Hail Caesar

The absolute best Caesar salad I ever had was in an Italian restaurant at a resort in Acapulco, Mexico. (Huh?!) My brother is my witness. And just because we were starving and eating a 10:00 PM dinner, does not mean we were slippin’ in judgement. Anyone would have been wowed by the table-side, ingredient-by-ingredient preparation that forever raised the bar on a classic.

AarikaHail Caesar
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Protein Bars

I wanted to make healthy treats to deliver to some of my favorite brand contacts in town, so I found this awesome Five-Ingredient Protein Bars recipe from Chew Out Loud. Amy from COL says… “These 5-ingredient Protein Bars are super easy, packed with good nutrition, and perfect for breakfast or snack on the run. Plus, they are a no-bake recipe! This one’s a keeper.”

AarikaProtein Bars
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Parts Unknown

I’m finally writing this. I hate that tragedy hit first. I dedicate this article to the late Anthony Bourdain, a man who inspired so many to seek and savor…

I joined my husband watching a random TV show on a Saturday morning. Hey, is that Anthony Bourdain? Hey, is that Charleston? What is this?

I didn’t know about the award-winning travelogue Parts Unknown until the explanation came. I knew the host, of course, from other work. I continued to watch and sip my coffee.

The episode was Charleston – instantly appealing, being South Carolina’s pride-n-joy. But soon I became fascinated. I grabbed a notebook from the kitchen to jot some thoughts down. Blog post in my future!

The big spark happened when Bourdain is talking with Glenn Roberts, visionary and founder of Anson Mills, who produce “handmade mill goods from organic heirloom grains.” Here’s my quick recap (as I found out, with even minimal research, that this could be enough material for a book)…

  • Roberts waxes poetically about the West African roots of southern food. Charleston is a pinpoint for this culinary heritage.
  • He states that the meaning of the phrase “soul food” really comes from a belief that food so good can awaken the soul.
  • He talks about the resurgence of nearly extinct varieties of grits, cornmeal, rice and flour, and how chefs in the lowcountry are now abundantly featuring these once-staples that lead to better tasting dishes and responsible, productive farming in the region.
  • He relates to the seed saving that slaves performed, a lost science and art today, but then a fundamental process for crop sustainability.
  • He ruminates about how much has changed in the food world in just the last 20 years – insight, interest and skill.
  • He names South Carolina as a pioneer, where the first nutrition laws in America were written. And he would have been remiss to not note the overwhelming health concerns in S.C. that led to such efforts.
  • He basically describes how processed foods were on the rise in the country but came late to the south. It seems like the era of mill villages and convenience was out of control. People went extremist with canned, packaged and frozen stuff. We took it too far.
  • He explores why southern food is the most “cartoonized.” Fried chicken and mashed potatoes. That anyone can close their eyes and picture some Looney Tunes version of what food represents us.

This was only a short segment of the show, mind you. But see how much I took away?! There’s power in understanding more about how we got here, and truly, how South Carolina is one of the poorest states on the health scale. Somewhere in that history has to be the answers for a better future. Perhaps all the “parts unknown” could help reveal a path.


“When you had your first forkful of proper rice, is there an instinct to go out and bludgeon the rest of the world into understanding what you had just come to understand?”  —  Bourdain questioning Roberts on what it feels like to discover Carolina Gold rice


AarikaParts Unknown
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First Week

Like many people, I took advantage of a lot of opportunities to indulge over the holidays. Nearly every event was centered around food. The wine, beer and cocktails runneth over. My rambunctious brother was visiting and stayed at our house for a week. So yeah.

I think we all “give ourselves a break” during the holidays. Normal lives may be filled with order, boundaries, regime. Especially if your routine changes, like you are off work for a week, you are kind of vacationing from reality. You feel entitled to freedom, freedom from standard “proper” actions and freedom from guilt in your own mind. Like I said, I did it. Celebratorily. Gladly.

For the first week in January though, I came up with some “get back on track” rules for myself. (I know this could sound silly to some, but creating these rules on a weekly or monthly basis have been truly crucial to my personal health and fitness, the key to goal-setting.)

The rules for January 1-7 were simple:

  • No candy
  • No soda
  • No fried foods
  • No alcohol

One could certainly set stricter rules, and in the past I have. But in this case, I only wanted a solid week off from the top four offenders in my diet. These were the specific foods and drinks I noted I was consuming too much of in weeks prior. I had to cleanse!

Tuesday, January 2, I came home from work after a hazardous day. Here was my thought process…

  • Gosh, today was tough, and I’m exhausted.
  • I wish I could treat myself, to feel better, as consolation.
  • I really want two mini Milky Way bars that I got in my stocking.
  • I had a good day by the rules, did not have soda, fried food or alcohol.
  • Maybe that’s what I should do instead – just allow myself one thing from the No list each day.
  • Cool! I will have the candies.
  • Chomp. Chomp.

A minute later, I felt terrible. I had just set these rules for my First Week, and I broke one immediately. I thought, what the heck is wrong with me? I realized I wanted to write a blog post about this experience right then. I wanted to document my own journey and failure. If this happens to a health and fitness expert, then it most definitely happens to those unpracticed and unaware. My problem was talking myself into that candy. I rationalized why I could have it, why I deserved it. This thinking was not in line with my goal. The person who lost here was me.

This is what my clients go through every day when trying to be active and eat healthy. They set goals. They make themselves promises. They welch on the deal. Because behavior change is not instant. It takes having “I want the candy” moments followed by “I ate the candy,” “I know eating the candy does not get me to my goal,” and “I resolve to not do that next time” moments.

We are all learning more, all the time. The better we recognize and analyze our behavior, the more likely we will change it and make positive, healthy lifestyle decisions.

< As written for Doctor for Life >
AarikaFirst Week
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Low-Fat Foods Making You Fatter

What? Fat is not the Devil? Sugar is the leading cause of weight gain? Check out this video from the host of TruTV’s Adam Ruins Everything, as posted by CollegeHumor. Very insightful and entertaining presentation about a huge myth – that eating fat makes you fat. Instead, hear how bad science and the sugar industry worked together to dupe Americans, or at least not tell the whole story for many decades.

< As written for Doctor for Life >
AarikaLow-Fat Foods Making You Fatter
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You gotta love the Real Simple Meals Made Easy cookbook, especially the No-Cook Meals section…

This week, I made my very first panzanella. Panzanella is a Tuscan chopped salad of bread and tomatoes that is popular in the summer. (It’s April, but it’s warm in South Carolina. So, what the heck?)

I made this for lunch (because Joe does not like tomatoes!), and it took hardly any time. I even thought to take picture proof of how pretty it looked – and like the book photo.  🙂

Rating = Simple, indeed. Full of flavor. Go for extra Parm!


1) To enjoy panzanella like an Italian, set aside the prepared dish at room temperature for about an hour before serving to allow bread to absorb tomato juices and vinegar.

2) The recipe on Real Simple’s website DOES call for cooking – drying the bread for 15 minutes in the oven first.


  • 1 loaf day-old wheat or white bread
  • 6 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan, shaved


  1. Tear bread into 1-inch pieces, for about 5 cups total.
  2. Place bread in large bowl with tomatoes, onion, olive and basil.
  3. In separate bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and parsley.
  4. Drizzle vinaigrette over bread mixture and toss.
  5. To serve, plate and top with Parmesan.


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Eating a Pomegranate

I don’t like admitting this… I had never eaten a pomegranate. You know, the buy whole fruit at the store and do it yourself eating. I have had plenty of dishes with dried pomegranate seeds or pomegranate flavoring. Yet, that bulbous thing on it’s own was intimidating.

During this week’s grocery store trip, beautiful ruby red fruits beckoned me. I picked it up and turned it about in my hand. Hmm… What would I tell a client? Try it!

At home, I was no less baffled. I had to find an article by searching “how to eat pomegranate.” So silly. But I’ll be damned if I was going to back down from this new idea and be daunted by this food forever because I was too lazy to Google it. (More info at Healthline.)

It looks good – exotic, enticing. It sounds good – sophisticated, cultured. It is healthy – vitamin C, antioxidants. It is versatile – seeds, juice, storage. Now, I must have a pomegranate!

Instructions for easy eating were as follows:

  • Cut fruit in half
  • Spoon out the tiny red “jewels” into a bowl
  • Eat entire seed

Notes after successfully eating my first pomegranate:

It was messy. Like wear latex gloves and an apron messy. And immediately clean your cutting board or counter, because the red juice stains awfully.

It was work. There are tons of jewels, and they are dappled throughout a thick white inner membrane. It took some time and was like a puzzle.

It was filling. Thankfully, I only needed to do one half the first day. Then, “performed surgery” and ate the other half the next day.

It was delicious. Eating the whole seed took getting used to, definitely different texture. But next thing I know I’m chomping away on nutritious nibblets – instead of chips.



AarikaEating a Pomegranate
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Athletic Cows

Athletic cows. Let that sink in for a minute. I heard the term the other day while watching The Dr. Oz Show. It was an episode devoted to investigating beef in America, particularly looking into the category of grass-fed beef.

Per this exploration, beef produced from conventional industry is managed to meet a huge American demand and to produce maximum profits. Cattle must grow bigger faster in order to satisfy. To do this, cows spend time in feedlots before slaughter to fatten up. They are generally fed corn and grains to add bulk rapidly. A cow’s body is not very tolerant of this diet, so the cows can become ill easily. To combat sickness, the cows are given antibiotics, as prevention and treatment. To further increase mass, the cows are also given growth hormones and performance enhancers. Thus, cows are raised at an accelerated pace and able to be processed sooner, with meat becoming available to consumers sooner.

On the show, a Texas farmer was studied by a reporter and interviewed on-air. Being “disenchanted and disgusted” with many modern day beef industry practices, the farmer reverted his techniques back to those of his grandfather’s day, pre World War II, where cattle roamed in a large open pasture until naturally reaching full size. These cows do live an athletic life. They have lots of space and grass to graze and are tended with care and skill.

This type of straightforward comparison highlights stark differences between two systems. Yet questions may still remain regarding grass-fed beef. The show did a good job of answering my questions at least…

Why does it cost more?
Higher costs come from proper practices. It takes more time for cows to grow at a normal rate. It takes extra manpower to oversee animals. It takes additional land for cattle to be housed on. It requires humane butchering practices by skilled workers. The volume to sell at market is less, so price per item has to be more for a farm to see any financial gains and stay in business.

Are there more health benefits?
Grass-fed beef has a lot of quality nutrients for the human body. When analyzed against standard beef, fat content from grass-fed beef proves to contain more good-for-you omega-3s, vitamin E and carotenoids from plants. In essence, eating grass-fed beef is like eating a cow that has been eating salad (low calorie, nutrient dense food). Whereas eating standard beef is like eating a cow that has been eating tortilla chips.

Is it really worth it?
Taste testers, chefs and scientists agree that grass-fed beef actually tastes better. As explained, the beef tastes more like beef should. When cooking, it doesn’t need as much flavoring to be flavorful. So people would consume less overall added seasoning, butter, etc. in a meal also. Comments were made about the beef texture, that it is more ideal as fully formed muscle, and about the leaner meat leaving you feeling lighter after eating compared to standard beef because of more vitamins and minerals with less fat.

Okay then. Farmers with integrity seeking greater good. Free, active cows. Lean, high nutrient meat. Less chemicals and additives in and on top. Superior taste and texture.

I believe that you are what you eat. Now I’m convinced that you are what your meat eats too. Awareness is the beginning. I’ll leave you with this…

We often treat food like a one-night stand. We don’t want to know anything about where it came from or what happens after we’re done with it.

AarikaAthletic Cows
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Give Us Our Daily Water

“According to most of the literature, a safe general recommendation for daily fluid intake is about 3 liters of fluid (or 12 cups) each day. Since 1 liter (4 cups) comes from our food, this means that 2 liters (8 cups) comes from purposeful fluid intake (in other words, drinking).”

This is Precision Nutrition on Water and Fluid Balance. I read this and guffawed a bit. For me it presents a new way of looking at how much water a person should be drinking daily. Most could recite to you that they should be getting eight glasses of water a day. Here are the issues…

1) I have heard (and recited) that drinking “eight glasses” of water is ideal per day. Key word is glasses. How much is in a glass, you ask? Well, depends on the size of the glass. Could be eight ounces, 12 ounces, 16 ounces, etc. A person may have an eight-, 12- or 16-ounce glass but may not fill it up all the way.

2) We hear the number “eight” all the time. (That is technically meant to be “cups,” although you have all been referenced “glasses” before.) I understand that organizations and companies need to simplify messaging. But with no one ever hearing that the recommended total amount for fluid intake in a day is actually 12 cups (four cups of water being gained from food intake), we think eight is the only goal.

3) Four cups of our daily fluid are supposed to be taken in via food. No one knows this because the focus is always on the number eight. And, I consider that for water to be ascertained, we must also be eating the right foods. I’m sure the average Jane does not get close to four cups per day of fluid from eating canned, frozen, boxed, processed crap.

So… Revelation! The way I educate on hydration has forever changed. I will now be stating solidly 12 cups of fluid as the recommendation per day – four from nutritious food and eight from drinking water. Precise words matter. A whole picture matters. Relativity matters.

AarikaGive Us Our Daily Water
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