Mini Veggie Strata Muffins

Mini Veggie Strata Muffins

Have you ever been tasked with making a meal for someone through Meal Train or another request? If you’re not familiar with MealTrain.com (official site) – Organize Meal Support in Minutes, it’s a free platform to solicit volunteers to bring meals to friends, families, neighbors, etc. in a ‘thyme’ of need.

I’m the official “Main Dish” person at my church which means when someone has a new baby, has undergone surgery, or is unable to cook for themselves for whatever reason, I’m asked to get the train moving. Meal Train is a great way to do this.

Dietitian Brain

As a dietitian, I love to get these requests. I typically put on my “assessment” hat and ask about food allergies, preferences, cultural requests, likes and dislikes. There’s nothing worse than sending over a meat-laden dish to a family of vegans. It’s also not a bad idea to ask what they already had. A week of tacos might be great for some, but most people enjoy a variety of dishes.

Recently, my husband’s friend’s wife (I know, that’s a mouthful), had back surgery. Everyone rallied around them and made casseroles, chicken and rice, and other delicious dishes. While he was grateful for the food, he mentioned to my husband that they would love some breakfast items.

Challenge accepted! I’m a simple breakfast person and don’t delve into hard-core recipes by nature. I’m happy with peanut butter on toast with fruit or Greek yogurt and fruit with chopped nuts. But I couldn’t show up with a giant bowl of oatmeal here. I needed something a little fancier.

I decided that a breakfast strata would be good but found out that their daughter was vegetarian. I knew my husband’s friend was a bacon fan but opted to make half of the muffins with meat and the other half without. I included veggies in both, of course! They add color, flavor, texture and nutrition. Spinach and peppers are my go-to. I made sure to ask which veggies his daughter liked. Thankfully, she liked all of them.

Mushrooms, onions, or zucchini are also great to include at breakfast. These strata muffins can be frozen and eaten for up to 3 months. Total prep and cook time is 45 minutes. I served this with a seasonal fruit salad. My husband added his famous sourdough bread. These would be great for brunch, or dinner, too!

Here’s the recipe:

Mini Veggie Strata Muffins


8 large eggs

1/4 cup 1% or 2% milk

1 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. salt

1 slice sourdough bread, ripped into small pieces

1 bell pepper, diced

2 green onions, chopped

1 cup raw spinach, chopped

1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

non-stick cooking spray


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, oregano, and salt.
  3. Add the ripped bread, diced peppers, onions, spinach, and mozzarella cheese.
  4. Using non-stick spray, coat a muffin tin.
  5. Pour the strata mixture into each muffin cup filling it about 3/4 full.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until muffins are lightly browned.
  7. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before eating.

Makes 12 muffins. Nutrition facts per serving: 270 calories, 18 grams fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat, 22 grams protein, 4.6 grams carbs, .3 grams fiber, 630 mg cholesterol, 272 mg sodium

Things to consider when making meals for others:

  • Ask about food allergies. The most common are eggs, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, shellfish, sesame,
  • Inquire about cultural foods. Does the receiver follow a Kosher or Halal diet?
  • Consider food preferences. Are there certain foods the person does not eat for some reason? Ask about meat, fish, dairy, vegetables, fruit, grains, and fats.
  • Ask about any dietary restrictions such as gluten-free, low-fat, or lactose-free.
  • Label your dish so the receiver knows what you’ve made.
  • Be sure the person is home to receive the food. Ask about delivery time window.
  • If the person isn’t home, be sure the food is kept cold if it’s going to sit for a long time. Ask the receiver to leave a cooler on their porch with cooler packs inside.
  • Use recyclable Zip lock bags or plastic containers for cold foods.
  • Provide heating instructions if needed.
  • Dessert is optional but usually appreciated.



Pomegranate cherry quinoa with almonds

Pomegranate cherry quinoa with almonds

I always seem to have a bag of quinoa on hand. It’s a great grain to use for cooking demos since it’s high in fiber and gluten-free. I see it typically used in savory salads or side dishes, but it actually makes a delicious breakfast!

I got a ‘nudge’ from POM Wonderful – 100% Pomegranate Juice about their annual Pom cookoff contest. Pom Wonderful supports Diversify Dietetics, a non-profit group whose mission is: To increase racial and ethnic diversity in the field of nutrition by empowering nutrition leaders of color. They provide a community for students, professionals, and educators dedicated to increasing ethnic and racial diversity in the nutrition and dietetics profession.

As a member and past chair of the Ohio Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (eatrightohio.org) DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) group, I wholeheartedly support more diversity in the dietetics profession. We can’t serve our cultural and ethnically diverse population of patients and clients without more diverse practitioners. A diverse group of mentors, advocates and educators in the field of dietetics are needed to support patients, clients and the field at large.

For each recipe submission, Pom Wonderful gives $100.00 to Diversify Dietetics. I look forward to this recipe contest every year. I love their products and mission in giving back.



A diet low in saturated fat may prevent early death

A diet low in saturated fat may prevent early death

After spending 23+ years as a hospital ICU dietitian, I’m well aware that modern science can keep people alive for long periods of time. But quality of life is what matters to me. How about you?

New research suggests that the risk of mortality in adults aged 50 to 71 is lower when a diet lower in saturated fats and certain carbohydrates is followed. This is right in my wheelhouse!

Results from the Journal of Internal Medicine were just published this week. Researchers followed over 371,000 adults aged 50 to 71. Within an average of 23 ½ years of follow-up, there were 165,698 deaths. The study subjects who at the most healthy, low-fat diets compared to their peers, had 18% fewer deaths from any cause. This included 16% fewer deaths from cardiovascular disease and 18% less from cancers.

Healthy, low-fat diets were limited in saturated fat and contained high amounts of plant-based protein and high-quality carbohydrates such as beans, lentils, and whole grains.

In addition, researchers noted that substituting 3% of total calories from poor-quality carbohydrates and saturated fat with more nutritious macronutrients including high-quality carbohydrates, plant protein, animal protein, and unsaturated fat was linked with a much lower total and cause-specific mortality.

More nutritious low-carbohydrate diets were also linked with slightly lower death rates, according to the researchers. These lower mortality risk benefits were not observed in those who ate overall low-carbohydrate diets or unhealthy low-carbohydrate diets. Subjects in this category had significantly higher total, cardiovascular and cancer death rates.

“Our results suggest that a healthy low-fat diet with minimal saturated fat intake would be an effective dietary strategy for healthy aging among middle-aged and older people,” the researchers concluded.

Below are 10 tips to subtract saturated fat and add in the good stuff:

  • Skip the bacon and sausage at breakfast. Try a side of black beans and salsa with eggs.
  • Switch to whole-grain pasta and pass on the refined stuff. It has three times the fiber content.
  • Add more veggies to eggs, soups, salads, and sandwiches. Keep a bag of fresh spinach leaves and include them regularly.
  • Enjoy seasonal fruit for dessert in place of high-fat pastries or ice cream.
  • Go meatless beyond Monday. Make lentil Bolognese or give tofu tacos a try.
  • Substitute plain, non-fat Greek yogurt for sour cream. An old trick, but a good one. You’ll get protein, calcium, and B vitamins and no saturated fat.
  • Use lean ground turkey in place of ground beef. This cuts the saturated fat in half.
  • Choose low-fat dairy products when able.
  • Use olive or canola oil for cooking in place of butter.
  • Keep a variety of unsalted or low-salt nuts on hand for snacks in place of chips or cookies.

Low‐carbohydrate diets, low‐fat diets, and mortality in middle‐aged and older people: A prospective cohort study (wiley.com)

Massaged Kale in Lemon Vinaigrette with Grilled Chicken

Massaged Kale in Lemon Vinaigrette with Grilled Chicken

I can’t help but grab a bunch of kale when I’m in the grocery store or at a farmer’s market. I fully realize it’s the blue cheese of vegetables (you either love it or hate it). It’s totally polarizing. But it’s so inexpensive, versatile, and nutritious, I can’t help myself.

Kale is known as a “superfood” for good reason. A cup of curly, chopped kale has just over 7 calories but provides a hefty dose of folate, vitamin C, potassium, and beta-carotene. Kale also gives you fiber as well as vitamin K- a nutrient needed for good bone health. The older I get, the more important my bones become to me!

The trick to making kale taste good lies in improving the texture. Kale is a hearty green and it needs to be massaged to soften it up. If you’re adding it to soup or sauteeing it, this might not matter. For salads, it’s best to give that kale a good rub down.

I made this recipe by the seat of my pants the other night. In search of a side veggie for dinner, I used up the remnants in my fridge including a part of an onion, half of a lemon, shredded Asiago cheese, and some Dijon mustard.

Making your own salad dressing is ridiculously easy and makes your salad so much tastier. All you need is oil (avocado, canola, corn, olive) and some form of acid (apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar) or citrus (lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges). Add honey, maple syrup or agave syrup for sweetness or mustard for something tangy.

I had a handful of cherry tomatoes and added those along with the grilled chicken. The chicken was marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, and a dash of paprika and salt. The salad really hit the spot! Below is the recipe.


4 cups chopped, cleaned kale.

¼ onion, diced

1 Tbsp. canola or corn oil

Juice from ½ of a lemon

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

10 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

¼ cup shredded Asiago or Parmesan cheese

2 grilled (3 oz) chicken breasts, sliced into strips


  1. Place cleaned kale in a medium size bowl. Massage the kale by rubbing it for 3 to 5 minutes or until it looks shiny. Set aside.
  2. Heat a medium skillet and add canola oil. Sautee the diced onions until they’re translucent. Set aside.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and cooked onions. Whisk together to make a dressing.
  4. Add the halved tomatoes and shredded cheese to the salad and toss to coat.
  5. Place the grilled chicken on top of the salad and serve.

Makes 2 salads. Nutrition information per serving: 315 calories, 20.8 grams fat, 29.7 grams protein, 4.1 grams carbohydrates, 2.3grams fiber, 97 mg cholesterol, 230 mg sodium

If you like this recipe and want to see more, sign up for my monthly blog. I also provide cooking demonstrations for small groups including corporate and non-profits. Message me for dates and fees. Cheese and thanks!

MIND Your Diet to Prevent Dementia

MIND Your Diet to Prevent Dementia

Not only is it National Nutrition Month, but St. Patrick’s Day is also right around the corner. If you need a good reason to eat green, I’ll give you some food for thought. A recent study published in the journal Neurology provides more evidence that green leafy vegetables should be eaten more often to prevent dementia.

If you’ve never heard of the MIND diet, keep reading. Appropriately named, MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. In short, it’s an eating style meant to protect us from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

The study found that individuals that consumed a diet full of green leafy and other vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, legumes (beans), nuts, and fish have fewer amyloid plaques and tau tangles in their brains, which are signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

MIND and Mediterranean Diets Matter

Researchers focused on how closely people adhered to the MIND and Mediterranean diets. Although the diets are similar, MIND puts more emphasis on green leafy vegetables and berries and advises eating fish more frequently during the week. Both diets advise moderate consumption of wine.

The study does not establish a cause-and-effect relationship but rather an association of regularly eating this type of diet with fewer signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition to eating 6 servings of green leafy vegetables weekly, avoiding fried foods was also linked with fewer amyloid plaques in the brain. The researchers estimated that this was similar to being 4 years young. Who wouldn’t want to shave 4 years of their life? Study author Puja Agarwal, PhD of Rush University notes, “following the MIND and Mediterranean diets may be one way that people can improve their brain health and protect cognition as they age.”

The study consisted of 581 individuals with an average age of 84. At the time of diet assessment, the people agreed to donate their brains after death for research on dementia. Subjects answered annual questionnaires about various food items that they consumed in different categories.

Subjects died on average died seven years after the beginning of the research. Prior to their deaths, 39% of subjects were diagnosed with dementia. After death, upon autopsy, 66% met the diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer’s disease.

The brains of participants were examined by researchers to find the amounts of amyloid plaques and tau tangles. These are present in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease but may also be present in the brains of older adults without cognitive impairment. Researchers then reviewed the food questionnaires previously collected during follow-up and the quality of diet was ranked for each individual.

What Should or Shouldn’t Be on Your Plate?

The Mediterranean diet contained 11 categories. Subjects were provided a score from zero to 55 with a higher score if they had followed the diet in the following categories: whole grain cereals, fruit, vegetables, beans, olive oil, fish, and potatoes. Lower scores were given if they consumed red meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products.

There were 15 categories for the MIND diet. A score from zero to 15 was given with one point counted for 10 brain-healthy food groups. These included green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine. Points were deducted if they ate more than the suggested in five unhealthy food groups such as red meat, butter and margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried and fast food.

The subjects were then divided into three groups by researchers for each diet and compared in the highest groups to those in the lowest groups. People in the highest group for the Mediterranean diet had an average score of 35 while those in the lowest group had an average score of 26. The highest average score for the MIND diet was 9 while the lowest group score had an average of 6.

The researchers then adjusted for age at death, education, total energy intake, and whether subjects possessed a gene linked to greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease. They discovered that those who scored highest in adherence to the Mediterranean diet had an average plaque and tangle amount in their brains close to being 18 years younger compared to those with the lowest scores.

Those adhering to the MIND diet had average tangle and plaque amounts similar to being 12 years younger than those with the lowest scores.

Just one-point higher score in the MIND diet was linked with usual plaque amounts in participants who were 4 1/4 years young.

Eat More Greens

After evaluating single diet components, researchers discovered that those who consumed the highest amounts of leafy green vegetables (7 or more servings per week) had brain plaques corresponding to being nearly 19 years younger than individuals that ate the least amounts, with one or fewer servings per week.

Study author Agarwal notes, “”Our finding that eating more green leafy vegetables is in itself associated with fewer signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain is intriguing enough for people to consider adding more of these vegetables to their diet,” Future studies are needed to establish our findings further.”

One limitation of the study was that subjects were primarily white, non-Hispanic and older, so results should not be generalized to other populations.

ReferenceAssociation of Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay and Mediterranean Diets With Alzheimer Disease Pathology | Neurology

Some easy ways to follow the MIND or Mediterranean Diets:

  • Eat a green leafy salad daily at lunch or dinner (or both).
  • Include spinach, chopped kale, or other greens in salads or side dishes.
  • Keep frozen blueberries on hand and add to low-fat yogurt or oatmeal.
  • Choose whole grain breads and cereals when possible.
  • Eat fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel) 2 or more times per week.
  • Choose beans or lentils as main dishes 3 or more times per week.
  • Limit red meat to 3 or less servings per week.
  • Choose chicken twice or more per week. Don’t fry it!
  • Limit butter, margarine, sweets and full-fat dairy to less than 5 servings per week.
  • Use olive oil as your primary cooking oil. It’s great for salad dressing, too.

Email me at lisa@soundbitesnutrition for a complete MIND dietary tracker.




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