My 2014 FNCE: Food, Fitness, and Friends

Another FNCE (Food Nutrition Conference and Expo) has come and gone. This is the one event each year where I am guaranteed to see many wonderful RDs I have had the pleasure to get to know through the years. It’s always a special time. From the education, to the expo and the social events, FNCE is fun!

This year, I was honored to host, not one but TWO special events for a couple of my favorite brand partners – siggi’s and Mazola Corn Oil. Check out my recap of these events and some of my other favorite memories below.

NE-Time, NE-Where Fitness, Powered by siggi’s

Now a mom of two kids  under two years old, I have embraced the idea of “making it work for me.” That includes workouts. If I don’t have the window of time to hit my favorite workout, I do effective exercises with the only equipment I need – my body. I loved partnering with Nutrition Entrepreneurs (“NE”) and siggi’s for the NE-Time, NE-Where Workout at FNCE. (I guess that includes 6:45 a.m. in front of the CNN offices and quite possibly viewers everywhere!)

Planking with Siggi and NE. Engage that core!

Planking with Siggi and NE members. Engage that core!

We started with my all time favorite – the plank – with multiple variations and push ups. Also included were lunges, burpees, chair and sumo squats, mountain climbers, and everyone’s 6th grade favorite… jumping jacks. We completed 30 minutes of a sweat-fest with intervals from beginner to advanced. We finished with yoga poses and enjoyed a delicious siggi’s yogurt breakfast.

Gettin' Siggi with It!

Gettin’ Siggi with It!

I love that siggi’s yogurt is real- no artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners. I also love that siggi’s has more protein than sugar per container. Just a slight sweetness from real ingredients, all which you can find in your kitchen. Be sure to pick up some siggi’s yogurt at the grocery store this week or if you can’t find it, let your grocer know  you want it.

Recipe to try: Easy peasy Post-Workout Smoothie

Cooking Right with Mazola Corn Oil: Chicken Tinga Tacos 

When I find a recipe that is easy, versatile, and good for you, I am a happy woman. The chicken tinga tacos is so simple, but the best part is that it practically cooks itself in the slow cooker. This frees up a good chunk of your time to do whatever you want – a hot bath, a workout or both!

Making chicken tinga tacos at FNCE 2014

Making chicken tinga tacos at FNCE 2014

If you aren’t cooking with corn oil, give it a try. Corn oil can help lower cholesterol more than extra virgin olive oil thanks to the plant sterols. Corn oil’s plant sterols block cholesterol absorption by the body. Corn oil has 4 times the plant sterols as olive oil and 40% more than canola oil. (See the study at Mazola’s website)

I gotta tell you, the live food demo was a lot of fun. I was happy I didn’t start a fire on the exhibit floor!

“Wonderful”  Reception at the Skyview Wheel

I love working with the Wonderful brands through the year on TV segments. You are probably most familiar with Wonderful Pistachios and the Get Crackin’ commercials. We had a blast at the Atlanta Skywheel reception complete with Wonderful pomegranate champagne cocktails, tasty bites like pistachio chicken salad, and a ride on the massive wheel.

Wonderful time with friends at FNCE

Wonderful time with friends at FNCE

Kudos, Carlene and Janet

I was thrilled to see a former intern of mine, Carlene Thomas, speaking at FNCE on social media! (Way to go, Carlene! Keep rising that star. Your blog pics are gorgeous!)

I was ecstatic for the one and only Janet Helm, who received career distinction with the Media Excellence Award. Janet has pioneered RDs as the nutrition experts on social media by founding Nutrition Blog Network.

My P’s – Wendy Jo and Leslie

And of course, I got time with Wendy Jo and Leslie – my P’s (as in peas in a pod – and I know it means something else too!) We met at Academy Leadership in 2009 having drinks by the pool :) We got the bright idea to form a mastermind group. A couple of years later we were selected to speak at FNCE on the power of peer support. We still get people coming up to us saying that we inspired them years ago and they are actively pursuing and living their career dreams. That feels pretty darn good.

I’m happy for Leslie’s latest biz – Your Supper Solution. Check it out, subscribe or at least start with her free e-mails.

John F Kennedy said “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” I think that sums up FNCE pretty well…  It’s full of leadership and learning… and fun! See y’all in Nashville 2015!

Disclosure: I worked with Mazola and siggi’s on the FNCE events, but I was not compensated to write this blog post. 

California Walnuts Harvest Tour

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By: Michelle Burton, RD at Capitol Nutrition Group and Rebecca Scritchfield Media, LLC

Last week I had the pleasure of venturing out to Sacramento and the California Central Valley for the California Walnuts Harvest Tour. I experienced the autumn walnut harvest first hand, sampled a number of AMAZING dishes featuring this star ingredient, and learned about new research that’s coming out related to walnuts. I hope you’ll enjoy this brief photo journal of my trip, and that it will inspire you to incorporate walnuts into your everyday!

Walnuts Shaking

Donald Norene, his wife, and his son all took us on a tour of their family’s walnut orchard — Norene Ranches. They have a spectacular 750 acres of his farm dedicated to walnuts. He explained that you know when the walnut trees are ready for shaking when you can throw one on the ground and it’s outer shell comes right off. They showed us the tree shaking live which was very cool. It was wonderful getting to taste fresh walnuts right off the tree.

walnut sweeping

After the walnuts are shaken off the trees, they’re swept into piles, “vacuumed” up, and shuttled to a central location for the next step in their harvest journey — hulling.

walnut hulling

The walnuts arrive at the huller where the green outer shell is removed along with other sticks and debris. Then they’re cleaned, dried, and loaded into trucks to be sent to the local processing plant (which we were also able to tour). It was amazing to see the technology involved with sorting, shelling and packaging the walnuts for commercial distribution.

walnut orchard lunch

Wine & Roses put together a beautiful lunch for us in the orchard featuring a number of dishes that showcased the unique flavor and versatility of walnuts. It started with a caramelized onion, fig and walnut flatbread, followed by a squash, apple and walnut slaw salad, then a walnut quinoa salad with grilled chicken, and the finale was THE best caramel walnut cheesecake that I’ve EVER had. I’ll be sure to share that recipe once I get my hands on it!

walnut cooking demo

We came together again that evening for a food demo by Chef and Owner of Mulvaney’s B&L Restaurant, Patrick Mulvaney. He prepared a roasted chili in walnut sauce, and we dined on a salad of heirloom tomatoes with chunky walnut pesto and fettuccine with walnuts and squash among other fabulous walnut creations. During a nutrition presentation by Registered Dietitian, Heidi Diller, I was intrigued to find out that new research is coming out showing a potential link between walnuts and increased fertility in men. They’re planning to continue research in this area, but definitely some promising information!

Looking to satisfy your walnut craving?

You can find a number of easy and delicious recipes on the California Walnuts website at www.walnuts.org.

 

Disclosure: My attendance at the California Walnuts Harvest Tour was sponsored by California Walnuts, but I was not compensated to write this blog.

My Samba with Sabra

Written By: Lindsey Earl, Dietetics Graduate Student, Eastern Michigan University

As Rebecca’s intern, I had the privilege of attending a “hummus summit,” if you will, held by the popular hummus makers, Sabra. This gathering marked the opening of their “pop-up” restaurant “Hummus House” in Georgetown, Washington D.C. First, if you don’t know what a pop-up restaurant is (I certainly didn’t), it’s a temporary restaurant available for a limited time. In the case of Hummus House, it will be open just four weeks, for lunch and dinner, through October 26th. During this gathering, a collection of very knowledgeable Sabra representatives met with a diverse group of nutrition and food experts to discuss (and eat) hummus.

I’ll be honest, when I heard I was attending a meeting to talk about hummus, I wasn’t expecting a riveting and heated debate over the present state of the chickpea. What I was pleased to find was a very colorful and passionate sharing of information and ideas on a topic we all love. Hummus was simply the reason to talk about it. So while we munched on (shocker!) hummus, we learned a little more…actually a lot more…about this nutritious but sometimes unfamiliar food.

What the heck is hummus anyway?

The basic formula for hummus includes primarily ground cooked chickpeas, oil, tahini (ground sesame seeds), and is typically seasoned with garlic and a bit of salt. Chickpeas carry the most weight for making hummus what it is, so our discussion went on to help familiarize us with this vegetable…um, protein, er, grain? Wait…what is it anyway?

Every member of the panel was asked to give their opinion on what category the chickpea fell into and, it turned out, the vote was split! 8 people thought it was a vegetable, 8 thought it was a grain, and 8 thought it was a protein. Guy Johnson, Ph.D. put our confusion at ease by explaining that nutritionally, it actually falls under several categories, including the ones we chose. He went on to reveal quite the nutritional wrap sheet, which included (in ½ cup serving) 7.5 grams protein, 50% of daily fiber requirements, 250 mg potassium, appreciable amounts of minerals magnesium and manganese, and a significant proportion of resistant starch, to name a few.

Sabra Speakers Take the Floor

A Food Scientist Helps us with the Science – Guy Johnson, Ph.D.

As a former biology major and current nutrition student, the science-y portion of Guy’s presentation was what I really “geeked out” about. Recent research has shown a low glycemic response from chickpeas and apparent correlation to decreased LDL (bad cholesterol). Further, studies have also shown that those who eat hummus are also increasing their vitamin and mineral, fiber, and polyunsaturated fatty acid intake. This isn’t solely from the hummus, this is also from the vegetables these people are eating WITH the hummus. So, incorporating hummus into someone’s diet can actually help them eat more vegetables, which is almost always a good thing.

A Counseling Dietitian’s Perspective – Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RD, LD

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Cue Rebecca. Sharing the real-life and counseling view of hummus’s role in an American’s diet, she shed some light on not only its nutritional benefits, but its convenience, versatility, and simplicity as well. Assuring her clients they “can’t mess it up,” hummus is a nutrient-dense food that can be taken to work or school with vegetables as a snack, used in place of peanut butter for peanut allergies, and can replace cheese or mayonnaise to healthy-up just about anything you could think to put it on. In short, it’s an easy addition to healthy eating habits that doesn’t require significant time, effort, or thought.

I think this convenience aspect is hugely important. How often do we hear “I don’t have time for that” as a reason for just about anything? In a current world where it takes a lot more money to fill up the gas tank, and a second (or third, or fourth…) job to put food on the table, the last thing you should have to say this about, is your health. As a future dietitian in today’s busy world, my responsibilities have grown to emphasize how to fit achievable healthy eating into someone’s lifestyle. The Sabra panel proved this point yet again.

The Possibilities are Endless –  Chef, Mary Beth Albright

The chef behind the Hummus House dishes, Mary Beth Albright, shared her mission in creating the restaurant’s menu. She wanted to open visitor’s minds to the limitless faces of hummus. We learned that in Mediterranean communities, hummus restaurants are open early, as this food is no stranger to breakfast. Topping their morning oatmeal with hummus, Mediterranean people are consuming a hearty nutrient-packed meal that can keep them satiated for hours. She wanted to illustrate how much just changing the temperature can alter a food. Serving hummus warm, instead of the typical refrigerated form, can change the flavor profile completely. Our eyes lit up as the conversation explored the many delicious possibilities for this already tasty food.

Food and nutrition reaches out to such a diversity of communities, it’s difficult for a single entity to anticipate and comprehend all of their opinions and needs. So why not bring people from a variety of communities together for each to share their unique viewpoint. This was what we did! Internet bloggers, chefs, and food service experts alike, shared how they have observed hummus to be represented and perceived in their respective communities.

This turned out to be just as fascinating as the science for me. It seems that as Americans, we have a bit of hummus-fear. This is a food well seated in Mediterranean cultures, but not so much in the land of steak and potatoes. Most understand hummus to be a dip, and that’s about as far as their knowledge goes. So, those at Sabra learned more about something they already knew. They, as the hummus experts, need to educate the unfamiliar public about the possibilities for this emerging food. What I learned, is that it’s part of our job too. As dietitians, we know this is a food our clients can benefit from. From salad dressings, to oatmeal, grilled cheese paninis, and stuffed fruit, this panel certainly taught me how to help them do that.

Sharing Their Passion – Laurie (from Sabra)

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I mentioned earlier that this was a passionate group of people. One of the big highlights of the panel included a presentation on chilies by Laurie (from Sabra), to introduce the relatively new salsas Sabra has developed. Learning quite a bit of facts about different types of chilies (pre-dates the apple in the Americas!), we also learned that certain recipes of these salsas were developed specifically for those people who are proud “heat addicts.” This is going to get Bill Nye for a second, but it turns out capsaicin, the chemical in chili peppers that gives them their “heat,” stimulates the Trigeminal nerve in the brain. This nerve then creates what is known as a feedback loop, allowing us to feel pleasure in response to a sensation that burns. Thus…a heat addict is born! IMG_0977It was a pleasure to be in the presence of so many people who share the same passion and positivity about what they do. I believe this is where amazing things come from.

The Hummus House in Georgetown is meant to be a pilot restaurant. With success will come additional pop-ups, maybe even in your own town! In the meantime, take a trip to the Sabra Hummus House in Georgetown, and experience for yourself what the people at Sabra are so passionate about!

To read more from Rebecca about Hummus House dishes and nutritional benefits, check out her blog entry, Sabra Pop-Up Restaurant “Hummus House” Opens in Georgetown.

Follow the fun and keep up on social media updates with Twitter hashtag #sabrahummushouse.

Welch’s Vineyard Tour and Harvest Event

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By: Alison Sacks, RD at Capitol Nutrition Group and Rebecca Scritchfield Media, LLC

This week I had the exciting opportunity to travel to Richland, Washington to participate in the Welch’s Vineyard Tour and Harvest Event to discover all the goodness of Concord grapes and how grape juice is made! This unique region of Washington, located in the Yakama Valley is one of the top producers of Concord grapes and is absolutely beautiful! The experience was wonderful to see the harvesting process during peak season and get to know the farmers behind the Welch’s brand.  IMG_0201

Welch’s dates back to 140 years ago, when Thomas Bramwell Welch decided to serve Concord grape juice instead of wine at his church. He later went on to bottle the first pasteurized juice using Concord grapes that has become a common household name to so many of us.  The oldest Welch’s grape vine dates back to 1849 in Concord, MA and to this day is still producing berries. (Now that’s sustainability!)

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Welch’s grower explaining the unique seed of the Concord grape that contains 77% of the polyphenols.

Family Famers: The Heart of Welch’s

At the heart of Welch’s are 1,000 family farmers who know that quality starts in the fields. For many of these farmers, it’s where their families and livelihoods have grown for generations. We spent the afternoon with Farmer Tim Grow whose first Welch’s memories date back to his childhood helping his grandfather on the family vineyard, where today his own two daughters lend a helping hand on the same family vineyard.

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Concords are sweet, tangy, bold purple grapes that need a special climate to grow – specifically, chilly areas.

What Makes a Concord Grape Great

For starts Concord grapes are berries! What makes them distinct from most table or wine grapes are its bigger berries and seeds and deep purple slip-skin. Purple is a cue that fruits and vegetables have plant nutrients called polyphenols that can help promote health, especially heart health (the darker the purple, the more polyphenols).

Berry polyphenols act as antioxidants, helping to protect our healthy cells from the damaging effects of oxidative stress. The majority of polyphenols are found in the thick skins and seeds of the Concords that are usually discarded when eating, which is why pressing Concords into juice helps to concentrate and preserve the heart healthy polyphenols.

Concord grapes are also an important ingredient in heart health. Decades of research has shown when 100% Concord grape juice is drunk consistently it helps support healthy blood vessels by increasing the flexibility of arteries for healthy blood flow. Studies also show Concords may also provide an anti-clotting effect similar to red wine and may help manage the effects of LDL or “bad,” cholesterol by keeping arteries free and clear of excess plaque build-up.

Check out this neat infographic on different ways you can pump up the purple in your diet.

Delivering the Fruit to the Glass

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The treat tank where heat and enzymes are added to help extract the heart healthy polyphenols from the skin and seeds of the Concords.

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A glimpse inside the belly of the grape harvester.

The Concord grape harvest is short and sweet, lasting only about 30 days between September and October. Due to climate variables, no two years of grape growing are alike but what makes Welch’s unique is their ability to blend grapes from multiple growing regions to deliver that consistent field-fresh flavor.

100% grape juice is made with nothing but whole Concord grapes-seeds, skin and all. From the time the Concords are picked in the fields they are inspected, washed and pressed into juice within 8 hours. During the pressing process the Concords are treated with heat and enzymes, which extracts the heart-healthy polyphenols from the grape seeds and skins and is releases into the juice.

Translating the Grape Science

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Sampling a taste of the day’s harvest! Delicious!

We know less than 50% of Americans meet their daily fruit needs so adding 100% fruit juice can be a delicious and convenient way to help fill this gap. Including ½ cup of 100% fruit juice as part of a meal or snack is a simple way to help get in an extra serving of fruit and support a healthy heart. While fresh fruit contains more fiber per serving, consuming fruit in any form still delivers that same health promoting vitamins and minerals. Health experts agree that when 100% fruit juice is added as a compliment to whole fruit intake, consumption can actually double or triple.

8 ounces of 100% Concord grape juice provides 250 mg of polyphenols and contains more than 40 grapes. Its equal to 2 servings of fruit and high in immune boosting vitamin C and a good source of potassium-a key mineral important in regulating blood pressure.

One Juice-So Many Uses

Adding 100% fruit juice to your diet is an affordable and convenient way to help support a healthy lifestyle. Its year-round-availability and flavor variety makes it an easy way to sip sensibly or add to dishes. Look for labels that contain “100% fruit juice” or “No added sugar” and read ingredient labels to make sure they do not contain any added sweeteners or artificial ingredients. Looking for other ways to get creative with Concord grape juice?

  1. Add it to your grains! Make oatmeal or quinoa with 100% grape juice instead of water.
  2. Add a splash of 100% juice to seltzer water for a tad of sweetness.
  3. Make ice pops in the summertime or freeze into ice cubes to add to beverages.
  4. Dress up your favorite greens with a homemade salad dressing using 2 parts heart-healthy oil, 1 part of your favorite vinegar, and a splash of 100% grape juice.
  5. Cook with 100% grape juice instead of red wine.

Thirsty for More?

What are some of your favorite ways to use 100% juice? Feel free to share your favorite recipes by leaving a comment below. You can also follow the hashtag #DiscoverConcordGrapes and visit Welch’s Heart Healthy Recipe site for more flavorful ways to use 100% Concord grape juice.

Disclosure: My attendance at the Welch’s Vineyard Tour and Harvest Event was sponsored by Welch’s but I was not compensated to write this blog.

Sabra Pop-Up Restaurant “Hummus House” Opens in Georgetown

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Yesterday I was on ABC7’s “Let’s Talk Live” to share some exciting news! This week, the Sabra food company, makers of the nation’s best selling hummus, opened a “pop-up” restaurant, “Hummus House,” featuring creative and delicious dishes containing all things hummus. Located at 1254 Wisconsin Avenue NW in Georgetown, hummus fans can enjoy one of their favorite foods in a restaurant atmosphere. The Sabra Hummus House is open now through October 26th, so take advantage while you can! You’ll be SO SURPRISED with what you can do with hummus (hummus dressing anyone??), so don’t miss it!

You can watch the full clip below, read on for highlights, or head to Georgetown before October 26th to experience the Sabra Hummus House for yourself!

What is Hummus?

The primary ingredient of hummus is the chickpea. Mixed with tahini (ground sesame seeds), oil, garlic, and a bit of salt, this paste makes a great dip for pita chips or spread for a twist on your typical sandwich. That’s the traditional format of these foods, but from there you can take it to really interesting flavor combinations like the ones I share below! In addition to it’s amazing flavor, it’s also nutrient-rich, providing plant proteins, fiber, and the “good fats,” unsaturated fats. It is also a good source of iron, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin folate.

IMG_0974The Hummus House Signature Dish “East Meets West”

Hummus House’s signature dish really illustrates the exciting things you can create with hummus. It’s a modern twist with unexpected flavor combinations. Starting with (you guessed it!) hummus, you get a sampling of different flavors. First, try it topped with edamame, crystallized ginger, and sesame oil. In the next, you’ll find it topped with roasted pepitas and pumpkin oil, the perfect fall flavor combination! And finally, you have rosemary-roasted chickpeas with preserved lemon. All these samplings are served with warm pita.

IMG_0972Get More Veggies with Hummus

IMG_0975We know most people don’t meet their daily vegetable needs, and hummus can be a delicious way to improve vegetable consumption. Not only are chickpeas, the star of hummus, considered a vegetable, but the dip is also a great addition TO vegetables. At home, pairing Sabra hummus with your family’s favorite vegetables would be a smart after school snack for kids or a snack you can take to work and munch on all week.

At Hummus House, you can get more veggies by ordering another signature dish, the “Hummus Plate.” This dish features warm and chunky hummus served on a platter with local vegetable crudité, roasted red pepper, guacamole, and roasted red pepper. Delicious!

Get Creative with Hummus

Another thing I love about hummus is that it can be used in just about any way you can think of. Have you ever thought about putting hummus in your grilled cheese?

IMG_0971Order the Hummus Panini at the Sabra Hummus House and you can enjoy a twist on this family favorite. Made with melted mozzarella, fresh basil, roasted red peppers, and tomato, it’s great for the cooler fall weather. Or try the nutrient-packed Greens and Grains salad (pictured left), which gets creative by using hummus as a dressing to top farro, microgreens, seasonal vegetables, and romaine hearts.

 

 

Find out More and Stay Connected with Hummus House

For more information you can visit the Sabra Hummus House website or use #sabrahummushouse to follow them on Twitter. Don’t forget to check out the Sabra Hummus House, now open for lunch and dinner until October 26th at 1254 Wisconsin Avenue NW in Georgetown!

Disclosures: I was compensated by Sabra for my work on the TV segment, but was not compensated to write this blog.