Archives for category: Thoughts …

I’m really busy with travel and work these days, so meals have become simple, quick, and in big pots so I can eat leftovers for several meals. So the next few posts will be less recipes and more meal ideas for those times when cooking healthy meals may seem a bit daunting. There’s really no need eat boring or unhealthy foods when you’re really busy (or broke)!

This is another meal that I eat quite often, as it is simple to make, really inexpensive, and delicious so I’m happy to eat the leftovers for days. I have to credit my good friend Caitlin Rueter, who I often stay with in NYC. She makes this all the time and although she  apologizes for the simplicity of the meal, I always enjoy it and crave it again and again.

Did you know that lentils and brown rice cook in the same amount of time? This was a great discovery for me–you can pop both raw (cleaned and picked through) lentils and brown rice into a rice cooker and not have to think about them at all. Meanwhile, cook any sides or toppings you would like and you have several filling, nutritious, and very tasty meals with about as much work as it would take to make a box of mac and cheese.

Caitlin’s lentils, rice and greens

  • Rinse, and pick any stones from about a cup of lentils (I used brown, you can use any you like, French lentils are great, red lentils would result in a more creamy texture)
  • Add lentils and approximately the same amount of raw brown rice (I like long-grain,or Jasmine) to the pot or rice cooker
  • Use the proportions of 2 parts water to 1 part rice/lentil mixture
  • Cook as you would rice
  • Go do whatever you have to do for about half an hour
  • When the rice and lentils are just about done, thinly slice about half an onion, and a little garlic if you like
  • Sautee onion in a few glugs of olive oil, and a couple generous pinches of salt. Add some chile flakes if you like
  • When the onions are translucent and slightly brown, add finely sliced greens or any other vegetable (still damp from rinsing)
  • Sautee until tender-crisp, add more salt to taste, and squeeze a good amount of lemon/lime juice on top
  • Serve vegetables over lentils and rice, with more lemon and your favorite hot sauce

You could use any vegetables you like here–spinach, eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, butternut squash, or just let the onions get a little crispy, add a handful of chopped fresh parsley, chives, or cilantro, and leave it at that. Don’t forget a big squeeze of lemon or lime juice before serving.

For a side dish/dessert, I sliced some ruby red grapefruit onto which I drizzled a little bit of real maple syrup.




A recent study, presented at  the Neuroscience 2012 conference and featured today on BBC News, gives us just one more reason not to skip the most important meal of the day – breakfast.

Though the study had a relatively small sample size (21 people), the results of brain scans from the participants show that skipping breakfast makes fatty, high calorie foods appear far more attractive later in the day.  Although this may seem to be a logical conclusion, the study revealed what processes are going on in the brain when the decision of what to eat is made.

For a super quick, on-the-go breakfast check out our 90-second Breakfast (Banana Pear Smoothie)Or, if you have a bit more time (or like to prepare breakfast ahead of time), check out our recipe page for other great ideas for a simple and healthy breakfast.

milk and sugar sisters, milk and sugar, michelle stroebe

Skipping breakfast primes the brain to seek out fat

By James GallagherHealth and science reporter, BBC News

The researchers said skipping breakfast created a “bias” in the brain in favour of high calorie foods.

The results, presented at the Neuroscience 2012 conference, showed the brain changed how it responded to pictures of high calorie foods, but not low calorie foods, when breakfast was skipped.

They showed part of the brain thought to be involved in “food appeal”, the orbitofrontal cortex, became more active on an empty stomach.

Read the full article here.


broiled tofu, vegetarian dinner, vegan dinner

This post doesn’t exactly provide a recipe, but  a few ideas to get you started on creating an easy, super-nutritious, vegetarian/vegan dinner that you can throw together with ingredients you have in your kitchen–one that even a meat-lover will enjoy.

Many Americans are trying to cut down on their meat consumption, but have trouble coming up with ideas. An easy solution is to simply substitute meat with a vegetarian protein such as tofu or tempeh and make your favorite side dishes. Tofu in particular is versatile, inexpensive, and can be found at almost any grocery store. It can be used straight from the tub or frozen and thawed before cooking for a different texture. Although Asian flavorings obviously pair well with tofu, try using the your favorite marinades, salad dressing, BBQ sauce, or flavorings for something different. (Tempeh roasted with rosemary, garlic, salt and olive oil, until golden and crispy, for example, is amazing)

Adapt this recipe to the ingredients you have around or that are your favorite, and depending on how much you want to make.

Broiled Tofu with Quinoa and Collards


quinoa (or your favorite grain, or pasta)

collard greens (or kale, chard, spinach, dandelion, or a mix of your favorite dark greens)


fresh Garlic

fresh lemon juice

chile flakes (optional)

olive oil

salt & pepper

your favorite marinade from a jar (or try making this or this or this, or just puree some garlic, olive oil, salt, and herbs)

tofu or tempeh, cut into large “steaks”


to begin, soak your quinoa (I used red here) in cold water for about 15 minutes. Don’t skip this step, or your quinoa will be bitter!

roughly chop a small onion, and smash a few cloves of garlic with the side of your knife; remove the skins

if using collards or kale, remove the ribs, rinse, then cut into ribbons or medium-sizes pieces

pour your marinade over the pieces of tofu in a large bowl, and set aside

cook your quinoa according to package directions (just like rice, you can even use a rice cooker as I did here)

while your quinoa is cooking, prepare the tofu and greens:

heat a large skillet on medium high. Add a swirl of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons for one bunch of greens), then your garlic, onion, chile flakes, and salt and pepper

when the onion is translucent and fragrant, add your rinsed greens, still a bit damp. stir, and turn the heat down to low/medium low

turn your oven to broil

remove tofu from the marinade, and place on a non-stick cookie sheet or a piece of aluminum foil. spoon a bit of the marinade over the tofu steaks, saving the remaining marinade for later

place the tofu on the highest rack in your oven

in about 5-7 minutes, when the tofu is beginning to brown on the edges and the marinade is bubbling, spoon on a bit more of your marinade and return to the broiler

when your tofu is as brown as you like, remove from the oven

squeeze lemon juice over the greens. taste, and adjust the seasoning.

for each plate, place a scoop of cooked quinoa, a big serving of the greens and onions, and 2-3 pieces of broiled tofu. spoon some of the remaining marinade over the quinoa and tofu and serve.




Last week, a study out of Stanford University concluded that organic fruits, vegetables and meats are not more nutritious than their conventional counterparts.  The publishing of this study created much controversy amongst farmers, producers, food bloggers, and dietitians, to name just a few.  As an avid supporter of organic and local produce, I wanted to share this great article from the Huffington Post that serves as a counter-argument and answers the question “Why buy organic?”

I thought this topic was certainly timely, and worthy of a re-post!  Follow the link at the bottom for the full article in the Huffington Post

Stanford Organic Food Study: Amidst Pushback, Co-Author Acknowledges Limitations

Last week, a controversial study concluding that organic food has no real health benefit over conventionally grown food received a great deal of media attention. But there was also a wave of backlash.

So what exactly was the problem? Some argued that the study’s conclusions were being oversimplified and some pointed out that even if its media-grabbing assessment was true, that hosts of other reasons why organic farming and produce might be preferable were being overlooked.

    • NYU professor Marion Nestle pointed out that the study did in fact confirm that organic food reduces exposure to pesticides and antibiotics. Nestle writes that the authors found organic food was “doing exactly what it is supposed to.”
    • Michael Pollan agreed, saying that this is not new research and he’s seen “exact same data analyzed in a very different direction.” He said, “we’re kind of erecting a straw man and then knocking it down, the straw man being that the whole point of organic food is that it’s more nutritious. The whole point of organic food is that it’s more environmentally sustainable. That’s the stronger and easier case to make.”
    • Bloomberg restaurant critic Ryan Sutton argued that headlines about organic food not being healthier misses the point of the study altogether. “We pay more for organic or free range products because we believe it’s the right thing to do,” he wrote. “We want to support the farmers and growers who treat their animals, their crops and mother nature’s land with respect and dignity.”
  • Tom Philpott of Mother Jones writes that “the study in some places makes a strong case for organic—though you’d barely know it from the language the authors use.” He names five reasons the study sells organics short, including an oversimplification of pesticide exposure. He writes, ” the study seriously underplays the benefit of going organic to avoid pesticide traces, especially for vulnerable populations like pregnant women and kids.”

Read the full length article here

I was a dedicated reader of Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist column in the New York Times, and now that he has ended that, I regularly follow his blog and other writing. (His cookbooks are also really great!) He explains important ideas about cooking, food politics, and nutrition clearly and always with a sense of humor. As a super-interested party with no science background, he and Michael Pollan are my favorite writers on these subjects.

One of his most recent articles sums up why it is best not to get most of our calories from processed foods. I thought it was worthy of a re-post! Follow the link at the bottom for the full article in the New York Times.


All Calories are Not Created Equal

by Mark Bittman, from

One of the challenges of arguing that hyperprocessed carbohydrates are largely responsible for the obesity pandemic (“epidemic” is no longer a strong enough word, say many experts) is the notion that “a calorie is a calorie.”

Accept that, and you buy into the contention that consuming 100 calories’ worth of sugar water (like Coke or Gatorade), white bread or French fries is the same as eating 100 calories of broccoli or beans. And Big Food — which has little interest in selling broccoli or beans — would have you believe that if you expend enough energy to work off those 100 calories, it simply doesn’t matter.

There’s an increasing body of evidence, however, that calories from highly processed carbohydrates like white flour (and of course sugar) provide calories that the body treats differently, spiking both blood sugar and insulin and causing us to retain fat instead of burning it off.

In other words, all calories are not alike.

Read the full length article here.

“What exactly are partially hydrogenated oils, and why are they so bad for you?”

As a student of nutrition and food science, this is a question I am asked so frequently that I thought I would post some information regarding hydrogenated oils here on Milk & Sugar.

Partially hydrogenated oils, or trans fats, are made via a chemical reaction that adds hydrogen molecules to an oil (an unsaturated fat) to make it a solid fat. This process is called “hydrogenation.”  During hydrogenation, the chemical changes that occur to the oil/fat produce trans fatty acids.  Food manufactures use partially hydrogenated oils in foods like crackers, pastries, baked goods, and shortening to extend the shelf life of the food and improve the texture.  Have you ever noticed that some of these foods can sit in a package on your shelf for months?  Hydrogenated oils are part of the reason why.

Trans fats, or partially hydrogenated oils, have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease.  This is because they do two things that are bad for your health:

1) they raise your “bad” choleseterol levels (LDL-cholesterol);

2) they lower your “good” cholesterol levels (HDL-cholesterol).  This combination may put a person at increased risk for heart disease.

“How can you avoid trans fats?”

Avoid foods that have “partially hydrogenated” anywhere on the ingredient label.  Unfortunately, because of U.S. labeling laws you can’t assume a product is 100% trans fat free just because the front label says “No trans fat,” or the nutrition label states the food has 0 grams trans fat.  This is because foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving (not to be confused with per package) can be labeled as 0 grams trans fat.

Sneaky, right?  Read your ingredients carefully, not just the nutrition labels.  Partially hydrogenated oils are in a wide range of products, like peanut butter, store-bought cookies and breads, even some of those amazing smelling freshly baked breads in super markets.

words to look out for:

trans fats, hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, monoglycerides, diglycerides

I hope this is helpful!!  -Michelle