Crandall, Crandi and Cranberries – A Thanksgiving Story

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – but it wasn’t always. That’s because yeah, while Thanksgiving is all about family and giving thanks, it’s really all about food. Although my preferences have changed over the years, when I was younger I didn’t like any of the traditional Thanksgiving foods (except for dessert – mmm…warm apple pie!) In my teen years I remember my mom’s Thanksgiving table included the usual turkey (yuck), stuffing (never liked it), and a smattering of unusual side dishes (Israeli salad? Not exactly what the Pilgrims ate). After whining and complaining as my mom was planning the next Thanksgiving she offered to make one side just for me. “Green beans,” I told her. Green beans with what, she asked? “Just green beans. Steamed.” She shrugged, but she made it. And I ate it. That, and pie.

My husband with his coveted cranberries

Years later the Thanksgiving hosting duties were shifted to my older sister, who gave a gourmet twist to Thanksgiving. We didn’t have just turkey, but picked-from-the-farm, homemade-brined, cooked-on-The Big-Green-Egg organic turkey (luckily by then my aversion to turkey was a thing of the past. My brother-in-law’s turkey is soooo gooood!) Sides were multicolored cauliflower, brussels sprouts with pancetta and shallots, homemade stuffing with chestnuts and fresh herbs, cranberry chutney. And that was just what my sister and her husband made. The multi-family and -friend feast was a potluck, and everyone was encouraged to bring their favorite food. My husband’s contribution? Canned cranberries.


Our joke was that we needed to give some balance to the gourmet-ified Thanksgiving, but the truth is canned cranberries – in all its ridged and sliced glory – is a key element of my husband’s Thanksgiving tradition. It starts with the perfect can of Ocean Spray jellied cranberries (store-brand or frou-frou versions need not apply!), carefully opening the lid and letting the gelatinous contents fall out in one audible “thwap” in a perfect can-shaped form, then sliced uniformly into round full moons, and displayed lovingly on a plate.

The best part – when the canned cranberries and the cranberry chutney were served side-by-side on the buffet, guess which went faster? Yup. Don’t mess with tradition.

One year another guest took it upon him or herself to plate the cranberries, deciding to “pretty” it up with some fork-fluffing. The look on my husband’s crestfallen face was priceless. After that, we guarded the can until the timing was perfect to unleash the cran-goodness.

Last year we had some fun with my sister: we dressed up a can of cranberries like a Pilgrim, named him Crandall, and documented his journey from can-to-plate.

All buckled up – safety first, of course!
No time to visit the relatives!
Almost there!

As with most traditions, Thanksgiving has evolved for my immediate family. We now rotate years, going to my sister’s house every other year and my husband’s family in the opposite year. This year was also a change for my sister as she took a year off (after 11 straight years of hosting duties) and flew to the nearest tropical island with her family. Can you blame her?

So this year, in our absence, we sent Crandi. So far, she seems to be having a blast.

All packed up and ready to go, passport in hand
Enjoying some sushi pre-flight
Watching in-flight TV (a cooking show, naturally)
Rum punch upon arrival. Vacation has begun!

It’s Thanksgiving – and it’s all about family, food, and having a bit of fun.

My sister, her family, and Crandi

Happy Thanksgiving! Go ahead…play with your food.

Oatmeal – My Way

On snowy days like today, I just can’t bring myself to make my usual breakfast smoothie. That’s when cozying up to a piping hot bowl of oatmeal is what I crave.

I know oatmeal is a “stick to your ribs” kind of breakfast, but I tend to think of oatmeal also as cleaning out my blood vessels and digestive tract. That’s because oatmeal is a great source of fiber, which keeps you full and regular, and it also keeps your heart healthy by lowering cholesterol. The type of fiber in oatmeal, beta glucan (or β-glucan), acts like a magnet to attract cholesterol in the blood and flush it out of the body. While I missed National Oatmeal Month in January, the fact that February is Heart Month gives me another reason to talk about this favorite breakfast. Plus, the way I make oatmeal is loaded with heart-healthy goodness.

One thing to know about me: I’m an oatmeal snob. You’ll never find me ordering oatmeal at a restaurant or choosing it in a breakfast buffet. Once I perfected cooking oatmeal at home, I just can’t have it any other way. I’m happy to share my recipe with you:

  • First, start with ½ cup of old fashioned oats. These are whole oats that have been rolled, keeping the fiber more or less intact. Quick-cooking oats have been chopped a bit more, but I like the toothiness of whole oats (plus, you know, the fiber).
Whole oats are really inexpensive, but to save even more $ you can buy store brand. Same nutrition and flavor.
  • Add 2/3 cup milk (I use fat-free) and 1/3 cup water. This ratio is important! I’ve found too much milk has a less delicious outcome, and too much water makes the oatmeal bland. Besides, I like the protein and nutrients from the milk, which is why it’s a must-have (and a reason why I *don’t* get oatmeal in restaurants. Most cook the oatmeal in water and then serve milk as an add-on, which makes the oatmeal too runny).
Milk and water
Please excuse the mismatched measuring cups, but each are 1/3 cup.
  • Microwave on high for 2 ½ minutes (actual times may vary. You want it hot, but don’t let it explode).
  • Add frozen, unsweetened fruit and coarsely chopped nuts (I like slightly-salty almonds). Frozen fruit is a must, since fresh this time of year is hard to find. It also brings down the temperature of the oatmeal and helps it congeal a bit. In the summertime when fresh berries are abundant I use those (about 1/2 cup) and add them to the very end. Coarsely-chopped nuts (1/2 ounce) lend some heart-healthy fats, which also keeps me satisfied longer. I like having them coarsely chopped to make the oatmeal a bit more chewy.
Fruit and nuts
Trader Joe’s 50% less salt almonds are the best! And I buy frozen unsweetened berries in bulk at Costco.
  • You may also choose to add some sweetness here (I like 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, but regular sugar, maple syrup or honey would also work) and a hefty sprinkle of ground cinnamon.
  • Microwave on high for 2 minutes more. Stir and let sit at least 1 minute before enjoying. The longer it sits the thicker it becomes.
Finished oatmeal
Not the prettiest picture, but it sure was tasty!

The One Dish That Brings Everyone Together

It’s the holiday season, and while some debate whether turkey or ham is the ideal dinner, there’s one entree that sticks in my mind this season: pizza.

OK, so pizza is basically a year-round food for us. But come holiday season in particular, pizza has special meaning. It’s a meal I cook with my niece and nephew (and now my own kids) before Thanksgiving takes over the kitchen at my sister’s house, and it’s a dish I make every time my in-laws come at Christmastime.

What I love about pizza is that it’s democratic – everyone has a vote and every vote counts. I’ve been known to make a single pizza with 4 different toppings – one in each quadrant to suit people’s preferences. One child will only eat cheese, whereas another likes pepperoni. I like goat cheese which my husband can’t stand, so he gets regular pizza cheese on his. One pizza, four ways – everyone wins!

I also love pizza because it’s a great way to serve up vegetables. When I was living on my own after college, I ate plenty of fruits but couldn’t think of a tasty, easy and cost-effective way to make sure I ate enough vegetables. So I turned to pizza – I took a dough, added sauce then piled on whatever veggies I felt like, such as bell peppers, mushrooms and broccoli. Add some cheese, cook it up and enjoy. Leftovers were delicious for brown-bag lunches (also economical) or another day’s dinner.

I’ve been making homemade pizza now for (gulp) 20+ years. Here are my tips for perfecting your homemade pizzas:

Invest in a Pizza Stone

While a stone is not required, it’s certainly less expensive than purchasing a pizza oven – and gives you many of the same results. Pizza stones give you a crispy crust without overcooking the cheese and toppings. Keep the stone in the oven as it preheats, at least for 60 minutes before putting your pizza on it. I actually keep my stones (I have two) in my oven all the time. And never wash your pizza stone with soap! Just scrape it with a pan scraper once it’s cooled.

Use Raw Dough

Sure you can make your own, but chances are you can also find balls of raw dough in the deli section of your local grocery store. Trader Joe’s has some good ones (though I must say, the whole wheat dough is too dense for me and my family). Or, if you have a favorite neighborhood pizza place, ask if you can buy a ball of fresh dough directly from them.

Let the Dough Come to Room Temperature First

Cold dough is very elastic and will contract when you try to roll it out, meaning you’ll have to keep fighting the dough to stretch it out.

Use Any Sauce You Want … But Not Too Much

Too much sauce can make the dough soggy and drippy. Leave about a ¾-inch space from the edge to make a pizza parlor-style crust.

Sprinkle Toppings Evenly

And, pay more attention to the edges than the center. As the pizza cooks, the toppings will gravitate toward the center. The center also takes the longest to cook.

Oil the Crust

Lightly brush olive oil on the crust before baking. It gives the crust a really tasty crispness.


Here are some of my favorite pizza toppings, using a plain dough and tomato sauce base, and topped with pizza cheese (shredded blend of 4 or 5 cheeses, or just use mozzarella). But feel free to experiment with your own ideas – that’s half the fun!

  • Kale & bacon
  • Clam (canned works great) with red onions and bacon
  • Veggie medley: green peppers, yellow onion, olives and mushrooms
  • Mushroom medley: button, baby bella, shittake, oyster and enoki mushrooms
  • Meatball with green peppers, onions and mushrooms
  • Broccoli, sundried tomatoes and goat cheese (instead of pizza cheese)


What are some of your favorites? Please share in the comments!




‘Sup?? My thoughts on dietary supplements

I was reading an article in my local paper last week about how kids should be eating foods, not pills, to get their vitamins. I don’t disagree with that thinking one bit (I might lose my dietitian’s license if I did!) but I also live in real life and see what my kids eat…and don’t eat. And I’ll tell you what – I give my kids (and myself) multivitamins and supplements every day.

I like to think that as a dietitian and mom with a reasonable ability to get healthy food on the table at most eating occasions, my kids are set up for success. If I do pack a lunch, my child knows it will include a main dish, a fruit, a veggie, a carton of lowfat milk and *maybe* a treat. If she buys school lunch it’s the same option: she must be served a fruit and a veggie, some milk and a main course. The difference is that I see what she eats and what she doesn’t when she brings lunch. I also see firsthand what she eats and doesn’t eat at breakfast and dinner. And let me tell you, it’s not the picture of perfection.

But I don’t push it. Why? Because I believe in the Ellyn Satter approach to feeding children. That is, as parents and children there are divisions of responsibility. I can choose what she eats, but the child will choose whether to eat it. If I push, force, cajole, etc., the result could backfire and instead I could be promoting an unhealthy relationship with food for my child. As much as I’d love my child to eat salmon with brown rice and wilted spinach for dinner (the omega-3s! The fiber! The vitamins!), most likely she’d eat the tomatoes and baby carrots she gets as a salad and maybe one grain of rice just to say she ate it.

Do I depend on supplements to give my child all the nutrients she needs? Not at all. Supplements are meant quite literally to supplement an overall (hopefully still healthy) diet. And yes, I will still serve her the salmon, rice and spinach over and over and over again. And one day she may eat it. Or not. But I know that at least for today, I don’t have to worry about lacking certain nutrients.

Disclosure: As a dietitian who consults with industry, I work with the Global Organization for EPA and DHA omega-3s, but I did not write this post as a result of that relationship nor was I asked to. I wrote this because of what I see in the media and my own take as a dietitian and parent. All views and words, as always, are my very own.

Food Trends from FNCE® 2015

It’s been a week since I came back from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo™ (FNCE®). This year’s event was in Nashville, and it was about four days of nonstop learning, networking, eating (of course) and not enough sleeping. I liken FNCE to a marathon: there is the months-long prep. When you get there you just go, go, go – never giving into exhaustion. When it’s all over, you’re sore and really want a nap. You say, “never again will I put my body through that!” Then before you know it, you’re excitedly planning for the next one!

This year’s FNCE was no exception. It was wonderful to see many dietitian friends, old and new (reportedly there were some 10,000 of us?!?). I spent most of my time in and around the expo hall, which was a treasure trove of food trends. Here’s what stuck most with me:

  • What’s Old Is New: Growing up, grain foods were mainly flour, rice and oats. Now you can find quinoa, freekeh, teff – even sprouted grains.
  • There’s a Yogurt (or two, or three) For You: One day during the expo I realized I probably at the equivalent of three servings of yogurt by mid-afternoon. There were so many yogurt options available, from whole milk to nonfat, Greek-style or Icelandic-style, with or without toppings, even dairy free.
  • Love Those Lentils: Plant-based proteins are all the rage, and right now it is lentils’ day in the sun. Various lentil organizations were exhibiting, but you could also find this pulse as an ingredient in pasta and in snacks.
  • Snacks Reign Supreme – According to data from Mintel, 94 percent of Americans snack at least once each day. The expo floor reflected that with snacks of all kinds, from single-serve chips, dips and bars. My favorites? All KIND bar varieties and this bar from Kashi.
  • What Cereal Decline? While media reports suggest that Americans are eating less and less boxed cereal, there was little hint of its waning popularity when walking the expo floor. Noticeably absent from this year’s event was General Mills, but cereal companies such as Kellogg’s, Kashi, Nature’s Path, Barbara’s Bakery and others were doling out samples.
  • Eat Your Fruits & Vegetables! The latest CDC data show that American adults are awful at reaching their intake goals for fruits and vegetables. Thankfully, there are many options to fill this gap – and fresh may not necessarily be best! Convenience is key, as suggested by the various salad kit vendors. You can also get portion-controlled and portable dried fruit, canned fruits and vegetables, or blend fruits and vegetables into a grab-and-go smoothie. To eat well away from home, a 6-inch sandwich from Subway packs two full servings of vegetables if you choose to “run it through the garden” (that is, choose all the fresh veggies).

With all that sampling, I’m happy to say I’m back on my regular sleeping and eating routine. And now I finally have time to watch the recordings of the education sessions I missed!

Disclosure: I consult with NutriBullet but was not asked to write about them nor include them in this post. I have no other affiliations with any other brands or products mentioned. All viewpoints and words are my own.


Wow…I didn’t mean to take such a hiatus from my blog, but…gosh, where did the past 2 years go?? I can tell you one thing – I didn’t age one bit! Nuh, uh…no way!

Well, I’m glad to be back and to breathe some new life into this blog. I have a few fun features in mind to spice up Sprinkle of Sage, and don’t be surprised if we have a new look and feel coming soon! In the meantime, this is what I’ve been cooking up over the past two years:

  • My little preschooler has become a bona-fide grade-schooler! Her kindergarten year was a learning experience for both of us. She learned how to read and do math, and I learned that school lunch is so much different than what it was when I was a kid. It’s actually really good, and she was buying lunch more than she was bringing (which is a relief to me when my creativity wore thin!)
  • My newborn is now a preschooler! And so far, he is sailing through the so-called “food neophobic” stage (ages 2-5 typically) with little to no signs of the telltale picky eating that comes along with it. He still won’t eat eggs, but most other foods are fair game to this hearty eater.
  • I’m training for a marathon! This will be my fifth, but the first as a fundraiser. The past few years have brought with them many friends and family members – young, old and in between – being diagnosed with or affected by cancer. Somewhere along the way, I felt myself getting angry. A useless emotion, especially when it comes to cancer – so better to put that energy to good use and raise money so that we can find a cure, right?!? That’s why I’ll be running the Marine Corps Marathon on October 26, 2014 with Team AICR – the American Institute for Cancer Research. Every little bit counts, so please consider supporting me:

As for this blog, you can expect more regular posts (no more 2-year gaps!) and a re-emergence of regular features, such as:

  • Digesting the News: as major nutrition-related issues come up in the news – like the proposed new Nutrition Facts label or changes to Dietary Guidelines for Americans – I will provide an overview and key takeaways that you need to know.
  • Sprinkles of Sage: inspirational quotes or articles to lift you up.
  • Dietitian Dine-Around: a feature in which I’ll profile more healthful options at the more popular restaurants.
  • Spotlight On…: I’ll highlight a favorite food or new product that’s come to my attention (I have to like it to review it!).

But first, I’m gearing up to attend the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Atlanta. Keep your eyes open for a post on fun food finds, trends from the expo hall, and hot topics from the sessions.

In the meantime, if you have issues you want to see discussed in this blog, or have products or restaurants to review, please feel free to comment or email me directly. I’m excited to be back!