Monthly Archives: December 2014

Battle: crab cake!

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We knew he would like it!

We knew he would like it!

This week we had crab cakes with salad and veggies for dinner.  Ryan started out by breaking his crab cake into bits and dipping his spoon in the salad dressing.  Not a great start.

We told him that crab is like shrimp (he loves shrimp!) and he said, “I don’t like it!”  Sigh.  He then proceeded to take a potty break and when he came back (after eating nothing) said, “I’m all done!”  We told him he still had to sit there for a few minutes since no one else was all done.  A few minutes later his little voice said, “I be excused, please?”  He tried to convince us some more that he didn’t like it and that he wasn’t hungry.  Fine.

So we let him get down.  He dumped his food in the trash and put his plate in the sink then went off to play.  Just a few minutes later he came back in the kitchen…”I’m hungry.”  Yes, we know.  Crab cake?  I don’t like it!  How about some crab cake with some dip (ketchup)? I don’t like it!  Well, it’s either crab cake with dip or nothing.  Do you want to see it with the dip? Otay (he has trouble with “c” and “k” sounds).

He climbed up in Hannah’s chair and proceeded to eat half of a crab cake with some “dip”.  Do you want more? Yeah.  Do you like it? Yeah. He ate a crab cake and a half and Hannah even came back and ate another half crab cake.

It sure would have been easier to just give in to his pleas for bread or goldfish now, but what would happen next time?  He would just learn that if he put up a fuss we would let him have what he wanted for dinner and not what was for dinner.  We were willing to let him not eat for dinner…he had eaten two meals and a snack and had milk earlier in the day so him not eating dinner would not have been a huge deal.

In the end the score for battle crab cake was: Mommy and Daddy–1, Ryan–0.

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Making New Year’s Resolutions

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In the past I resolved to cook more with Hannah...back when she was this little. Now it's Ryan's turn!

In the past I resolved to cook more with Hannah…back when she was this little. Now it’s Ryan’s turn!

I’ve always been somewhat on the fence about making new year’s resolutions.  I like the idea of them but resolving to make improvements just once a year seems overwhelming for me when I feel like I have so much to work on!

The debate about how long it truly takes to form a new habit rages on.  Some sources say it takes just under or around 21 days and others say around 250 days to form a new habit.  That seems to be true for me.  There are certain things I try to work on that are quick and easy to implement and feel natural after just a few weeks.  Other things are harder to implement or take longer and still feel clunky after a few months.

As a dietitian I have helped many people (kids and adults alike) set nutrition-related goals.  Whether you are resolving to make improvements at the beginning of the year or want to make improvements no matter what time of year it is here are some tips for making them stick:

1.) Make your goals SMART.  There are a few different versions of this acronym.  The way I remember it is: Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Timed (S.M.A.R.T.).  Rather than saying, “I want to lose 10 pounds” a SMART goal could be, “I will lose 10 pounds by December 1, 2015 by cutting out my evening snack and walking 30 minutes four days per week.”

2.) Try to work on just one thing at a time.  This can be really challenging if you are anything like me and want to do a few things at once (I can handle it, why wait?!).  Whenever I try to work on too many things at once something inevitably falls through the cracks and I end up feeling discouraged about it.  Times when I have focused on one thing at a time I find myself more dedicated to that one thing and end up being more successful.

3.) Don’t compare yourself to others.  I have worked with a bunch of couples that have worked on losing weight together and being a support system for each other can be wonderful.  The downside is when they start comparing their progress to each other.  Someone will always be doing a little better than the other…it is virtually impossible for two people to have the exact same amount of success.  Rather than comparing yourself to someone else try “yardsticking” with yourself.  Are you doing better or worse than you were before you started making changes?  If you look back at you six months ago are you happier with yourself now?  Even if you don’t lose 10 pounds in a year but instead lose 5…isn’t that still great?!

4.)  Reward yourself to stay motivated.  This is my favorite part of setting goals and resolutions!  Make sure you focus on rewarding the behavior change and not the outcome.  You can start walking four times a week and the scale may not budge.  Who cares?  You have made a huge change and that deserves some rewarding because you will be healthier for it (and your body composition may be changing even if the scale doesn’t show any difference).  Rewards can be anything that will help keep you motivated.  Some examples: an hour of “me” time, a new book, a pedicure, new running shoes (feels indulgent if you don’t really need them), gift card to yourself for your favorite store or maybe even a trip!  The main things are to reward behaviors rather than results and be sure to forego the reward until you are really sticking to those behaviors.

5.) Remember that everyday is a day you can start your resolution or get back on track.  I have worked with a lot of people that didn’t stick to their goals as well as they thought they should and they felt discouraged and gave up even though I saw them making great progress.  Re-work your goals to make them work better for you.  Maybe making dinner at home 5 nights a week when now you average 2 was a bit too much to take on.  Try to figure out what made your goal too tough and try to fix it.  Maybe instead of walking thirty minutes four days per week you can set a goal for number of minutes per week you’ll walk…or set your reward based on the number of occurrences rather than times per week (“For every two times I go to the spin class at the gym I will reward myself with a $10 iTunes gift card”).

Here are some of my resolutions this year:

  • Let Ryan help me cook twice per month.
  • Eat fruit at lunch time five days per week.
  • Organize one closet in the house each month.

What are your resolutions this year?  Have you been successful with New Year’s resolutions in the past?  What has helped you meet your goals?  Thanks for reading!


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Happy New Year!

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This week hubby bubby will be heading out-of-town for a few days and Papa and Gigi are coming to visit.  I want to make sure all of our food is nice and fresh for when Papa and Gigi get here so we are relying on things we have on-hand to get us through to Tuesday.  I haven’t fully decided what I am making for our lunches for the week.  It might be butternut squash penne, salmon with fennel, aloo gobi (cauliflower and potatoes Indian style) or pasta e fagioli.

Sunday: Hubby bubby was agreeable to making red beans with smoked sausage and brown rice so that I could work on organizing the nursery.  This is always a big hit with the whole fam.

Monday: Tarragon crab cakes (this may be risky after the salad flop of last week) with either beet and couscous salad or just a chef salad with homemade balsamic dressing.

Tuesday: Pressure cooker pot roast with crispy salt-and-vinegar potatoes and salad (if we don’t have it Monday) or frozen veggies.

Wednesday: It’s New Year’s Eve!  Papa and Gigi arrive today.  I am going to try to convince my Dad (Papa) to make me some chocolate oatmeal cookies.  For dinner we’ll have some fun food: winter salad with roasted beets and citrus dressing, harissa ciabatta and sticky chicken wings.

Thursday: Happy New Year!  Hubby heads out today but we are still sticking with his Southern tradition of having black-eyed peas and collard greens.  We’ll have a black-eyed pea and ham salad, roasted cauliflower with lemon dressing, slow cooker braised collard greens and ham with Riesling and mustard.

Friday: Leftovers.  Even though Papa and Gigi will be here I’m sure they won’t mind.

Saturday: Turmeric chicken and rice with whatever vegetable strikes my fancy that day.

Cheers to a great week and a great New Year!  How do you plan to ring in the New Year this year?  I’d love to hear about your traditions!


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Hannah’s favorite cookies

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pumpkin cookieHannah loves to help in the kitchen…especially baking since she can help stir, measure and add ingredients.  For her birthday this year she insisted on having pumpkin cookies with frosting instead of a birthday cake.  I love that her favorite cookies include a vegetable!  When I first told Ryan that there was a vegetable in his cookie he was very perplexed.  Sure, they are still cookies and the cream cheese frosting is not the healthiest, but at least it is a little better without the oil in the cookies!

How we do it:


  • 1 box cake mix (we have used spice cake mix, white cake and chocolate fudge cake)
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling), you can also just use the same volume (just under 2 cups) of fresh, cooked and pureed pumpkin

Cream cheese frosting

  • 8 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese (or Greek cream cheese) at room temperature
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar, depending on how sweet you like your frosting


  • pumpkin pie spice, sprinkles or sliced fresh strawberrieshannah whisk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix cake mix and pumpkin with a stand mixer or hand mixer until well blended and no more lumps.  Plop about 1 Tablespoon size mounds onto a baking sheet topped with parchment or a silpat baking mat**.  Bake in preheated oven for about 14-17 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.  Meanwhile, make frosting.  Mix cream cheese and butter until well blended and somewhat fluffy.  Mix in vanilla extract.  Add in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until you achieve your desired level of sweetness.  Mix until creamy and light.  When cookies are cool frost cookies and top with a pinch of pumpkin pie spice, sprinkles or sliced strawberries.hannah baking

**You can use this same process for making pumpkin muffins or cake.  This will make about 12-18 muffins or cupcakes depending on the size of your cupcakes.  You can leave unfrosted for muffins or frost for cupcakes.  We have also used this to make two 9″ round cake layers.

One of Hannah’s favorite things about these is that you can lick the batter…no raw egg!

hannah licking paddleWhat is your favorite cookie or cake recipe?  How do you tweak recipes to increase their nutritional value?  Thanks for reading!  I hope you’ll come back soon!

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Things haven’t gone quite as planned…

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Reindeer food

Reindeer food

As I am sure happens to many of you things came up and shook up our meal plan for the week.  Usually I plan ahead well enough that we can avoid eating out on weeknights.  This wasn’t one of those weeks!

Sunday: I made chicken soup for us to eat for lunches for the week.  For dinner we had lamb kofta with saffron rice and quinoa tabbouleh. This went really well!  Everyone liked it and Ryan even ate the leafy green stuff in the tabbouleh…the cherry tomatoes made him a fan. 

Monday: The plan WAS for pork medallions with onion marmalade glaze, salt and vinegar roasted potatoes and salad.  With most of the family still recovering from a bout of influenza B everyone was still quite under the weather (hence my making of chicken soup over the weekend).  We were just not up to making such an ambitious dinner.  Instead we grabbed some pasta and salads and called it a day.

Peanut blossoms (picture courtesy of Papa)

Peanut blossoms (picture courtesy of Papa)

Tuesday: Leftovers!  Since we carried in food last night and we had thawed the pork loin I decided to use that todayWe had pork tacos with lime slaw.  Everyone enjoyed it.  Ryan ate lots of pork and Hannah ate lots of slaw.  Hubby bubby had about four tacos.  Success!  We actually made some Christmas cookies today, finally!  We made peanut blossoms just like my Dad always makes.


Wednesday: Mozzarella sticks, Cioppino, sourdough bread and salad.  Hannah informed me that we needed to make sure we left out cookies for Santa and Reindeer food on the lawn.  We just mixed together some dry quick oats and red and green decorating sugar and sprinkled it on the lawn.  The cioppino was just okay.  With the amount of money we spent on seafood we are looking for different options for next year.

Rack of lamb

Rack of lamb

Thursday: Merry Christmas!  On Christmas we had grilled rack of lamb with leafy greens and pine nut salad, Swiss vegetable medley, mashed potatoes with leeks  (just normal mashed taters) and a birthday cake for Jesus.  We added some shrimp cocktail since I remembered that we always had this when I was growing up.  Everyone liked the shrimp…Hannah was sad that I “didn’t get enough.”  The lamb, potatoes and veggies were great.  Ryan ate about three lamb chops.  He sure has expensive tastes!  With rack of lamb having so much inedible portion we might go back to having beef tenderloin next year.  The salad was an epic failure (thank goodness we tried it before making it for anyone!).  The lettuces were too bitter and the dressing had too much anise flavor from the tarragon.  Guess we’ll go back to our beet salad next year!

Happy birthday, Jesus!

Happy birthday, Jesus!

Ryan says, "yummy in my tummy"!

Ryan says, “yummy in my tummy”!








Friday: Leftovers.

Saturday: We were going to have pot roast…but our babysitter became available so hubby bubby and I are goin’ on a hot date!

What do you do when unexpected things come up that throw off your dinner plans or the food doesn’t turn out quite right?  I’d love to hear how your week turned out!

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Tips for eating healthfully on a cruise

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Right after arriving on the ship we went to the sit-down lunch and Hannah enjoyed her shrimp cocktail.

Right after arriving on the ship we went to the sit-down lunch and Hannah enjoyed her shrimp cocktail.

The abundance of yummy food on cruises is really astounding.  It is possible to eat a lot of food and drink high-calorie drinks all day long which can easily add some unwanted pounds to your waistline.  We recently took a family cruise and left feeling very satiated and right around our usual weights.  Here is what worked for us:

1.) Wash your hands!  No one wants to spend their vacation with a stomach illness.  The first step to eating healthfully is always food safety which starts with good hand hygiene.

2.)  Eat fruit at every meal.  This may seem like a no-brainer coming from a dietitian, but it really is the easiest way to fill your plate with something low in calories and still feel like you’re getting enough food to eat.

3.) Eat one item off of the “low calorie” menu at each meal.  This could be a light soup or salad as an appetizer or a vegetable side with your entrée.  They even offer lighter options for dessert that are quite tasty.

cruise daddy4.) Go to the sit-down breakfast and lunchWe have found that we tend to eat less and feel satisfied (and let’s face it, it is nice to have someone waiting on you!) by eating breakfast and lunch in the dining rooms.  Portion sizes are reasonable and filling and we can eat a salad, entrée and light dessert and take in fewer calories than we would by eating at the buffet or quick-service restaurants.

5.) Drink one calorie-free drink for every drink with calories.  Beverages that have calories can be juice, sports drinks and alcoholic beverages.  Calorie-free drinks don’t necessarily have to be water.  Diet soda, unsweetened iced tea and black coffee all count.  Even as a pregnant lady I had to watch my intake of high-calorie drinks…they serve non-alcoholic daiquiris and pina coladas!

6.) If you find yourself eating too much don’t beat yourself up about it.  Really.  You are on vacation after all.  Have fun!  It is the things you do everyday that will make the biggest impact on your overall health.  Eating a little extra bacon here and one fry too many there while on vacation will not be a huge deal if you get back to eating healthfully when you get home.

splashDo you try to maintain some of your healthy eating habits while on vacation?  Do you approach eating on vacation with a plan or just enjoy yourself?  I’d love to hear what works for you!  Thanks for reading.  I hope you come back soon!



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It’s almost Christmas!

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cooking hannahIt is hard to believe Christmas is almost here!  Today I made a big pot of chicken noodle soup for the kids and I to have for lunches throughout the week and leftovers on Tuesday.  Hubby-bubby is not a fan so he will probably have leftover lamb or pork.  At some point I will actually need to bake cookies.  Time is really running out for this!  Here is our dinner plan for the week:

Sunday: Tonight we had lamb kofta with saffron rice and quinoa tabbouleh.

Monday: The plan is for pork medallions with onion marmalade glaze, salt and vinegar roasted potatoes and salad.

Tuesday: Leftovers!  We usually have leftovers on Wednesdays, but with this Wednesday being Christmas Eve we are having them a day early.

Making reindeer cookies.

Making reindeer cookies.

Wednesday: Growing up we always had a meal of appetizers on Christmas Eve so we will be having mozzarella sticks (my favorite appetizer of all time!) and will be incorporating an Italian tradition with having Cioppino (for the feast of the seven fishes, just having them all in one dish) with sourdough bread and salad.

Thursday: We will have a grilled rack of lamb with leafy greens and pine nut salad, Swiss vegetable medley, mashed potatoes with leeks and a birthday cake for Jesus.  Hannah insists he would want a cake with strawberries so we are going to make a chocolate pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting and a layer of strawberries.

Friday: Leftovers, again.  Not very exciting, but hopefully tasty!

Saturday: Pressure cooker pot roast with smashed potatoes and salad.  If there happens to be some college football on I will also make some sweet and sticky hot wings.

Here’s to a delicious week!  What will you and your family be having for dinner this week?

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Tips for surviving a grocery trip with kids

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Kids sure are cute, but taking them to the grocery store can be a challenge.  I love grocery shopping by myself or with just one of the kids.  When I have to bring both kids (soon to be three, eek!) I really have to strategize to make it out with everything we need and minimal tears.  Here is what works for me:sibling

1.) Always park near the cart corral, preferably one with a kid-friendly cart.  My strategizing usually starts before we even hit the store.  I don’t look for the spot closest to the store entrance.  Instead I will drive around to find a spot that is right next to the cart corral.  I am sure this makes car lovers cringe…parking so dangerously close to runaway carts and all.  So far I have been lucky.  We snag a kid friendly cart (with a car, airplane, etc) and I can often convince Ryan to “drive” into the store (AKA get strapped in)…which means no more chasing him!  Success!

2.) Hit the potty.  If your kids are older (or you don’t have kids) this may not be a necessity for you so you can skip this one.  Hannah has been potty trained for a long time but for some reason always has to potty when we are in the middle of the store so we head this one off at the pass.  Ryan is a whole different story.  He is newly potty trained and once announced, “I PEED!” while sitting in the cart when we were waiting at the deli.  The puddle running down the paper towels below him to the floor confirmed his decree.  Naturally I just opened the pack of paper towels, cleaned up the mess, used some hand sanitizer and finished shopping in a jiffy.

3.) Go to produce first.  This is usually the longest part of my list so getting this out of the way early is a must.  If we don’t get to every section of the store we can survive a few more days as long as we have our needed produce.

4.) Next visit the grocery section.  This is usually the shortest part of my list (some pickles, reduced sodium cans of beans, whole grain pasta, etc) so is usually pretty easy to get in after the marathon of produce.  If they start fading I grab a pouch of parcooked brown rice (the kind you heat in the microwave for 90 seconds) and give one to each kiddo.  These are virtually indestructible and last us until we get to the deli.

5.) Skip most of the middle of the store.  If I can help it I save buying paper products and other household items for days when I can take just one kiddo or head to the store alone.  I also avoid any aisle that has products that are marketed to kids (juice, snacks, etc).  In a pinch we will go quickly to the cereal aisle to get more Cheerios.  The kids always notice their favorite characters on the other cereal boxes…they can just wave and blow kisses as we walk by.  It won’t hurt Dora’s feelings.Hannah big smile

6.) Then head to the bread/bakery aisle.   This is also a pretty short part of our list usually so we can get in and out of there quickly.  This is also the point (about halfway) that if Hannah has been behaving nicely I will let her get out and walk the rest of the way.  No chance of Ryan getting out, though.


7.) On to the deli.  A free slice of cheese or turkey usually keeps the kids motivated for the rest of the trip.

8.) Then get all of the really perishable items.  I usually go to the frozen section (not usually a long list for this section), then dairy, seafood and meat.  Then off to check out and we’ve survived!

What do you do to make shopping trips with your kids more manageable? 

Thanks for stopping by!

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