grad school week 3, and a public service announcement

Week 3 of grad school began with Labor Day weekend. Naturally, that meant attending a cookout with my new classmates.

At an event earlier in the week, my friend brought her husband which means the significant-others barrier had been broken so I brought Steve.

Not only is he better at small talk than I am, thus making social occasions much more pleasant, he made this decadent dish right here:


He used homemade bread to make French toast (with local eggs and whole milk) and then topped the slices with tomatoes, green onion, and lots of cheddar. SO good.

My contribution paled in comparison, just desserty things (I made gluten-free stuff and then none of the gluten-free people were there!)


The meal also involved a watermelon-gin drink (in the pitcher), carrot muffins, tomato-basil-mozz skewers…


And lots more unpictured stuff- deviled eggs, guac, the BEST tandoori chicken I’ve ever tasted, made by our classmate whose family is from Goa.

Later that night Steve and I got dinner in Durham, eating outside.


Mount Fuji had a ridiculous selection of rolls, which are BOGO.


We started with a shared seaweed salad (totally faked for the picture; I am not left handed).


And then we split four rolls- shockingly, I, the nutrition student, was not the one who ordered the deep fried one on the left 🙂


Mount Fuii is so reliably yummy.


On Labor Day itself Steve and I got brunch at Elmo’s. It was hot, but the powerful fans made the patio a comfortable place to eat, and it’s great for views and people watching.


Steve got one of his favorites, which he’s dubbed “The Hypocrite”: a veggie burger with bacon and cheese 🙂 Plus REAL good creamy, smoky and subtly spicy macaroni and cheese.


I got a yummy dish they’ve been having as a special for awhile (my sister got it when she was here), the “Cowboy Eggs”. It’s cornbread topped with veggie chili, scrambled eggs, green onion, sour cream, and LOTS of cheese. Plus baked cinnamon apples as my side.


Once the relaxing long weekend was over, I dove back into school. Lots more fascinating chat about pregnancy in my Nutrition Through the Lifespan class. Which brings me to my nutrition/public health service announcement.

LADIES. I am LOOKING AT YOU. Are you in your reproductive years? Then TAKE FOLIC ACID RIGHT THIS MINUTE. Let’s talk about it.

You need adequate dietary folate equivalents (either dietary folate, the best source of which is leafy green vegetables, or synthetic folic acid, which is now in all fortified grain products as well as any women’s or children’s multivitamin) to prevent neural tube defects. Neural tube defects are BAD NEWS. Two you may have heard of are spina bifida and anencephaly (which is awful awful awful)

Now, you may say to yourself, “I’m not pregnant or trying! I don’t have to worry about this yet!” WRONG. The critical period to prevent neural tube defects is before the 9th week of pregnancy. Since 50% (HALF! HALF!) of pregnancies in the US are unplanned, and most women wait til a missed period (or two) until confirming that they are pregnant, they mostly miss that critical period during which they should be focusing on getting enough folic acid. That means, ladies, that you need enough of the good stuff in your system before your babies are twinkles in your eyes, so that when your little teeny bambinos are just multiplying bundles of cells, you can count on the fact that they’re getting that folic acid even if you don’t even know they’re there yet.

Now, what if you said to yourself, “I eat a healthy diet, so I must be getting enough”? Well, that’s where I was before I started taking this class). However, the nutrient is much more easily absorbed as synthetic folic acid than it is as folate.

Definitely eat your leafy green vegetables (a great source of natural folate and a bunch of other things that are good for you).

Also, appreciate a recent public health success: folic acid fortification became mandatory in the US food supply in 1998, for the exact reason that we need our women in their childbearing years to maintain good nutritional status in preparation for pregnancy. That is credited for a huge drop in neural tube defects.

But, don’t count on diet alone to get you enough folic acid- dietary folate (veggies) and dietary folic acid (enriched grains) may only get you part of the way there.

What I’m opting to do is taking a children’s multivitamin. One because apparently I am only motivated to take vitamins when it means eating delicious gummies (because I am four years old, apparently). Two because almost all children’s multivitamins have 400 mcg folic acid (the recommended amount to prevent neural tube defects- though note that any mamas who’ve already had a child with a neural tube defect need to supplement with a LOT more than that- like, milligrams, not micrograms!)

A prenatal vitamin will also get you there (and my sister swears by then and I hear they give you great skin and hair).

Just ladies, whatever you do, just promise me you’ll do something, okay? Even if (like me) you aren’t planning on getting pregnant anytime soon, maybe someday that will change. Knowing you have those stores built up and are putting your little nugget on a good path is pretty great for peace of mind.

End of rant!

Speaking of peace of mind, there was randomly a super classy (healthy) reception for students at the school of public health.

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Some (all?) of it was catered by Vimalas (delicious, community-oriented restaurant nearby) and there was an amazing selection of local, seasonal fruits and veggies and generally great for you stuff.

This was my plate!


Particularly delicious were the grapes (muscadine and scuppernong; they smell super amazing and boozy), the oh so juicy and sweet yellow watermelon, and the (slightly buried under the cheese) homemade chickpea flour and herb crackers. So yummy! I smuggled out a plate for Steve, too, since he was nice enough to pick me up from class.

Now, I woke up the following day with a gross, gross stomach bug. I’m going to muse further on stress and illness (since I finish this post coming off a weekly cold I was scared would turn into bronchitis), but for now I’ll just give ginger a shoutout, and thank it for helping nurse my gut back to health.

Weaver Street Market, thanks for making me this awesome lemon ginger muffin and stocking this awesome light ginger beer.


Hard to fault this ingredient list.


Also, thank you friends, who aid my recuperation- and, absurdly, pay me- by asking me to puppy sit.



Once upon a time, I was ellipticalling while watching HGTV (I don’t own a TV so the gym is my only chance to get my Love It or List It fix), and saw an add for a free Graze box.

I love free things, so I went for it. (This is not a sponsored post).


The above box arrived. Note: neither the box nor the portions are large. I got the first box for free ninety nine so I’m focusing on quality first.

It contained:


Croutons! Croutons you can snack on without shame! The herbiness was a nice touch.

Also this:


I was most excited about these and actually found them the least exciting. Not a sharp enough pepper taste- it reminded me of the bland pre ground pepper.



Was YUMMY! Total dessert, but at least it was portion controlled. The caramel sauce was not too sweet, and the dippers were refreshingly un-artificial tasting with a pleasant, crumbly texture.

And finally this:


… was the sleeper HIT! It reminded me of those awesome junky orange cinnamon rolls that you pull out of the tube and bake. I did not think I would enjoy orange flavored raisins. I was wrong. Those cinnamon honey almonds are crunchy crack.

So that was my thoughts on Box 1.

Now, there was a Box 2. Here’s how it went down.

1. When I got my free box one, they got my credit card info and I was subscribed for a series of boxes that I’d have to cancel if I didn’t want to pay.

2. I saw my first box was in the mail (you can track it online) and promptly went to cancel my second box.

3. They said they’d give me my second box half off ($3something instead of $6something) if I didn’t cancel.

4. I got my second box. Then canceled.

Even though I am a total system gamer they optimistically sent me coupons to give my friends.


And box two contained:


This was good. A little boring (it’s just dried fruit) but I liked the chewy goji berries.


This was not my favorite. The pear tasted weird. I also find raw almonds a bit bland, but that’s a personal preference.


These seemed like the graze guys were phoning it in. This combination didn’t seem innovative so much as not sense making. Though the almonds were good, they paired better with the cinnamony stuff in the previous box.


This was good! Refreshingly spicy for something that’s supposed to have mass appeal. Super low calorie (more on that in a minute) and really more about having something fun to nibble on than getting satiety. But sometimes that’s what you want.

A few general notes:

– The packaging is beautiful. Wasteful, but could be worse (small containers, just peel off lids rather than an additional lid on top).


– I got the “dieter box” (hate that label) because everything was 150 calories or less and as a personal preference I prefer bigger meals and smaller snacks. I was happy with the variety they gave me for the lower calories.

– I think the box is way more expensive than I’d be willing to pay. It’s for the convenience, and since I enjoy grocery shopping and am a broke college student, I can’t really justify paying for the convenience in the future. But if paying for convenience is your jam, this isn’t the worst deal I’ve seen.

gettin’ myself a masters: week 2

I bought something important during Week 2 of grad school. “Two months rent” is one name for it. Another is Macbook Air. Another is… ? Help me name my new toy!


I really really like it! The Mac system is more intuitive than I’d thought, even having been PC-brained for so long.

Week 2 I tried to make lentils happen. In theory this should have been good- red lentils cooked with mint and garlic, with oil and vinegar. Lentil salad. But just… no. I didn’t want it. It was mushy cold slimy lentils. Sad.


These went down much nicer!


I got some luscious bread at Weaver Street Market! My roommate and I finally joined the co-op; we used the debit gift card we got for renewing our lease to get a family membership. With membership includes coupons, including one for the most perrrfect crusty, chewy, tangy, wheaty bread.

Steve and I did kind of a dueling sandwiches thing one night. His involved butter, mayo, artichoke hearts, avocado, sauteed mushrooms, and a spin on hollandaise.


They were lovely.


I opted for smoked salmon and homemade tzaziki (just greek yogurt, tiny chopped seedless cucumber, dill, salt and pepper, and lemon juice).

Wine on the side was always nice (Dena, thanks again for the Kim Crawford!)


Eating outside was wonderful.


Another night we decided it was important to get ice cream. Maple View at dusk, nothing better.


As for the scholastic part of the week, I:

– Learned pregnancy weight gain recommendations. Hint: you’re not eating for two

– Had the COOLEST guest lecturer! Peggy Bentley not only does awesome work in international nutrition, she also used to be the food editor for Food and Wine magazine! SHE TOTALLY KNOWS MADHUR JAFFREY (my girl crush/cookbook crush). We had a great chat about cultural food.

– Learned about Ciclovia: the city of Bogotá, Colombia shuts down major highways on Sunday mornings and the city flocks to it for exercise/social benefits. Public health triumph!

Went hiking on Saturday at beautiful Raven Rock. This shot looked down at the river where we’d been earlier swimming…


Then there were very very large rocks and very very tangled tree roots.

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Then there was a brewery! We went to Carolina Brewery in Pittsboro.

Steve got a veggie burger with fries.


And I astonished myself by wanting a salad.


Here is a view of the interior of the brewery and… Dad?! (Only my sister will find this funny. LOL, Malindi. LOL.)


beautiful Charleston

The last post of Summer Road Trip 2014! It was a good one.

This is a smoothie:


It is a smoothie from this place- the Halla Berry!


It was a cute little hippie smoothie shop:


Co owned by the cute hippie deli where we had lunch (on my friend’s recommendation- Dellz is EXCELLENT! Best rice and beans I’ve ever had, likely because they were slathered in avocado, fruity salsa, and a really flavorful vinaigrette).

Oh, and prior to Dellz, we visited the aquarium. I LIVE for aquariums, so it was obviously an amazing experience.

Loved: a special Madagascar exhibit featuring ring tailed lemurs! They had a big, interactive exhibit featuring areas where they could be hidden from the public (so important for animals like that). We saw them get fed- they loved cantaloupe and hated broccoli, hahaha.

Loved: Seeing wild dolphins swimming around in the bay next to the aquarium

Hated: Seeing baby sharks get EATEN by other sharks and rays in what I thought to be a cute little “shark nesting ground” exhibit! It was GRAPHIC!

Anyway, after the aquarium carnage and the Dellz bliss we split that smoothie and did some quality meandering down the beautiful King Street. We strolled along, swapping our smoothie, ducking into little shops and buying little somethings.

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Then we went to regroup at our house. It is unpictured but worth mentioning- we had an AWESOME Air BnB experience in Charleston. If you’re planning a trip, I highly recommend this spot: Sunrise on the Marsh. We had the whole place to ourselves most of the time (except for the cute, sweet dogs who were so fun to play with) and when the owner was there she was super nice (and, er, she and her friends helped us out with a slightly embarrassing car debacle). And views for days! See the pictures in the posting.

I called at the last minute on the off chance I could get a dinner res at the fancy place a lot of people recommended in Charleston, and while I could, it wasn’t til 9:15. Which was fine, since we’d eaten lunch at like 3.

We started the evening at a bar.


I really don’t like beer, but I got something to keep Steve company and to broaden my horions. The Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan was good for a beer… for a beer… Steve ended up drinking most of it 🙂


Then we went and got dinner here!


After Steve took me for a fancy dinner in Savannah, and then saved my poor vomiting bum on the camping trip, I felt that I owed him a festive occasion.

Because we were touristy looking kids, they put us in the back room. Which was fine, it was also lovely (though dim!)


Their bread was great. Steve inevitably gets more, being a bottomless pit. Then he eats butter with a side of bread.


We also got wine- an Italian white for me and a Malbec (his favorite) for Steve.


We couldn’t resist this appetizer special to share (they kindly split it for us):

The BLT! Homemade sourdough, toasted, topped with a mayonnaise with lots of herbs and capers, then achingly sweet heirloom tomato slices, then arugula tossed in a tangy vinaigrette, then the piece de resistance, LAMB BACON!

One of the best things I Have ever tasted. In my entire life.


There were lots of exciting things on the menu for entrees, but ultimately just because I was so delighted that the menu included it, I ordered the “Fresh, Local & Vegetarian”.


This particular evening, that entailed some of that fabulous Carolina rice, fancy mushrooms (can’t remember the type!) sauteed until they were meaty and chewy, heirloom cherry tomatoes, feta, sauteed spinach, and an exceedingly decadent leek cream sauce.


Plus some random asparagus they gave me on the side and said they forgot (I left it on the side and mostly ignored it, sincce the dish was great as is and really, seasonal?)

Steve got some Carolina barbecue which he also loved. It came with PERFECT greens and PERFECT cornbread.

Then because to me a special meal isn’t complete without dessert, I requested the key lime tart, which I split with Steve. It was delicious, particularly with the raspberry sauce that came on the side (doesn’t it look like ketchup in the picture? It did in person, too!)


Farewell, vacation! Let’s see each other soon!

Indian grocery store shoutout

Do you want a grocery store with delicious produce, high quality and affordable bulk goods, and packaged meal shortcuts with refreshingly natural ingredients? Friends, the Indian grocery store is your jam.


Specifically, Around the World Market in Cary, which enabled this delicious meal.

Love this:


Becaaause look at the ingredient list. There’s no crap in it!


It’s also a very user friendly mix. I adapted it somewhat- used pressed extra firm tofu in lieu of paneer, and used almond milk in lieu of whole. used canned organic crushed tomatoes (it was unclear what kind of canned they suggested you used if not using fresh.)


The mix looked vair beautiful mixed into my oil and tomatoes.


For the complete meal:

– my finished tofu curry, which was less cloying than your typical chicken tikka masala type sauce- flavorful and a little spicy
– a Tasty Bite eggplant curry that was AWESOME! I haven’t liked their saag paneer and lentils because they’re too mushy, but eggplant is supposed to be mushy! This tasted surprisingly fresh.
– white basmati rice (because sometimes life is too short to make brown when white tastes so good)
– Trader Joe’s whole wheat naan, in a nod to whole grains.


To round out the meal, check out my other favorite new discovery!


Seriously, America, you’re failing us on your chai spice mixes. This one has no artificial crap in it AND a mere 90 calories. Yes, semi skimmed milk is a little vague but I can live with 1 gram sat fat. Yes, the sugar is a little high but some of it is lactose and at least I’m getting some calcium. I plan to buy it often 🙂


between the cities

One of the best parts of our Southern road trip of summer 2014 was the interlude between the two cities we visited when we camped at the beach.

One of the most blessed random online occurrences I’ve had (right up there with meeting the best roommate I’ve ever had on Craigslist) was googling “camping near Charleston” and finding this paradise.

I’m almost reluctant to name it, because that fact that I and most everyone I’ve discussed it with had never heard of it clearly means the people who go are keeping it a secret because it’s so great.

Behold, our campsite on Hunting Island State Park.


That image right there was our entire walk to the beach.


That image right there is one of the many feral-but-friendly kitties we encountered on the island (our tent neighbor, observing we were nature lovers, adorably showed us a video he took of a stag eating their corncobs at their campsite and called us over when he saw a raccoon).


We didn’t see these guys, but we saw evidence of their nests (!!!!)


Now, the beach. Let me count the ways I love the beach.


1. Bath warm water
2. Sand soft as baby powder
3. No hotels or development- this island consists of campsites, a nature center, and a lighthouse. That’s it!
4. A huuuuge sandbar that means people can walk around way far out. (Well, brave people. Steve did. I am typically too wimpy to go above my knee’s depth in the ocean. Chalk it up to watching Jaws at too young an age).
5. Waves smaller than that you would find in a lake at low tide, resulting in wonderfully peaceful swimming.
6. Incredibly friendly people! We befriended lots of families.


The beach’s most bewitching aspect escaped my camera (because who wants to haul around electronics while taking a long walk on the beach?)

So there’s a magic section of the beach that’s only accessible during low tide. You walk around a bend and discover a whole new environment. Myriad overturned trees stick their big gnarly roots out of the water and look like sculptures. Dozens of little crabbies have recolonized the trees and scurry around when you walk by them. More tidepools spring up under the still-standing trees, and snowy egrets hop around having their snacks. It was gorgeous!

Then, later that night, Steve and I walked along the water as the moon rose over the ocean. The way the moonlight lit up a section of the beach to such an extent it was almost like daytime, save the odd tint, was really cool and spooky. The dark parts of the beach looked absolutely terrifying and we avoided them 😀

So food. Let’s start with the earlier, successful part of the day. We went to this cute little restaurant looking out on the marsh between St. Helena Island and Hunting Island.


It seems to be a South Carolina trend that you plaster your walls with dollar bills signed and decorated by customers.

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Knowing it was a regional specialty, I requested that we split a bowl of she-crab soup. It was decadent and amazing.


For my entree, I got a grilled fish sandwich- the day’s special, something from nearby, I forget the name. Plus coleslaw (not good, didn’t eat much) and fries. I am such a snob about some foods but inevitably prefer cheap, pre-frozen fries to ones at fancy restaurants.

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Then there was an interlude where I played with a kitten I loved SO MUCH. (Steve took a video of it, hahahahaha). Isn’t it crazy how loud all the cicadas and crickets and buglers are?

I’m super distraught I didn’t take the kitten home with me. He was so cute and playful and while initially very shy inched closer and closer to me and let me pet him for like two whole seconds before sprinting away when a noise startled him.

And then our spooky walk. And then…

My loved ones know that I have this super odd tendency (although I recently learned that this happens to my friend Alex too, and he’s half Greek too, SO MAYBE IT’S SOME SORT OF ETHNIC FLAW hahaha jk) to get ill when I’ve been in the sun too much. It starts with a headache and then transitions to nausea and usually all-out puking. It’s happened to me for as long as I can remember, and it’s really just sort of part of my beach routine- spend the day at the beach, have fun, come back from the sun, feel bad, throw up, have a soda, feel better.

But this was all REALLY REALLY BAD at a campsite, and Steve, being the HERO of my LIFE, singlehandedly packed up our camp site and drove me to a hotel in the middle of the night. I was not in a good state- when you’re shivering in August in South Carolina (and then in a hot shower) it’s worrying.

Fortunately, I recovered pretty quickly the next morning.

Kudos to Beaufort, South Carolina (pronounced Byew-fort, not to be confused with the identically spelled Beaufort, North Carolina, which is pronounced bow-fort). It is pretty there.


Surviving Week 1

I’m going to try to do weekly (ish) recaps of my Masters program experience. One for my own personal memories and two because back when I was on the hunt for a chosen career I really enjoyed reading bloggers’ perspectives on their nutrition programs.

So here we go: I’m a Master’s candidate! I’m also in an accredited coordinated program to take the classes and complete the internships to sit for the exam to be a registered dietitian. That means, God willing, in the next 28 months I’ll obtain 5 new letters to add to the end of my name- MPH/RD!


Some fun facts…

The classes:

– Intro to Biostatistics, in which we observed this awesome graphic:

– Nutrition through the Lifespan (talked about pregnancy week 1- women’s bodies are amazing!)
– Intro to Health Behavior (all about different interventions to improve health behaviors- we’re focusing on tobacco, healthy eating, and exercise)
– Nutritional Counseling, Communication and Culture (we started off by talking about how important it is to consider illiteracy- a shocking 1 in 5 Americans have limited literacy, and it’s not the people you think).
– Food Policy (this is just a seminar I’m taking for fun. No, seriously! This week we had a speaker who worked in state politics in NC. Whoo, fascinating!)

Some of the week’s eats:


Whoa, steel cut oats are magic! I got a package at Trader Joe’s (impulse purchase, story of my life) and made four servings and then ate them ALL week. Topped with a little almond milk, fresh peaches, and slivered almonds. They left me SO FULL AND SATISFIED (TWSS).

My little cousins who were visiting from Taiwan this summer gave me the most cunning little compartmentalized lunch box. I love it! It’s so useful!


It enabled me to make a delicious lunch: separate compartments for arugula, watermelon, goat cheese, and amazing thick reduced balsamic vinegar my roomie brought me back from Asheville. This was such a beautiful and delicious lunch! I felt legit eating it in front of my nutrition classmates 🙂


Steve made most of this dinner on a day I was totally knackered from classes. I was beyond grateful.


A giant, delicious saute of potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, and mushrooms with lots of herbs and cheese.


Plus salads with lettuce, cherry tomato, and Parmesan (I topped mine with Trader Joe’s goddess dressing, mm) and my protein contribution, salmon burgers from Trader Joe’s (I wouldn’t buy them again, but at least they were healthy) topped with Sriracha mayo.


I had some leftover Trader Joe’s whole wheat naan and Indian food (more on that in another post) and also some tomato sauce, cheese, and mushrooms, so I made myself some single serving naan pizzas. It was SO nice and useful to have these around.


Finally, lest you thought I was too healthy and had it too much together, an anecdote: I got home on Thursday (my last day of class for the week, yes lucky me) around 4 and had every intention of joining my classmates at 7:15 to go see a movie. Feeling really tired and a little dazed, I decided to take a little nap around 5. Then… woke up at 8:45 when my innocent boyfriend, rightfully assuming normal people were awake, called me.


I thought about just staying in bed and sleeping til morning (definitely was up for it) but ultimately decided to put a little something in my stomach. Thank you, frozen Morningstar Farms egg and “sausage” biscuit. Then I went back to bed 🙂


So that night of sleep: 5:15ish to 8:45 plus 11 to 10= FOURTEEN AND A HALF HOURS! My cat would be really proud of me.

Finally, I made some granola bars with some odds and ends I had around the kitchen (old trail mix, old flaxseeds, old cereal, etc.) and stuck ‘em in the freezer for an on-the-go snack. They’re just okay. The problem is that now that I’m a co-op member, I can combine seemingly ubiquitous manufacturer’s coupons and sales and get Larabars for 50 cents and they are WAY TOO GOOD.


Now, a fun festive meal- wouldn’t you like your Friday night to look like this?


It’s always nice when your interests line up with those of your significant other. Happily, Steve and I both enjoying doing a fun ambitious cooking project together from time to time. This particular evening, we tackled (ish) this recipe for Arugula and Goat Cheese Ravioli, using egg roll wrappers instead of homemade pasta dough, because frankly that labor is seldom worth it.


Then when we had leftover egg roll wrappers after the filling was used up, we filled them with peaches, ricotta, goat cheese, and a little balsamic. This was a delicious decision.


The pine nuts for the sauce for the arugula ravioli were offensively expensive (even in the bulk bin, even only buying 3 tablespoons or so) but dannnnng that sauce was good. Steve gilded the lily by adding more cheese on top.


For weekend relaxation, we went to the nearby state park with our friend and her reliably adorable puppy for a bit of hiking.


We managed to spend the one hour of the day that it WAS raining in the park hiking. Chalk it up to poor planning and Murphy’s law. The daschund was a really good sport about it, but she did look adorable and pathetic on the car ride back.


Closeup on that adorable face:

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Fortunately she was back in her usual good spirits when we went back to Myra’s house to hang out later that night. I always get my cardio playing with this dog.


There was also lots of nature watching!


We vegged out, drank wine, ate Chinese, and watched Pitch Perfect. Basically a perfect way to wrap up week 1.