Recipe: Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Basil Pesto

I found this very clever and delicious recipe in the New York Times last year, adapted from Joan Weir, and I have further tweaked it to suit my preferences.  The roasted whole cauliflower topped with herbs or pesto makes a beautiful presentation.  Just slice it like a pie and let your guests help themselves.

Ingredients for Cauliflower:

  • 1 large cauliflower
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Ingredients for Pesto:

  • 1 ½ cup coarsely chopped basil, parsley, cilantro or mint or a combination
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chopped garlic, about 2 cloves
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, almonds or walnuts, toasting optional
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons good Parmesan cheese


  1. Heat the oven while you prepare the cauliflower. Place a heavy ovenproof skillet (a cast iron skillet looks very nice) or a baking sheet in the oven and turn the heat to 375 degrees.  Place a small pan of hot water on the floor of the oven to create steam.
  2. Break off and discard the outer leaves from the cauliflower. Cut off the bottom of the stem, and then use the tip of a small sharp knife to cut off the leaves close to the stem.  Carefully cut out the hard core of the cauliflower, near the bottom.  Leave the main stem intact and make sure not to cut through any of the florets.
  3. Rinse the cauliflower and place on a work surface, core side up. Drizzle with olive oil and use your hands to rub over the cauliflower until evenly coated.  Sprinkle with salt.
  4. Place the cauliflower on the hot pan in the oven, core side down, and cook until VERY tender all the way through when pierced with a knife, at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours. During the cooking, baste 2 or 3 times with more olive oil.  It should brown nicely.  If you have a convection feature, use it toward the end of baking to brown the crust.
  5. Make the pesto: Wash the basil in cold water, then pat it dry as possible with a kitchen towel.  Put the basil, garlic, pine nuts, oil, cheese in a food processor, and pulse briefly,
  6. When cauliflower is tender, remove from the oven.
  7. Serve cauliflower in the cast iron skillet or from a serving plate. Cut into pie-shaped wedges and spoon the pesto around each wedge.

Recipe: Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans

To properly saute Brussels Sprouts, you’ll need a fair amount of olive oil.  Don’t worry, it’s heart healthy. Just don’t overdo it or it will be greasy.  Thinly slicing the sprouts helps them cook more evenly, and seems to give a broader appeal.


  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or generous amount
  • 2 shallots
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped


  1. Chiffonade or thinly slice brussels sprouts julienne style. Set aside.
  2. Finely chop shallots.
  3. In a large skillet, heat a generous but not excessive amount of olive oil. Add the shallots for 1 minute, then add the brussels sprouts.  Give them a chance to brown, then give them a stir and cook until thery neicely browned and just tender, about 4-6 minutes.
  4. Toast the nuts in a heavy skillet in a small amount of olive oil.  Watch carefully so they don’t burn, as it happens quickly.
  5. When the brussels sprouts are lightly cooked, add the toasted nuts. Season to taste with kosher salt and plenty of cracked black pepper and serve.

What’s for Breakfast?

What’s for Breakfast?

Balanced choices at breakfast are essential, since they set your body up for the rest of the day. Many traditional breakfasts are high in carbohydrate, and low in protein –such as cereal, pancakes, and bagels. A typical bagel has around 60 grams of carbohydrate and a stack of pancakes could have as much as two or three times that.

Much better to choose a breakfast with a balance of carbohydrates and protein to avoid the insulin surge that promotes fat storage. A breakfast with 20-30 grams of protein, a similar amount of carbohydrate and a small amount of fat allows for a sense of satisfaction even though calories are kept to 300-400. That helps to prevent weight gain, and depending on your overall diet, may be a part of a weight loss plan. Here are some healthy breakfasts that balance protein, fiber and a healthy fat for some very smart eating:

Protein Shake:
A protein shake with berries is a satisfying way to meet your protein needs and keep carbohydrates and calories in check. Kefir and Greek yogurt are cultured dairy products that have twice as much protein found in milk. Plus, they provide a probiotic that feeds the good bacteria in the gut. Plain kefir or yogurt is best, since those with fruit flavors contain added sugars and more calories.

If you must use a sweetener try a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. I’m not a fan of artificial sweeteners, but if that is your preference, use Stevia and consider weaning your palette off the excessive sweetness. It will take about three months. You can do it!

If you use other plant-based milks, such as coconut milk, keep in mind it has no protein, so you may want to add a scoop of protein powder. Whey has the most complete amino acid profile, and is also lactose free. If you are vegetarian, soy or pea protein are fine as well.

Berries, including raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, or blackberries have the lowest glycemic index. Frozen berries are convenient; just make sure they are unsweetened. If you use frozen fruit, add a little water or milk to the shake for the desired consistency.

If you are maintaining weight and less concerned with glycemic index, use any fruit; just keep the portion to one or two servings. This shake is designed to get your metabolism started right and give you the energy you need to begin the day.

Kefir or Greek yogurt, 1% fat, 1 cup
Protein powder (whey), 1 scoop (18 grams protein)
Berries, ¾ cup
Ground flax or chia seeds, 1 tablespoon
Carb 36, Protein 30, Fat 6 , Calories 320

If you need more calories to keep you full for a longer period of time, try this combination:

Kefir or Greek yogurt, 1% fat, 1 cup
Protein powder (whey), 1 scoop (18 grams protein)
Raw spinach or kale, handful, about 1 cup
Banana, ½-1 frozen or fresh
Almond or peanut butter, 1-2 tablespoons
Carb 30, Protein 35, Calories 400

If you need more calories add a slice of whole grain bread with almond butter.

Cottage Cheese Lovers

When I’m out and about and need my first meal of the day, this mix of cottage cheese, fruit and nuts gives me a bit of variety and some crunch. It’s even available at my local gas station or Walgreens or Rite Aid!

Cottage cheese (2%), 1 cup
Fruit, berries, apple, orange or other seasonal fruit
Nuts, 1 ounce, any kind
Carb 49, Protein 31, Fat 6 , Calories 340

Steel Cut Oats cooked in Milk with Nuts

Oats are a great way to start the day, since they are very satisfying and contain the beta glucan fiber that helps to lower cholesterol. I like to make a batch and keep it in the refrigerator at my office as an easy go-to breakfast.

For optimal ratio of protein to carbohydrate, cook the oatmeal in milk or soy milk and if you use other plant based milks that contain no protein, be sure to add protein powder and cook on stovetop or microwave as directed. Nuts add fiber, some protein and a healthy fat source for staying power. If you need a sweetener, add a small drizzle of honey or maple syrup.

Steel-cut Oats ½ cup cooked
Milk or soy milk, 2%, 1 cup
Walnuts or almonds, 5 – 6 chopped
Protein powder (whey) 1 scoop

Carb 47, Protein 31, Fat 10, Calories 400

Egg Breakfast

This is my favorite weekend breakfast, which can help to keep your diet in check in a restaurant where scrambled eggs and omelets can be jumbo portions. With two visible eggs, you know what you’re getting! If you’re stumped about whether to include the yolk or not, see my video “Don’t throw that yolk down the drain!”

Eggs, 2 poached or over easy
Cheese, 1/2 oz
Whole grain bread, like Ezekiel 1 slice or corn tortilla or veggie burger OR ½ Ezekiel English muffin
Latte with 1 cup 2% milk or soy milk
Carb 29, Protein 27, Fat 12 , Calories 345

Recipe: Warm Arugula Salad with Sauteed Shitake Mushrooms

I found some gorgeous shitake mushrooms at the farmer’s market and they inspired me to make what turned out to be a fabulous summer salad. I simply sautéed them with a couple of shallots and a few garlic cloves, added a splash of wine and some tarragon.

Then I tossed the hot mixture over a bed of arugula with a bit of good Parmesan cheese and some vinaigrette – easy and delicious.

It’s best not to eat raw mushrooms because their cell walls are tough and in order to absorb the protein, B-vitamins and minerals and the compounds that boost the immune system – they gotta be cooked!

Cooking not only releases the nutrients, but since mushrooms contain small amounts of toxins, some of which are carcinogens, cooking destroys them too. I try to eat mushrooms at least twice a week. Just make sure they’re cooked!

1 bag arugula
3-4 cups shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion or two small shallots, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
Splash white wine, optional
3 tablespoons fresh tarragon, optional
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
Olive oil, about ¼ cup
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper

1. In a cast iron or other skillet, heat olive oil and add the onions, sautéing till beginning to turn translucent, about 2 minutes.
2. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté till tender, adding a few tablespoons white wine if more liquid is needed. Reduce till liquid is absorbed.
3. Place arugula in a large salad bowl. When you’re ready to serve, add the warm mushrooms, Parmesan cheese and the tarragon. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and the juice of one freshly squeezed lemon. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Breakfast Smoothie -Do’s and Don’ts

Breakfast Smoothie –Do’s and Don’ts


When a client tells me they are having a smoothie for breakfast, I become a nutritional detective. Is it a nutritional boost or a sugary dessert?


Here are the do’s and don’ts of a morning smoothie:
DO: Start with an unsweetened protein base. Use Greek yogurt or kefir as the liquid component to blend ingredients. These provide a boost of protein and a probiotic and are optimal choices for creating healthy, creamy smoothies. Add water or milk for a thinner consistency.


For vegan or vegetarian, use silken tofu or soy milk.


Plant based milks like almond milk generally have no protein, so if you use them, make sure they are unsweetened and add another source of protein like nuts, seeds or a protein powder without sweetener.


Coconut milk is high in saturated fat with no protein, so if you use it, choose the light coconut milk but remember, it also contains an inconsequential amount of protein.



DON’T: Add fruit juice. That will turn a nutritious smoothie into a high-calorie, sugary dessert. Also, juice has all the fiber removed. We want the FIBER!


DO: Sweeten smoothies naturally. Fresh or frozen fruits should naturally sweeten your smoothie, but if you need an extra dose, try adding beets or dates. Don’t immediately turn to sweeteners, artificial or otherwise.


DON’T: Add sugar. I often see people trying to get away with vanilla yogurt or canned fruit, but check the label, its probably full of sugar. Allow your taste buds to recalibrate to appreciate the flavor of natural sweetness of fruit or dates. Sugar will do little to satiate hunger, and it tends to make you want to eat more than you intended or is good for you.


If you must, or your children insist, add a drizzle of honey or maple syrup – not the presweetened yogurt or plant based milk. It’s not that sugar is so terrible, it’s that we eat way too much of it so best to save it for a real dessert rather than breakfast. As much as I don’t like to placate children, parents must pick their battles and a smoothie with a teaspoon of honey is better than a sugary breakfast cereal or a plate of pancakes.


I’m always surprised when I try to order a smoothie at the gym or a juice place after my work out when I’m traveling – there is often no smoothie base that is not full of sugar – the yogurt, soy milk, almond milk, rice milk – they are all sweetened. And since juice is full of sugar, it leaves you with milk as the best options. You don’t get the probiotic, but you get some protein with out sugar. If you are dairy-intolerant, ask for water and add a protein powder, ideally without sugar.


DO: Add whole fruit. Berries have the least amount of sugar, but it’s great to mix it up with any fresh fruit in season, including bananas.


DO: Try nut butters and flax seeds. A small dose non-hydrogenated nut butter like almond, peanut or cashew butter is a healthy way of adding protein, fiber and flavor to a smoothie.

A teaspoon or two of flax, chia or hemp seeds provide a plant based source of essential fatty acids along with fiber. Be sure to use ground flaxseeds, since the whole seeds aren’t absorbed by the body. This healthy fat source will keep you satisfied for a longer period of time.


DO: GO GREEN – WHEN YOU’RE READY – Start with a handful of raw spinach. It’s easy to mask the flavor of spinach with almond butter and banana, making it the perfect choice for green-smoothie starters. Once you’ve acquired a taste for greens, begin branching out to kale or parsley. The folic acid boost is worth it.



DONT: Pour in protein powder.  I’m not crazy about protein powders since they’re often filled with highly processed ingredients which are more suitable for bulking up. Use natural sources of protein instead to help sustain your energy throughout the day.


DON’T: Drink a second serving. If you’re using a smoothie as a meal replacement, it’s natural to think you’ll need a larger portion. Although we don’t need to count calories, it might be helpful to have a sense of whether you want a 300 calories smoothie or a 700 calorie smoothie. It depends on your age, size, activity level and how long that smoothie needs to last you before the next meal comes along.

DO: Beware of overindulging. Even if you’re only adding more fruit, the calories and sugar can creep up quickly.

Basic 300 calorie Smoothie Recipe:


1 cup low-fat or non-fat plain kefir

1-2 teaspoons ground flax seeds

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries or raspberries


300 calories, 10 grams protein


Long lasting 600-700 calorie Smoothie recipe

1 cup lowfat or nonfat plain kefir

1-2 teaspoons ground flax seeds

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries or raspberries

1 tablespoon almond butter

½ frozen banana


Green Smoothie

1 cup lowfat or nonfat plain kefir

1 handful fresh spinach

1 tablespoon almond butter

½-1 frozen banana



Place all ingredients in a blender and blend well till smooth. For a more efficient smoothie, use a metal milk shake can and in immersion blender.   The various blender options are fine as well.


Make use of fruits in season beyond berries – peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots. Tropical fruits add a wonderful flair- payaya, mango, guava. Be creative and enjoy!












Recipe: Curried Lentil and Cauliflower

How do you manage your weight without counting calories?  I’m telling you – the best way is to eat the right proportions of high quality proteins, smart carbs, and healthy fats.   If you can balance these, you’ll control your appetite and manage your weight!

Curious about what this looks like?  ONE way to do this – not the only way, but an easy way is to make your animal protein the same size as your starchy carb– so 3-4 ounces of fish and ½ cup starchy carb.  Then the trick is to round it out with vegetables – half your plate becomes veggies.

For example – I sautéed an onion in olive oil and added a bag of cauliflower rice and I toss in some lentils.  This is perfect for me.

Now the amount of carb you need may be different than the amount I need– since carb tolerance is based on how much fuel your muscles need.  If you’re a 6 foot tall teenager playing basketball you need more lentils and if you’re an older woman 5 feet tall, you need less lentils- remember, even though lentils are healthy, if you eat too many you gain weight.

But you get the idea– both cauliflower and lentils enter the blood stream slowly, that’s what stabilizes blood sugar and decreases cravings and that is smart eating!


1 16 ounce bag riced cauliflower

1 cup lentils, cooked

1 medium onion, chopped

2-3 teaspoons Madras curry or turmeric

1/8 teaspoon chile flakes, or to taste


  1. Saute onion in neutral oil, like canola in a medium hot skillet
  2. Add cauliflower rice and saute for 2 minutes or till somewhat cooked
  3. Add cooked lentils, Madras curry powder or turmeric, and chili flakes.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Lowering Cholesterol with Diet (in 4-6 weeks)

I know from first-hand experience with my patients that diet can play a major role in lowering cholesterol.  Statins can be life-savers, but like all medications, they come with side effects.  That doesn’t mean they are bad, but you may want to weigh the pros and cons and do all you can to avoid needing medication.

If you can achieve cholesterol goals with diet, exercise, all the better!  The guidelines below are the basics of an anti-inflammatory diet which helps reduce inflammation in the body and lowers the risk of plaque formation.  Stick with it and you’ll see changes in 4-6 weeks.

Bonus:  Eating this way will result in weight loss without counting calories or fat grams.

Here are four basic principles of a heart healthy diet:

  1. Balance your fats and eliminate trans fats. Choose healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3’s, reduce saturated fats.Balance these:
    Unsaturated fats promote heart health when they replace saturated fat in the diet.  There are two types – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

    Monounsaturated fat sources:  (key oils in Mediterranean Diet) olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, avocados, peanut butter, nuts, and seeds.
    fat sources:
    These come in two forms, omega 3 and omega-6.  Both are necessary for good health.  But most Americans consume too much omega-6 and too little omega-3, so while both are cardio-protective, aim for a balance of more omega-3 and less omega-6.

    Omega-3 fatty acid sources: fish, fish oil, ground flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, soy  products, nuts, dark green leafy vegetables and omega-3 enhanced eggs

    Omega-6 fatty acid sources: soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower, cottonseed, sesame as well as margarine, traditional eggs and baked goods.

    Limit these:
    Saturated fats –  among the most potent fats to increase blood cholesterol levels…limit meat, milk, cheese, ice cream, butter, lard, shortening, hydrogenated vegetable fat, palm oil, coconut oil, and beef fat.

    Avoid these:
    Trans fats are the most dangerous of all fats.  They raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and lower HDL (good) cholesterol and are the most efficient at promoting plaque that causes heart attacks and strokes.

    The man-made trans fats include partially “hydrogenated” oils (check food labels), – chips, crackers, vegetable shortening, commercially prepared baked goods, French fries, fried chicken, doughnuts, pastries, pie crusts, biscuits, pizza dough, most stick margarine, fast foods.

  2. Choose whole foods. The less processed, the more fiber, vitamins and minerals.  — Fruit and vegetables (here’s how:  each time you eat, include a fruit or a vegetable.  For example, berries with breakfast, and apple in the afternoon; salad for lunch, double vegetable side with dinner), wheat and whole-wheat products, corn bran, seeds and nuts, oat and oat bran, dried beans, lentils, peas, brown rice, barley, rye, flaxseed.
  3. Emphasize carbohydrates with a low glycemic load. Avoid foods that raise the blood sugar levels quickly.  Maintaining a normal blood sugar level is cardio-protective. Glycemic load is a measurement of how quickly a food is converted into sugar in the body.  The lower the load, the lower the blood sugar rise after a meal.  Emphasize whole foods over processed foods and minimize your intake of cookies, cake, white bread, white rice, potatoes, chips and crackers.  For a complete chart, check here:
  4. Limit your intake of high-fructose corn syrup. This man-made sugar is added to many processed foods but creates unique health problems.  It can be found in many processed foods including soda and other soft drinks, breakfast cereals, canned fruits, jellies, flavored yogurts, baked goods, ketchup and other condiments.  While sugar and honey should be kept to a minimum, high fructose corn syrup triggers a cascade of health problems all its own. 

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

By Mary Donkersloot, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with Rose Lipner, Intern

Healthy eating means 2-3 servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of vegetables daily.  But when produce is contaminated with unhealthy chemical pesticides, not all produce is equal.

A nonprofit environmental watchdog organization called Environmental Working Group (EWG) looks at pesticide residue data on produce to compile lists called the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen”, indicating the most and the least pesticide loads found in commercial crops.

These lists are updated every year, ranking pesticide contamination of 48 popular fruits and vegetables.  The guide is based on results of more than 35,200 samples of produce tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.  It is important to note that at least one pesticide was found on approximately 70% of produce— and that’s after washing and/or peeling it!

Still, it is better to eat conventionally grown produce than to skip fruits and vegetables altogether.  But the best way to get the benefits of these foods is to buy organic when you can, especially those that are more likely to be contaminated.

Dirty Dozen

Here’s the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” list.  Make it a priority to buy these foods organically:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Bell Peppers
  12. Potatoes

Additionally,  hot peppers and blueberries may contain organophosphate insecticides, which EWG characterizes as “highly toxic” and of special concern.

Clean Fifteen

EWG also created the “Clean 15” foods that are the least contaminated. It’s okay to buy non-organic varieties of these fruits and veggies. Still, make it a habit to wash them thoroughly before eating or cooking.

  1. Corn
  2. Avocado
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onion
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mango
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honeydew
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Grapefruit

For more information, go to



Baby Food Alert: Are Pouches the New Juice?

Mom’s who are hip to good nutrition generally know that juice is a general no-no. We suggest no juice birth to six months, and if it is given, limited to 4-6 ounces after age 6-12 months; and up to 6 ounces 1-6 years and 7 years and up, up to 12 ounces.

Some well meaning parents wouldn’t think of giving their kids Coca-cola, but might give them apple juice or Sprite, particularly in a restaurant as a treat. But 8 ounces of Coca-Cola contains 27 grams of sugar, as does 8 ounces of Sprite or apple juice. Better to turn to milk or water.

In my practice, I see kids who have a beverage preferences based on limits set by parents at young age. If they never had soda, they tend to not like it; same with juice. Water drinkers learned to drink water as young children, and so it goes.

Too much fruit juice, or soda can contribute to excess calories. But more importantly, it can lead to a limited palette.

But just when moms got the message about avoiding sweetened beverages, a new line of products cleverly sold in convenient pouches is on the market, tricking even the most well-intentioned, nutrition-conscious mom. These products are often labeled organic, with a promo that reads “love your veggies”. Unfortunately, they often have the opposite effect. The convenience factor cannot be denied, and we all know that parents might like to rely on anything that makes life easier at this busy stage of child rearing.

But while these pouches might be OK for an emergency, they should not be relied upon every day, and certainly not every meal. Here’s why:

  1. Purees from pouches are often sweet and rob the baby of the opportunity to develop a taste for the actual vegetable. From 4-7 months, it seems there is a window when humans are extraordinarily receptive to flavor. This is a good time to augment breast or bottle with vegetables. Babies are open -minded and it takes fewer exposures to persuade them to like a new flavor. The effects are long lasting.
  2. Better to start the challenging like cauliflower, zucchini, spinach and broccoli WITHOUT added apple or other sweet puree to mask the flavor. Then add the naturally sweet vegetables like carrot, butternut squash and sweet potato.
  3. Labels may be misleading. Even though the labels promote spinach and brown rice, it’s impossible to know what provides the bulk of the pouch’s contents. Most likely it’s a less expensive of the two, which is likely apple, pear or carrot puree in most cases.   (Beechnut lists percentages on their website and is considering adding them to the label.)
  4. Sucking purees from pouches does not promote the healthy development of feeding skills. Pouches encourage sucking, and the baby already does that very well. Don’t let baby get stuck in the puree phase. Let them learn to negotiate lumps and textures.

Purees in pouches may not be a bad thing, but we need to make sure parents rely on them minimally. Here are some tips to make sure baby stays on track:

  1. Buy pouches with vegetables as single-ingredient purees rather than mixed with sweet purees to your baby learns to like their flavor. Look for kale, spinach or broccoli only rather then vegetables sweetened with apple, sweet potato or pineapple.
  2. Instead of letting babies and children suck on puree pouches, empty the puree into a bowl and feed it with a spoon.
  3. Do not let older babies and toddlers walk around while sucking on these pouches. Teach kids to sit down at a table for meals and snacks, and model the behavior yourself. This will make them mindful eaters who learn to self regulate – eating when they are hungry and stopping when they are full.
  4. In addition to pureed food, expose the baby to finger foods from early on. If introducing finger foods from 6 months, serve long pieces of mango, avocado, or tofu, long strips of well0cooked chicken or meat, steamed or roasted carrots or potato, or long pieces of toast. When babies develop finger grasp close to 8-9 months, its time to offer small bites of well cooked vegetables, soft fruits, eggs, meats, beans and shredded cheese. This will ensure a variety of textures in baby’s diet.

Weaning children onto solid food should be done in a way to set them up for healthy food likes for life. When children actually enjoy vegetables, plus a range of whole foods from all the other food groups, they are much less likely to become picky eaters.