Recipe ReDux: Papaya Parfait

Although it’s the end of August and summer is on the way out, the weather in NYC begs to differ. The extreme heat makes me feel like I live on a tropical island, rather than a city, which is perfect for this month’s Recipe ReDux challenge:

“Think about a trip you took and create a healthy recipe from an unforgettable meal you enjoyed.” 

Well, this weather reminds me of a recent trip to Costa Rica, where the temperature was always above 90 degree Fahrenheit (in January). Whenever the temps are high, I crave fruit, and Costa Rica did not disappoint in the produce department.

Papaya Parfait

Each morning, Bill and I went to the same cafe to have a delicious tropical breakfast on the beach. A true creature of habit, I ordered the same thing every morning: a yogurt, fruit and granola parfait. It had super sweet tropical fruit, like pineapple, mango and papaya. Before that trip, I had only had papaya a handful of times, but eating it every morning made me fall in love with this juicy tropical fruit.

This Papaya Parfait is one of my easiest recipes yet because instead of cooking, you are just assembling ingredients.  And, it delivers on a variety of flavors. The sweetness of the papaya and shredded coconut counteract the tangy Greek yogurt. The addition of crunchy granola and shredded coconut add a bit of texture to the parfait. Plus, this dish is packed with protein and vitamins, to start your morning off right. Take a trip to Costa Rica any time of the day with this Papaya Parfait.

papaya and yogurt

Makes 1 parfait
1 cup papaya, peeled and chopped
1 small vanilla Greek yogurt (I used Siggi’s)
1/4 cup Granola (I used Viki’s granola, but feel free to make your own)
1 teaspoon unsweetened shredded coconut

papaya parfair

Assemble the parfait by layering the papaya and yogurt in as many layers as you like (I did two layers). Top with granola and coconut.

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Grilled Strawberry and Goat Cheese Sandwich

With kids getting ready to go back to school and many people squeezing in one last vacation, it almost seems like summer is over. But here in the Northeast, we still have plenty of summer left to enjoy, including a wonderful fruit and vegetable bounty. As a Dietitian, the abundance of sweet seasonal summer fruit is one of my favorite things about August.

Fresh Strawberries

When I feel so tired and sluggish from the heat, biting into a sweet berry or a juicy watermelon will perk me right up. That’s why I used seasonal strawberries to create this delicious Grilled Strawberry and Goat Cheese Sandwich. A twist on the classic spinach and strawberry salad, this sandwich combines savory goat cheese with sweet strawberries and a homemade balsamic glaze. And, of course, I threw in some spinach for added iron and calcium.

Grilled Strawberry & Goat Cheese Ingredients

The best part about this sandwich is that I got to use the panini press function on my new T-Fal OptiGrill.

t-fal optigrillThis grill is perfect for summer grilling in NYC (since I clearly don’t have a backyard with a grill). Its “Automatic Sensor Cooking” technology immediately detects the number of items placed on the grill and their thickness in order to adjust the temperature and cooking time automatically. You can choose from six pre-set programs: Burgers, Poultry, Sandwiches, Sausages, Red Meat, and Fish or the manual mode for fruits, vegetables or any personal recipes. Obviously, I’m a vegetarian, but my boyfriend is constantly cooking salmon to the perfect temperature on this grill.  My favorite use for the grill is to quickly create a mean panini or to grill up some summer fruit, like in this Grilled Peach & Blackberry Salsa recipe. Even if you don’t have the OptiGrill, you can make this Grilled Strawberry and Goat Cheese Sandwich on a skillet.

Grilled Strawberry & Goat Cheese Sandwich

Disclosure: I received a free OptiGrill to test. All opinions are my own, and I was not additionally compensated for my time. 

Grilled Strawberry and Goat Cheese Sandwich


  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, washed and sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup spinach, washed


  1. Add the balsamic vinegar to a large sauce pan and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 6-8 minutes or until the vinegar is reduced by half. Once it's thick and syrupy, remove from heat.
  2. Lay out two slices of bread. Add 1 tablespoon of goat cheese to each slice and spread evenly. Drizzle the balsamic reduction onto the goat cheese.
  3. Top one slice of bread with sliced strawberries and spinach. Place the other slice of bread on top to form a sandwich.
  4. If using a panini press, put the sandwich in press and grill until you see grill marks and the cheese is melted. If not, heat a skillet over medium heat. Put the sandwich in the pan and place something heavy (like a plate) on top. Cook for 3-5 minutes and flip the sandwich and repeat.
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Grilled Strawberry & Goat Cheese Sandwich


Recipe ReDux: SunGold Kiwi Baked Oatmeal

Disclosure: I received free samples of Zespri SunGold Kiwifruit mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Zespri Kiwifruit and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

I have to admit something…

Even though I’m a lover of fruits and vegetables, I never really ate (past tense) kiwis.

It’s not that I didn’t like kiwis. It was just that I never really understood the kiwi.  I didn’t know how to tell if they were ripe, and peeling them was overwhelming. But then I went to a Zespri Kiwifruit event, and I learned a few simple things that completely changed my opinion of kiwis.

  • You don’t peel kiwifruit. Just cut in half with a knife and scoop with a spoon. That’s it – just cut, scoop, and enjoy!
  • Kiwis come in two varieties–the standard green and the SunGold.  SunGolds are a natural cross between gold varieties of kiwifruit.  They look yellow on the inside, like this:Sun Gold Kiwis
  • Both green and SunGold kiwifruit contain an enzyme called actinidin that helps break down protein. Actinidin occurs only in kiwifruit and improves digestive comfort by increasing the breakdown of proteins and facilitating digestion and emptying of the stomach.
  • One serving (2 kiwifruit) of SunGold provides three times more vitamin C than an orange and as much potassium as a medium banana. SunGold is a good source of antioxidant vitamin E.
  • Zespri Kiwifruit is the world leader in premium quality kiwifruit. You may not always think about a specific brand when it comes to buying kiwifruit, but once you get to know Zespri, you’ll always look for the label. The reason behind Zespri’s superior eating experience is their comprehensive quality system, which ensures that Zespri consistently delivers great-tasting fruit. Zespri is a grower-owned company and all growers are held to the same growing standards.

If those aren’t enough reasons to eat kiwis, then the taste of this Zespri SunGold Baked Oatmeal will inspire you.

Baked Kiwi OatmealIn this recipe, I’ve combined the flavors of kiwi and cocoa to create a hearty, fiber-rich breakfast that you can make on Sunday and enjoy all week. And,the best part is that it takes only a few minutes to whip together. When you are ready to enjoy your Kiwi Baked Oatmeal, I recommend throwing it in the microwave for 15 seconds and topping with a scoop of vanilla Greek yogurt.

Makes 6 slices

2 SunGold Kiwis
1/2 banana, peeled
2 cups oats
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup low-fat milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Topping: 1 Sungold kiwi, sliced
cooking spray

Slice Baked Kiwi Oatmeal


  1. Cut the kiwis in half and use a spoon to scoop the kiwifruit out of the skin. Place the peeled kiwi and banana in a food processor. Process until smooth. Pour the processed fruit into a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.
  3. In another large bowl, combine the oats, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder. Stir the ingredients together and set aside.
  4. To the bowl with the kiwi and banana mixture, add the honey, milk, egg and vegetable oil. Whisk until thoroughly combine.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir until combined.
  6. Spray a Pyrex baking sheet with cooking spray. Pour the oat mixture into the baking sheet. Spoon out the additional kiwi and slice into 1/4 inch pieces. Top the oatmeal mixture with sliced kiwi.
  7. Place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.


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Why You Get Side Stitches & How To Prevent Them

As many of you know, I’ve been running a ton lately because I’m training for the NYC Marathon. Many days, I’m trying to beat the heat or I want to get my run out of the way, so I hit the pavement or the gym in the morning. Since I started running in the morning, something annoying has been happening…I get a side stitch every time I run! It’s driving me insane!Just when I started feeling helpless, I remembered something…I’m a Dietitian with an education in Sports Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. I can hit the books to research the cause and cure of my side stitch.  And that’s exactly what I did.


What is a side stitch? As it turns out, a side stitch has a scientific name: exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP). It’s often described as a cramping, aching, or pulling feeling at first, and then it progresses to a sharp or stabbing severe pain in the lower abdomen.

Who gets side stitches? Interestingly, side stitches occur most often among two types of athletes: runners and horse back riders.  The reason for this is that activities that involve repetitive torso movement cause side stitches more often than activities that don’t include torso movement (like cycling). Certain demographics also affect your chances of experiencing the dreaded stitch.

Age. Side stitches are much more likely to affect the young athlete. One study reported that 77% of active individuals under the age of 20 experienced ETAP, compared with only 40% of individuals over the age of 40. Not only does the prevalence of side stitches decrease with age, but the severity of the stitch decreases as well.

Gender. One study reported that females experience side stitches four times more often than males.

Fitness Level. Well conditioned individuals are less likely to report experiencing ETAP, as compared to people that are physically unfit.

What causes a side stitch? Unfortunately, the reason for abdominal pain is not entirely clear, but these are a few of the common theories.

Bad Posture. Studies have shown that people with poor posture are more susceptible to side stitches, and the worse the posture, the worse the stitch.

Eating  or drinking right before exercise. Consuming food or drink closely before exercise has consistently been reported to evoke ETAP.  The good news is that you can teach your body to tolerate fluid consumption with practice.

Irritation of the lining of the abdomen (aka the parietal peritoneum). This is the most widely accepted reason for the side stitch. Some scientists believe that the irritation occurs from friction between the lining of the abdomen and the abdominal wall. This friction happens when the stomach swells during exercise, due to an increase in the quantity or thickness of the lubricating fluids in the stomach.

Common myths about side stitches. Have you started to wonder why I keep calling it a “side stitch” rather than a cramp? Well, research has shown that the painful feeling in your side is actually not a muscular cramp. This is news to me!

How to prevent side stitches. Because scientists have not been able to figure out the primary cause of side stitches, it’s difficult to determine a way to prevent the stitch from occurring. However, some strategies seem to work for many people.

Avoid large volumes of food and drink before exercise. To prevent ETAP, large volumes of food and drink should be avoided at least 2 hours before exercise. During exercise, small but regular volumes of fluid may be better tolerated than large gulps of water or sports drink.

Improve posture. One study reported that improving posture reduced symptoms of ETAP in children. Two other studies have reported improvement in symptoms of ETAP through a treatment regimen that aimed to improve spinal alignment and function. A great way to improve posture is to strengthen your back and core muscles. Yoga and pilates are excellent types of exercises to target those muscles.

Unproven strategies. The most common techniques for getting rid of a side stitch are deep breathing, pushing on the affected area, stretching the affected site and bending over forward.  Research has not confirmed that these strategies work, and some believe that bending over and stretching the affected site would work against the problem and cause the stitch to continue.

My takeaway: I think my main problem has been, ironically (since I’m a Sports Dietitian), the timing of my meals. Sometimes I wake up at 7am, have coffee and toast and am running by 8:15am. I thought I could handle a small meal of simple carbs before a run, but it seems that my meal timing may be the cause of my stitch! I also always thought the stitch had to do with breathing, but there has been no research to confirm this thought. Lastly, I often skimp on my strength training exercises, but I will have to make sure I’m working my back and core at least twice per week.

Meatless Monday: Spicy Mexican Quinoa Burrito Bowl

One of my favorite things to do as a food blogger is to recreate simple and delicious recipe staples with a healthier twist. Some of my favorite reinventions are…

Sweet Potato Chips instead of Chips

Inside Out Summer Veggie Pizza instead of Pizza

Crinkle Cut Jicama Fries instead of Fries

Lentil Bolognese instead of Meat Sauce

Today, I’ve reinvented the Burrito Bowl!


It’s Meatless Monday, and I know you are tired after a fun summer weekend.  This Spicy Mexican Quinoa Burrito Bowl is the perfect thing to quickly whip up for dinner (or lunch) to start your week off right. Not only do the quinoa and beans have protein and fiber to keep you feeling fuller longer, but this bowl is loaded with fresh summer veggies that provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. And, the entire dish takes 15 minutes to make (which is my favorite part)!

Makes 1 bowl

1/4 cup quinoa, washed
1/2 cup water
1/2 small zucchini, chopped
1 teaspoon Vegetable oil
dash of chili powder
dash of garlic powder
1/4 cup canned black beans, drained and washed
salt to taste
1/4 cup shredded Mexican cheese
1/2 cup chopped cabbage
1 radish, sliced
1/2 lime
drizzle of Sriracha
dollop of Greek yogurt (optional)

Spicy Mexican Quinoa Burrito BowlDirections:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the quinoa and water and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. All of the water should be absorbed when it’s done.
  2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the zucchini, vegetable oil, chili powder and garlic powder. Stir to combine. Heat a skillet over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. When the pan is hot, add the zucchini. Cook for 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, add the black beans to the pan.  Cook for 1-2 minutes. Season with salt. Turn off the heat.
  3. When the quinoa and zucchini mixture are cooked, assemble the burrito bowl.  Put the quinoa in a bowl, then add the zucchini and beans. Top with Mexican cheese, chopped cabbage and sliced radish. Squeeze the lime and drizzle Sriracha over the bowl.  To balance out the heat of the Sriracha, add a dollop of Greek yogurt.