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Fennel & Arugula Salad with Chicken…Deconstructed

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Fennel and Arugula Salad with Chicken

In my last blog post, Tips for a Hot Bod, I mentioned dining out on salads and using your BBQ to avoid turning on your oven in the heat of sizzling summer. This Fennel & Arugula Salad with Chicken is a perfect example. It was a particular favourite of a recent client, too, so I thought I’d share it with you.

If you don’t have a BBQ or are too hot to use it, simply buy a rotisserie chicken or cooked chicken breast from your grocer. Of course, if you are cooking chicken for another recipe, it’s a no-brainer to make extra so you can serve this salad for a subsequent lunch or dinner. Prefer a meatless meal? You can make this with white beans, chickpeas or tofu instead. If you eat seafood, poached salmon or shrimp work well here too.

Fennel is not the most attractive of vegetables so it often gets overlooked. And it’s Latin name, Foeniculum vulgare, isn’t much of an advertisement. The bulbs we buy are a variety called Florence fennel, which sounds far more pleasing. Read on for why this vegetable is more versatile than vulgar.

This salad makes for easy entertaining as you can prepare everything through Step 1 ahead of time. Then all you need to do just prior to serving is toss in pre-washed arugula and top it with slices of cooked chicken and a sprinkle of chopped pistachios. My client took it to a pot-luck book club event and she said it was a hit. It’s also great for picnics or to whip up while on a cottage vacation.

Speaking of which, I’ll be taking the remainder of the month off for my annual “no-blog Aug” vacation. 😉  I wish you a rollicking good rest of summer and see you in September!

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Secret Ingredient Broccoli Cheddar Frittata

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Secret Ingredient Broccoli Cheddar Frittata

This post is part travelogue because it was my stay last weekend at the picturesque Pangea House (scroll to the end for pictures) that inspired my recipe for Secret Ingredient Broccoli Cheddar Frittata. This riverside heritage inn in Gananoque, Ontario is a real gem and Jody and Geoff, the owners, are wonderful hosts! Your stay includes a hearty, nutritionist-approved breakfast as well. 😉 Ours was as follows:

  • slices of fresh pineapple and watermelon,
  • homemade oat, yogurt and blueberry muffins,
  • berry yogurt smoothies,
  • broccoli & cheddar frittata and mixed greens with house-pickled peppers
  • and hot, buttered toast!

“Cheoff Geoff” loves to chat about food. As he served the frittata, he let us in on the secret ingredient that is a must for a good frittata. Look closely at our breakfast menu and you might be able to guess what it is (hint: he used it a few ways).

Do you give up? It’s yogurt! Specifically Greek yogurt. Now I cook a lot and for some reason it has never occurred to me to put yogurt in my frittatas. But Geoff was so right. It makes the frittata. Join The Nutritional Reset community here to receive the recipe for my Secret Ingredient Broccoli Cheddar Frittata (and upcoming featured recipes). And read on below to find out more.

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Spicy Shrimp Sushi Bowls…Deconstructed

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Spicy Shrimp Sushi Bowls

I love sushi but I don’t have the patience (or skill, frankly) to make it myself. But you can whip up these Spicy Shrimp Sushi Bowls, which have all the scrumptiousness of sushi without the fuss, in no time. Here’s why I chose this recipe…

  • It’s a quick and easy meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Shrimp is super-nutritious (more on this below).
  • Sushi made with brown rice isn’t so easy to come by. But the added sugar and low fiber content of regular white rice sushi can lead to spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.
  • Shrimp was a fave of my mom’s so it seemed appropriate given her birthday was this past week. And while I never did convince my mom to like sushi or raw fish, she would definitely have loved this!


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Stuffed Peppers…Deconstructed

  • Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Stuffed Peppers DeconstructedSpring is in the air!  It’s the perfect time to renew, refresh and be creative. And to spring clean, declutter and simplify.

So in the swing of spring spirit, I want to try something new going forward.  Rather than a themed menu, I thought it would be fun to focus on a single recipe and delve a bit. Call it a recipe deconstructed (in this case Stuffed Peppers…deconstructed).

I might deconstruct the recipe either …

  • literally/physically, as I am doing this month with these Deconstructed Stuffed Peppers or
  • metaphorically, where I dive a little deeper into one or more aspects of the recipe.

For example, I might …

  • focus on the ingredients (their provenance, nutritional value, appropriate substitutions),
  • discuss the cooking method,
  • offer some shortcuts or
  • suggest ways to repurpose the recipe for another meal.

I hope you enjoy my Deconstructed Stuffed Peppers and the new format. As always, any and all feedback is welcome!

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Easy Entertaining Menu

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Easy Entertaining MenuRecently I had a good friend over for dinner to celebrate her birthday. Whenever I have guests for dinner, I plan my menu strategically. The goal is easy entertaining. I avoid dishes that rely too carefully on exact timing.  And I won’t serve anything that requires much in the way of last minute cooking. I’d much rather spend time relaxing and enjoying the company of my friends than fussing in the kitchen.

I was extra strategic when coming up with this menu. Since I haven’t done much entertaining in recent history (thanks, pandemic), I was a little worried I might have lost the knack. So I set this menu up to be pretty foolproof. You can make most of it ahead, so it is low-stress as well. Yet the result is a restaurant-quality feast that looks as if you’ve slaved.

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Gung Ho for Garlic Menu

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Gung Ho for Garlic MenuFebruary is Heart Month in many countries. The goal is to spotlight cardiovascular health and increase awareness of what we can do to reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease. There are many steps we can take but I’d like to suggest one simple and delicious one. Eat more garlic!  

So this month I’ve created a menu that is Gung Ho for Garlic. I chose garlic because it is a brilliant example of how food can directly impact your health. Garlic has numerous evidence-based healthful properties. As well as improving cardiovascular health, garlic can benefit physical and sexual vitality, cognition and resistance to infection. This last one is especially useful at the moment. Garlic also has anti-aging properties, which are always useful!  For Heart Month, however, I’d like to highlight the heart-healthy aspects of garlic.

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Island Dreams Menu

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Island Dreams Menu I may not be able to travel anywhere right now but I can dream about it.  And I have.  Perhaps because of the extreme cold snaps Toronto’s been having, I’ve been dreaming of the tropics.  Or possibly it’s because it feels like forever since I’ve ambled along a sandy beach caressed by warm, salty ocean breezes.

Like dreams, food can also magically transport us to other places.  In this spirit, I have created my Island Dreams Menu.  I invite you to turn up the tunes (reggae? calypso? salsa? soca?) and the heat.  Not just the heat in your home but spicy heat.

I’ve kept the recipes fairly mild as not everyone is a chili-head like I am.  But if you are, now’s the time to shake it up with your favourite hot sauce.  I have several.  My brother added to my collection by giving me this one as a stocking stuffer: the mango and habanero-based  Hotel Oscar Tango Sauce.  Get it?  HOT sauce.  Hotel Oscar Tango spells out HOT in the phonetic alphabet.  As airline pilots use the phonetic alphabet extensively, it seemed ideal for this menu inspired by virtual travel.  Especially as it is locally made here in Toronto by Damien.  As Damien’s website says, “Blandness is cold, cold, treachery.  Step out of the cold forever with Damien.”

I started the menu off with a mocktail for those of you joining me in forgoing alcohol this month.  Even if you didn’t Ring in the New Year with Dry January, it is never too late to take a trip down sobriety lane and enjoy the benefits of taking a break from alcohol.

I hope my Island Dreams Menu takes you to a warm, happy and healthy place!  Sign up here to receive the recipes.

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Festive Feast For Four

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Festive Feast for FourI am a believer in the 80% rule.  As in, eat healthily 80% of the time and you may indulge a bit the other 20%.  Another 80% rule to keep in mind over the holidays is the Japanese principle of hara hachi bu, which roughly translates to eating until you are 80% full.

One indulgent meal is unlikely to have a lasting effect on weight or fat mass.  While you may notice an extra pound or two on the scale the next morning, this is typically due to water retention as a result of a higher than usual intake of carbohydrate and sodium-rich foods.  And it will resolve itself within the next day or so.  Unless, of course, you continue to eat carbohydrate and sodium-rich meals.

Which is what we often do during the holidays.  Sometimes this is due to the “what-the-hell-effect” (i.e., I’ve already blown my healthy eating pattern out of the water so why stop now?).  But often it’s because we have copious quantities of food left over which we feel we must consume as quickly as possible.

One way to avoid this is to send leftovers home with your guests.  Another is to simply make less food in the first place.  The pandemic has meant smaller gatherings for many of us.  So this month I’ve offered up a Festive Feast for Four.  Not only is cooking a turkey breast simpler and faster than a whole bird, it means far fewer leftovers.

I hope you enjoy this flurry of festive foods, flavours and colours!

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Slowvember Slow Food Menu

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Slowvember Slow Food MenuMy last blog post, Go With the Slow, discussed how it is natural to crave not only more food but more calorically dense food as the outside temperature drops. This is because your body requires more energy just to keep its core temperature where it should be. And it wants to prepare itself for winter by adding a little protective, insulating fat. The traditional winter diet for those of us living in Northern climates is rich with starchy root vegetables, proteins and fats for these reasons but also because things like leafy greens simply were not available at this time of year.

I favour local, seasonal eating as much as possible. The food is fresher. After all, it hasn’t had to travel crazy distances to get to our table. I like to support our local farmers and food businesses. I advocate home-cooked food too.

These concepts are all embraced within the Slow Food movement, first created in Italy in 1986 to promote alternatives to fast food. So I designed my Slowvember Slow Food Menu to encourage you to Go With the Slow and embrace these Slow Food concepts.

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Gourds & Goblins Menu

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Gourds & Goblins MenuMy Gourds & Goblins Menu is a Jekyll & Hyde character.

The Jekyll version is served pretty much as described in the recipes. It’s a heaping harvest helping of carbo-comfort foods featuring a gaggle of gourds (namely pumpkin, butternut squash and zucchini).

But with some sleight of hand and the spooky styling suggestions at blog-bottom, you can turn it ins-Hyde-out into a fiendish feast for your ghoul-friends! It’s double, double the fun without too much toil or trouble.

Served either way, my Gourds & Goblins Menu is devilishly good at disguising veggies.

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