Thankful for…1st signs of Spring!

springSpring hasn’t quite sprung, but at least we’ve got clues that it’s on its way. I’m so thankful for the songs of the birds, the warmer weather, and the little daffodil shoots that are starting to come up!

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Blankie Love

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love blankets…and so does my crew. When it’s this cold, I’m constantly reminded that you can never have too many blankies, and it’s so super wonderful to curl up with one. The white blanket above is from grad school and is almost an old friend.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmy lovespeace love and kittehsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAkitty protectorI’m very thankful for all the blankets and my team of professional snugglers!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

G is to the left; he’s in most of the pics because he and I usually hang out together, but a few have Hou, too.


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Calories, Weight, and a Whole Lotta Garbage

I was looking back at old drafts of posts that I’ve written over the years but never published, and I found this rant on the 1200 calorie weight loss myth. Since it’s the last day of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week  and the first day of National Nutrition Month, I figured it would be a good time to share it.

Not a week goes by that I don’t see a client who truly believes she/he needs to be following a 1200 calories diet to lose weight or be healthy. It seems to be the #1 nutrition myth.scale

Despite what the intertubes may say, a 1200 cal diet is not considered standard professional weight loss advice. Honest. There is, of course, plenty of bad advice and/or controversy out there, because that sells. There’s also a whole lot of standard nutrition advice that I heartily disagree with, but that’s another post. Take a  look at the recommendations designed for the average person, like MyPlate/USDA calorie levels. Those are actually in the ballpark of pretty reasonable. Take a look at AND (aka Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) who quite reasonably drills that people should not eat under 1200 without doctor’s supervision and advocates levels based on BMR aka your metabolism.  ACSM aka American College of Sports Medicine recommendations are clear that 1200 is the absolute lowest that someone should eat, and that’s instead been twisted into a max or ideal in a perverse fashion. “Don’t eat less than 1200 cal” does NOT mean a 1200 cal diet is the standard or ideal. Just because some petite, sedentary little old lady might be just ducky with that calorie level doesn’t mean that’s standard advice for the masses.

Any nutrition or professional who perpetuates the idea of 800 or 1200 as the standard is poorly informed and irresponsible. Period. No excuses. That goes for the NHLBI site that mentions 1000-1200 calories and cites a report from 1998, too–that was actually the only supposedly reputable site I could find that recommends under 1200 calories. Yes, they should know better. And yes, advisory committees at weight loss companies that perpetuate this idea should know better. That is their job, and many people are brainwashed into going along.

1200 cal=universal weight loss standard advice = complete BS. It’s simply not what science-based recommendations say. We need to be clear about that. It’s like ignoring the cat that pees on your shoe. Don’t pretend it’s normal, it just encourages him to do it again. Trust me on that. I do understand that’s a common misconception, and what the media and many weight loss companies promote, but no, that’s not research consensus, nor is it responsible info. We do a disservice by continuing to perpetuate that 1200 cal for weight loss as the government or research norm. The more we say it, the more it gets established as true. If you see a professional giving such misguided advice, please, enlighten them. Ask those “experts” why they’re not following the mainstream professional guidance out there against low calorie diets.

And most importantly, I think that the whole calorie discussion misses theOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA mark. Completely. Because not only does it miss that we have different metabolisms, it doesn’t even consider quality of food. There are people who do thrive on 1200-ish cal and would find 2500 oppressive, and vice versa. I can say honestly my metabolism is just be slower than average. When I was in undergrad, I worried that there was something wrong with me. My solution at the time? To eat more chocolate and make up the calorie difference. ;) But that’s another story… If I forced myself to eat the # of calories the tables recommend, I would feel really ill. It’s simply too much FOR ME and that is as goofy as eating too little. I’ve seen other  people who are comfortable, happy and healthy and happen to eat somewhere in the ballpark of 1200 cal…or 1800…or 2200…or 2800…or even 3200, or whatever. The problem lies in suggesting XX # of calories universally, because not only doesn’t it exist, but it also completely ignores dietary quality and the many functions that food has in our lives.

Hopefully we can agree–we all have different needs, and a magic number doesn’t exist, and chasing a number is harmful. When we’re still trying to find the right-sized calorie box for people, we’ve missed the human being and their individual needs. It would be truly marvelous to simply drop calories from the discussion and focus on real food, self-care and movement.

Okay…stepping off my soapbox now.

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Random Thankfuls–Thankful Thursday

waterGrateful for the wind whipping the water around, the mallard digging for something under the water who kept wiggling his little duck tush in the air (no pics of him, so sorry!)

I’m grateful for my heating pad, the music, my husband’s snuggles, a delicious local apple before bed…and I’m off to bed, thankful for many blessings big and small.


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Menu Plan Monday: Maple!

cheryl's pralines

What a beautiful weekend! The snow is thawing, and all I want to do is go outside and enjoy the mild weather. Hope it’s lovely where you are, too.banana chocolate tart

Last week was a tasty one, with my new love, Chocolate Banana Tarts, stealing the show. And this week I’m hosting Menu Plan Monday with the theme of maple. If you’re interested in hosting any time soon, do contact Heather of Celiac Family.

I adore maple, and many of my favorite recipes have maple as a sweetener, like my Amazing Chocolates, my Maple Pralines, Nana Skillet Bread, Hazelnut cookies and my Macadamia Maple Butter . My Sweet Potato Pie uses maple sugar, and so does my Chocolate Chestnut Cake, which I totally have to post really soon. I also adore Shirley’s Maple Caramel Chews   and I can’t keep track of how often I’ve made those lately!

Maple is also a low FODMAP sugar, which can help for many tummy troubles, so I’ve been trying to play with maple recipes more often. I’m also excited to see what foods with maple you share!

Sad as it is, I realize that I can’t simply eat maple sweetened desserts all week, so onward to the food!

Kale and beef in chestnut sauce

Tuesday:lettuce bowl

Herbed chicken with roasted rosemary cauliflower


Leftover chicken on greens from my happy new aerogarden!


Home late—freezer rummaging time

Coconut Chickpea Stew

Fun maple recipe: my new maple walnuts. As soon as I get a pretty pic, I’ll post them.

And everyone else?

Lori of Gluten Free Week joins us with Maple Baked Beans to “fill” her maple requirement! (just kidding–no requirement to use our theme ingredient) She rightly points out that real maple syrup is so much more amazing than the fake stuff.

Elisabeth from the Girl who couldn’t eat anything teases with talk of Cauliflower Alfredo that caught my eye right off the bat! She also posts on some mini vegan cheesecakes.  She plans to have breakfast for dinner, which sounds like fun.

Kendra of the peaceful mom joins us with her adorable Apple Sandwiches, and her Italian Chicken is similar to one of our staples, too.


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Banana Chocolate Tarts: Fast and Fresh Dairy Free Time Trials

banana chocolate tartI haven’t hid my lifetime love of the Olympics, and it seems the closest I’m destined to get is the So Delicious Fast and Fresh Dairy Free Time Trials from Go Dairy Free and So Delicious. Works for me! I think these babies belong on the medal stand, because these pudding tarts are light, delicious, super simple, and can be made in less than 5 minutes. They’re dairy-free, vegan, extremely allergen friendly and Paleo friendly, and the ingredients are all nourishing.

I love the chocolate banana combo. My Chocolate Banana Mousse is one of our go-to favorites,Fast-and-Fresh-Dairy-Free-Time-Trials-Recipe-Contest but it requires a Vitamix and a half day of chilling, so that recipe wasn’t up for the time trial challenge. However, I’m pretty sure this will be a new favorite since Mr. Dude loves it as much as I do.

I use frozen bananas because, seriously, who doesn’t have a spare frozen banana with dreams of gold and glory? If you use a frozen banana, the chocolate forms nifty chocolate “flecks” that add a fun texture. If you’ve only got fresh, that does work also but the texture is smooth, which is also yummy.

The banana chocolate pudding can go into prepared mini-tart shells, or purchased graham cracker mini-pie crusts. If you’re enchanted with the cuteness of mini-tart pans but don’t want to make your own crust, buy a pie crust and just press down into a mini-tart pan and pre-bake, or just use a raw nut and date crust. Or, go crust-free and enjoy the pudding in custard cups.banana chocolate

chocolate shavings or chips for garnish

3 prepared mini tarts or mini shells, or 3 custard cups

Puree yogurt, banana, stevia, vanilla in a food processor for 1 minute or until smooth. Melt chocolate in the microwave, which takes 90 seconds, or use a double boiler. Spoon melted chocolate into the food processor and pulse for 60 seconds to incorporate.

Scoop into mini-tart pans or custard cups, and serve immediately. Garnish with chocolate shavings or get creative.


For the batch above, I used a modified crust from this recipe, but any dairy-free crust will do.

Update: I’m sending this over to Gluten-Free Wednesdays, co-hosted by Linda of Gluten-free Homemaker, Shirley of gluten free easily and Lynn of Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures

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Winter Gardening: Thursday Thankful

lettuce yumYay! Isn’t my lettuce too cute for words? Winter isn’t exactly my favorite season. Between the cold, the snow and ice…yeah, I’m so over that. So somewhere along the way I decided I needed to get to see something GREEN and GROWING for a change to make life more wonderful, and so I got an Aerogarden for the holidays.little lettuce

It’s been fun. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect–it seemed like people use the gardens for herbs, but I already have herbs outside. This year herbs are currently surrounded by a snow moat, so perhaps they would have come in handy, too. Ah well. So for my first go, I opted for lettuce.

Above right, we are at 2 weeks  of lettuce growth. Below is the “harvest” at 4 weeks.

lettuce bowlIt’s been kinda exciting to watch it grow. I was away for a week, and as you can see, I got quite a nice treat when I came back–enough for a decent sized salad! And the neat part is that I love lettuce, and I forgot that. I always eat baby greens and mix it with other stuff, and I forgot that I actually enjoy the taste of lettuce, on its own. So it’s been fun to have lettuce “snabrains!cks” along the day.

The aerogrow lives at my Fairfax office because the  felis destructus brigade has a long and illustrious history of plant genocide.

I am tempted to buy one of the bigger gardens for my other office to try for kale…we shall see. They do have kits to MYO mix, and that’s what I’m going to try next, and I’ll see how that goes!

So having something grow has brightened my days and expanded my lunch horizons. Especially since the groundhog cleared me out of veggies last summer, I think my new toy and I are going to be very good friends.

How do you keep life bright through the wintertime? And what are you thankful for this Thursday?

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A Thursday Thankful Assortment Box

choc brazilnutToday’s thankful is a bouquet of mini thankfuls: Thankful for fun recognition from the Washingtonian, thankful for my ability to receive it, thankful for the Olympics and thankful for Brazil nut chocolates!

I was surprised and very appreciative to see…ME! written up in the Washingtonian as one of the area’s best nutritionists. I’m honored and really appreciate it. I do love my job and work very hard, and yet often I focus on where I could be doing more, so it’s kinda nice to get the opportunity to receive positive feedback.

And it’s lovely to be at a point in my life where I can (sometimes) take in good stuff mini washingtoninawithout feeling…well…weird, or overwhelmed, or search like mad for the other Cheryl Harris they must be talking about. That’s often been a struggle for me, and it’s so frequent that I see people, often women, duck and run for cover when compliments come their way. It’s definitely still a process, and it’s nice to see ways I’ve changed and grown.

I am also enjoying the Olympics tremendously. It’s such a wonderful thing to see the artistry and grace, and so beautiful to see people shining at what they do best, and showing their gifts. I absolutely love Jason Brown, men’s figure skater from the U.S. and there have been so many breathtaking performances. It’s strange for me to spend so much time watching videos, but so gratifying to have the pleasure to vicariously see the joy and marvel at what they can do.

Last but not least, I’ve made a variation on my Amazing Chocolates (pic above) to make them even more awesome! I’ve added in chopped Brazil nuts and coarse sea salt. For me, the chocolate/Brazil nut/salt combo is the epitome of excellence. The delicious Ms. Shirley of GFE was kind enough to include them in her mega chocolate roundup.

Oh yeah, I’m also hugely thankful we’ve got power! Fingers crossed that it stays on, and that our trees stay in their upright and locked positions.

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Valentine’s Day Round Up

I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day. For years, I made batches almond cookies with pink frosting, and I haven’t been motivated to do that particular tradition post-gfree yet. However, I’ve more than made up for it in chocolate. Here are a bunch of my favorites for Valentine’s day for someone you love…and hopefully you’ve remembered to include yourself in that “someone you love”, too!

My very favorite new love:haz buttercups

Amazing Chocolates or Hazelnut Buttercups. I’ll be trying them tomorrow with a “caramel” filling. Fingers crossed!





fudge rose


Mint Bittersweet Fudge:

Sounds like a sugar bomb, but it’s actually not, thanks to a few magical ingredients.





tuxedo strawberriers

Tuxedoed Strawberries Fruit in tasty formal ware. What’s not to love?



Chocolate Raspberry Pie Yes, there’s a secret ingredient, but don’t let that scare you. Bloggers at the Washingtonian tried it and gave it a thumbs up!

Hubby’s favorites:


Chocolate Covered Candied Orange Peels A favorite of many of my husbands, and many of our friends.

thanks cakechocolate hearts

E’s Cake (aka chocolate hazelnut torte) I was so lucky that one of my favorite torte recipes just happened to be gluten-free.



Not in a chocolate mood? (first, just checking–are you okay?) lately my favorite sweet fix has been Shirley’s 3 Ingredient Maple Carmel Chews.

What’s your favorite Valentine’s day treat?

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Thankful for a Wake up Call

Today’s “Thankful Thursday” theme is pretty easy. 5 years ago today, I was in an oncology unit at Virginia Hospital Center. I’d been sick, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAreally sick for a few months, and tests seemed to show that I had leukemia. The good news was that I didn’t—I did have neutropenia, which feels supremely and epic-ly bad and can still kill you, but no cancer. Whew.

But it was an experience I’ll remember forever, mainly in a good way.

It was a wake up call, and mostly a rude awakening. I was always somewhere else in my mind, either worrying about what I’d done wrong, or worrying about what I was GOING to do wrong next. Planning for tomorrow as a stepping stone to somewhere when I would finally get it together and life began.

Life was a Mad libs.

I need to do ____because I’m (afraid of/intimidated by/can’t say no to/flattered by/insecure that I’ll never get the opportunity again) ____and sooner or later I’ll learn to (love myself/say no/make better choices/get my head out of my tush) and then life will be good. Once I get____ done, I’ll (take time off/take better care of myself/pay more attention to those I love).

Sound familiar?

I’d start living once I figured it all out, but until then it was just a dress rehearsal.

Except I finally realized that I couldn’t count on figuring out how to do the whole “real life thing” sometime down the road. The shock of realizing I might only have a few weeks was enough to shake me awake. Or at least, more awake.

When I realized that I didn’t know how long I had, life came into sharp focus. All I wanted was to learn how to accept myself fully, and love myself completely. I cared about relationships with the people and fur-balls I love. Everything else fell off my radar.

Initially, I called Mr. Dude. As soon as he answered the phone, he started ranting–apparently, I was so nervous that morning that I left the door ajar, and it blew open. Of course, it was a freezing day, and I was getting an earful on heating bills.

And I told him that I just had a bone marrow biopsy.

*Poof*! Just like that, the heating bill fell into the “your argument is invalid” category.

Having that intense fear shaped my decisions about work and about life. What to include, and what wasn’t worth the effort. I made choices more un-apologetically, and chose to end certain relationships that aren’t healthy. I chose to add in more days off on my calendar. The fear of dying gave me the permission to be more conscious about how I was living.

I don’t mean to give the impression that I left the hospital and began life as an enlightened being and floated away on a cloud of peace and goodness. In fact, I made some colossally bad choices.  Yes, I still get bent out of shape over small and trivial things, but I’m definitely different as a result of it, even 5 years later. In my experience, there’s sohaz buttercupsme kernel of good that can come out of even the most challenging experience, and I’m tremendously thankful that it did help open my eyes to what matters in this life.

It reminds me of this awesome video that inspires the heck out of me.

Oh, and speaking of the things in life that really matter…chocolate post up yesterday!

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