Daily Protein Distribution (+oatmeal & yogurt fixin’s kit for teachers!)


I’ve lived with a lot of teachers over the past decade – mostly by chance (I’ve had over 25 roommates from Craigslist!), but all of them have changed my perspective of what it takes to teach.  If I had any idea how hard my teachers were working outside of the classroom, I’d have given them a lot more love!  Living with them has also given me some insight to the barriers around healthy eating.  They’re often overscheduled, have brutally early mornings, and are constantly emotionally challenged by kids who have problems from continence to language barriers to raging hormones – and that’s before they even get to class! To be able to respond in a constructive, loving, effective way you have to be on your A-game, which means a foundation of sleep and good nutrition.

The idea of “eating for performance” is not just for athletes – it’s for everyone.

“Performance” for teachers means getting a protein-rich, nutrient dense breakfast that will carry them to lunch.  Unfortunately, in America we’ve gotten into the habit of backloading our protein so that dinner has too much and breakfast has too little.  Here’s a visual from the Egg Nutrition Center:


Aiming for at least 20g of protein with a breakfast (that also contains fiber and fat) will ensure you don’t get hangry (hungry –>angry), and also give your metabolism a jump start.

Which brings me to the portable oatmeal & yogurt fixin’s basket.  I currently live with an amazing lady named Elise who is such a kick butt teacher that she is now the interim PRINCIPAL of a bilingual middle school…at the age of 27.  (Check her out.  BOOM.)  She and I were enjoying an amazing ScratchDC dinner on our deck earlier this week, and talking about how much we loved the service – they make it easy and fast to have a fresh meal ready to eat in 20 minutes.  “I wish they did breakfast!” she said.  “I need something I can throw together and eat on my way to school, or keep at my desk.”   After a few minutes, the Basket Bar was born.  Based on the concept of having a variety of shelf-stable options you can combine in lots of ways that I used to feed 20 people for a weekend yoga retreat, the Basket Bar was born.

2014-08-20 16.57.28

The Basket Bar:

Step 1: get a basket.  I got this on at Target, and made sure it would comfortably fit the jars.
Step 2: get jars.  I purchased 9 Ball canning jars of different sizes, and filled them as such:
Step 3: fill them with high-protein, fiber-rich, nutrient packed toppings

  • slivered almonds (L)
  • pecan pieces (M)
  • flaked coconut (M)
  • raisins (M)
  • craisins (or other dried fruit) (M)
  • sunflower seeds (S)
  • chia seeds (S)
  • dark chocolate morsels (S)
  • ground flax (S)
    (size indicates which jar was used)

I also threw in a measuring spoon/cup set for portioning, and a few bags of frozen berries.  Add that to a base of plain greek yogurt or steel cut oatmeal, and you have an awesome breakfast or snack.  The first day of school is coming up…do you know any teachers who need a gift like this? (HINT: get them one.)

2014-08-20 17.02.24


From Elise:

Best day everrrr”



RecipeRedux: PB & Oat Yogurt Popsicles

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by National Dairy Council and the Quaker Oats Center of Excellence and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

2014-08-08 14.17.28

There may be no better category of summer foods than frozen treats.  Often, these are quite junky – but they don’t have to be!  These popsicles are protein and fiber rich, silky smooth, and will cool you down without spiking your blood sugar or giving you a neon tongue. They’re a perfect afternoon snack for those hot, sticky, August days!


  • 1.5 c plain greek yogurt* (or use vanilla and leave out sugar)
  • 1/2 c milk*
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 c old fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 12 Tbsp peanut butter of choice
  • 1/2 c old fashioned oats, toasted
  • 1/4 c almond slivers, toasted

In a blender, combine the yogurt, milk, banana, oats, vanilla, and sugar.  Freeze into 6 popsicle molds (or use cups and spoons).  Spread toasted oats and almonds on a plate.  When frozen (3-4 hours, depending on your freezer), remove from molds, and spread 2 Tbsp of peanut butter on each pop.  Roll in the nuts and oats, place on plastic wrap on a tray and put back into the freezer for peanut butter to harden…or enjoy right away!

*I like to use whole fat dairy, but you can use low fat if that is your preference!



enjoying on a rooftop with a view doesn’t hurt!


2014-08-08 14.23.46

Check out the rest of the contest entries here!

RecipeRedux: Oat & Dairy Breakfast Bar

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by National Dairy Council and the Quaker Oats Center of Excellence and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.


Another RecipeRedux challenge means another set of amazing recipes from members, and great inspiration for me!  Recipes are easiest to develop with some parameters (“anything goes” is the toughest!), and this time around it’s two of my favorite ingredients: oats & dairy.

You know I’m a big proponent of the protein + fiber combo, and these are a perfect match in that department: pairing the two means optimal absorption of the protein, and a long-lasting, satisfying period of satiety.  They’re also both great flavor vehicles, especially for sweet, summer produce.

Right about now is when there start to be more peaches than one can reasonably eat from the hand, so they are the perfect fruit layer for this recipe!  In other months, you could use frozen or other seasonal fruit, or omit the baked fruit layer and top with berries.  This makes a great breakfast option (it meets my 5 rules for a healthy breakfast!), or for a snack in smaller portions.

2014-08-06 13.34.14



Crust layer:

  • 1.5 c old fashioned oats
  • 1 c almonds
  • 1/4 c melted coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 egg

Fruit layer:

  • 2 whole peaches, depitted
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c fresh blueberries

Yogurt layer:

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a blender or food processor, grind the oats and almonds.  Add sugar and oil, blend on low or dough speed.  Add egg, blend on low or dough speed until mixed.  Press into a 9×12 pan.  Puree peaches, egg, cornstarch, and vanilla.  Pour over crust, and spread on blueberries.  Bake for 50 minutes or until peach layer is set.  Dissolve the pectin in hot water, then combine with yogurt, coconut, sugar, and vanilla.  When the baked portion is done, pour on top and chill in the fridge for 3 hours until cool, or overnight.  Serves 6.

2014-08-06 11.06.20 2014-08-06 11.08.06 2014-08-06 11.59.37

RecipeRedux: Whiskey-ginger grillin’ sauce

2014-07-22 19.32.54

This month’s RecipeRedux is the perfect theme for chilling and eating in the summer: healthy recipes that use booze!

Check out the whole collection of “spirited” recipes at the end of my post by clicking the blue frog…I have to say, I think the members outdid themselves this month; every picture in the collection looks like it could be on the cover of Bon Appetit!

In our house, summer means grilling: hazy, hot DC evenings spent on the back deck, talking and laughing until the late light disappears on the horizon behind our neighbor’s oversized double deck and the fireflies rats come out.  Ok, so it’s not like life in the country, but the company and food can’t be beat.

2014-07-22 19.42.09

Tonight we are attempting to make a dent in the truly extreme amount of produce in the house, which is at prime status thanks to the farmer’s market being a block from here.  To formulate the recipe, I went with what was on hand: every ingredient except the canned tomatoes was in the pantry (Ok ok, the cupboard.  No one in DC has a pantry.).  Fajitas are an easy vehicle for veggies, and I whipped up some black beans with garlic & cilantro to go inside too.  The sauce makes a spicy, sweet & sour addition, and is also great on the chicken legs we’ll have this weekend – dark meat is higher in B vitamins & iron than white meat, and legs are an easy, higher protein swap for wings.

2014-07-22 19.08.24

Don’t be intimidated by the amount of ingredients here – this is a dump and heat recipe!

Whiskey-ginger grillin’ sauce


  • 1 can (12 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 c tomato paste
  • 3″ fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/2 c whiskey
  • 1/8 c soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or omit if you want less spicy!)
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/8 c white vinegar (I used rice)
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • dash pepper

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan on the stove and bring to a simmer, stirring gently for 10-12 minutes.  Allow to cool a bit, then puree in a food processor or blender.  Serve hot or cold!

2014-07-22 19.39.58

How to feed 20 people (from vegan to carnivore) on a yoga retreat

The deal:

A few months ago, my friend & yoga teacher Michael mentioned he’d been asked to lead a retreat in West Virginia – it would be held at a lodge in the woods, had a few cabins, a fire pit, a creek, a pond, and an outdoor pavilion to do yoga & meditation.  Would I be interested in doing the food, he wondered?

2014-06-22 10.14.18

Let me tell you how fast I said yes: immediately.  For all that I love DC – the vibrant people, nightlife options, and the fact that every material object I could ever need is a 2 block radius from my house – I miss the forest!  Growing up, camping in the summer was one of the most important and formative experiences of my childhood.  “Campfire” is one of my Top 5 Favorite Scents, and there is nothing more gratifying than jumping in a creek to rinse off the nature that has clung to your body’s sweat (the dirtier you are, the cleaner you get, I say).  So that part was an easy sell.

To sweeten the deal even more, you have to understand a little bit about Michael.  Primarily that he’s one of those life-loving, people-accepting, goofy-with-a-tinge-of-snark joking, thought-provoking, deep-conversation-having, elevating people who also happens to be one of my favorite teachers at Kali (where I work in exchange for yoga).  His classes will make you break a serious sweat and also leave you pondering your humanity and purpose.  And the guy makes an awesome Old Fashioned.

2014-06-22 12.19.07
Michael is also a good partner for deepening side bends.

The challenge:

The trickiest part of cooking for 20 people for 4 full meals + snacks, 2 hours away from where the food would be procured, while timing the serving with the rest of the weekend’s schedule…wasn’t any of that.  It is how to create meals that everyone can enjoy, regardless of eating pattern.  I don’t believe that any eating pattern (vegan, vegetarian, paleo) is “best,” but that people should find the one that gives them the best energy and health.  And of course, I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy the food and eat plenty of fresh produce…

The solution:

Bars.  Every meal was built around a bar/buffet concept, with a base that everyone could have and a myriad of topping options.  I provided some baseline suggestions for portions and nutrient distribution, and people chose what they wanted!  The food was purchased on Thursday, chopped when we arrived Friday, and a snap for me to put the final touches on as needed.

One huge help: a huge load of cucumbers, squash, blueberries, tomatoes, and arugula from From The Farmer, DC’s best (& most flexible) CSA.*  They deliver to the greater DC area, and you can always opt out of a week’s delivery if you’ll be out of town or have a surplus of veggies with the click of a button – and without being charged!  They deliver overnight, so the freshness is waiting on your doorstep when you head out for work.  They provided us with amazing, succulent produce and $20 off participants’ first order!  Check ‘em out and sign up.

Breakfast 1: Oatmeal bar
Lunch: Quinoa bowl bar
Dinner: Pasta salad bar with vegan pesto & broiled chicken or tofu on the side
Breakfast 2: Fruit salad bar + nuts or hard boiled eggs

2014-06-21 12.21.01 2014-06-21 12.34.00 2014-06-22 07.55.50


And resulted in some pretty beautiful meals:

2014-06-21 08.16.34 2014-06-21 12.46.15 2014-06-21 18.24.34

There was also a trail mix bar constantly available, and endless hot water for tea…plus a fridge stocked just for people to grab cheese, eggs, veggies, fruit, or yogurt from anytime.

2014-06-20 16.54.40 2014-06-20 16.43.09 2014-06-20 16.42.56

Many, many thanks to KIND for providing complimentary bars to the yogis to fuel up between sessions!*  Their dark chocolate cherry cashew bars are SO delicious, and have a good balance of nutrients (and they’re not “low fat!”  Alleluia!).  They gave us 3 kinds to try, and a 20% off coupon for retreat participants!

2014-06-22 12.08.09
You can even eat them while doing acro :P

The retreat:

The retreat itself was just the ticket after a hot week in DC.  Held at the Lodge at Sleepy Creek, we had porch swings, decks, and cozy nooks for lounging galore – it’s a great spot for hosting 10-20 people and available for rental at very reasonable rates!  The kitchen and dining area were perfect & adequately stocked for our needs, and the setting is perfectly peaceful.

The workshop content & yoga were, of course, amazing – we did some group work, some journaling, breathing, meditation, active yoga, woods-walking, and learned a lot about the theory of “koshas” and how they may relate to neuroscience.  There was also a campfire, complete with roasted marshmallows (the only truly nutrient-deficient food of the trip) and some even some impromptu drumming with beautiful instruments the lodge has!

By the end, let’s just say that everyone had laughed a lot and more than one person teared up a time or two – it’s not every day that most people really sit and reflect, but it sure is something we need more of!

My heartfelt thanks to the participants for their amazing compliments on the food; I’m looking forward to seeing them in the future!

2014-06-22 08.41.06 2014-06-21 20.49.53 2014-06-21 20.48.232014-06-22 10.12.33 2014-06-22 10.30.39 2014-06-22 12.22.28

*I never write about products or services I wouldn’t use or buy myself!  Contact me if you’d like to have your product featured on my blog.

A healthy tea luncheon (+Date Nut Breakfast Bread)

2014-05-20 11.09.25

This month’s RecipeRedux theme is serendipitously perfect: “Cooking with Tea” – just  when I have to do recipe testing and development for a tea lunch I’m hosting at Hinckley Pottery Studio!

First, about the event:  it’s a one time, one-of-a-kind lunch that ties in nutrition information with healthy versions of traditional tea foods (see full menu here), herbal teas with medicinal properties, provided by local herbalist Ally Shutty of Urban Om Tea, AND includes a pottery demo on the wheel by studio owner Jill Hinckley herself!  There are only 10 spots available.  (Sidebar: I’ll be providing a meal monthly through Feastly, each at a unique pop-up venue – this is the first!)  See the flyer below for full details, and sign up here!

TeaLuncheonFlyer (2)


And now, a sneak peek at one of the recipes: Date Nut Breakfast Bread!  I adapted this recipe from one that was in a cookbook put out by a tea shoppe that used to operate in my hometown, but is no longer in business.  So glad the recipes are preserved.  Of course, tea foods aren’t traditionally the healthiest – think: SUGAR.  By cutting back on the sweetness (dates are naturally very sweet!) and focusing on ways to add fiber and protein, this quickbread is a great complement to eggs or yogurt at breakfast, or for a mid-morning snack with tea.  Remember, the heart-health benefits of tea are only seen in research when subjects drink 2-3 cups a day, so use it as your beverage whenever you can! (Note: only brewed teas have cholesterol-reducing, vascular-muscle relaxing properties – NOT powdered, bottled, highly sugared versions!  Those are sold next to the soda for a reason!)

Date Nut Breakfast Bread

An extra twist: there’s tea IN it!  I used an herbal blend we’ll be serving next Wednesday at the lunch, but I suspect any tea with a  neutral, ginger, or cinnamon/clove based flavor profile would work well.


  • 32 dates, roughly chopped
  • 1.5 c brewed tea, hot
  • 2 T coconut oil

Combine the above in a large mixing bowl, stir then let stand ~10 minutes

  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 banana (the riper, the better – brown is great!)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c all purpose flour
  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 c finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 c finely chopped almonds (I pulse mine in a blender)

In a blender or food processor, combine the egg, banana, and brown sugar.  Add this to the date and tea mixture, stirring to blend.  In a separate bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, and nuts.  Pour the wet ingredients in and stir gently to mix – stop when they are evenly combined, don’t over-mix!  Grease two loaf pans (I used coconut oil) and distribute batter evenly between.  Place in COLD oven, then set the temp to 350 and bake for 50-55 minutes, until golden brown and spongy to touch.  Allow to cool, remove from pans, and then slice.

*I’ll be tweaking this for the luncheon next week to be a dessert, but this version got great reviews from my fellow pottery students last week!

2014-05-19 13.01.18 2014-05-19 13.05.18 2014-05-19 13.08.11 2014-05-20 11.08.55

Check out more tea recipes here:

Build a better sandwich (+gluten-free turkey & brie crepes)

2014-05-06 14.14.00

I received free samples of Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax and Breton Gluten Free Herb and Garlic from Dare Foods Incorporated mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Dare Foods Incorporated and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

With a blog & business called “WhyFoodWorks,” I spend a lot of time thinking about not only why certain food combos are good for you, but also how to easily distill combining foods that taste good together.  People make their food choices primarily based on taste, and I don’t think anything I do for the rest of my career will change that!  Nor should it – but the combo in your mouth needs to have as good an impact on the rest of your digestive system, and certain pairings just work better than others.  Hence my “5 Rules for a Healthy Breakfast,” “Sarah’s Rules of Pesto,” and the “3 P’s of Healthy Eating” that I use to base all my food decisions on and talk about at length during dinner parties, lunch presentations, and cooking classes.

Basically, I want to create guidelines so you can follow a blueprint to better eating for flavor and health.  Sandwiches are one of the easiest lunch or snacks to grab, but can easily go awry nutritionally with portion size, ratio of ingredients, and omission of veggies!  So, here’s the hack:

  • Pick a protein (2-3 oz of meat, sliced egg, cheese)
  • 2 veggies – at least! Many people think that sad little romaine slice counts as a serving – it’s not enough!  A handful of greens and another veg will take you much farther! (Kale, spinach, arugula, roasted red pepper, slices of cucumber or squash, tomatoes, even fruit like apples and pears will make your sandwich next-level.)
  • Season it! A few twists of the pepper grinder, sprinkle of garlic powder, a seasoning mix like Mrs. Dash (we love those and Trader Joe’s  Everyday Seasoning grinder at my house!) will go a long way to make your sandwich or wrap restaurant quality.
  • Spread and bind. Think beyond mayo – a soft avocado, pesto, a greek yogurt-based dip, or even salsa work well.
  • Go whole grain. Bread choice is a whole other post by itself, but skip the white bread!

As my third and final entry to the Breton contest, I used the above to create a sandwich filling that would work on bread, in a wrap, or even in a savory crepe!  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the cracker crumbs work well to hold the crepe together, and this was sampled in my pottery class (check out those handmade plates!) by gluten eaters and avoiders alike with equally pleased palettes.

2014-05-06 14.14.22


Speaking of my pottery – you can win a ring holder on Capitol Romance’s blog this week!

Gluten-free turkey & brie crepe with spinach & pesto



  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c Breton Gluten Free Herb & Garlic cracker crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp melted butter + 1 Tbsp butter for coating pan
  • Dash salt


  • 8 oz sliced turkey
  • 2 oz brie, sliced
  • 2 c spinach
  • 1 c zucchini ribbons (shave a squash with a peeler)
  • 4 Tbsp pesto
  • A few twists of Everyday Seasoning or other mix or herbs

In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg with milk and melted butter until evenly combined.  Stir in the cracker crumbs and mix.  Heat an 8″ nonstick pan on high and add butter to coat.  When hot, pour 1/4 c of the batter into the pan and immediately move pan so that it coats the bottom thinly and evenly; reduce heat to medium-high.  Using a spatula, flip once after the first side is set and lightly browned (~2-3 minutes) and cook the second side until light brown blisters form.  (There’s a good tutorial that demonstrates the flipping here, though he has slightly different directions.)  Makes 4 crepes; filling ingredients between the crepes.

2014-05-06 14.14.42

2014-05-06 14.16.51

Click the frog for more delicious and healthy Breton cracker recipes!