when I was drinking tea in the summer, I bought my first box of Mighty Leaf Tea. I had tried the tea at a restaurant a few days prior and just had to have a box for myself. The organic breakfast from Mighty Leaf has a classic taste – similar to an English Breakfast, completely full-bodied and delicious – particularly with a little cream.

Mighty Leaf Tea Giveaway

Fast-forward to the present where I am very excited to report that Mighty Leaf Tea has kindly sent me a few of their products to giveaway. Here’s what one lucky reader will get….

  • A stainless steel Tea Top Brew Travel Mug – (still in the box!) It’s awesome for drinking your tea in the car on the way to school or work!
  • 12 pouches of Mighty Leaf tea – 3 each of Green Tea Tropical, Orange Dulce, Organic African Nectar, and Organic Detox Infusion
  • A copy of Green Tea Living – This is a freebie from me! It’s an awesome book about the health benefits of tea and all the awesome things you can do with it!

To enter, you can either:

  1. Leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite flavor of Mighty Leaf Tea is or which flavor you’d most like to try. OR
  2. Tweet/retweet this post over Twitter

You have until Tuesday, September 21, 2010, at 9 PM Central to enter the giveaway. I can’t wait to hear all your comments! You are seriously going to love these giveaway items!!

Chip and Dip Bowl Giveaway!

When I attended the Healthy Living Summit, I was fortunate enough to go on a tour of the Frito Lay plant in Wisconsin. I learned so much about Frito Lay chips and was quite impressed at all of the steps they are taking to make healthier and greener products.

Now, you all know I’m a chip addict. But I also love dips! I love dips of nearly every kind – bean dips, fruit dips, taco dips, veggie dips, chips dips, etc. However, I’m quite aware that dips often contain high amounts of calories, fat, sugar, and sodium. That’s why I was so glad the girls at Frito Lay sent me a fantastic dip recipe made out of plain Greek yogurt.  Take a look at the recipe – it’s so much healthier than most dips. Hint – it only has 45 calories per serving!

Greek Yogurt and Cucumber Dip

Serves: 8; Serving Size: ¼ cup


  • 1 English cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, and seeded
  • 1 ½ cups nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Cumin to taste


  • Grate cucumber halves by hand or chop in a food processor until coarse, but not mushy. Place grated/chopped cucumber in a strainer and cover with a paper towel to squeeze out the excess juice. You may need to change the paper towel a few times.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, chives, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. Fold in the cucumber and season with salt and pepper. Add cumin to taste.
  • Refrigerate until chilled, about an hour.
  • Nutrition Information (per ¼ cup serving):

    45 calories, 5 g protein, 3 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 2 g fat, 0 g sat fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 91 mg sodium

    The other day I was craving something crunchy and salty, so I promptly made this dip and paired it with some Frito Lay SunChips. Fantastic! The creamy, spicy dip was a perfect combo with my SunChips, although I probably ate more chips than the dip! But hey, they have 18g of whole grains per ounce!

    Frito Lay Giveaway

    As I mentioned last night, I will be doing more giveaways in the future. And guess what? I have another one for you right now! Frito Lay has graciously offered to give one of my readers a fabulous Crate and Barrel chip and dip bowl, with extra dip bowls. Plus, they are throwing in a bag of Lay’s, SunChips, and Tostitos Scoops!. And all of this just in time for Labor Day weekend! I sooo wish I could enter this giveaway myself! But because I can’t, I’m giving it to one of you.

    How to Enter

    All you have to do to enter is either:

    • Leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite Frito Lay product OR
    • Tweet/retweet this post on Twitter

    You must enter the giveaway by 9 PM Eastern on Wednesday, September 1, 2010. After that, I will pick a random entrant and post the winner on the my blog. Easy peasey, don’t ya think?

    Good Luck! Now, let’s get snacking!

    Spice Girl

    What’s an easy way to add flavor to a dish without adding calories or fat? Spices of course! Scott and I regularly cook with spices, herbs, and rubs. Although our spice drawer is far from being complete, I think it would stand to impress any Food Network Chef. From exotic curries to fragrant chili powder to cracked peppercorns, our spice drawer is quite a site and one of the best aspects of our kitchen.

    But our spice drawer didn’t start out this way. I remember a time when our spice drawer wasn’t even a spice rack. It was no more than a jar of garlic powder and cinnamon – those were rough times in the kitchen. But over the years, we’ve built a stock of many of our favorites like oregano, Italian seasoning, and cumin. In fact, we have so many herbs and spices that they can’t all fit in one large drawer – we keep the overflow in the cabinet!

    Aside from adding taste without calories, spices can also turn an ordinary meal into something extraordinary. Seriously, a full spice drawer can do wonders for a pound of meat, poultry, fish, pasta, or even tofu. Lemon pepper chicken – no problem! Spicy turkey chili – coming right up! When it comes to spices, the possibilities are endless.

    If you’re just building your spice drawer or would like to expand it, start with your basic spices and then build from there, depending on your tastes and favorite recipes. Good Cooking also provides a great guide to herbs and spices and their suggested uses. Go on, add a little spice to your life – your tastebuds will thank you for it!

    Hmm, I think if I had to be a Spice Girl – I’d be Chili Spice – what about you?

    Everything In Moderation, Including Chips

    Have I ever told you how much I love chips? I don’t mean just love , I mean LOVE!!!! Hi, my name is Jennifer and I’m a chipaholic. And this isn’t a new love affair for me either. I’ve loved chips for as long as I can remember. I know what you’re thinking – I’m supposed to write about how to live a healthy lifestyle – and chips are bad, aren’t they? Well, it’s true that chips have little nutritional value – aside from standard carbs, fat, and calories that our body needs. However, my feeling is that no food should be bad or good. Eat any food that you like, as long as you eat it in moderation and balance it with a variety of foods from all of the food groups. So, I can absolutely have my chips as long as I balance them with vegetables, fruit, etc.

    In the last few years, Scott and I have been trying to eat foods in their most natural state – even chips. About 5 years ago, we were determined to find chips that had the fewest ingredients and ingredients we recognized. We settled on Cape Cod chips for the simple reasons that they tasted good and only had 3 ingredients – salt, oil, and potatoes. For years, Cape Cod chips were the ONLY chips we would eat, but we have since broadened our horizons.

    Last week, when I attended the Frito Lay tour, I learned that Lay’s signature chips – the plain potato chips – have only 3 ingredients – oil, salt, and potatoes. Shocking! I mentioned this to Scott over the phone who believed the ingredients, but was skeptical about the taste. But something must have peaked his interest along the way because he went out and bought 2 bags of Lay’s reduced fat all-natural potato chips made with sea salt. Tonight, while eating them with our turkey burgers and carrots, he said, “these taste better than Cape Cod, I don’t know why”. I admit, I felt the same way. Sorry Cape Cod, there’s a new chip in town.

    Anyway, after the Frito Lay tour, I begged and pleaded with the Frito Lay girls to give me a shirt, but alas, they had no more. Fortunately, they found a extra shirt back at the office and mailed it to me. Thank you!! It arrived today and I couldn’t wait to put it on. The shirt actually has a dual meaning for me. Not only did I want the shirt because I love chips, but I’m also an alum of Central Michigan University, home of the Chippewas – or the “Chips” as we would call them.

    And, as they say at CMU – Go, Fire Up, Chips! Have a great night everyone.

    Stress and the Carb Fix

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    Stress – I said it before and I’ll say it again…stress makes me throw all of my good eating habits out the window. Work has been stressful lately – I have a zillion projects that need to be completed in the next 3-4 months. And, as of now, I have very few staff resources to help me.

    Not fun. As a result of the stress – particularly today’s stress – I tend to eat bad. For example, take a look at what I ate today:

    • 1 peach and a few bites of my daughter’s Trader Joe’s waffle
    • 1 Starbucks Mocha Frap
    • 1 1/2 cups pasta with about 1/4 cup sauce
    • 1 bag of vending machine pretzels
    • 2 small cookies and 2 mini snickers
    • 1 carrot
    • 1/2 peanut butter sandwich
    • A load of BBQ potato chips

    I am probably under my suggested calorie intake for the day, but still – it was a total carb-loading day. And, I had a total of 2 fruits/veggies – ugh! It doesn’t help that my husband is working a ton this week so I’m playing mostly single mom – taking Mr. C and Ms. M back and forth to daycare and t-ball.

    I shouldn’t complain though. I still have my health…sniff. Plus, we’re headed to see Jack Johnson this weekend – can’t wait!!! I have wanted to see JJ for YEARS! I’ve said on more than one occasion that I want to see JJ and Jimmy Buffet before I die. After Saturday – I’ll have just one more on my bucket list of concerts to attend! Hmmm…maybe the mellow sounds of Jack Johnson will help me relax a little. I’ll keep you posted 🙂