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Drama-Free Pasta: RD-Approved

I was having a conversation with my dad the other day about carbs and he said, “…well, I know, like, you don’t eat pasta, so I was wondering what carbs are okay,” and I was like, “Wait-I don’t eat pasta? S***, is THAT what people think?”

So, in order to dispel the myth, here is a post about how I eat pasta. This is what works for me in my own life and is by now means prescriptive or one size fits all advice, but I’ve found it keeps the dinnertime drama to a minimum and helps me enjoy pasta in the context of an overall healthy diet—no overthinking or carb-guilt required.

RD approved pastaRule #1: Pasta is not the devil—or the enemy, depending on your belief system. Maybe I’m old-school, but I find the most satisfying, energizing meals involve a protein, plenty of veggies, a bit of fat, and some source of carbohydrate. To me, pasta is just one of the many carbohydrate options out there. To make it more filling, I reach for whole grain varieties whenever available, but if what I really want on a particular night happens not to be whole grain, I listen to that craving. When you stick to whole grains and complex carbs most of the time, there’s a little room for the occasional small serving of white pasta.

Rule #2: Portions count. Most nutrition labels provide the stats for two ounces of pasta—that’s actually equivalent to two 1-ounce USDA servings of pasta. That’s just fine, especially if you’re spreading your carb intake throughout the day and balancing it out with protein, healthy fats, and nonstrachy vegetables, but where most people run into trouble is having a larger portion than those two ounces.

Rule #3: Bulk up your bowl with veggies and protein. A few of my favorites: leafy greens like arugula and kale; roasted broccoli or cauliflower; eggplant; fresh burst tomatoes; shaved sautéed brussels sprouts; caramelized onion; chicken; shrimp; a poached egg…Have fun experimenting!

Rule#4: Go easy on the sauce. No reason to drown your meal in creamy sauce. Start with a tablespoon. Sprinkle cheese sparingly, knowing that you can always add more later if you really want to.

Rule #5: Serve in a smaller bowl. Part of the beauty of pasta is what an abundant meal you can make from humble ingredients. To highlight that, serve in a smaller bowl or dish so the meal fills the plate and provides that visual satisfaction. Another idea: make a small serving of pasta and mix with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles.

Rule #6: No guilt allowed. Demonizing a particular food sets you up for a complicated relationship with that food, making hard to find your own sense of moderation.

What’s your favorite way to eat pasta? 

A few of my favorite pasta (and pasta-related) recipes:


What to Make this Weekend: Pasta

Happy Friday! Hope you’re looking forward to a great weekend. Any cooking projects on the agenda? I’m working at the hospital, so am planning a lot more (defrosted) soup-and-salad-type meals. That said, I’ve been craving pasta lately. It’s definitely one of those cool-weather comfort foods. Did you know it’s National Pasta Month?

I know pasta gets a bad reputation because we tend to think of more indulgent incarnations, but when you choose a whole grain variety and pair it with lots of veggies and some protein, it can be part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Here are a few of my favorite pasta-centric meals:

To keep the pasta party going, here’s a cute but informative infographic:
Pasta is Complex

What’s your favorite pasta? 


What I Ate Wednesday #237: Making Strides

Happy What I Ate Wednesday. I can’t believe we’re already to the mid-way point of the week. I’m afraid that if I start talking at all about how busy/overloaded I am, I’ll burst into “how the eff is all this going to get done” tears, so let’s flashback to Sunday, which I spent with my mom.

The past few years, we’ve participated in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Central Park to honor the memory of my grandmother, who passed away at the age of 61 after a long battle with breast and ovarian cancer. Watching her struggle was a huge part of my deciding to become a dietitian. I always get a little choked up at the starting line, but mostly, I’m just happy to be able to spend it with my mom. We had great weather this year, if a big chilly. Making Strides 2015

Breakfast: My mom was set to come to my apartment at 7:20, so I got up, showered, and ate some leftover pumpkin cranberry oatmeal while doing line edits on a piece until she got there. cran pumpkin oats and line edits

Lunch: We went to The Smith near Lincoln Center. Both of us ordered the lobster avocado salad (with lemon vinaigrette instead of the buttermilk dressing), and we also shared a side of brussels sprouts (pan fried with orange oil) and bacon. I was so hungry, and this totally hit the spot. Lobster salad the smith

Snack: I got crazy-hungry after doing some more writing and cleaning, so midway through the afternoon, I ate some Greek yogurt with coconut flour and cinnamon, topped with PB2 sauce. Of course I forgot to take a picture. That’s how I know I’m really hungry. This is what I usually have on hand. Trader Joe's Greek yogurt

Dinner: I went to a super-relaxing yoga class and came home to a bowl of this slow cooker soup inspired by a chicken and broccoli rabe chili recipe on Half-Baked Harvest. I used a LOT of paprika, which is one of my favorite spices, and this was so good with some shaved parm on top. On the side, the had a whole wheat sandwich thin with more of the miso-tahini pumpkin sauce and roasted eggplant rounds. broccoli chicken chili and toast

Snack: After a few more hours of editing work (I swear I have a life, just not on this particular night), I got hungry again, and the only thing that sounded good was more yogurt. So yeah.

What life events inspired you to take your career path? What was the best thing you ate this past weekend?
To see more WIAW from other bloggers, check out founder Jenn’s blog Peas & Crayons.


Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Lentil Soup

If I had to pick a favorite month, I would choose October. It’s only taken me my entire life to feel comfortable admitting that. Yes, I play favorites, and October is at the top of the list. What do I love about it? The cooler weather, the warmer clothes (and boots!), and of, course, warm drinks and soup.

This soup is great for cold days when you need something bright and nourishing to warm your bones. This is a great vegan option for Meatless Mondays. To up the protein, you can sprinkle on hemp hearts or nutritional yeast, or top with an egg. This is also lovely with sausage mixed in for something a little meatier.

butternut apple lentil soup


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large apple, peeled and cut wedges
  • 2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste
  • 8 cups hot water
  • 2 cups spinach


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss apple and squash in 1 tablespoon olive oil and spread on a roasting sheet. Roast until tender and caramelized around the edges, about 35 – 40 minutes. Shake pan every 10 minutes to prevent sticking.
  2. In a large stock pot, heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Cook until tender.
  3. Add spices and lentils. Toss well to coat.
  4. Meanwhile, dissolve miso paste in water. When mixed well, add water to pot and bring to a boil.
  5. Simmer for twenty minutes or until lentils are tender and cooked through. Add spinach in the last few minutes of cooking to wilt.

What’s your favorite cold-weather food?

Thinking Out Loud: Soup and Other Stuff

Happy Thursday. Hope the week is treating you well. This is the day where I usually post a bunch of randomness so let’s jump in.

Start with the bad news first: General Mills had to recall certain boxes of their gluten-free Cheerios after finding the product contained some gluten. The company is working on the issue, but if you know of anyone with gluten sensitivities, this would be helpful to share.

Now for some better stuff:

#soup weather is here! #lentils w/ roasted butternut squash & #apple is perfect for a fall #MeatlessMonday #whatadietitianeats

A photo posted by Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN (@jesscording) on

Soup is one of my favorite parts of fall. I have a recipe coming your way soon, so stay tuned!

*This chicken chili from How Sweet It Is sounds delicious—and it involves pumpkin beer biscuits. I don’t love beer, but I think I would really dig this. I don’t have the occasion for which to make it (Is that proper grammar?How much do I care?) but I still want to.

*I put pumpkin in a green smoothie the other day and decided I need to do that more often. So good!

*It’s that time of year again where we start playing the “is it a cold or allergies” game? About 4 years ago, I started drinking warm water with lemon every morning, and whether it’s the placebo effect or legit, I really feel like it’s part of what helps keep my immune system strong. Turns out Elle Macpherson does the same. Nice to know I’m in good company.

What’s on your mind today? 
This post has been part of another Running with Spoons Thinking Out Loud link party, where randomness is the name of the game. Thanks to Amanda for hosting.

A Small Collection of Joyous Things

Sunday again. It’s dreary here in New York with a little high-anxiety energy thrown in around the weather, so all the more reason for my weekly gratitude-list post.

*First off: I want to take a second to wish a Happy Birthday weekend to my sister—yesterday was the big day. I was lucky enough to get to see her and the rest of the fam (fur children included) twice over the past week. I was out there again Thursday, and enjoyed a lovely late breakfast with the birthday girl on Friday morning at an adorable local cafe. It was so nice to start the day with girl talk and a non-desk breakfast for a change! empty omelet plate

(clearly, I hated my florentine omelet)

*Part of the reason for my second trip: I had to go to my eye doctor—I’m in the process of transitioning to a new contact lens brand and Rx, and it’s been a bit of a process. Accepting that my eyes have gotten worse this year after a long time of no changes was tough, but I got new lenses, and I can read signs again! I had no idea how much signage I’d been missing out on.

*Disney Princesses Reimagined as Hot Dogs. Yes, this is a thing, and it is wonderful.

(Lucky Peach)

Which Disney Princess did you identify with, growing up? I think Ariel from the Little Mermaid would have to be my vote—always going off exploring, longing to be part of the big world…collecting random objects was totally something I did when I was little too.

*This post from the Kitchn on their instant oatmeal taste test was awesome. As the weather cools down, I’ve been craving hearty grain-based breakfasts, and I could stand to try some new-to-me brands.

*I know it’s barely October, but I couldn’t resist using a discount code to buy some super-cute wintery leggings from White Plum. I got these.

White Plum

*On my work-from-home days (and nights) I’ve been binge-watching 30 Rock, since I never saw the beginning of the series. By binge “watch” I basically mean having it on in the background. That’s about as close as I’ll probably ever get to being able to watch TV. Still. It’s so good! Not-so-guilty pleasure. Tina Fey is my hero. And Liz Lemon might be my spirit animal?

*It probably says something about me that I routinely burn my mouth on coffee and hot soup, but hey. Pros and cons of being a fire sign. Sagittarius with Sagittarius rising = basically f***ed in the patience/heat-sensitivity department.

*Speaking of soup, I’m looking forward to making some soon. I’m thinking red lentil & apple with caramelized onion and kabocha squash, since I still have a gazillion apples to use up…

Have a great Sunday!

What’s on your list of small, good things this week? 


Pumpkin Ravioli Soup

I know it’s not technically fall yet, but when I got home from my trip the other night, all I could think about was making soup. Maybe it’s premature, but I am all into the fall flavors already, and when I saw this pumpkin ravioli in the freezer, I knew what had to happen. Trader Joe's Pumpkin Ravioli

So here, I made you some pumpkin ravioli soup for Meatless Monday. It’s great with grated or shaved parmesan on top, but I also had leftovers with a poached egg for lunch the next day after I made it. My motto in life these days apparently is #putaneggonit pumpkin ravioli soup with egg

It was the bomb, as the kids say. They still say that, right? If not, I am old. Someone fetch grandma her slippers and a little whiskey for this here teacup.

Anyway. Happy Monday!

Ingredients :

  • Olive oil
  • Small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 oz shredded Brussels sprouts
  • 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (or water)
  • 1 cup red lentils, dry
  • 1 package pumpkin ravioli
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Grated or shaved Parmesan cheese


  1. Heat oil in a large stock pot. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add Brussels sprouts. Cook until soft. Add broth and red lentils bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer about 10 minutes.
  3. Bring soup back to a boil and add ravioli. Cook according to directions or package.
  4. To serve, top with grated Parmesan. You could also top with a poached egg.Serves 6

What’s your favorite soup? Are you getting into Fall flavors yet or not quite ready? 

What to Make this Weekend: Peace. And cookies. Or soup.

I never know what to write on September 11th. This year marks the 14th anniversary of the attacks, and once again, I’m at a loss. It just feels wrong to chatter about healthy recipes and the like.

cafe campanille Milan

I just returned from a week in Milan, Italy, where I was visiting the World Expo and spending some time exploring the city, and though I’m happy to be home, some time away can certainly give a sense of perspective. I spend so much time in my hectic New York bubble, and it was quite the eye opener to take a step back and observe myself in a place that is, well, not New York. Suddenly, my quick pace and habitual watch-glancing made me self-conscious, like my obvious, pointless rush might give me away. That said, a lot of people I encountered assumed I was from the UK—until I opened my mouth, of course—which gave me a laugh.

I got home last night after an almost 16-hour trip and was so stressed out by all the stuff on my to-do list, I felt paralyzed. Instead of crawling into bed, I threw some laundry into the machine, bought some groceries, and made soup. Just the act of doing these little human things made me feel calm and settled and capable.

pumpkin ravioli soup

pumpkin ravioli soup

But to backtrack a bit, this rush. Why? In remembering a day when so many people likely rushed to work, only to get there on time to lose their lives, I’m acutely aware of how much time we waste focused on getting to the next thing instead of looking around and appreciating where we are. Last week gave me a chance to catch myself in the act of hurrying up to wait or lamenting a perceived delay and to instead take the opportunity to practice patience and observe my surroundings and myself more fully.

I don’t handle the concept of unfinished business very well. One of the things that makes me angriest is when I see a life cut short—whether that be by accident, illness, murder, suicide. Unfortunately, the nature of my work brings me very close to people who pass away, and this is always one of the hardest parts. It can be so hard to accept.

That afternoon 14 years ago, when my sister and I were both home from school, my mom surprised me by taking out mixing bowls and flour, sugar, eggs, chocolate and butterscotch chips. We were not going to hide in the f***ing basement—we were going to make cookies. And we did, and they were delicious.

I was in high school on September 11, 2001, and one of the things that came out of that day for me was a commitment to living my life in a way that allows me to go to sleep each day feeling like I’ve done my best to make a positive impact, feeling satisfied with or at least understanding of where I am in that moment, if not always happy.

I also learned that when I’m scared, the best way to deal is to do something. Put one foot in front of the other in whatever way makes the most sense.

This September 11th, what I want to focus on is making peace: peace with others, peace with yourself, peace with where you are and what you’re dealing with. I want to focus on taking a chance to look around and take in the moment. It’s the kind of gift only we can give to ourselves but which we let others take from us so easily.

And failing that, make cookies. Or soup.

What to make this weekend

Happy Friday. This week has flown by. I don’t want even to think about the sheer number of words that have come out of my mouth while talking with patients or that I’ve written or typed in the past few days. I’m ready for a little downtime.

red lentil soup with hemp seedsSaturday I’m going to be helping set up for the International Restaurant and Foodservice Show of New York and then indulging in a little karaoke silliness—and hopefully Korean BBQ. Sunday plans include a half-shift at the hospital and hopefully some yoga.  I did a lot of cooking on Thursday so won’t be doing much food prep or recipe-testing over the weekend. I plan to enjoy a lot of soup and toast. Fancy, I know.

For those of you who plan to spend some time in the kitchen, what’s on the agenda? Any fun experiments you’d been meaning to try? Here are a few things that caught my eye this week:

I love the idea of making my own fermented foods at home, but I’m such a scaredy-cat. Some years ago, my then-boyfriend made cashew cheese that spent a week wrapped in a towel in a cabinet, and after I ate some, I laid awake for hours waiting for botulism-related eye twitches to set in. Still, this recipe for homemade sauerkraut (in a mason jar, no less) sounds pretty badass.

A bunch of clicking around led me to this 2010 post for an egg baked into a sweet potato on The Daily Balance. Um, I need this in my life.

Speaking of vegetables, I loved this article on what a serving of vegetables looks like. A good visual makes all the difference.

Maybe it’s my age, but I feel like all of a sudden I know tons of people who are having babies. These lactation cookies from the Fitnessista would be a great gift for a new mom. Since I am a terrible baker, I’ll just keep sending goodies from Mouth or ordering from the registry, but you can try to make them…

What are you up to this weekend? Any recipes you’re planning to try? 

What to make this Weekend

Happy Friday! How’s your week been? What are you looking forward to this weekend? I’m working at the hospital, so food-wise, we’re looking at a lot of pre-made oatmeal, salads, and the like. Pros and cons.

For people with normal lives/work schedules, weekends are a great time for food-prep and trying new recipes. I’m always on the lookout for great ideas for myself and my clients and loved this round-up I saw on The Kitchn this week. Amanda Hesser’s “Fancy Refrigerator Salad” over on Food 52 sounds pretty dope too. Apparently I say, “dope,” now. Year of Changes, what did I tell you?

Red lentil soup with egg Lately, I’m obsessed with red lentils. As I mentioned the other day, they’re one of my mainstays. Sunday night, I made pan-seared scallops with spinach & pancetta over red lentils (similar to this business from summer, 2013). Tuesday, I made a giant pot of red lentil soup (recipe coming Monday) that I enjoyed in various forms throughout the week.

I think, by far, the strangest was Thursday’s breakfast, which was enjoyed post-yoyga and errands: ~ 6oz (all that was left) of soup with some roasted cauliflower and eggplant, served over steamed kale and topped with hummus, Trader Joe’s eggplant dip, and a little goat cheese. Oh, and a poached egg because, well, duh. I feel like there needs to be a cookbook called, “Yes, you can put an egg on that.” Or “If you liked it then you should have put an egg on it.” Or “Poached Eggs: A love story.”

While we’re on the subject of morning meals, it never hurts to keep in mind that Protein + Fat + Carbs = Breakfast that actually gets you from Point A to Point B, even if you end up staying in your sweaty gym clothes until, like, 1 pm. Ah, the glamor of working from home…

It’s probably a good thing I will not have much cooking time this coming weekend, as my freezer is once again running out of room. And because I need to stop listening to Andrew Bird’s “Lazy Projector,” which has become my comfort-soup-making song as of late. I’ve got it bad, like, “listen to it on repeat” bad. Sorry, neighbors. And by that, I mean #sorrynotsorry. Le sigh, as the kids say.

What are you up to this weekend? Any cooking projects or food prep on the agenda? What song(s) can you not stop listening to? 


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