Conferences, Symposiums and Janet Podleski's Nutrition Talk

I took a few months off blogging due to a busy summer! However, I am not any less busy, but I want to keep you in the loop about my experiences in my last year of University. Since it is currently my 4th year of Nutritional Sciences at Ottawa U, I feel the need to absorb as much information as I can and network to the limits, probably because I'm realizing that I'll be a registered dietitian by next year! 

I attended two conferences in the past month, one of which I volunteered for - Striking a Balance on September 30 2013 and the other - The Future of Food in Healthcare Conference which I attended with my two closest nutrition friends at the Delta Hotel in Ottawa on October 23rd 2013. There were a few presentations that really stayed with me and made me think that there is such a vast industry when it comes to nutrition and health.

For those of you who watch the Food Network, you may have seen the show, "Eat Shrink and Be Merry" hosted by Registered Holistic Nutritionist Janet Podleski and her sister Greta Podleski. October 17th was Ottawa Health Day and my sister and I attended Janet Podleski's "Looneyspoons Recipe for Success" talk. She gave us a little bit of her biography-  which was quite surprising to me, because when these 2 now successful TV hosts began their first cook book, they had gone through a great amount of struggle and debt! Janet was funny and gave great tips on nutrition and health, the audience loved her. I was really thrilled to meet her and was lucky enough to have her sign my copy of her newest cook book. 

Janet Podleski (left) and Me October 17, 2013

To learn more about Janet and Greta check out their web site http://janetandgreta.com/

I must say, being exposed to a wide range of perspectives makes you reflect. One of the talks that really struck me at the Striking a Balance Symposium was a presentation given by Robert Ross, MSc, PhD of Queen's University entitled: "The Other 23 1/2 Hours in the Day- Beyond Physical Activity. 

Dr. Ross explained to us that the recommended amount of exercise in a day is 30 minutes. He then continued to show us what people do with the other 23 hours 1/2 in a day and it really goes to show you that 30 minutes of physical activity is simply not enough. Think about it, someone who wakes up, drives to work, sits at their office for 8 hours, drives back home, watches tv while eating dinner and then continues to watch more TV until they go to sleep. He showed us the stats on the North American population and you can see how we just don't move enough today. His take home message was that we should be moving more during the day and to make sure that we are being less sedentary. Dr. Ross wanted to make it clear that running on a treadmill for 30 minutes a day does not bring you benefit if you will be sitting for the other 23 hours 1/2 of the day.  

I completely agree with Dr. Ross, he shows that there are great benefits for health if we just simply move more during the day, whether it is using the stairs (FREE GYM), walking to your destination if possible instead of driving or take up any kind of activity that allows you to get up on your feet and avoid being sedentary. 

I would love to hear your questions or comments :) 


Crazy for Salads!

Making time for a great Thyme Beet Tuna Salad was totally worth it because it barely took me any time! Sorry, I'm having too much fun with this play on words... But what I'm getting at, is that you can cook with very few ingredients to make something so healthy and tasty. However, you can't expect to have all these items handy, so I try to keep my fridge stocked with fruits and veggies at all times along with milk, eggs and certain necessary ingredients to make sure I can whip something up quickly.


This creation started off with left overs of cracked wheat that I had made yesterday, along with beets which I boiled a few days ago and stored in my fridge for convenience. Having these types of items prepared in your fridge ahead of time really saves you time when you want to prepare a meal.

By adding cut up beets to my cracked wheat, I figured I needed to integrate some type of protein and decided to add a can of white tuna fish to do the trick. After combining these 3 ingredients, I felt like I needed some more veggies to complete this salad but I only had tomatoes and a red bell pepper left in my fridge. Of course, I was brave enough to just incorporate all of these together and turns out these flavours really compliment eachother. After a few bites, I wasn't 100% satisfied... I grabbed my jar of pickled turnips and threw in a few to give it a pickled taste, along with a touch of olive oil, rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and fresh herbs which consisted of parsley and thyme.

I took a bite and right there I knew these additional ingredients were necessary. I love salty and pickled flavours and this just did it for me. The beautiful bright pink colour of the beets just complete this refreshing extravagant salad. As always, this nutritious creation gives you your serving of grains, vegetables, fibre, protein, omega-3's and satisfaction!



On a rainy day, there's nothing that makes me happier then eating a nice warm chewy chocolate chip cookie, but can you imagine the amount of cookies I would have eaten for every day that rained last week?! I could never allow myself to do this, it's way too dangerous. You can't let days like these ruin your health... I figured why not make something as good, if not, more delicious and nutritious! Of course, my famous mango salad made me quite happy. A mango is an amazing fruit alone, but can be so versatile and be used in so many different dishes- in a smoothie, served as a chutney with chicken or pork, but certainly, my favourite way is integrating one in a salad. A nice ripe mango gives this salad a rich and sweet juicy flavour, pairing well with all the other fresh vegetables including the kale, asparagus, red peppers, tomatoes and white kidney beans. 

1 mango
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper 
1-2 tomatoes
1/4 - 1/2 cup cucumbers
1/4- 1/2 cup asparagus
1 cup of kale
1 can of white kidney beans
Fresh parsley and cilantro
Feta cheese for garnish
Salt & Pepper
Dressing: Lemon juice, olive oil, splash of rice vinegar

Spring and Summer Inspired Cooking!

May was a busy month! I unfortunately put my blog to the side, but definitely not my cooking. Luckily,  I have found the time to share these couple nutritious creations of mine...

BBQ Party! 

My sister C hosted a fairly big BBQ party mid May and my dad was in charge of barbecuing the meat. Our Armenian roots tend to make us buy tons of varied meats, so he bought a few racks of pork ribs, T-bone steaks, chicken drum sticks and even managed to do a home made pig roast in the rain. Barbecuing is definitely my favourite way of cooking meat. I think my dad has mastered this style of cooking, only because he chops the wood himself to make the coals which results in better smoky flavours for the meat.

My dad's set up in the rain

My contribution for the evening was a Hummus Dip with a twist of Beets and a Black Bean Quinoa Corn Salad. For the Beet Humus, I was inspired by another nutrition student blogger from BC, but of course I tweaked it and made it my own. It was a hit at the party, I got lots of compliments and my nephew definitely ate most of it!

Heart healthy BEET HUMMUS DIP
1 can chick peas
 5 medium beets
 2 cloves garlic
 olive oil
splash of white vinegar
salt & pepper
parsley for garnish 

I served home made whole wheat pita chips along with the dip... great combo! 

Even my little nephew of 19 months can't get enough of this dip! 


As we were prepping food for the day, my oldest sister R, mentions this salad she loves from Costco. She briefly mentioned a few ingredients that this salad consisted of and I decided to recreate this famous salad she spoke of. Turns out, it was almost identical! 

Serves: 10 people 
1/2 cup of white quinoa
1/2 - 3/4 cup of red quinoa 
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 can black beans
1 red bell pepper sliced 
1 green bell pepper sliced 
3/4 of parsley chopped finely  
2 green onions
2-3 tomatoes sliced 
3/4 cup cucumbers 
Dressing: olive oil, lemon, white wine vinegar, salt & pepper and fresh thyme (or dried). 

By the way, I never measure my ingredients when I create my dishes. These are approximate measures, so you may not necessarily recreate these to the T, but have fun with your taste buds and learn to explore! I'm here to inspire you :)

In case you have questions feel free to contact me @ tsark029@gmail.com  


Cooking with family!

I love cooking with family. It's easy and we always have a great turn out! My sister and I created an amazing dish together from scratch. It was so tasty, creamy, healthy and filling. My favourite part, it consists of all four food groups:
-Meat: chicken
-Dairy: goat cheese and plain yogurt
-Grains: quinoa
-Vegetables (and fruit!) : red peppers, onions, mushrooms, spinach, figs (fruit) and asparagus. 

Our stuffing: goat cheese and plain yogurt mixed with fresh baby spinach, sage, sautéed onions and mushrooms with figs and roasted red peppers

We then stuffed our chicken breasts

Seasoned the chickens and cook them in the oven for 30 min 

 Et voilà! As an accompaniment, we cooked quinoa in a tomato sauce with sage and saffron served with asparagus. So healthy and so delicious!

Moving to Ottawa when I was 18, away from the parents in Toronto, I had no other choice but to cook for myself! Luckily, I had moved in with my sister (C) and was not completely alone, it was just getting used to taking on more responsibilities and being independent.

Living with C for 3 years really inspired my style of cooking. We would make dinner together almost every night of the week and create a variety of tasty dishes without ever following a recipe. It was always so much fun too, we always laughed and joked around while cooking and I think that's what makes me associate cooking with pleasure. 

My sister loved spicy food at that time and I was still learning to acquire that talent to handle hot and spicy flavours. A few years of living with her and I became the queen of Siracha hot sauce! I now use hot spices and hot peppers to add some kick to my food, but I do have to watch out when cooking for those who aren't accustomed to that taste yet. 

Recently, since my sister had her first baby, I have been going over more often to help out with the cooking. I know her husband and her really appreciate it and I do it because I'm happy to :) 

Stay tuned for some more creations! 


Internship at St. Pat's Home

Six Weeks previous to my internship at the Casino, I had an internship at a long term care home in September 2012 in food services. It was completely a different setting from the Casino of course, especially in terms of food preparation and menu planning which is based on accommodating different diets for the residents of the home. However, we still had fun in the kitchen and I had the opportunity to get creative in this setting as well.

I felt so welcome by all the staff at St. Pat's and they had so much to offer me during my placement. I had a great preceptor who was also one of the best mentors I have ever had. He guided me through my learning experience for the 6 weeks while I was there and he always pushed me to "dig deeper" and I really appreciated this about him. He encouraged me and gave me responsibilities which allowed me to work independently. By the end of my internship, he was proud with the results and gave me such great feedback! I can't forget about the supervisors who were also very helpful and friendly, they all made my 6 weeks internship very enjoyable!

Halloween 2012

For Halloween we made pumpkin cheese cakes with a caramel coating and they turned out delicious! 

I know you're thinking, "well this isn't nutritious!"... I did mention before that a few treats here and there are ok in moderate amounts. And I say, if you make it yourself, at least your controling the added ingredients. It's usually a better option as opposed to buying store-bought cheese cakes for example, usually containing high amounts of trans fats and foreign ingredients such as modified palm oil. 

Lunch and Learn!

During this internship, I was assigned to do a project which consisted of presenting a "Lunch and Learn" on calcium for all staff, residence and guests. With no specific guidelines, I did some research and got my hands on some great sources from Dairy Farmer's of Canada, Dairy Goodness and Dairy Info and Canadian Dairy Information Centre, along with other resources from Osteoporosis Canada and several text books. I covered the benefits, requirements and needs as well as going over the impact that of which a deficiency can cause.

Sneak Peak to a few slides from my presentation

At the end of my presentation, I served samples of snacks which I prepared that morning. They consisted of a yogurt parfait, kale chips and a cauliflower cheddar cheese soup, all representing sources of calcium!

Here is a great recipe I tried one day for a vegetarian staff member. Unfortunately I did not take pictures of this great turnout since I didn't start thinking about blogging until later, but try it out and I guarantee it will be a hit!

Black Bean Quinoa Burgers

1 red onion
1 red bell pepper
3 cloves garlic
12 ounces black beans (1 ½ cups) canned or homemade, drained
½ cup cooked spelt
2 ½ cups cooked quinoa
¼ cup of parsley
½ cup of green onions
1 tsp poultry seasoning or other spice blend
1 tsp paprika
2 tblsp of soy sauce
2 tblsp flour
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste 
Pinch of cayenne pepper and curry powder
All-purpose flour for dusting
Oil, for cooking


In a food processor, add the onion and garlic and pulse until finely chopped. Add the chickpeas and oats and pulse until well mixed. Don’t puree the mixture. Remove the mixture to a large mixing bowl, and stir in the quinoa, parsley, poultry seasoning, smoked paprika, flour and all the other spices. Stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons water, if needed to help the burger mixture stick together, although you don’t want to make the mixture too moist. Add salt and pepper to taste. Thoroughly mix the ingredients, cover the bowl and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Portion the burger mixture with an ice cream scoop, and press into 2 ½ -3 inch patties.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, and lightly coat or spray with olive oil. Place the brown rice flour on a small plate and dust the burgers on all sides with the flour. Add the burgers to the hot skillet. Cook the patties for about 5 minutes, or until nicely browned and crispy. Reduce the heat to medium, if necessary, to continue cooking without burning. Add more olive oil as necessary, to keep the burgers from sticking. Flip the burgers over and cook on other side.
Remove the burgers from the skillet and let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Serve the burgers on a fresh, whole grain bun with all your condiments of choice (lettuce, tomatoes, sautéed onions, mustard, pickles, hot banana peppers, cheese…)

 Thank you St. Pat's for a great experience! 

You can order a "My Plate Mate Guide to Healthy Eating" for FREE at www.naturallyunique.ca
And visit these web sites for more information:


Internship at the Casino! (3rd year nutrition)

I was interning in Food Services at the Casino of Lac Leamy in Gatineau, QC for 6 weeks in November 2012 and had such a great experience working with the executive chef and all the other fantastic chefs on the team. You might be wondering how this type of internship would be related to nutrition, but it was just the perfect culinary experience ever. As I mentioned before, cooking is the first step to a healthy lifestyle, therefore these are the basics and this is where you are exposed to food all day for 12 weeks, it's awesome! I was so close to opting out of nutrition to become a chef... just kidding!

My first week in, the exec chef invites me to participate in the the prep for the Cancer Society Gala of 500 guests. This was something I had never experienced before (and I have been working in the food industry now for 7 years).

There were over 20 chefs in the kitchen and multiple sous chefs. It was amazing how they were all working together to plate and decorate 500 plates to be served all at the same time. It was fascinating to watch and to take part in that process. I felt like there was so much stress and anxiety, but it's a different kind of stress, it's more like a race because you are so limited with time and have to plate everything with such precision, detail and perfection... it was really something else!

 This is could be on that show: The most amazing this I ever ate. It was a type of deep fried melted cheese ball with a drizzle of caramel. You had those sweet and salty flavours that just made a perfect combination. 

 These slushy type of cocktails are called "Granité" and are meant for a palate cleanser in between courses. 


In a nut shell, this is what I did for the next few weeks...

Learning how to make chocolate shavings... with "chocolat praliné" aka caramel chocolate. 

Preping christmas logs or "buche de noël"

christmas logs

This was on my to do list, learn how to make French Macarons (not macaroons, completely different)
They were perfect.

Tasted some fine dining food from the Bacarra (I highly recomend trying this restaurant, it's so amazing!)


For my big final project, I did a theme day for the cafeteria for the 800 staff at the casino. I chose to make it Armenian themed since it represents my culture and is ideal for a nutrition related menu. Armenian food tends to be very healthy, our cooking consists of a huge variety of vegetables, fresh herbs, grilled meats, grains and you will probably find garlic and onion in 99% of the meals. I also installed a nutrition booth for all the staff, giving them useful info, providing them with all the recipes and calories... and answering questions.  

 Baklava was probably the only "unhealthy" item on my menu... but I definitely got great feedback on these!

Armenian style Grilled Veggie Salad.. Also a huge hit!

My nutrition kiosk

 The pomegranate glazed salmon dish with green beans in a tomato sauce on my menu. 
A pomegranate glaze being prepared for the salmon dish!

And last but not least: Bulgur in a tomato sauce (cracked wheat), babaganoush (eggplant dip) and grilled veggie salad. 

Guilty, I love treats!

Even though I study nutrition and I'm all about health, I'm still a normal type of girl and love my sweet treats! Just like I mentioned in my blog's intro, you just can't deprive yourself from anything, it'll make you go crazy... moderation is key. Also, mentally keep track of what you've eaten during the day to not over do it.

A dietitian, whom I've worked for about 3 years now, believes in setting yourself up for success!
I couldn't agree with her more. She says the home should be a safe place where we are not surrounded by those junk foods that haunt us and if you really want that chocolate bar, you should at least make the effort to walk to the corner store. Just don't bring it in the house!

I've been living like this for a while now, and really believe if you want your treat, make it a special moment to indulge in those "bad foods"...

This is how I set my self up for success (inspired by Chef Mike Smith and my 2 older sisters)
These mason jars are a trend that I just love! Not only because they have that granola/hipster look, but mainly because it is an extremely convenient way of cooking and reaching for your healthy snacks like walnuts, cranberries and almonds and every other nut you can think of, I've got it!

I also have a variety of grains, such as Rolled oats and cream of wheat (love my hot breakfast cereals), quinoa, wheat germ (good source of vitamine B6), ground flax seed (source of omega 3 and fiber), chia seeds (omega 3, omega 6, vitamins and minerals)... Just giving you an idea of a variety of good sources of for these vitamins that can help prevent cancers, improve heart health and decrease the risk of diseases.

Here is a new grain that I have added to my collection recently. It's Kamut. I had heard about this grain in class when we were discussing about Coeliac disease, and unfortunately they must cut out all wheat products from their diet. I am only in favour of the Gluten Free diet when it comes to being coeliac, and I thought I should explore different grains out there that do not contain wheat. I can now say that I like this grain and suggest this to my future clients so they can compensate for nutrients that may be lost with their restricted diet.

And I decided to add a little Kamut to a salad which is my mom's famous salad recipe... (My family adores parsley FYI, so you may notice that I use this herb quite often)


Back to my guilty pleasure...

My favourite way of enjoying my treats are mostly by trying a dessert that is worth the calories or even simply walking to Stella Luna with a friend and grabbing the best gelato in town.

By the way, here is something unexplainably delicious that I tried in Montreal last saturday. A true French pastry called Millefeuille (meaning 1000 papers if you translate the word in french) from Olivier Potier's  Bakery. Best part, the vanilla bean infused custard!

 And because I have had this amazing treat last saturday (which probably cost me about 700 calories alone, not mentioning the latte that accompanied this dessert) I try to make sure that the rest of the day/next 3 days are reasonable in what I consume (basically very little sweets and more healthful foods)

Here's an example of what I've prepared today. Those who know me well enough know that I'm always on the go, either working one of my 3 jobs or studying. I just really love eating tasty healthy food and always make time to prepare a good a meal or healthy lunches, especially when I have a late class from 7-10pm at night! Can't let those late classes ruin my dinner.