Sunday, May 2, 2021

Bread Baking

What's better than a homemade loaf of bread? Here I will share with you three bread recipes that I love to make.

First is one of the most recent bread recipes that I learned about. It's a homemade Italian bread, that produces a soft and fluffy loaf. It doesn't require kneading and takes only a little over 2 hours to make, so it's a great recipe when you're short on time! Find the recipe here from Amanda's Cookin'

Homemade Italian Bread

Next is Cook's Illustrated Almost No-Knead Bread. It involves very little kneading, but it does require some planning ahead, with a first rise of 8-18 hours and a second rise of 2 hours. The bread is cooked in a dutch oven, initially with the lid on, and then cooked for the last 10-15 minutes with the lid off. It makes a loaf with a very crunchy crust, which is delicious! Learn how to make the Almost No-Knead Bread here. Pictured below is the white flour recipe, which is the one I usually make. 

Almost No-Knead Bread

Finally there is my fiancé's great-grandmother's bread recipe. This recipe uses a traditional hand kneading method, with a first rise of 1.5 hours and a second rise of 1.5 hours. The recipe yields three, traditional white bread loaves. We made this bread for my fiancé's grandmother a few weeks ago when we celebrated her 101st birthday, and she loves to eat this bread that she used to make when she was younger! The recipe is below. Since cake yeast isn't readily available, I substitute the 1 cake yeast with 2 tablespoons and 3/4 teaspoons dry yeast. 

Great-Grandmother's White Bread

Great-Grandma's White Bread Recipe

Grandma's 101st Birthday!

I hope these recipes have inspired you to go and bake some bread! :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Cranberry Bog and Nature Trail at Patriot Place

Hidden behind Patriot Place is a hidden Ocean Spray Cranberry Bog and Nature Trail! This 7-acre bog is the last active cranberry bog in Foxborough, MA.

Fun cranberry facts
  • Did you know that cranberries are one of the few fruits originally native to North America?
  • Cranberries do not grow in water. They grow on vines, and air pockets inside fresh cranberries allow them to float on water.
  • Cranberries may be dry or wet harvested in the fall. In the dry harvest method, a mechanical picker harvests the cranberries from the vines. With the wet harvest method, cranberry bogs are flooded with water, and water reels mix the water loosening the berries from the vines. The cranberries can then be gathered together, because they float on water.
  • Only around 5% of cranberries are sold fresh while the other 95% are sold as cranberry sauce, juice, dried cranberries, and more.
  • Around 400 million pounds of cranberries are consumed by Americans a year! Almost 80 million of these pounds are eaten during the week of Thanksgiving.
  • There are numerous health benefits associated with eating cranberries. They contain antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, including vitamin C. Cranberry consumption may also reduce the risk of developing urinary tract infections.

Learn more about cranberries and the bog when you walk along the 1/2 mile trail at Patriot Place. It's open from dawn to dusk, 7 days per week, at 1 Bass Pro Drive, Foxborough, MA.


Friday, August 9, 2019

Mindfulness at MorningSun

This past July my fiancé and I went on a Treasure of Life Mindfulness Retreat at MorningSun Mindfulness Center in the Plum Village tradition. Plum Village is a Buddhist monastery in France founded by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay). The goal of the Plum Village community is to create "a healthy, nourishing environment where people can learn the art of living in harmony with one another and with the Earth."

Likewise, the MorningSun community in New Hampshire strives "to be a resource for people working to create a better world by sharing practices that can build peace, and develop vital and thriving relationships between individuals, families, organizations and the Earth." MorningSun was co-founded by Fern Dorresteyn and Michael Ciborski, who lived and trained at the Plum Village monastery for nine years.

The four day retreat was busy, with activities beginning at 7 am and ending at 9 pm. We had daily Dharma talks to learn more about the Plum Village tradition and ways to practice mindfulness, being aware and present in the moment. There were multiple opportunities for meditation everyday, including sitting meditation, working meditation, and walking meditation. The bell of mindfulness notified us when the next activity was going to start, but it was also used as a reminder for everyone to stop what they were currently doing, be aware of our breathing, and take the moment to relax and be mindful. From 9 pm until after breakfast the following morning, we had periods of noble silence to cultivate mindfulness, awareness, and to wind down at the end of the day.

One of the enriching aspects of this retreat was that it was an all ages retreat. There was a separate children's program for certain periods, and other times the entire community practiced together. Tasty vegan and vegetarian meals were prepared and shared with the MorningSun community, and we often ate at the picnic tables by Blueberry Pond.

Blueberry Pond
If you are interested in learning more about MorningSun Mindfulness Center and Plum Village, visit their websites. Other mindfulness centers and resources in the Plum Village tradition can be found on the Other Resources page!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

19th Annual Harvard Nutrition and Obesity Symposium: Sugar

The 19th Annual Harvard Nutrition and Obesity Symposium was held on July 11th and 12th. This year’s topic was Sugar: Epidemiologic, Physiologic, and Policy Considerations of the Sugar Epidemic.

The 19th Annual Harvard Nutrition and Obesity Symposium: Sugar
According to research from the National Cancer Institute, Americans consume around 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day, with ~50% of added sugar coming from beverages. Because sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugar in the American diet, many studies have delved into this topic. Increased intake of sugary beverages has been associated with negative health effects, such as weight gain, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, gout, and tooth decay. Higher intake of sugary beverages has also been associated with decreased student academic performance, including the areas of grammar, reading, writing, and math.

To address some of the negative effects of sugar, a number of cities in the U.S. and other countries have added soda/sugar sweetened beverage taxes to discourage their purchase. Some have even taken it a step further, with junk food taxes added in Mexico and Hungary. Meanwhile, Chile is taking an impressive and large-scale approach to confront the obesity epidemic. High sugar beverages have a hefty 18% tax. Warning labels are put on the front of food and beverage packages with added sugars, sodium, saturated fats, or calories that surpass certain thresholds. Restrictions are placed on child marketing. In addition, there is a total advertising ban on all TV and cinema from 6 am – 10 am, with warning messages on TV outside of this time. 

Funds raised from sugar sweetened beverage taxes and similar taxes may be used for public health initiatives, such as supporting nutrition and physical activities in schools. Benefits of these taxes can include decreased consumption of unhealthy foods, decreased rates of overweight and obesity leading to healthcare cost savings, decreased mortality rates, increased number of quality of life years, and increased years of life for individuals.

Conflicting results have been found regarding whether low/zero calorie sweeteners are better or not compared to caloric sweeteners. Dr. Richard Mattes suggested that rather than lumping  sweeteners into a category, each type of sweetener presents a unique metabolic challenge. Taste receptors are located all over the body, and the signaling cascades they initiate vary depending on the sweetener type and where it binds to in the body. Dr. Eran Elinav noted how the human microbiome varies according to the individual, and how consumption of the same food or beverage has different effects on different people.

Overall, the fewer added sweeteners you consume, the better it is for your health. Different guidelines exist for recommended limitations on added sugar intake. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests limiting added sugars to less than 10% of total caloric intake. The American Heart Association recommends an intake of no more than half of one’s daily discretionary calories to come from added sugar. For most women, that's approximately 6 teaspoons per day, or 100 calories from sugar. For men, it's about 9 teaspoons per day, or 150 calories. While it may be difficult to determine the amount of added sugars in your foods and beverages, changes are coming to nutrition facts labels. Added sugars are scheduled to be declared on nutrition facts labels by 2020 for large manufacturers and by 2021 for small companies. Some manufacturers have already begun updating their nutrition facts labels!

The New Nutrition Facts Label

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Wild Harmony Farm

This February Sean Conroy and I took care of Wild Harmony Farm in Exeter, Rhode Island! This polycultural farm features beef cattle, chickens, pigs, a vegetable garden, raspberries, blueberries, an apple orchard, maple trees, and bees.

On our first day, we helped farmer Ben Coerper gather sap from maple trees. The maple sap gets boiled down to remove excess water to produce maple syrup. It takes 40 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of maple syrup!

Going to the maple trees with draft horse Bud
Collecting maple sap
We also fed and watered the animals, including USDA certified organic Berkshire and Berkshire-Cross hogs that rotationally graze in the woods.

Feeding Bessie, Goose, and Brain
Pinky and her piglets

The Red Devon cattle also rotationally graze and are 100% grass fed. They are only given hay during the cold months and have access to fresh grass during the growing season. 


In the winter, the chickens have access to the barn for protection from the cold weather. The chickens are USDA Certified Organic and provide organic eggs. During the growing season the chickens rotationally graze behind the cattle herd on pastures, eating grass and bugs while providing fertilizer and managing pests on the farm.

Organic meat: what does it mean?
The pigs, chicken, and eggs at Wild Harmony Farm are USDA Certified Organic. Organic businesses need to show they are protecting natural resources and biodiversity. To meet organic livestock requirements, animals need to live in an environment that accommodates their normal behavior and health with year-round access to the outdoors. They must be raised on certified organic land and fed 100% certified organic feed. At Wild Harmony Farm, animals are fed organic and non-GMO grains.  Animal health and welfare standards must also be met. Livestock cannot be given antibiotics, added growth hormones, animal byproducts, or other prohibited ingredients. Learn more about USDA organic regulations.

It was a fun week on the farm! Wild Harmony Farm products are available wholesale, through their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and at their farm store. Read more about Wild Harmony Farm and farmers Rachael Slattery and Ben Coerper on their website.    

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Boston!

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) was in Boston this year! This is a national meeting that offers over 100 research and educational lectures, presentations, and culinary demos.

Sessions I attended included "Food Allergies: School Guidelines and Education," "Using Science to Further Define FODMAPs and Simplify Patient Education," and "The Gut-Brain Highway: Can Traffic Be Regulated by Diet?" In The Gut-Brain Highway session, I learned that the microbiota was impacted differently by the amount of almond processing in Taylor et al.'s research. Chopped almonds were found to have the most impact compared to the control, rather than whole almonds, roasted almonds, or almond butter.

FNCE Educational Session
In addition to lectures, over 300 exhibitors participated at FNCE Boston. I discovered many new food and nutrition related products and had samples galore! One tasty find was Biena Chickpea Snacks, roasted chickpeas that are light, delicious, and crunchy.

FNCE Boston Exhibitors
I enjoyed going to FNCE and learning about the latest nutrition research, learning about new food products, and talking with other nutrition students and professionals!

FNCE 2016 Boston

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Probiotics and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

This past April, I presented my research with Dr. Suzanne Neubauer on Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Probiotics at the Massachusetts Dietetic Association's Annual Nutrition Convention and Exposition. This research was a part of the Seminar in Clinical Nutrition course that I took in Framingham State University's Coordinated Program in Dietetics. Below is a summary of my findings.

Presenting Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Probiotics at MDA's ANCE
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional gastrointestinal disorder characterized by abdominal pain or discomfort and abnormal bowel habits, with an estimated global prevalence of 11%. It has unclear causes and is diagnosed based on symptoms rather than structural abnormalities. Probiotic supplementation has been proposed to treat IBS, because the fecal microbiota composition of patients with IBS has been found to be significantly different compared to healthy patients. 

A review of 21 primary studies was performed to examine the efficacy of probiotic treatment on IBS symptoms in subjects over 16 years old. Most of the studies reviewed were double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized controlled trials. While some trials examined multi-strain probiotics, others assessed the influence of individual probiotic strains.

The results suggest abdominal pain, bloating, stool frequency, stool consistency, adequate relief, and quality of life are not adequately addressed with multi-strain probiotics in patients with all types of IBS. Different dosages, compositions of probiotic mixtures, treatment lengths, and subtypes of IBS studied make trials on probiotics hard to compare. The results were also impacted by the placebo effect, which may be a common occurrence in IBS trials, because IBS has unclear etiologies and is diagnosed based on subjective report of symptoms. 

Meanwhile, impacts of single strains of Escherichia, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces, and Lactobacillus were limited and varied according to specific strains. Drawing general conclusions from the studies on single-strain probiotics is not straightforward, as outcomes were strain specific, and some results were only observed in one bacterial strain in one trial.

Due to the inadequate number of studies that demonstrate substantial benefits of probiotics, single- and multi-strain probiotic supplements are not recommended for IBS treatment. However, if patients with IBS are interested, taking up to 8 strains of probiotics and up to 9x10^11 CFU per day has been shown to be safe.

I was surprised to discover there was not enough evidence to support supplementing with probiotics to treat IBS. However, following a low-FODMAP diet may help to manage IBS symptoms. In addition, find out what else probiotics may be good for at the Boston Fermentation Festival this Sunday!

Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Probiotics Research Sources
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