Quick Lentil Soup

Ingredients:
2 Tbs Olive Oil
2 Tbs butter
1 yellow onion diced
3 stalks celery diced
1.5 tsp ground cumin (or more to taste)
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tps garlic powder
1 tbs sea salt or more to taste
1 tsp fresh ground pepper or more to taste
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
4 cups filtered water
1 cup green lentils
1 bunch chopped red chard (or any greens about 3 cups)
1 tbs sea salt or more to taste
1 tsp fresh ground pepper or more to taste

Directions:
Heat the olive oil and butter over med low heat in a 4 quart or larger pot. Add the onion and the celery and saute for 10 minutes. Add the cumin, garlic, garlic powder, salt and pepper cooking 1 minute or so until fragrant. Add the tomatoes including the juice from the can and cook another 10 minutes. Add the water. Bring to a boil. Add the lentils. Lower heat and simmer with a tilted lid for 30 minutes or until lentils are tender, stir occasionally. Add the greens, simmer 10 more minutes or until greens are desired tenderness (spinach may only take a few minutes). Taste and adjust seasoning. Enjoy.

Kale & Quinoa Salad

Quinoa & Kale Salad

This salad is easy to put together and if left undressed will store easily in the fridge since kale is sturdier than lettuce. Make it the night before and bring it with you for a quick lunch. The quinoa, green beans, kale, sesame seeds, and apricots are all good sources of fiber containing plant lignans.

Yields 2 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup blanched green beans
  • 1.5 cups curly kale – chopped
  • 1/2 cup cooked diced chicken
  • 2 tbs sesame seeds
  • 2 tbs dried apricots, chopped
  • 2 tbs sliced scallions

For the dressing combine:

  • 4 tbs EV olive oil,
  • 3 TBS lemon juice,
  • 1/2 tsp nutritional yeast,
  • ¼ sea salt
  • pepper to taste

Directions:
Combine all the salad ingredients. Toss with the dressing and enjoy cold.

Recipe may be doubled or tripled and eaten through out the week.

 

Easy Manhattan Style Clam Chowder

Manhattan Clam Chowder

This recipe is packed with magnesium, a calming mineral that helps the body manage stress and PMS. The canned clams make it an easy weeknight meal. But if you have the time and know how, you can cook and shuck your own clams but make sure to reserve the cooking liquid and use it in the soup in place of the clam juice as this juice contains the minerals from the clams.

When selecting canned products make sure that you check labels to avoid MSG. Also when using canned fish and shellfish, extra salt is often added as a preservative, so make sure you taste your soup before adding additional salt.

Yields 6 Servings. This soup freezes well so make the whole batch!

Ingredients:

4 strips of uncured bacon, diced
2 medium yellow onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon thyme

2 bay leafs
3 cups kale or other green
1 cup diced celery
½ cup dry white

2 cup diced yellow or white potato skin on

4 cups chicken stock
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

1 cup clam juice

6.5 oz can minced clams in juice

10oz can whole baby clams
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a large soup pot sauté the bacon over medium heat until just starting to crisp. Add the onions and garlic to the pan. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are wilted and lightly caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the bay leafs, thyme, celery to the pan and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the peppers soften, about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the white wine (add it all at once and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any stuck on bits of caramelized food.) Add the stock, potatoes, tomatoes, and clam juice. Bring pot to a boil and reduce to a simmer until the potatoes are tender. Add the clams, kale, parsley, and salt and pepper, to taste, and cook for a final 5 minutes. Stir well to blend and serve.

Health Benefits of Easy Manhattan Style Clam Chowder

Clams – Clams are a low fat, high protein seafood choice with an above average amount of healthful minerals such as selenium, zinc, iron and magnesium and B vitamins like niacin. Zinc and magnesium can help regulate an abnormal menstrual cycle. And magnesium helps with low libido and symptoms of PMS. (Source: Seafood Healthfacts: Making Smart Choices: Clams. Retrieved from: http://seafoodhealthfacts.org/seafood_choices/clams.php & U.S. National Library of Medicine. Prolactin. (1997 – 2014). A.D.A.M., Inc. Retrieved from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003718.htm)

Onions – Are a rich source of quercetin a flavonoid that appear to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. The flavonoids in onions are in the outer most peel, so be careful to only peel off the outer papery skin to maximize health benefits. The sulfur in onions is also thought to lower blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, improve cell membrane function in red blood cells. provide cardiovascular support. (Sources: The American Cancer Society. Retrieved from: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/dietandnutrition/quercetin & The George Mateljan Foundation (2001-2014). Worlds Healthiest Foods: Onions. Retrieved from: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=45)

Chicken Stock – The benefits of homemade chicken stock and other stocks come from the bones used to create it. By simmering bones in water with a bit of acid added to it, like cider vinegar, the minerals are extracted from the bones and now in a soup from easily digested by the body. The bones also leach out gelatin, which aids in digestion and many intestinal disorders. (Source: Fallon, S. (2001). Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictorcrats. Revised Second Edition. New Trends Publishing, Inc. Brandywine, MD. (116-117).

 

Salmon with Carrots, Green Beans AND Peach Salsa

Salmon with carrots I was on the phone with my mother earlier this week, and somehow we started discussing aging. I think her doctor had recommended a book about how to live longer or age gracefully or something to that effect. As she described suggestions from the book, I could tell that they were overwhelming to her especially the sections about exercising.   But caring for yourself doesn’t mean you have to do a 180. Start with small changes and do them until you feel like they are no longer changes. For example, drink more water. Everyone seems to know that you need 8 glasses of water every day and that’s true if you are fully hydrated. I personally strive for 11 cups per day. And your liquid doesn’t need to be plain water. Unsweetened green tea is a great alternative. Check out my blog on cold brew green tea here.

So as I was talking to my mom, I only gave her one suggestion, “Everyone in that house could stand to eat more vegetables.” She agreed with me and then asked, “We’re having salmon tonight, should we have carrots or green beans?” And my response, “Both!”

I didn’t think that “both” was the most earth shattering response, but it definitely seemed like a novel idea to my mother. My mother is an avid cook. She makes delicious dishes, buys organic when she can, and prepares & eats many gluten free meals in support of my grandmother who has Celica’s disease. But I think growing up in the 50’s with the meat and potatoes mentality has clouded her (and millions of American’s) idea of what a healthy plate should look like.

Because of my nutrition education, I prescribe to Dr. Ed Bauman’s Eating 4 Health model which suggest 2-3 servings of leafy greens per day, plus 2 – 3 servings of crunchy vegetables, plus 2-4 servings of fruit. That’s like 8 servings of fruits & veggies per day. (Kinda like 8 glasses of water).

So I couldn’t have been happier when my mom texted my photos of the meal she prepared that evening.

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It’s gorgeous colors radiate with happy nutrients! She even made a beautiful peach salsa to go along with the salmon, carrots, and green beans. I’m so proud of my mom that I wanted to share her recipe from her kitchen.

Grilled Salmon and Carrots with Green Beans AND Peach Salsa

For the Salmon & Carrots

Combine marinade ingredients. Rub generously over salmon & carrots. Grill over medium heat until salmon flakes with a fork and carrots are tender crisp. About 15 minutes.

1 lb wild caught salmon

4-6 whole carrots peeled

Marinade:

3 TBS olive oil

1 lime juice only

2 TBS fresh tarragon

2 TBS fresh cilantro

salt & pepper

Green Beans:

Steam 1lb of cleaned green beans. Toss with salt, pepper, and 2 TBS of butter.

Peach Salsa:

Combine the ingredients below:

½ cups red & yellow cherry tomatoes diced

2 peached diced

1 half of a small onion diced

1 jalapeno pepper seeded & minced

½ a lime juice only

1 TBS cilantro chopped

salt & pepper

 

 

Fish Curry with Fresh Tumeric

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My fiancé is Filipino and loves bold flavors, especially curry. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania and being from an Italian family, my experience with curry or any Indian or Asian cuisine was pretty minor. I always thought that curries were like stews cooked for hours to develop these deep flavors. But once I started looking up recipes and cooking curries in my kitchen, I realized curries are relatively quick to prepare for a weeknight dinner not to mention super versatile and healthy.

Loaded with turmeric, curries have amazing anti-inflammatory powers. So I’m pretty thrilled that my guy likes them.

For the first time ever I saw fresh turmeric in the grocery store. These beautiful roots inspired me to make a fish curry with some wild caught Mahi Mahi, a mild white fish that stands up well in this type of preparation.

Fresh turmeric is a root that looks a lot like an orange colored ginger, which would make sense since the two are related. The oil in turmeric, called curcumin, is what gives it it’s anti-inflammatory properties.

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Studies have linked curcumin with everything from lowering cholesterol to protecting against Alzheimer’s. This is one powerful spice. (Use caution when using fresh turmeric as the curcumin oil can stain your fingers as well as your cutting board.)

To make curries even easier, you can buy a prepackaged curry powder in the spice isle. But to get the most curcumin it is usually best to blend your own. Use powdered turmeric or use fresh tumeric in combination with other spices. Standard spices in curry powder are: coriander, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon and cayenne. So remember your C spices when making curry!

Ginger or ginger juice is also often added to curries. Ginger along with the cayenne powder or fresh hot peppers will kick up the heat factor in your dish so more of either or both will make a spicier dish.

So how fast can you prepare a curry? It takes me about 30 minutes including prep – if I’m using powered spices. The fresh turmeric slowed me down a bit because I had to grate it. (And yes my fingers are yellow, but my cutting board is not because I grated it on a piece of wax paper.)

As I said earlier, curries are pretty versatile, too. I didn’t have any fish stock so I just used the chicken stock I had on hand. And because I didn’t have any coconut milk I just used almond milk and some yogurt (not pictured) to create a fatty creamy sauce that cuts the heat and protects your stomache. I also used a bit of tomato paste which will usually make more red curry but this tumeric’s vibrant yellow hue even overpowered the tomato. And you can use any type of fish, meat, tofu or chunks of vegetables that you like.

Here’s what I used for this one in the order in which everything went into my skillet:

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  • 3 tbs Olive oil
  • 1lb Mahi Mahi cubed 1”
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 cup Shishito peppers sliced
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • ¼ cup fresh grated turmeric (or use 1 TBS dry)
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 cinnamon stick ( or ¼ tsp cinnamon added with ground spices)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • ¼ cup almond milk
  • 2 tbs yogurt
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 lime juice only
  • 6 basil leaves (or any fresh herb like cilantro)

So how do you make a curry? Here’s a basic method:

  • Gather your ingredients and cut your protein (if using one) into bite-sized pieces.
  • Heat a good fat oil (olive, coconut or avocado) in a large skillet.
  • Sear your protein (if using one) Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Add a little bit more oil to the pan.
  • Add a diced onion and other veggies you want to put in the dish. (I used Shishito peppers in this version) sauté a few minutes.
  • Add your dried spices to the veggies and oil to activate their oils.
  • Once you smell the spices, add a cup or so of stock, any fresh spices, and tomato paste, if using.
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Simmer for 10 minutes or so until the sauce thickens.
  • Add any nut milks or dairy. Return the protein to the pan.
  • Simmer until your meat is cooked through (don’t over cook)
  • Remove from heat. Add some lemon or lime juice and any fresh herbs.

Enjoy over brown rice!

 

Reference:

The George Mateljan Foundation, Worlds’s Healthiest Foods: Tumeric. Retrived from: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78

Fallon, S. “Nourishing Traditions.” Revised Second Edition. Pgs 266 -267. New Trends, Publishing, Brandywine, MD., 2001.

Murray, M et al. “The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods” Pgs 521- 526. Atria Books, New York, NY, 2005.

The Culinary Institute of America, “The Professional Chef,” ninth addition. Pg. 225. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, 2011.

Kale & Blueberry Smoothie

As a nutrition consultant, I’m often recommending that people eat more leafy greens. The health benefits are numerous from cancer protection to lowering cholesterol. They are packed with Vitamins A, C & K and good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. And the powerhouse of the greens is kale.

I enjoy kale almost anyway, but many people don’t. Or if they do like it, perhaps they can’t get their families to eat it – so it never makes it into a meal. I often remind people that as an adult, nutrition is a personal choice especially because everyone’s nutritional needs are individual. And since breakfast is often a personal meal, the morning is great time to prepare yourself a helping of leafy greens.

Today I made myself a delicious Kale & Blueberry Smoothie:

Toss all the ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth.

  • 2 cups frozen kale
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1 bannana
  • 1 orange (peeled w/ some pith remaining)
  • 1 inch ginger root peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup organic plain yogurt
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp flax seeds
  • 1 tbs coconut oil
  • handful of ice cubes

* Makes 2 servings. (If this is all that I’m having for breakfast I find I need to drink both servings myself to feel satisfied.)

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In my kitchen, I love my freezer. And kale freezes like a champion. I buy giant bags of pre-washed organic kale at Costco. I use it fresh for a few days and then store what’s remaining in the freezer. Or if I have a bunch that I know will be going bad before I can get to it. I wash and dry it in my salad spinner and throw it in a Ziplock and freeze.

(Frozen kale has tons of applications. Use it in soups and stews, throw a handful or two into a rice dish, or a veggie lasagna plus it’s perfect for a smoothie! And smoothies are the perfect breakfast.)

The other ingredients in my smoothie are super healthy, too: Blueberries are famous for the antioxidants contained in the flavonoids in their skin. Pineapple provides fiber and sweetness. Banana is loaded with B Vitamins and potassium (which helps with muscle cramps including the monthly kind). Bananas also gives this drink a smooth creaminess that we all crave. I add the yogurt for the probiotic benefit, it needs to have live active cultures to promote a healthy gut. Also for gut health is the orange. I peel the orange with a knife leaving on quite a bit of the bitter pith because bitters signal your body to release gastric hormones that aid in digestion.

Ginger also helps with digestion and is an anti-inflammatory. Flaxseeds & Almond Milk for their omega-3’s. Finally, coconut oil has anti-viral properties and a bit of fat for energy.

*Note: leafy greens are high in oxalates, which can prevent the absorption of calcium. So it’s a good idea to eat calcium rich foods or take calcium supplements 2 or 3 hours after consuming them.

 

References: Van Duyn & Pivokna, (2000) Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 100, Issue 12, Pages 1511–1521.

Zelman, K. WebMD: The Truth About Kale. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-truth-about-kale

The George Mateljan Foundation, Worlds’s Healthiest Foods: Bananas. Retrived from: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=7

Waler JM. “The Bitter Remedy.” The European Journal of Herbal Medicine. 6(2):28-33

Gunnars, K. Authority Nutrition:10 Proven Health Benefits of Coconut Oil. Retreived from: http://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coconut-oil/

Sienera R. (2006). Oxalate contents of species of the Polygonaceae, Amaranthaceae and Chenopodiaceae families. Food Chemistry 98(2):220-224.

Homemade Baby Food

I’m the proud mamma of a 6th month old little boy.  So today in my kitchen, I’m making baby food.

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When my little guy started on solids a few weeks ago.  I was adamant about making all my own organic food for him.  I wanted only the best. At first it was easy, I mashed a beautiful organic avocado and he devoured it.  Then I tried banana, even better, he loved it.  But then I tried sweet potatoes lovingly baked to increase the sweetness and retain more nutrients.  But my taters were rejected…and so were my carrots. Oh no!  I tried avocado again and this time the novelty of food had worn off. It seemed as if my little ones lips were sealed to everything I cooked for him.

I scanned the internet for tips to see what I could possibly be doing wrong. After watching several videos on how to make baby food, I was still coming up at a loss. I guess my little guy was a picky eater. I consulted with my cousin a new mom of a slightly older baby and her words of wisdom, “just buy the organic premade stuff in the pouches.” I guess that made sense, at least that way I could try out a bunch of different flavors – I mean foods.

And what do you know. It worked. I discovered that he loves fruit. Pear, mango and prunes are big winners. But it is almost impossible to get him to eat his vegetables – unless I mix them with some fruit. So I’ve been mixing a new veggie with a previously tried fruit in order to only try one new food at a time and track any allergic reactions that may occur. My pediatrition advised me to do this. And it’s been great. I’ve been mixing and matching fruits and veggies in order to feed a variety of vitamins and minerals as well as expose my boy to exciting new tastes. I’ve found that he also eats with his eyes even at this young age so I often mix based on color as well as flavor. Here’s a list of some tried and true combinations:

  • Carrots & Mango
  • Peas & Pears
  • Avocado & Mango
  • Sweet Potato & Prunes
  • Green Beans & Apple
  • Sweet Potato & Banana
  • Peaches & Carrots

As well as everything has been going with the pouches, I’ve been feeling more and more that method of eating is so disconnected from the actual food that my baby might be learning that food comes from brightly colored plastic pouches. He has been increasingly interested in the serving container, be it a little bowl I’ve mixed up my concoctions in or the pouch itself. And as I squeezed some peas out of pouch last night, I got the overwhelming feeling that I was feeding him glorified toothpaste. Do I know what’s really in these things? The #1 level bags seem ok just the fruit and sometimes water or citric acid or lemon juice. But what’s in the water? Is it like our tap water full of chlorine, fluoride or even bromide? Do they have to label for that? And I recently bought a couple of the #2 level “meals” – these are premixed fruits and veggies and sometimes grains. Flipping over a pouch called “plum, berry & barley” the first ingredient is organic apple puree?!   I’m trying to feed less fruit/sugar not more!

So this morning, I got back to making my own baby food. For me and some new moms I know, making your own food can seem like more work when you are already exhausted but here are my tips to keep the process as simple as possible.

  1. Make big batches. This saves you work in the end. Your blender or food processor will work better when it’s filled. You can use ice cube trays to freeze the purees in one ounce portions for later use. This helps you to feed a variety of foods over the course of a day.

 

  1. Don’t steam or bake. It’s more work and you will need the extra water that you cooked the produce in to thin out your purees. This cooking also contains many of the nutrients from the food so you’ll want to use it in lieu of fresh water.

 

  1. Don’t bother with recipes. There are all kinds of recipes out there for making baby food. But keep it simple. You’re tired you don’t need to measure or mix and match food at this stage. Just make one fruit or vegetable at a time. You can mix and match later when you are feeding. (ie, Defrost a cube of apple and a cube of carrot – mix & feed) This will give you more flexibility as your baby’s tastes evolve which could happen more quickly than you would expect. That way you can try a hint of spice like cinnamon to one feeding of sweet potatoes instead of the whole batch

With these tips in mind here’s a basic breakdown of what I do to make my own organic baby food.

  1. Buy organic produce.
  2. Use filtered water.
  3. Peel the produce if necessary. (Skip this step for veggies like peas, green beans, and spinach.)
  4. Cut into small pieces – bite size for adults.
  5. Boil covered until fork tender. (Place in a pot and cover with filtered water. Put the lid on the pot and turn up the heat. Once you can smell the aroma of the produce in the air, it’s probably soft enough to pierce with a fork and done. But you might want to set a timer for 7 -10 minutes, especially if you may get distracted caring for your baby and forget that you are making food!)
  6. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the produce. Add as much or as little of the cooking liquid to get a smooth puree. Think thinner than mashed potatoes but thicker than butternut squash soup.
  7. Freeze in ice cube trays. After a few hours pop out the cubes and put them in a big freezer bag labeled with the date and type of food.

Bananas and avocados don’t have to be cooked. Make sure bananas are super ripe with lots of brown spots before feeding or they can cause constipation and/or a tummy ache. Whole peeled bananas freeze and defrost well.

P.S.

I’m not a huge fan of baby led weaning, but I do see the advantage of give your baby something to associate food with beyond these purees. So I try to give my guy whole carrots or stalks of celery or ears of corn while we are eating. And they are great for teething.

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Cold Brew Green Tea

cold brewed tea (after)

It’s summer, it’s hot and my new obsession is cold brewing tea! It’s the easiest “recipe” in the universe and completely worth the minimal effort.

I first got the idea for this while I was breastfeeding and needed to drink what felt like gallons of water everyday in order to stay hydrated. After about 3 months of standing impatiently at the sink filling my glass from our slower than molasses filtered water spout only to get a sometimes warm glass of water, I decided that I need to fill in mass and refrigerate. With no pitcher in site, I grabbed a couple of mason jars complete with lids – perfect for a single serving of grab and go water without the environmental impact of a water bottle.

As I lined the jars up on the counter, the sun was streaming in through the window glistening off the jars. Sun tea instantly popped into my mind. I grabbed a variety of bags mostly herbals like chamomile, mint* and a few bags of green tea. Just as I got the lids sealed. My napping son woke up wailing, so instead of heading outside, I simply threw them in the fridge and went to grab him.

A few hours later, I looked in the fridge and my teas were ready. They were delicious. I normally can’t stand green tea with out a bit of something sweet but this was so smooth that I had no interest in adding any sugar!

So I did a little research and found out that besides being “all the rage” especially with coffees, cold brewing or cold steeping tea has tons of benefits that actually make it healthier than the traditional method of hot steeping tea in boiling water:

  • Cold brewing creates a smoother less bitter tasting tea.
  • Cold brewing creates a tea lower in caffeine.
  • Cold brewing creates a tea higher in antioxidants.

Wow! More antioxidants and I love the flavor of cold brew green tea without any added sugar. I’m in. Here’s a very cool video by explaining the research from a recent study published in Food Chemistry: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/cold-steeping-green-tea/

How to cold brew tea:

In a jar with bottle with a tight fitting lid, place 1 tea bag of per 12 oz of water. Fill with clean filtered water at 75ºF or below. Refrigerate for 2 hours or up to several days. Enjoy.

*Note: Mint can lower milk production in lactating women. It’s good to avoid it while breastfeeding.

Sources: E. Venditti, T. Bacchetti, L. Tiano, P. Carloni, L. Greci, and E. Damiani. Hot vs. cold water steeping of different teas: Do they affect antioxidant activity? Food Chem., 119(4):1597-1604, 2010.

Do I Feel Good?

If you feel like you always feel…then how do you know if you feel good? This is the question that I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. I guess it’s because my dog is getting older. Chester will be 13 in two weeks. Yikes. I must be getting older, too. But I don’t really feel 37. Or do I? Is this age thing just like the old frog in the boiling water – I’m slowly getting older so I can’t really feel it?

When my dog starting having problems with his joints, I tried all sorts of remedies to help his limping from drugs to laser therapy. But nothing had as big of an effect as switching his food did. I started giving him this prescription dog chow. JD – Joint Diet. The change is incredible. He’s moving around again like he’s 9 instead of 13.

So what about me? Will changing my diet make me feel better? I already think I eat pretty well. I cook all the time. I enjoy making food from scratch, but what if my choices aren’t the best for me. My knee hurts, what can I eat to easy that ache? And what about all these mood swings? Are those due to my diet?

To find the answers, I think that I need a bunch of data. So, I’m gonna use this blog to track what’s coming out of my kitchen (and going into my body) and how I’m feeling after I’m eating it. I’m not going to be strict and try to do a detox or go vegan or anything extreme. I’m just going keep cooking like I have been but now I’m going to start paying attention to the aftermath!