Category Archives: Nutritioulicious Traveling

Real Mexican Dining

Last week I was on vacation in Mexico. It was great being away from the snow for a week, relaxing on the beach, and enjoying delicious Mexican cuisine. Many typical Mexican dishes in the States aren’t so good for your waistline — fried tacos, enchiladas, overstuffed burritos, sodium and fat laden refried beans, sour cream on the side of almost everything…the list goes on. In reality, Mexican food isn’t all that bad for you, at least not in Mexico.

Real Mexican dishes contain ingredients brimming with nutrients, including avocados, chili peppers, beans, salsa, and corn. They also cook a lot of fresh fish in Mexico, which is wonderful. Of course they have their fair share of pork and beef, but as always, balance is the key. Here are some pictures of the food my husband and I had while we were away:

Guacamole served with an assortment of add-ins on the side, including tomatoes, cheese, and crickets! (Don’t worry – we didn’t eat those!):
healthy mexican food healthy mexican food

Grouper and cheese quesadillas served with guacamole, salsa, chili pepper sauce, and black beans:
healthy mexican food

Tortilla soup (made with vegetable broth, tomatoes, avocados, tortilla strips):
healthy mexican food

We also tried some new foods while we were there, including epazote, a Mexican herb, and huitlacoche, which comes from corn and has been called the “Mexican truffle.”

Do you like Mexican food? What are some of your healthy Mexican favorites?

American Dietetic Association Conference Recap

Last week I was at the American Dietetic Association Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) in Boston. Over 10,000 dietitians from around the country got together to learn, network, and check out the latest food products. If you were following me on Twitter, you probably saw many posts from my 4 days away, and if you didn’t, check out #FNCE to see what everyone was tweeting.

Here is a (very) brief rundown of the highlights of my trip:

  • Tweetups. I had the opportunity to have dinner with some of my Twitter friends in person, including Emma, Janel, Corinne, Robyn, Jill, and Deanna (and more!). It was so much fun to meet these great dietitians who I already felt like I knew!
  • Going green. One of the best sessions I attended was the Green Revolution presented by Kate Geagan and Jackie Newgent. These women are so passionate about the topic and it really came through in their presentation, including a cooking demo. Among other things, I learned from Kate that dairy and beef are the two most important food categories to eat organic, and Jackie taught us some great ways to be eco-friendly when cooking. I especially loved Jackie’s green cuisine terminology like “microroasting” and “lid cooking.”
  • Food, glorious food. It took me 3 days to get through the entire food expo and check out new (and old) food favorites. There were many “nutrition bars” featured, including new flavors of Lara and Cliff bars; people were going nuts for pistachios, almonds, and my friends at the walnut booth; avocados were hot, especially red velvet avocado cupcakes!; and “gluten-free” and “natural” are two buzz words that you can plan on seeing more of in the next year.
  • Kids Eat Right. The ADA and the ADA Foundation announced their new initiative, Kids Eat Right, at the conference. The primary goal of the campaign is to prevent childhood obesity and promote healthy eating in kids and teens.

Have you ever been to a food conference?

Harvesting Walnuts

I’m back with more about my time in Sacramento for the 2010 walnut harvest! After the amazing dinner Thursday night I was very excited for what was to come all day Friday. The morning started with a great walk around the capital building, followed by some light yoga with fitness guru Petra Kolber (who I loved meeting and getting to know over the course of the day!).
Petra Kolber fitness guru Post-workout we all met for a lovely breakfast at Old Soul Company, where we were fueled for the morning ahead. Then we were off for the harvest! The harvest began at Fedora Farms, a family-owned walnut farm that uses the most up-to-date, high tech equipment for all parts of the harvest. Walnuts are harvested once a year, between September and November. Here is what a walnut looks like on the tree:

walnut tree

Walnut in outer casing

The harvest on the farm is composed of five parts:

  1. Shaking — walnuts are shaken off the trees using a mechanical shaker. The machine can shake 7 trees a minute! Each tree is shaken once per year.
  2. Sweeping — another machine sweeps the walnuts on the ground into rows to prepare for the final step of the farm process.
  3. Cleaning — mechanical harvesters vacuum the walnuts and dump them into the truck, which is then taken to the processing facility.

    It’s amazing to see how the back of the truck gets filled with walnuts: 

    harvesting walnuts


    Harvesting walnuts


  4. Hulling — an aspirator gets rid of insects and then the walnuts are flushed with water to separate the walnuts from debris. Since walnuts float, water is used to sink the debris.
  5. Drying — the walnuts are dried in their shell in 108 degrees F. Here is what the dried walnuts look like:
    harvested walnuts

And that’s the harvesting process in a nutshell (pun intended)!

Walnut Dinner at The Grange

As I mentioned yesterday, dinner the first night of the Walnut Harvest Festival was prepared for us by Chef Michael Tuohy of The Grange Restaurant in Sacramento. Chef Tuohy and his staff prepared dinner for us incorporating walnuts in every course. You may think this would lead to walnut overkill (if there is such a thing!), but when used imaginatively, walnuts can be part of a dish without you even realizing they’re there. Take a look at the delectable dinner we had:

First up we had a delicate endive salad with pears, pomegranate seeds, and a light coating of walnut vinaigrette.

endive salad with pears

Endive/Pear/Pomegranate Salad with Toasted Walnut Vinaigrette

Following the salad I had an amazing plate of sweet potato gnocchi topped with Chef Tuohy’s walnut pesto and a mixture of spinach and kale. The gnocchi were like little pillows — light and airy, leaving me with enough room for dessert.

sweet potato gnocchi

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Spinach and Walnut Pesto

I’m not normally a fan of whole nuts in my dessert (I’m not talking peanut butter and chocolate here), but the cranberry-walnut tart was so good I could barely put my fork down! The tart was served with a smooth orange sauce and a light dollop of crème fraiche with orange zest on top, which provided my palate with a wonderful assortment of flavors to end the evening.

cranberry walnut tart dessert

Cranberry-Walnut Tart with Crème Fraiche

This meal was just the first of a feast that was yet to come the following day!

Walnut Pesto

Yesterday I shared some interesting facts about walnuts that I learned while at the Walnut Harvest in California. More exciting than that, were all the great meals and fun experiences we had.

The festival started off with a bang on Thursday night. Chef Michael Tuohy from The Grange Restaurant in Sacramento prepared a private dinner for our group that was absolutely delicious! But before dinner began, we had the opportunity to watch Chef Tuohy and renowned cookbook author Mollie Katzen in action, preparing pesto using none other than walnuts. When you see pesto on a menu you most likely think of the combination of basil, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese. However, this combination of ingredients is not the definition of pesto. In fact, pesto is Italian for “to pound, to crush,” the action that is done in making a pesto sauce. So basically any combination of ingredients that is made into a paste can be called a pesto. While these days most people use food processors to make pesto (and other sauces), traditionally pesto was made with a mortar and pestle. The California Walnut Board wanted us to have the true experience, so they generously provided us with mortars and pestles (that we got to keep!) to make our own pesto.

making pesto Mollie Katzen & Chef Tuohy

Mollie and Chef Tuohy first showed us how to make Mollie’s Walnut Pesto, using fresh basil leaves, garlic, walnuts, extra virgin olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. This looked very similar to the traditional pesto, the only difference being the use of walnuts instead of pine nuts. While they passed around samples of their delicious pesto, we each got to work on making Chef Tuohy’s Walnut Pesto, which was quite different from the traditional version. Using the mortar and pestle we pounded together ground walnuts, shallots, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, grated white Cheddar (close in taste to a Pecorino), fresh sage, and salt and pepper. The end result was a white pesto that looked almost like oatmeal in texture. It was unbelievably good, and lucky for me it was the sauce on my main dish that evening!

walnut pesto chef michael tuohy walnut pesto chef michael tuohy the grange restaurant

Tomorrow I’ll fill you in on Chef Tuohy’s walnut-inspired dinner.

Have you ever made pesto? What do you put in your version?

Interesting Walnut Facts

interesting facts about walnutsA couple of weeks ago the California Walnut Commission invited me (along with 14 other food and nutrition bloggers) to the yearly Walnut Harvest Festival in Sacramento, California. Over the course of the day and a half I was in California, I learned so much about walnuts and ate a whole lot of them too! My next few posts will be dedicated to what I learned and of course I’ll be sharing the culinary experience as well!

Before I tell you all about the harvest and the delicious meals, did you know that:

  • Walnuts are the oldest known tree food — they date back to 10,000 BC!
  • English walnuts (also known as Persian walnuts) originate in Central Asia and were introduced to California in the 1700s.
  • 99% of the commercial U.S. supply and 3/4 of the world trade of walnuts now come from California.
  • Walnuts have always been considered important for their medicinal properties, including curing bad breath, reducing inflammation, and healing wounds.
  • More recently the nutritional benefits of walnuts have become well-known, especially their omega-3 fatty acid content.
  • The Greeks called walnuts karyon, meaning “head,” because the shell resembles a human skull and the walnut kernel itself looks like a brain!
  • Like today, a common culinary use of walnuts in the 17th-19th centuries was in salads.
  • Walnuts are only harvested once a year, between September and November.
  • California has about 227,000 walnut-bearing acres, and in 2010 the walnut crop is expected to be 510,000 short tons, a record production!
  • There are more than 30 varieties of commercially produced walnuts!

Beautiful Food in Africa

The following post was written by nutritioulicious™ intern Jo Bartell

I just returned from a family trip to Africa where we stayed at four different tented safari camps in Botswana and one camp in South Africa at Krueger National park. Needless to say it was an amazing trip, but one of the best and most welcome surprises was the beautiful food served at each camp. I wanted to share some pictures of this wonderful food that was everything I love to eat – clean, fresh, simple dishes full of colorful fruits and vegetables. The beautiful spreads at these breakfast and lunch buffets definitely reminded me that preparing meals to not only taste good, but to also look pretty and appetizing on the plate makes even the most simple and healthy foods more fun to eat and even better tasting. Now that I’m back I will definitely try to recreate these dishes at home! Enjoy!

food in africa

Gloria, one of the great chefs at a camp in Botswana called Vumbura Plains cooking an outdoor brunch. While we were eating hippos and giraffes walked by!

fruit in africa

A beautiful dish of breakfast fruit

muffins in africa

Vegetable muffins. I thought this idea was so creative and I can’t wait to try to bake these at home!

food in africa

Grilled eggplant with pesto and roasted red peppers

roasted vegetables in Africa

Steamed broccoli topped with roasted squash and roasted carrots

Israeli Outdoor Markets

A couple of weeks ago I got back from Israel and told you that I saw many interesting things, including a salt tree, the leaves of which people cook with. One of the interesting things about Israel is that almost anywhere you go you can find fresh fruit and vegetables, whether along the roadside or at one of the many outdoor markets — shuks — across the country (keep in mind that Israel is tiny!).

I love the farmer’s markets in NY, but as much stuff as you can get at the ones we have, you really can’t compare them to the outdoor markets in Israel. At the markets you can find pretty much everything you need to cook a meal or to have a snack, including fresh fruit and vegetables, dried fruit and nuts, meats, cheeses, spices, breads, sweets, and more. Here are a few pictures of the mounds of food that  I saw at the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv:

Olives at the Israeli market

Fresh fruit and vegetables at Israeli market

Sweet cherries at the Israeli market

Doesn’t it all look so fresh and delicious?!

Shopping at the shuk is a lot more interesting, and usually more economical, than going to the supermarket. If I lived in Israel that’s where I would do my shopping — although I don’t think Andy would be too happy to come along — he didn’t love the loud bargaining, known in yiddish as hondling!

Do you have markets like these where you live?