Lentil quinoa salad with spinach and dried cherries

Lentil quinoa salad with spinach and dried cherries

Hearty salads are just the ticket for lunch or light dinner these days. Lentils are a quick- cooking dried bean that’s not just for soup. This one includes red lentils, which are closer to orange in color, to be honest.

I made this salad recently for a Saturday, virtual demo for the Home – Cancer Support Community (mycancersupportcommunity.org). I’ve been doing cooking demos for them since I started my business 14 years ago! I’m grateful for the opportunity to cook and chat about nutrition while I do it.

This lentil quinoa salad is a good source of several nutrients, including protein, iron, vitamin C and fiber. If you’re trying to protect your immune system this thyme of year, this salad is your go-to.

Fiber from different food sources (beans, grains, fruits, veggies) helps to keep your gut microbiome (located in your large colon), thriving. Yes- poop has a function! This is why I’m a fan of eating a balanced diet that includes ALL food groups (and doesn’t diss dairy, gluten and the like).

That being said, the salad is gluten free, primarily because it’s made with quinoa. You can certainly sub other whole grains like bulgur, farro, sorghum or even brown rice.I love how quickly quinoa cooks and gives the salad a nutty taste and chewy texture.

The original salad was a recipe used in my Heart Healthy Meal Prep: 6 Weekly Plans for Low-Sodium, High-Flavor Grab-and-Go Meals – Kindle edition by Andrews MEd RD LD, Lisa Cicciarello . Cookbooks, Food & Wine Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com. but I added greens to it to boost the volume, color and nutritional value of the salad. I think it’s even better with the addition of fresh spinach! The salad keeps for about 3 days after being dressed.

The dressing is a simple vinaigrette with lemon juice, corn oil and honey. Both the lemon juice and spinach are sources of vitamin C, which enhances the iron absorption from quinoa and lentils in the salad. If you’re going meat-free this year, this is an excellent way to obtain iron in your diet. Make it vegan by leaving out the cheese.

1 cup dry red lentils                                       3 Tablespoons canola oil

4 cups water, divided                                     ½ cup pecans, chopped

1 cup quinoa                                                   ½ cup dried cherries

2 Tablespoons lemon juice                            ½ cup feta cheese crumbles

1 teaspoon honey                                           1 green onion (green & white parts), chopped

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar                 3 cups ripped spinach leaves


  1. Boil the lentils in 2 cups of water for about 3 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer on low until the lentils are soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain off extra water and place in a large bowl to cool.
  2. While lentils are cooking, boil 2 cups of water with 1 cup of quinoa in a small pot for 3 minutes. Cover the pot, reduce heat and continue to simmer quinoa for about 15 minutes until the water has been absorbed. Allow quinoa to cool, then add it to the cooled lentils.
  3. In a measuring cup, mix the lemon juice, honey, vinegar and canola oil and whisk to make a dressing.
  4. Pour the lemon juice dressing over lentils and quinoa.
  5. Add the pecans, dried cherries, feta cheese, green onions and spinach to the lentils and quinoa. Toss the salad to coat. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 400 calories, 15 g protein, 18 g fat, 47 g carbohydrates, 13 g fiber, 7 mg cholesterol, 117 mg sodium

Plant-based diet protects against dementia

Plant-based diet protects against dementia

As a dietitian and daughter of a parent with dementia, I want to maintain as much cognition and memory as I can. Seeing my mother decline over the years is heart-breaking. At 85, she still knows my name but is subject to mood swings, memory loss and a life of confinement.

Currently, the only prevention for dementia is lifestyle changes. Healthy diet, exercise, adequate sleep and moderate intake of coffee and alcohol are advised. Certain phytochemicals in plant-based foods may be beneficial.

A recent study by the Biomarkers and Nutritional Food Metabolomics Research Group of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences of the University of Barcelona and the CIBER of Frailty and Healthy Aging finds that a plant-forward diet in the elderly reduces the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

Led by professor, Cristina Andrés-Lacueva at the Faculty Pharmacy and Food Sciences and head of the Biomarkers and Nutritional Metabolomics of Food Research Group of the UB and the Biomedical Research Network Center in Frailty and Healthy Aging (CIBERFES), also part of the Food Innovation Network of Catalonia (XIA), the study was published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.

Participants included over 840 adults aged 65 and up in the Bordeaux and Dijon regions of France. The study was completed over 12 years as part of “A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life” (JPI HDHL, part of the Joint Programming Initiative.

Dietary components, microbiota and effects of diet on health

The link between the metabolism of nutrients, the intestinal microbiome, internal metabolism and cognitive decline was evaluated. Mireia Urpí-Sardà, from the Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Gastronomy and CIBERFES, states “the modulating role of diet in the risk of suffering cognitive impairment was analyzed in the cohorts of the study. Results indicated a strong link between these processes and certain nutrients.

The study showed a protective association between dietary components from cocoa, coffee, mushrooms and red wine, microbial metabolism of polyphenol-containing foods (apples, cocoa, green tea, blueberries, oranges and pomegranates) and cognitive losses in the elderly.

The evaluation of blood samples indicated that some metabolic substances are related to the advancement of cognitive decline and dementia. Some derivatives of coffee and cocoa had protective effects while saccharin, from artificial sweeteners has a damaging role.This research is important in developing preventive strategies against cognitive impairment.

Dietary changes to protect your noggin

Since there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, prevention is key. Eating a diet high in plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables coffee, green tea, and cocoa will provide various bioactive substances that help reduce the risk of cognitive decline related to aging.

Here are some quick tips:

  • Enjoy coffee or green tea at breakfast. Limit use of sugar, artificial sweeteners and creamers.
  • Include a green leafy salad, broccoli. kale or other leafy greens in your diet at least once a day (but hey, twice is better)!
  • Choose berries, citrus fruits or apples when in season. Eat at least one of these daily.
  • Include cocoa in various recipes such as hot chocolate made with skim or low-fat milk.
  • Add beans, nuts, seeds or whole grains to salads to increase fiber and healthy fats to your diet.
  • Swap red meat for salmon for omega-3-fatty acids, which may aid in dementia prevention.


  1. Raúl González‐Domínguez, Pol Castellano‐Escuder, Francisco Carmona, Sophie Lefèvre‐Arbogast, Dorrain Y. Low, Andrea Du Preez, Silvie R. Ruigrok, Claudine Manach, Mireia Urpi‐Sarda, Aniko Korosi, Paul J. Lucassen, Ludwig Aigner, Mercè Pallàs, Sandrine Thuret, Cécilia Samieri, Alex Sánchez‐Pla, Cristina Andres‐Lacueva. Food and Microbiota Metabolites Associate with Cognitive Decline in Older Subjects: A 12‐Year Prospective StudyMolecular Nutrition & Food Research, 2021; 65 (23): 2100606 DOI: 10.1002/mnfr.202100606


Maintaining weight during the holidays

Maintaining weight during the holidays

You’ll notice this post is called “maintaining” and not “losing” weight over the holidays. Why? Because I don’t recommend being on a diet this time of year. In fact, I hate the word diet.

Weight loss is not a bad goal. A small weight loss can help reduce blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and improve joint pain.

Sustainable weight loss takes repeated, lifelong habits, like avoiding or limiting alcohol, reducing sugar and not snacking at night. Most of the habits that are really tricky to navigate right now.

Holidays are stressful. We’re all running around finding that perfect gift, baking our favorite holiday treats and writing holiday cards. Why add calorie counting to that stress?

We’re also attending parties, meeting friends and family for brunch, coffee, lunch, happy hour and dinner. It’s not the time to declare you’re on a diet.

Instead of stressing yourself out more, why not aim for maintenance this season? Below are some tips:

  1. Get enough sleep. It’s easy to stay up late to do “one more thing”. Instead, go to bed and get 7 to 8 hours sleep. You’ll feel less stressed and reduce cravings for sugar in the morning.
  2. Hydrate. Put a drinking glass next to your coffee maker or teacup and start the day with water. Aim for 16 oz. before every meal. First water, then caffeine. Do this daily.
  3. Join a friend outside for a walk. Skip the crowded restaurants and bars and meet in a park or favorite walking spot. Meet different friends a few days a week to stay motivated and connected.
  4. Eat at regular intervals. No need to starve before the party. Grab and apple and peanut butter or hummus and veggies before you go. Space meals out every 3 to 4 hours. Your body needs nutrients!
  5. Second guess that Hershey kiss. Be a dessert snob this time of year. You can have Hershey’s chocolate or peanut M & Ms any time. Enjoy a few holiday favorites instead.
  6. Journal something positive.  Note one thing each day that made you happy. Maybe it was your neighbor’s holiday display or a sweet card from a long last friend. Try to stay positive to reduce stress.
  7. Enjoy soup! Load a bowl with bean or veggie-based soup. Soup is a perfectly filling meal when it’s cold outside. Search my site for recipes!
  8. Get creative with salads. Add seasonal fruit like pears or apples to spinach, arugula or other greens. Drizzle a simple vinaigrette made with oil, vinegar and Dijon mustard.
  9. Use some free weights while you watch TV. If you don’t have a gym or there’s no time to get to one, do some simple exercise at home. I like to lift a 7-pound medicine ball while I enjoy Seinfeld reruns. Why not?
  10. Don’t eat when you’re not hungry. If you’re a stress eater, divert your attention to something else. Read a book, send a card, knit a scarf, clean your bathroom. Each time you deal with stress in a positive way, you’ll reinforce NOT eating when you’re not hungry.

Enjoy this joyous time of year!

Breakfast quinoa with cranberry sauce and almonds

Breakfast quinoa with cranberry sauce and almonds

Yes, Thanksgiving is behind us, but some of the leftovers remain. If you’re like my family, you’ve probably enjoyed turkey soup, turkey tacos, ham and bean soup and Western omelets. Or maybe you froze some of the meat or other goodies?

But what about that delicious cranberry relish? Besides adding it as a condiment to your turkey sandwich, what else can you use it for?

If you’ve followed my blog before, you know I hate food waste. My parents grew up in the depression era (many moons ago), so we didn’t waste a pea on our plates. I fully recognize food insecurity in the US, and it kills me to toss out perfectly good food.

The mighty cranberry

Cranberry relish is popular at holiday time because cranberries are in season from September to November. Their festive crimson color also lends itself to beautiful dishes of sauce, compote and dessert. If you’ve never made homemade cranberry sauce, it’s ridiculously easy. Recipe to follow!

Cranberries are a good source of vitamin C as well as antioxidants to help fight disease. Some research suggests they may reduce the risk of UTIs (urinary tract infections) as well. Cranberry Polyphenols and Prevention against Urinary Tract Infections: Relevant Considerations – PubMed (nih.gov)

Using leftover cranberry sauce

Leftover cranberry sauce should be used within 7 to 10 days or can be frozen and used within a month. I’m sure if you used the cranberry sauce a bit after 10 days (say 12 days), you’ll be OK. It’s acidic by nature and likely won’t mold quickly.

Note- you’ll still have some leftover cranberry sauce with this recipe. If you’ve never tried it in yogurt, now is a good ‘thyme’! It’s great in Greek yogurt or you can also add it to cooked oatmeal.


I enjoy using quinoa in various recipes because of its awesome nutritional profile (good source of fiber, iron and protein), ease of cooking and versatility. I had some mixed quinoa on hand and decided to cook some up for breakfast.

Quinoa is naturally gluten-free, making it a great grain for those with Celiac disease or anyone following a gluten-free diet. While it’s often used in grain bowls, salads or side dishes, it can also be used for breakfast. Why not?

Quinoa should be rinsed before cooking to remove tannins that give the grain a metalic taste. A mesh strainer works well for this.

Breakfast recipe:

Fresh cranberry sauce

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup orange juice

3/4 cup sugar or honey

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. orange zest

1 Tbsp. ginger paste

1 (12 oz) bag fresh or frozen cranberries


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the water, orange juice, sugar, orange zest, cinnamon and ginger paste and boil for 3 minutes.
  2. Add the fresh or frozen cranberries and stir to combine.
  3. Reduce the heat and stir the mixture occasionally. Allow it to simmer for 15 minutes. Cranberries will split open as they cook, and the mixture will thicken.
  4. Cool the sauce for 20 to 30 minutes before storing in the fridge or freezer.

Makes 8 servings. Per serving 111 calories, 0 gm fat, .3 gm protein, 27 carbs, 1.7 fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 15 mg sodium


1 cup dried quinoa

2 cups water

1/4 cup almonds or other nuts, chopped


  1. Rinse quinoa in a mesh strainer before using.
  2. Place quinoa and water in a medium pan and boil for 1 minute.
  3. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover the pot. Cook quinoa for 13 to 14 minutes until all the water is soaked up.
  4. Serve 1/2 cup warm quinoa with 1 Tbsp. cranberry sauce.
  5. Top with 1 Tbsp. chopped almonds or other nuts.

Quiona and cranberry sauce with almonds

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 300 calories, 6.3 gm fat, 6.3 gm protein, 50 grams carbs,4.5 gm fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 217 mg sodium 



Black Friday- Cyber Monday 25% off!

Black Friday- Cyber Monday 25% off!

I’m whiskin’ it all! Now’s the best thyme to get your food pun swag ordered for the holidays! Take a break from the turkey and have a few laughs while you peruse my shop.

Today through Cyber Monday! Use code BF25 at check out for 25% off all food pun swag. Chews from Praise Cheeses, Olive you, This. Is. The. Wurst, Oh. My Gouda and more!

This includes tees, totes, onesies, hoodies and mugs! From Avo nice day to “Won’t you be vine?”- your foodie friends won’t be disappointed with a fun, food pun tee or tote.

As always, part of proceeds goes towards those suffering food insecurity in Cincinnati including https://lasoupe.org 

#blackfriday #blackfridaysale #foodpuns #foodpungifts #chefsgifts #foodiegifts #teeshirts #teeshirtsale #cybermonday #cybermondaydeals #blackfridaydeals #holidaygifts #holidaygiftideas #holidaysale #onsale

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