Spruce up your taco night!

Taco Tuesday is a popular night in many homes. We can have tacos in my house any night, really. Tacos are one of my favorite meals to make because you can use just about any protein, it’s not a difficult or time consuming meal to make, they are kid-friendly (kids love finger food), and you can include a lot of veggies! Taco night isn’t just for a family dinner, it is also a less-expensive way to feed a crowd. Tacos can be simple or creative and they can incorporate other ethnic and cultural foods and flavors.

Green cilantro on a wooden boards, food close-up
Green cilantro on a wooden boards, Author: olhaafanasieva

My favorite tacos are fish and shrimp tacos, but that is because I am not much of a beef or pork eater, however I am selective where my fish and shrimp come from. I really like veggie tacos as a close second or third (butternut squash, corn and beans, please). Often when I make tacos for my family, I have a taco salad for myself – which is a total excuse for me to have MORE AVOCADO. I always try to have left-overs. Besides having them the next day for lunch, I often use my taco filling to make a delicious omelette or breakfast burrito the next morning.

avocado on a dark wood background. tinting. selective focus
avocado by nata_vkusidey (Fotolia)

These recipes are not for the tacos themselves, but for accompaniments. I have included a corn relish and a slaw recipe that I think would be best for shrimp or fish tacos, but really could go with just about any taco recipe.

Corn and Pineapple Relish


1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered

1 cup canned or frozen corn (thawed), prefer roasted

1/4 red onion, minced

1 jalapeno, minced (with or without seeds as desired)

1/4 red bell pepper, minced

8 oz can crushed pineapple in its own juice, drained

1 handful (about 1 cup) fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

1 Tbsp Lime or Lemon juice (I used fresh)

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Let sit out at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving. Refrigerate left-overs, but keep in mind that refrigeration changes the flavor of the tomatoes.


Cilantro Slaw


This is a really quick recipe if you have a Cilantro Dressing like the one from Bolthouse Farms or Trader Joes. If not, you can use these recipes: Cilantro Dressing 1, Cilantro Dressing 2. I use Greek Yogurt in my homemade Cilantro Dressing, NOT mayo. This recipe make a LARGE bowl of slaw, so if you are just going to use the slaw on the taco and not as a sort of salad on the side, then I would halve the recipe.

1 bag of cole slaw mix or sliced cabbage (10 oz bag)

1 cup slivered or matchstick carrots

1/2 small red onion, cut into thin slivers

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • Mix together in a large bowl.
  • Mix the following ingredients together in a small bowl: 1/2 cup Cilantro dressing, 1 Tbsp Apple Cider or White Vinegar, 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice.
  • Pour dressing and mix through slaw. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Sriracha Yogurt Sauce


1/2 avocado, mashed

1/2-1 tsp Sriracha sauce (more or less depending on preference for heat)

1/4 cup plain greek yogurt (or light sour cream is okay)

1/8 tsp onion powder or garlic powder

1/8 tsp cumin

1/8 tsp salt

1 lime wedge

Mix all ingredients together well.


A Self Reflection of Body Hatred

A Tale of Self Loathing

When you are both the bully and the victim

If you see me looking at myself in the window as I walk by the facade of a building, or checking myself out in the mirror when I pass in front of one, please don’t assume that this is the result of vanity. On the contrary, I am looking at myself due to an insecurity, probably giving myself more self-depreciating messages about how bad my hair looks, how I wish I looked more stylish, how I can see the pimple on my face, how I wish I looked thinner in these shorts. Some people are familiar with BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder) but more are familiar with the various forms of disordered eating patterns that can make people very thin or heavy. What you may not recognize is someone who is confident on some levels regarding their personal lives, but who is extremely insecure about their body and appearance. Self-loathing, in any form, is a type of confinement. It prevents you from doing things, and it prevents you from enjoying moments. It is not healthy. People with body hatred come in all shapes and sizes – it can be the fittest person at the gym.  I decided to write this article to help those who suffer (yes, it is suffering) from this particular form of self-hatred, and to help those who are either friends, family, or significant others of self-loathers, better recognize the signs and to know what does or does NOT help move us in the right direction. This is a self-reflection.

CamlittlejpgMe, young and confident, around age 8

My self-loathing started very early. I remember being invited to pool parties in the 6th and 7th grade, and not wanting to go in fear of being seen in a bathing suit. I hated to go to the beach with my family and be in a bathing suit next to my mother, who was (is) a tall, thin, stunning beauty. I was noticeably flatter in the chest than most of my friends throughout the school-age years. That didn’t go unnoticed by the boys. I had a gap between my two front teeth that did not go away with braces and surgery.  I had keratosis pilaris on the backs of my arms and on my thighs, so I didn’t want a boy to touch me there. I was told that I had an “athletic figure,” which translated to me as, “you’re built like a boy.” I had big feet at an early age and long toes, so I never wanted to wear flip flops or sandals and I would hide them in the sand at the beach. No one actually teased me excessively or bullied me – I just started hating little parts of me. But when people did point out specifics, like “my wide mouth,”  the wounds just became deeper.


Feeling chunky at 10 or 11

I suffered in silence. Now, looking back, I had no reason to be ashamed of myself. I was of average weight and height, I had a nice face, and I was very fit from being a competitive swimmer. I was insecure about my “swimmer’s body” from the time of adolescence until ……..well…….I still have some insecurities. “You have swimmer’s shoulders.” Boy that one, sucked. “You could be a wrestler.” That one was devastating when I heard it my freshman year in college. Interestingly enough, I spent 2 years at an all-girls boarding school for high school, and my horrible body image was at an all-time low there. You may find it interesting that I do not believe that it was because I was not at a co-ed school. I believe that it was the supportive atmosphere that fostered self-esteem and growth and celebrated individuality. My worst years of self-loathing had to be in college. I was a proud member of a prestigious and well-known sorority.  I would not change my decision to join a sorority, because I valued the sisterhood. I did, however, spend 4 years of my life feeling like the ugly duckling, the most unattractive of all my friends. I found myself in a catch-22 situation: I had beautiful friends, therefore guys would come talk to us at parties. I had beautiful friends, therefore I was going to be the last one the guys would ask out, if they believed they had a chance with my friends. In college, I absolutely loved the mixers, but I hated the dances when we had to dress up. Cocktails meant cocktail dresses, which were usually fitted. The thought of someone being able to better see my form and figure was appalling. I even avoided any intimate contact, to a great extent, because I knew that a guy would be disgusted if he could see or touch me.

The college years. I liked my face, but hated my body. 

Continue reading A Self Reflection of Body Hatred

Gluten Free Snacks

In an attempt to figure out what has been causing my daughter’s numerous and chronic mouth ulcers, I have tried elimination of certain foods or ingredients that may be triggers. I am not going to lie and say that trying to eliminate gluten from a 10-year-old’s diet is easy. The hardest part of taking out this combination of proteins is when your child receives meals and snacks from school, goes over to another child’s house, goes to a birthday party, or goes to their grandma’s house and is offered lots of treats.

Snacking is just a part of childhood, and can ensure that children, not only get the nutrients that they need, but also get some energy to stabilize their mood (aka getting “hangry”). GF options are prevalent in supermarkets now, but often the products are so much more expensive than their gluten-containing counterpart. Following a GF diet does not have to break the bank or ruin your food budget. When you buy GF foods, you just want to make sure that they say “Gluten Free,” because it can be hidden or cross-contaminated in ingredients that would appear harmless to the untrained eye.

If you want to know more about gluten, I advise you to start here: The Celiac Disease Foundation

I have come up with a list of suggested GF snacks that your children will enjoy and won’t deplete your wallet.  These suggestions don’t include the obvious choices such as veggies and dip, apple with peanut butter, etc. Clearly, almost any snack that has fruit or vegetable is going to be on the healthy choice list. I didn’t feel that I needed to include those types of snacks on this list. Suggestions on this list are not high in added or total sugar content. My daughter and I have personally tried all of these suggestions, and I have only included ones that we liked or loved.


Mother and two daughters cooking at kitchen.
Mother and two daughters cooking at kitchen.

1. Cheerios – Serve dry or with milk, on top of yogurt, mixed with raisins and nuts in a trail mix. I have even crushed cheerios to use in a crumb topping.

2. Snap Pea Crisps – Different flavors exist, but our favorite is the original plain with salt. You have to be careful with these – They are addictive. My advice is to put a serving in a bowl and put the bag away.

3. Gluten free pretzels with nut butter, bean hummus, or string cheese – Okay, okay, occasionally I give Nutella.

4. Rice crackers with hummus (edamame hummus is my fav with these), cheese and turkey (cut into small squares or circles), goat cheese and grape tomato halves – Rice cakes can also be used for smothering in a spread and topping with fruit slices or veggie slices.

5. Corn chips and salsa – these, too ,can be addictive

6. Annie’s Homegrown Gluten Free Granola Bars – I found these at the supermarket and Target.

7. Fruit and yogurt parfait with Gluten free granola – gluten free granola is not necessarily cheap, but if you’re only sprinkling it on top of yogurt, then it will go a long way. You can make it yourself. Here is one recipe on my Pinterest Page: Gluten Free Granola. I suggest using 1/4 cup granola for a snack, 1/2 cup is okay for a breakfast portion. Along the same lines, in the summer you can make frozen pops in molds with Greek yogurt and fruit.

Breakfast parfait made from Greek yogurt and granola topped with fresh berries.
Breakfast parfait made from Greek yogurt and granola topped with fresh berries.

8. Smoothies – probably my children’s favorite snack. Possibilities are endless. Like the parfait, you want to make a snack-size portion, which is usually about 1/2 of a normal recipe, or about 6 ounces.

9. Chocolate covered frozen banana bites – you can buy these in stores, but it’s cheaper to make them yourself. Here is one of my favorite recipes on Pinterest: Frozen banana Bites. (or here’s the recipe on the web: Frozen banana bites)

10. Cheese Quesadilla on Corn tortilla – you can add salsa, a touch of guac or sour cream as desired. I try to get some veggies in my family’s quesadillas, but a lot of kids are picky. Smashed black beans, Corn and cheese make a good combination. Heat the corn tortilla in a pan before you add filling and fold, because they can tear easily. I use white corn tortillas, just because my family likes them better. You could also make a veggie and cheese taco with a hard corn shell!



Thai Tuna salad and Farro bowl

I needed my weekly seafood fix, and due to a blizzard, canned tuna was about as good as it was going to get. I like traditional tuna salad occasionally, but just like with chicken and egg salad, I like to “spice” things up a bit (literally) and get creative. I like to mix fresh ingredients with a lot of color into a bowl with a protein and grain. Farro, if you aren’t familiar with it, is easy to cook and easy to throw into a salad bowl. I cooked my Farro with organic free range chicken broth for flavor. If you are Gluten-Free, then you can substitute rice, corn, or quinoa for the Farro.

Thai tuna salad bowl
Thai tuna salad bowl

Ingredients needed: 

  • 1/2 cup cooked Farro
  • Handful of fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • Cucumber pieces (I used about 1/2 cup)
  • Cilantro sprigs (as desired)
  • 2-3 spring onions
  • 2 Tbsp roasted peanuts
  • 1 lime wedge
  • Tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

1/2 cup pre-made Thai Tuna Salad

I made the Thai Tuna Salad the day before and used 1/2 cup in my salad bowl. The recipe makes about 1.5 cups. I mixed all of the following ingredients:

  • 12 ounces chunk tuna in water, drained
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (more as desired)
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, minced (more as desired)
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise (or plain Greek Yogurt)
  • 2 Tbsp Sriracha sauce (more as desired)
  • 1/2 tsp Curry powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill or basil

To assemble the bowl, I put the spinach on the bottom. Next I put in the Farro, which I had warmed in the microwave to sort-of wilt the spinach, but you don’t have to do that. The Farro can be used cold. Then I put in the shredded carrot, cucumber, scallions/green onions, and topped with the scoop of tuna salad. I sprinkled on the peanuts and cilantro next. For the final step, I mixed the lime juice (from the lime wedge) and the Rice Vinegar together as a dressing, and poured over the salad bowl. If you are looking for a hardier dressing, I would recommend a little Sesame, Goddess or Lemon Tahini dressing. You can easily make this as a chicken salad instead. I think that if you used the entire batch of Thai chicken/tuna salad over a larger salad, it could be a nice entree salad to serve at a ladies’ get-together or luncheon. For a larger appetite, serve with a cup of soup a spring rolls or 2-3 Gyozas (potstickers).

Thai Tuna Salad and Farro bowl
Thai Tuna Salad and Farro bowl


Healthy Eating and Meal Plan- No Diets Allowed

Dieting is often futile, we’ve proven that. When I work with clients who are trying to change their eating behaviors, it’s not as simple as just making different food choices. Behavior change is a complex process, that is a journey made up of small steps. To change our eating behaviors that lead us to consuming excess calories, we need to first understand what environmental and emotional triggers lead to those behaviors. Sometimes we aren’t even aware of what we are eating. I really try to discourage clients from being meticulous about measuring, counting, and configuring (calories, grams, points, etc.). That is not a lifestyle, but eating healthy can be. Also, success in eating healthy and/or losing weight should not be measured by a single number, just as failure should not be determined by a single number or one bad meal.

Typical diets and meal plans do not always account for variability in our appetites and tastes. Variety is good and okay – but if you are one of those people that likes the same things and the same routine all of the time, that is okay, too! We need to embrace our individuality with our dietary choices, and a healthy meal plan should not eliminate an entire food group or a type of food unless it actually makes a person sick.

I do believe in practicing portion control, but that should not be interpreted as weighing and measuring food every time one eats. I usually start with the “handful” visual, and teach people to use their hand as a guide to portions. One handful = starches at meal, Two handfuls = vegetables at a meal, and so on. So before you decide to try some new weight loss plan and spend your precious dollars on a “program,” think about what I have said. You can be healthy without dieting, overly restricting, and being miserable.

I have included a sample meal plan, if you are looking for some ideas. I have included actual measurements for those who insist on measuring, but you can use your hand as a guide: 1 cup vegetables/starches/fruit = large handful, 3 oz meat = palm of the hand, 1 tbsp = tips of two fingers, and 1 tsp = tip of thumb. It’s not exact, but it doesn’t need to be.

Sample Menu for Healthy Meal Plan

No Delivery Friday Night Dinner

It’s very tempting to get delivery or take out on Friday nights because it’s the end of the week and cooking is the last thing we want to come home and do at the start of the weekend. A Friday night meal does not have to be a huge time investment. We aren’t huge fans of going out to dinner (for many reasons), but on a Friday night the wait can be unbearable. Take out and delivery foods are, for the most part, NOT healthy. They may contain healthy ingredients, but they are drowning in fat, salt, carbs, or all three. I like to cook mock-fast food and mock-delivery food on Friday or Saturday nights – like homemade pizza, Chinese stir fry, or chicken fingers or patty sandwiches with oven-baked fries. Wait, maybe I do this any time of the week, not just the weekend, if I am being truthful. Some days are more stressful than others! It’s not that we NEVER order pizza or Chinese food, because we do, but I really prefer to make it myself. It’s better for the wallet and better for my family’s health.

This is a quick (less than 30 minutes) mock-Chinese delivery meal with the nutritional value increased by quinoa. Quinoa (typically thought of as a grain, but it’s a seed) is high in protein, has fiber and healthy fats, and it isn’t overly processed like some other grains. It’s easy to cook and it is good mixed into things. The protein, fat, and fiber from the Quinoa really help to fill you up, so I use it in the place of rice. A serving is close to 1/3 cup (cooked), much like cooked rice or pasta.

Here is the nutritional information for 1 cup of cooked Quinoa compared to 1 cup of cooked brown rice:


Quinoa: 223 Calories, 3.6gm Total Fat (2 gm Polyunsaturated, 1 gm Monounsaturated), 0mg Cholesterol, 13 mg sodium, 39 gm Carbohydrate, 5 gm Fiber, 1.6 gm Sugar, 8 gm Protein

Rice: 216 Calories, 1.8 gm Total Fat (0.6 gm Polyunsaturated, 0.6 gm Monounsaturated), 0 mg Cholesterol, 10 mg Sodium, 45 gm Carbohydrate, 3.5 gm Fiber, 0.7 gm Sugar, 5 gm Protein

For a larger appetite, I would serve this dish with a cooked (store-bought) spring roll, small cup of wonton soup, or an Asian-inspired slaw or salad.  

Ingredients for a quick Shrimp and Broccoli Stir Fry with Quinoa

1bag broccoli stir fry mix – mine had broccoli, carrots, and snow peas (fresh preferred)

1 lb medium to large shrimp, peeled and de-veined

1 Tbsp sesame oil

1 cup Quinoa, cooked in low-sodium free-range chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 cup of my Citrus Asian Marinade (link here) or 1/4 cup Asian Salad Dressing (like Sesame Orange or Ginger Soy Dressing)

1 tsp corn starch for thickening

2 Tbsp Roasted Sesame Seeds (optional)


Heat Sesame Oil in Wok (best) or large sauté pan to medium-high. 

Put in bag of vegetables and cook in oil, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. 

Push vegetables to one side and add shrimp. Let shrimp cook on one side by itself, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile stir corn starch into marinade. 

Reduce heat in pan. Add quinoa, sesame seeds and marinade to shrimp and vegetables and mix all together. Make sure marinade bubbles and thickens and cook another 3-5 minutes. 

It is now ready to serve. Makes 4 servings. 


Citrus Asian Marinade
Citrus Asian Marinade



shrimp and broccoli stir fry with quinoa
shrimp and broccoli stir fry with quinoa

Put the Lime in the Coconut Brown Rice

Yes, the title is a reference to a song. Oh how I am longing for a tropical breeze and the sound of the ocean! Well, I’d settle for some warmer weather at this point. There are so many beautiful dishes that combine lime and coconut: chicken, shrimp, cocktails, salads, and rice just to name a few. Since returning from Miami, I have been eating a lot of Latin and Caribbean-inspired cuisine – I get a craving for the smells almost daily. So today I put on my flip flops, put on some Latin music (I have plenty on my Zumba playlist), and made a sweet and flavorful rice to go with dinner tonight (a chicken casserole with black beans lots of veggies).

I use a rice steamer because you don’t get the mess and potentially scorched pot if you too busy and forget to turn the rice off. I started with a cup of brown rice (I am a Dietitian after all), added 1 tsp minced fresh cilantro, 1/2 tsp minced lime zest, 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice (about 1 Tbsp), 2.5 tsp Earth Balance® organic Coconut Spread, 1 cup Coconut water with pineapple juice, 1/2 cup water. I would consider using canned coconut milk for more richness, but I knew I already had enough fat with the coconut butter and avocado.


brown rice and broth in rice cooker
brown rice and broth in rice cooker


If you use a pot to steam the rice, rather than a rice steamer, then cooking time will likely be shorter, more like 45 minutes to 1 hour. It took approximately 90 minutes of cooking time in my rice steamer. Typically liquid to rice ratio is 2:1, however the cooking liquid isn’t rapidly lost as steam in a rice steamer, as it is in a pot. My brown rice usually winds up being pretty “wet,” so if you like a real dry rice, then use regular long-grain white rice.

Once the rice is done, add 1 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro, 1 tsp Mrs. Dash Lime Fiesta seasoning (salt-free) or your own Latin seasoning, and 1/2 mashed avocado. Mix thoroughly into rice. You may need a drop or two of lime juice to help mash the avocado. If you like a spicier rice, add a tsp or two of minced jalapeño. I didn’t make mine spicy because my toddler absolutely LOVES this rice. 

This recipe makes about 3 cups cooked, about 4 servings.



individual servings of Lime in the Coconut brown rice
individual servings of Lime in the Coconut brown rice