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Archive for January, 2011

Udi’s gluten-free pizza party

Look at these beets. Of all the vegetables, beets are the most ardently impassioned (nutritionally speaking). This torrid root vegetable is at the top of my list of vibrant and nutrient-dense super foods. I love beets.

The above mixture made for a surprise hit at my recent Udi’s Gluten-Free ultimate pizza and ski party last Thursday night. The annual SIA Snow Sports Show was here in Denver. I had a pizza party at my house on opening night for ski-rep friends from out of town, shop owners and a few manufacturers. Since I’m gluten-free, my guests are always gluten-free. Why not? Gluten-free isn’t what it used to be, especially when you have help from visionaries like the good folks at Udi’s.

Udi’s Gluten Free Foods is located here in Denver. How lucky is that? I’ve watched their artisanal drift into the gluten-free product world for some time now and have run into Heather (marketing coordinator) and Jillian (social media maven) at various conferences, shows and events. I’ve even done some early taste-tasting at one of their unveiling parties. I don’t do product reviews, book reviews or give-aways on my blog. I decided early on that I didn’t have time for it or enough interest in processed foods to bother with it. I prefer whole foods and if I’m going to advocate for anything, it will be organic plants and my support for local CSAs (community supported agriculture). Having said that, I do use a few pre-made, gluten-free flour mixes on occasion and I’m a huge fan of Udi’s gluten-free pizza crusts. If I use a specific product in a recipe, I say so, but I don’t accept products for blog endorsements. I’m a nutritionist, not a professional blogger.

When I decided to have this pizza party, I knew I’d need to make about 28 to 30 pizzas. If you’ve noticed how popular Udi’s gluten-free crusts are, you’ve probably also noticed that sometimes they’re hard to find. (I think gluten-cootie people are buying them as well. Grrrr.) I have two Whole Foods and one Natural Grocer nearby and they’re often low or out of the crusts. They’re that good. I contacted Jillian a week before the party and asked her if I could order 15 packages of crusts and pick them up myself. I didn’t want to freak out if I couldn’t find enough. Jillian said she’d have the crusts delivered to my house at no charge. To be honest, that wasn’t my plan and I didn’t want them for free (seriously). We emailed back and forth and she finally said, “Hey, we’re Colorado ski and snowboard people here at Udi’s and we know the SIA Show is in town. We just want to contribute to the energy and fun of it all.”

Thank you Udi’s! They delivered 16 packages of gluten-free pizza crusts (32 crusts) to my house, fresh and ready for me to top with my bizarre creations. I don’t make mainstream pizzas.

Pepperoni and cheese? No way.

Roasted beets and beet greens pizza? Delicious.

New Mexican red chile enchilada pizza. OMG!

BBQ chicken and onion ring pizza? Huge hit.

Bacon, LETTUCE and tomato pizza? Another winner.

Plus, I did lots of mixed veggie pizzas with exotic cheeses.

It was a lot of work, much more than I anticipated and even though I have a double oven with convection settings, it wasn’t easy to shuffle 28 pizzas in and out of the ovens. There were too many people here to have a sit-down dinner so I used groovy-looking, palm frond eco plates and forks that eventually went into my composter and lined my dining room table with butcher paper. Easy clean-up. We pulled the pizzas out six at a time, cut them up and slid them onto the butcher paper. People drank local beer and Red Truck wine (not local) and hung around the table testing the weird assortment of pizzas. My guests loved it.

Total success! Thank you Udi’s and thank you Jillian. I would have said good things whether you gave me the crusts or not, but I do appreciate it and love having you in my backyard. Colorado is such a great place to live. Glad you guys live here, too.

gluten-free red chile enchilada pizza
(see top square plate above loaded with 3 pieces of this pizza)

*This was one of my odd-ball creations and it came out great. I made four of these pizzas and didn’t write down a detailed recipe, so I’m generalizing here. You’ll have to adapt the recipe amount to your needs, but use this as a basic guideline.

what you need for the sauce
di’s gluten-free pizza crusts
Bueno’s Basic Red Chile Purée (see my recipe instructions below, adapted from Bueno’s)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon gluten-free rice flour (or whatever basic GF flour you have on hand)
sea salt, ground pepper and Mexican oregano
* Make the sauce ahead of time as it needs time to cook and simmer down to the consistency appropriate for a pizza. You want it thicker than traditional red chile sauce. This recipe from Bueno Foods is a good basic one, although I tweaked it slightly. I used a little less water (so the sauce would be a touch thicker), more oregano (I love Mexican oregano), omitted the sugar and used 1 tablespoon of rice flour. Using this recipe as a guideline – heat the oil, saute the onions and garlic, add the flour and mix well. Add the thawed red chile purée, water, Mexican oregano, salt and pepper and blend well. Simmer for an hour or longer. This is what it should look like.

what you need for the topping
shredded, cooked chicken
Hatch canned whole green chiles (1 small, 4 ounce can per pizza)
1/2 cup corn kernels (or more)
1/2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained (or more)
shredded colby-jack cheese

what you do
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. I start with thawed Udi’s pizza crusts.
2. Brush prepared (and warm) red chile sauce on the Udi’s pizza crusts. I used just enough to fully cover the pizzas. You want the flavor and coverage, but you don’t want it wet and sloppy.
3. Place the shredded chicken in a bowl and add 2 or 3 spoonfuls of the red chile sauce to moisten it and add more flavor. Mix well. Place the chicken on the pizza crusts. You don’t need a lot, just enough scattered around so you get a few bites of chicken here and there.
4. Place strips of green chile over the chicken. Make sure you drain the green chile well (pat it with a paper towel so it’s not wet).
5. Sprinkle some well-drained corn kernels and black beans over the pizza.
6. Top with shredded cheese and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. The Udi’s directions say 5 to 7 minutes, but I always cook them longer. I like the cheese to be lightly browned and bubbly. Set the timer for 7 minutes and see what you think. Rotate pizzas and bake for a few more minutes. Watch closely as they can burn and overcook easily.
* Tip: line the bottom of the oven with tin foil to catch the drippings.

You might also like my Udi’s roasted beet, spinach and zucchini pizza. Or, my Udi’s ridacchio and squash pizza.

Peace, fresh powder and Udi’s gluten-free pizza.

does my butt look big

Flatter me. But be careful.

I’m in the midst of writing a blog post on nutrition and brain health and while it’s in the works, I thought I’d dig this past post out of my WordPress archive basement, dust it off and rerun it. It has to do with brain function, so it will be a good precursor to the one I’m working on now. This one was written three years ago, but nothing has changed. The research still stands and yes, I’m proud to say I have a summa cum laude booty to shake.

Maybe the question should be, does this PhD make my butt look big?

Ladies, the next time you’re doing that thing in front of the mirror where you squirm around twisting and twirling, trying to see whether your jeans look too tight or your bum looks too big, just stop. Don’t even bother. You’re way too smart for that. Seriously. Research shows a direct correlation between an ample booty and increased cognitive ability. In women and their offspring.


Whose idea was it to do a study on curvy women and brain power, anyway?

I wonder. But, I’m also not complaining. In fact, it’s about dang time we celebrated our brainy curves.

The study I’m referring to has to do with omega-3 fatty acids (no pun intended), a woman’s waist-to-hip ratio (WHP) and the relative proportion of upper-body fat to lower-body fat. We’re talking smaller waists and bigger rear-ends and hips, so this full-figured, hippo-mamma featured above wouldn’t qualify. She doesn’t exactly have a small waist, but we can safely say she’s bottom heavy.

Dr. William Lassek, a rather geeky* University of Pittsburgh epidemiologist, co-authored a study entitled, Waist-hip ratio and cognitive ability: is gluteofemoral fat a privileged store of neurodevelopmental resources? Published in Evolution and Human Behavior, it suggests that men prefer women with smaller waists and wider hips for evolutionary reasons. Survival of the fittest. According to the research, those women are smarter and have a heightened survival advantage. In addition, the study found that the children of vee-vee-la-voom moms also scored higher on cognitive tests.

The body fat around a woman’s hips is higher in omega-3s, which improves brain function and is important to fetal neuro-development. Omega-3s also boost fertility and overall health. According to Dr. Lassek and his colleagues, it stands to reason that for survival purposes, men would prefer women who are smarter, more fertile, healthier and who produce brighter offspring. The curves just come with the territory.

Oooh, I get it. So, men can’t help it?

Gawking at curvy women is just a matter of male genetic expression. Slack-jawed drooling can’t possibly be part of the natural selection process, so don’t get carried away, but this is certainly interesting and entertaining research.

And, little did we know that waist-to-hip ratio has been of interest to evolutionary psychologists for years now. Several studies, including an analysis of data collected by the US Department of Health and Human Services (our tax dollars at work), link female body shape with mental performance. Lower-body fat (hips and booty) is higher in omega-3s while abdominal and upper-body fat is higher in omega-6s and saturated fats. It is hypothesized that omega-6s are less important to brain development and function and may even be detrimental. Omega-3s are thought to enhance communication between brain cells, making for zippy intelligence.

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers compared female waste-to-hip ratios to scores on cognitive function tests and found that a lower WHR correlated with higher scores. They also found that as the mom’s ratio goes down, the children’s intelligence goes up. The data is fairly persuasive. The study sample included more than 16,000 women and the curvy girls outsmarted the skinny and pear-shaped girls on cognitive tests – same with their offspring.

Are you wondering how to figure out this magical ratio and how your IQ is somehow connected to your rear-end? You divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement and hope for the best. According to these guys (remember these are guys doing the research), this study suggests an “ideal” WHR of somewhere around 0.6 to 0.7. Think J-Lo. Small waist, ample booty.

Bottom line? Next time you shop for new jeans and you have to give up after 10 minutes of shimmying and wrestling with a size that just won’t cooperate with you, let it go.

You’re too smart for those jeans, anyway.

*I happen to find “geeky” very appealing. I’m thinking the curvy women, if they were that smart, probably chose the guys who could protect them from the sabertooth tigers. Would that be the strong caveman-types or the resourceful and bright MacGyver-types? Well, here we are a bazillion years later and it’s the geeky guys doing the research on the curvy girls.

Isn’t life grand? Evolutionarily speaking.

You might also like another interesting male/female study I wrote about – gluten-free pumpkin pecan boyfriend bait

Embrace your curves and shake your booty!

the secret of the gluten-free sugar cereal

Nancy Drew here.

You might recall that I’m pretty famous for solving mysteries. I’ve got a baffling, whodunit on my hands and have been doing some investigating. Now I need your help in solving the case.

Would you consider the following ingredients to be wholesome?

So there’s no confusion, here’s a good description of what the word wholesome means, straight from The New Oxford American Dictionary. Word for word.

Wholesome – conducive to or suggestive of good health and physical well-being: the food is plentiful and very wholesome. (New Oxford American Dictionary.)

Here’s the list.


By the way, I’m not trying to make a point with that capital-letter-yelling-thing. It was capitalized on the box, so I figured I better honor the formatting of the document. I want to be objective (okay, that’s probably impossible) and fair (hopefully). The “fair” part is important in getting honest answers, especially when you’re a famous detective. Not to mention a cute, cultural icon.

Does that list represent wholesome? I’m wondering because right next to the list of ingredients on the website’s nutrition information is the declaration that this is a “wholesome, sweetened, rice cereal.” They even advertise it as wholesome in CAPITAL letters on the front of the cereal box. Right next to (you guessed it, in all caps) “excellent source of vitamin D.” I’m not going to go into depth about the vitamins added because I don’t know enough about vitamin A palmitate or the vitamin D they added. Vitamin A palmitate is the synthetic form of vitamin A and although I did find some potentially negative side effects associated with it, I don’t have enough information to comment on it. Having said that, I’ve always felt that it’s much better to get your nutrients from fresh, whole (preferably organic) foods, which are honestly WHOLESOME.

Back to that word as it relates to the advertising of this cereal.



Are you SERIOUS? (that was yelling.)

By what standards? This is a giant leap if I’ve ever seen one. It doesn’t take a detective to figure this one out.

I took these photos, but didn’t paste those styrofoam-ish, neon-colored, perfume-smelling, creepy-crawly things onto the side of the bowl. They struck out on their own. Wonder if they were trying to escape the organic milk?

Okay, bottom line?

This is awful. It breaks my heart to think little kids are being fed this stuff then sent off to school and forced to sit still and attempt to learn. Kids with food intolerances are more likely to suffer from ADD-like symptoms. Factor in dyes, additives, chemicals and sugar and they are at such a disadvantage. It’s sad. The ingredients in this box are not nourishing building blocks for growing children. I’ve often thought the gluten-free community was lucky NOT to have all these low-grade, processed food choices. It took some time, but the Standard American Diet (SAD) is making its way into the gluten-free community. In my mind, that’s not something to celebrate.

Okay, enough ranting. Looking on the bright side, this gives us more reason to learn, become aware and equip ourselves with the knowledge we need to make smart choices.

My conclusion? This cereal is about as far from WHOLESOME as you can get. Marketing this stuff to kids with brightly colored boxes, cartoon characters, games and toys is beyond icky. But we do have free choice. We can think for ourselves.

Don’t buy it. Don’t eat food that looks like dried out crayon shavings. You’re the boss of your food. Period.

Oh, I almost forgot about my original question. So, what do you think? Wholesome or not?

Peace, love and well-nourished kids!
P.S. Don’t eat cereal that dyes your milk lavender and lime green.

are you craving a healthier 2011

What would your life be like if you never engaged in this health-zapping cycle of overeating, fatigue, craving and weight gain. What if you never again treated your body like a trash can?

Thank you to the lovely Heidi B for that analogy. Heidi is a full-time yoga teacher. A smart, spiritual, beautiful, India-visiting, committed yogi on a seeker’s path.

She walked into the studio at 6:30 AM the other morning to teach her class and asked if anyone else felt like they had been overdoing it during the holidays? She said she was treating her body like a trash can and wondered who else might be struggling with the same thing.

Wow, I respect her honesty. My gosh, she’s a yoga teacher. She’s supposed to be drinking filtered water with a squeeze of organic lemon and eating farm-fresh veggies every day. Not candy, French fries and red wine.

Yes, I did relate and waved my arm in the air from child’s pose, indicating I was guilty of the “trash can” phenomenon as well. I’m a nutritionist and Heidi’s a yoga teacher. We’re not supposed to do that, right?


Almost everyone wanders down that road on occasion. We both ate too much of whatever it is we eat too much of at times like this. We all have our personal comfort cravings. Add in the stress of the holidays (even the good stress) and you’ve got a “recipe” for a food-filled train wreck. I’m typically seduced by pie, muffins, pancakes, syrup and red wine.

Oh, and for the record, I’ll take this opportunity to pat myself on the back for never drinking red wine with pancakes. I do have standards.

Pie and red wine? Now that’s another story.

Here’s my problem (not that you asked). Most of the time my over-indulging takes the form of fairly healthy food, in fact “real” food. Organic food. Often times, it’s even local food. How cool is that? But that can be a faulty premise. Or, at least one that is easy to justify, defend and make excuses for.

Pastured, organic butter and whipping cream, rich in CLA. Local, organic CSA potatoes and pumpkins from Grant Family Farms. Raw, organic cheese. Locally made, organic chocolate bars (73% organic dark cocoa). Smooth, velvety, sulfite-free red wine. Organic, whole grain, gluten-free flour. Local, Rocky Mountain wildflower honey. It’s not like I’m eating fast food. Lovingly put this stuff together and you have the most amazing muffins, twice-baked potatoes, home-cooked French fries, cookies or pumpkin pie.

Get my drift?

Healthy, real food ingredients, but no excuse to shovel it in. Or, stand with the refrigerator door open, eating giant spoonfuls of home-made, organic whipped cream right out of the bowl (conveniently perched at arm level). Maybe dabbing some on a random, nearby muffin.

Not that I know anyone who would do that.

With 2011 upon us, most people have written up lists of New Year’s resolutions. Exercise more. Eat more veggies. Don’t over-eat. Lose weight. Meditate. Do yoga. Same story each year.

What would your life be like if you really believed that everything you needed, you already had? What would your life be like if you simply spent the year treating your body like the temple that it is? No lists, no resolutions, just respect and commitment.

In the spirit of honesty, I do have a few resolutions, but rather than list them, I’m going to keep them to myself and take this time to express gratitude for my health and make a silent promise (over and over) to honor that through awareness, healthy choices and moderation.

And thank God, there’s no more pumpkin pie and whipped cream.

If you’re interested in increasing your mind/body/food awareness, please check here for a past post I did on food, fuzz, movement and inner space. It includes information on how to incorporate healthy eating habits into your life. It’s also a guideline to an anti-inflammatory diet and includes a video that will take you deep inside.

* I can’t end this without a footnote from Heidi B. When I thought about writing this post, I emailed Heidi to ask permission to use her name and comments. Her response to my email was, “Sure! You can use me. I’m still struggling, but totally aware. Yea!”

I love that.

Awareness. That’s the key. The more we understand the magic of what’s going on inside our bodies, the more likely we are to appreciate and take care of this wonderful creation, even as we struggle along.

Wishing you peace, love, awareness and small steps towards more radiant health in 2011.
P.S. Please ignore the fact that my last 3 posts were for gluten-free cherry cobbler, pumpkin pie muffins (the boyfriend bait version) and pistachio cranberry brownies. Hey, this food blogging thing is a struggle.

Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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