Giving Thanks to Those Who Raise and Grow the Foods We Love and Know

The next time you sit down to your lasagna , salad with greens, fruits and cheese, or smoothie with yogurt and fruit – thank the dairy farmers and produce growers. They feed the need, take heed with the care of their animals and are stewards of the soil and seed. And they are all about the “conservation- conversation” embracing technology to maximize milk and crop production while minimizing environmental destruction.

Thank farmers for their hard work, consistent care and compassion to protect their fields and herds and their willingness to collaborate and create craveable foods that put the wealth on our refrigerator and pantry shelf.

I have had the opportunity to tour many fields and dairy farms and am highlighting a visit to the Pacific Coast Producers where tomatoes go from field to can in a very short time span to preserve nutrients, quality and flavor. On a visit with prune growers, I learned how and why the plums go from fresh to dry.

Dairy farmers not only tend to their herds but the land. From recycling, repurposing and anaerobic digesters, dairy farms are increasing efficiency and self-sufficiency. Environmentally sustainable producers of nutritious and delicious foods that we love.

I am sharing these two dishes inspired from farm tours. Reach across the aisles with a caprese salad featuring the creamy goodness of fresh mozzarella, savory canned tomatoes, spicy arugula, juicy watermelon and crunchy garbanzo beans tossed with Balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Using canned and dried produce makes this a dish to enjoy year round. When melon is not in season, swap in canned peaches or pears, or even fresh apples, oranges or grapefruit wedges.


Food is comfort. This tasty combo of noodles, dairy and prunes makes me remember my grandmother, Nana Polly. Sweet, creamy, crunchy deliciousness. Like a fleece blanket for the tummy- cozy on up and enjoy!

½ pound fine egg noodles
2 TBSP melted butter
1 cup plain Greek yogurt, reduced fat
1 cup small curd cottage cheese 2% fat
3 eggs,
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup prune puree*
½ cup 2% milk
½ cup diced prunes

2/3 cup pitted prunes
3 TBSP hot water
Puree in blender or food processor until smooth

½ cup chopped slivered almonds
¼ tsp sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
Mix together in a small bowl and set aside.

Boil 3 cups of fine noodles in 2 quarts boiling water for 3-4 minutes or until done. Drain and set aside. In a blender or food processor, blend the eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, prune puree, melted butter, ¼ cup sugar, vanilla and milk until smooth. Stir in the prune pieces. Stir the noodles into the egg mixture and pour into a buttered 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle on the almond topping. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


Cheering for Cherries

Cherries are a beautiful sight and a sweet bite. They are fabulous right out of the bag, but also unleash culinary creativity and versatility to recipes. Here are a few spins on old favorites to add the flavor to savor. Cherries and dairy to pair and share – #haveaplantwith dairy and a cherry and veggie dish that is just delish.


9 squares of chocolate graham crackers
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoons grated orange rind
18 cherry halves

In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, honey and orange rind and blend until smooth. Spoon approximately 1 TBSP of the ricotta mixture on each graham cracker square and top with 2 cherry halves.

YIELD: 9 S’mores


1 cup baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup sliced yellow cherry tomatoes
16 cherry halves
1/3 cup mini fresh mozzarella balls- bocconcini
1/8 cup Basil leaves
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cherry balsamic vinegar

Put spinach in a bowl and layer on the tomatoes, cherries, bocconcini and basil, and toss with the oil and vinegar

YIELD: 6 servings


1 pound thinly sliced Brussel sprouts
1/2 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
22 cherry halves
18 walnut halves
Salt to taste
Coarsely ground pepper to taste
22 cherry halves

Place Brussel sprouts, onions, cherry halves, and walnuts in a 9 x 13 baking pan. Drizzle on the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.

YIELD: 6 servings

Soothie smoothie

As a sports dietitian, I work with athletes and active individuals. Most do not get enough produce, and this smoothie delivers with 2 servings of fruit and 1 of vegetables as well as protein to help support your supporting structure. The tang of the tart cherry juice gets balanced out by the sweet of the beets and the prunes and the ground flaxseed add fiber and omega-3 to help you #scorewthyourpour

1 scoop whey protein isolate, vanilla
8 ounces tart cherry juice
1/3 cup raw beets, peeled, chopped- dietary nitrates
4 prunes, chopped
1 Tablespoons ground flaxseed

Mix all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

1 serving

Calories: 385
Carbs (grams) 62.8
Fiber (grams): 6.7
Sugars (grams) 41.8
Fat (grams) 4.5
Protein (grams): 34.4
Calcium (milligrams) 141
Potassium (milligrams) 962


Whey protein isolate
Muscle protein synthesis
High in leucine
Helps to support a healthy immune system

Tart cherry juice
Melatonin to help improve sleep

Source of dietary nitrates for cardiovascular health
Improve oxygen delivery to exercising muscles
Blood pressure lowering benefit

Bone health
Gut health

Omega 3
Decreased blood pressure
Decrease prostate cancer risk
Support healthy microbiome

Life is a Bowl of Cherries

For me, the summer is not complete without cherries in the fridge for my family to eat. As a registered dietitian and a Produce for Better Health Fruit and Vegetable Ambassador in Acton, I am a huge fan of finding ways for everyone to increase their produce consumption in any way that they can. #haveaplant. Cherries may be small, but they are mighty,  bringing the delight to each bite. But aside from taste, cherries confer several nutritional benefits to the body. They are a source of fiber, which most of us don’t get enough of, they are a source of carbohydrate, Vitamin C and phytonutrients ( plant nutrients) specifically anthocyanins which give cherries their special hue but are also so good for you. The phytonutrients in cherries s play a role in decreasing the risk of chronic inflammatory diseases such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Certain types of cancer

And cherry consumption can also help to decrease uric acid resulting in alleviating gout flare ups.


I am a sports dietitian who consults with  high schoo, collegiate, professional and Olympic athletes as well as performance artists. I always recommend a food forward approach to help my athletes eat well, stay well and play well and am a big believer in produce in the glass, bowl or plate with #producetoperform  We all know that being physically active is essential to staying healthy, but let’s face it-To train in pain sends fitness down the drain. Foods that play a role in preventing some of the oxidative damage that can result from exercise. This means you may have less post exercise soreness and muscle damage to help your body better repair from the activity you just did and better prepare for your next activity. Feeling less sore is of  benefit to anyone from weekend warriors to professional athletes.

The phytonutrients or in this case (fight-o nutrients) in cherries are a great defense against exercised induced muscle soreness and loss of strength after strenuous exercise. The anthocyanins and quercetin play a role in decreasing the levels of the enzymes that can contribute to inflammation in a similar manner to some of the OTC pain medications!


Getting our ZZZs is critically important to health, cognitive function, energy levels, and recovery and repair. Cherries are one of the few foods that naturally contain melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle and is produced  by the pineal gland in the brain. Studies with cherries have shown an improvement in sleep quality and quantity with regular consumption.

So let’s root for this fruit. 1-2 handfuls a day may close the produce gap, reduce the risk of disease, decrease inflammation so you can train, improve sleep so you can recover, restore and renew for a healthy you!

Leslie Bonci , MPH,RDN,CSSD,LDN is the sports dietitian for the 2020 Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs and also a Produce for Better Health Fruit and Vegetable Ambassador in Action.

Out The Door: Produce On The Plate Helps You Summer Eating Score!

As the temperature rises so does our desire to beat the heat with what we eat. Capitalizing on foods that showcase versatility, allows us to channel our culinary creativity and provide affordability as we celebrate our farmers and growers. This is a great reason to put produce in the bowl or on the plate. I love foods that multitask-across all meal occasions, as well as with different colors, textures and flavors. This is why I am singing the praises of potatoes and calling myself a #spudbud- always discovering new ways to add fruits and vegetables every day. #haveaplant.

Potatoes can be served as an appetizer, entrée or side
Potatoes are versatile- fresh, frozen, canned or dried- russets, reds, purple, yellows, white as well as fingerlings and petite
Potatoes can be enjoyed on their own or added to other dishes
Potatoes can be served hot or cold
Potatoes can be prepared one and enjoyed twice
Potatoes are available, accessible and affordable
Potatoes are great for produce pairing

So how might you use potatoes in your summer eats?

• Potato salad with shredded carrots, chopped cucumbers, celery and red peppers
• Roasted red potatoes added to a leafy green salad
• A potato “bowl” using a baked potato as the base and piling on greens, beans, salsa, guacamole and Greek yogurt
• Leftover fried potatoes can be the base of a frittata enjoyed for breakfast, cut thinly as an appetizer or as a meal with a side salad
• Potato, onion, mushroom and tomato kebabs
• Potato s-mores with thinly sliced potatoes,- grilled, topped with pesto, sliced tomato and Fresh mozzarella or go zesty with kalamata olive spread, grilled zucchini and blue cheese
• Think beyond the meat on the grill, for a taste thrill how about Chipotle BBQ mini potatoes
• Thinly sliced and air-fried, potatoes are a great snack or side and adding salsa or a bean dip gives you a 2 for 2 of produce that it so good for you.
• Mini chilled roasted potatoes with a Greek yogurt/rosemary dip

Bring the nutrition to the plate with a food that tastes great!
Potatoes provide carbohydrate, fiber protein, Vitamin C, and potassium to deliver the health on the shelf. Plus potatoes fit the bill in bringing the eye thrill and gut fill to keep you fueled during the day and keep your hunger at bay.

To make the most of the summer, fruits and veggies deliver on the nutritious and delicious to help you eat well, play well and stay well. #haveaplant

Boost Your Mental Health with the Produce on Your Shelf

Many of us are in survive not necessarily thrive mode right now. Uncertainty, anxiety and worry may be dominating our thoughts as we imagine what our new reality will be moving forward. I am a big believer in controlling what we can. Our chews, our moves, our snooze – what we eat, how we move and our sleep can be very empowering and good for our self care. Produce is more than good food, it can have a positive impact on your mood! #haveaplant

The good news is that the produce on our fridge, freezer or pantry shelf  can help us take care of our physical, emotional and mental health. How can food ignite motivation and activation? Produce can be hands-on- chopping, sauteing, tossing, grilling or opening a can.

Produce is eye candy- a beautiful sight and visual delight-Red, yellow, pink, green, purple, orange, blue and white are a visual delight.

Produce is scentsational! Think about the wonderful smell of garlic in a pan, a sliced orange, the delicate smell of a pear, basil, parsley, the sharpness of an onion, the pungent and enticing aromas of Brussel sprouts, the subtle scent appeal of a banana

Produce provides us texture and flavor to savor: juiciness, crispness, chewiness, spicy, savory,  salty, sour bitter, umami and sweet provide taste sensation that are hard to beat.

When you are feeling unsettled, a good strategy may be to unleash your creativity with intuition in your kitchen.

The sense of accomplishment that can comes from opening a few cans to a more complicated food preparation plan is a step towards a CAN do attitude for you!

Canned black beans, canned corn, canned diced tomatoes and seasonings yield a delicious side dish or dip

Frozen vegetables sautéed with tofu, garlic, ginger and Soy sauce brings the color, texture, and taste in haste

A roasted chopped medley of red onions, yellow peppers, mushrooms, broccoli and carrots drizzled with olive oil, flavored vinegar and spice is quite nice

A salad free for all can help you reach across the aisles in your meal creation: Leafy greens, canned beans, sliced berries, frozen edamame and chopped prunes bring the nutritious and delicious to your bowl.

Put the positive in your glass, bowl or plate with foods that can help you feel great.

  • Berries, lemon and cucumber slices in your water
  • Smoooth moves with any combination of fresh, canned and frozen fruits in your blended lets you master the mix and provides a nutrition fix
  • Getting bowled over with endless combinations and flavor stations in your bowl
  • Adding chopped veggies to your meat balls, beans in your sauce, greens in your eggs, pumpkin in your oats, bring the great to every glass, bowl or plate

Focusing on what we can is a more productive way to get through these trying days .Produce can help reduce the stress and help your health be its best. Produce any way every day. #haveaplant

The See you Later Seder

For many reasons this Passover is quite unusual. The first one without my dad, the first one without family gathered around the table, the first one on Face time instead of embrace time.

Holidays are always a time of festivity, family and fun so this year, trying to feel engaged as an n- of- one was particularly challenging. Luckily, family and friends from near and far gathered virtually to light candles and say a blessing and the open mic on zoom let everyone in the room have a chance to contribute to the conversation.

Passover was my dad’s favorite holiday. He loved grating the horseradish, joking as his eyes watered. He loved leading the reading from the Haggadah. No matter where I would sit at the table, I always landed on the matzoh square story- Matzoh- so simple, plain and flat- the bread of affliction but also the bread of freedom, humility, and hope. A good message for all of us in these troubling times.

Matzoh has also been the topic of  long standing joke in the Joseph-Bonci household- its’ effect  on the digestive tract. #thetiesthatbind. So- a square of matzoh may help to spare toilet paper- #sharetospare

The Seder is truly a meal that takes hours- from the initial blessing to the final songs. There are 4 questions but here is number 5- “Why on all nights do we not take the time to sit, reflect, be grateful and enjoy? “Hard boiled eggs, and celery dipped in salt water, Matzoh balls soup, gefulte fish , horseradish so strong it brings the tears to the eyes. The juxtaposition of the sweet/crunch of apples/nuts/cinnamon and sweet wine in the Charoset mixed with the sharp, pungent eye watering pow of the horseradish is a taste sensation not to be missed. The delicious smells of brisket and/or tsimmes stew of brisket and dried fruit.

And of course, there is always room for dessert: Flourless cakes, almond and/or coconut macaroons , fruit compote and more. Ending the meal with a songfest, enhanced by several glasses of wine to make everyone sound fine. But the sweetest sight was to see everyone gathered around the table rather than staring into a computer screen. But for now,

Stay safe
Stay well
Don’t roam

Next year in my home

Can You Spare Some Time For Self Care?

In the past month all of us have experienced an upheaval in our daily routines. The ability to move around at will, go out to eat, see a movie, attend a sporting event or visit with friends and family has bow come to a standstill. We are staying at home, working via zoom or phone, trying to be creative in our kitchen and limiting our need to roam.

So how can we still survive and thrive during this especially challenging time? Thinking about self-care is not selfish but absolutely essential right now. Not only must we do our part to flatten the curve, we deserve to do the best we can to maintain our health and well-being.

Schedules are irregular, sleeping may be disrupted but some regularity and consistency in self-care can be constructive. Here are some things to consider
Think your drink- consistency with fluid intake
Sit down to savor and chew- you may have the time to enjoy rather than rush through meals
You may not be able to do your regular exercise moves, but if you so choose, you can move in place, in the safety of your living space.

Texture- add crunch to a meal with crispy vegetables, crumbled tortilla chips in a salad, nuts added to yogurt or oatmeal
Temperature- that hot pasta dish for dinner can be a delicious chilled pasta salad for lunch
Taste- consider a flavor station by adding herbs and spices as well as flavored vinegars, mustard, BBQ sauce or salad dressings to bring the pow to the palate

Find your #wealthontheshelf:
What can you pair with what you already have?
Side dish with: Black beans, salsa and  canned corn
Pasta dish with Frozen shrimp, frozen vegetable medley and frozen ravioli
Energy bites with Crushed cereal, peanut butter, oats, honey and raisins
Soup with Manhattan chowder, canned clams and a can of mixed vegetables
Snack of Baked Veggie nuggets tossed with Buffalo seasoning, and a plain Greek yogurt/ranch dressing mix dip
Main dish  of canned chili over a baked potato

Wash your hands frequently
Wipe down surfaces
Don’t share plates, spoon, cups, bowls
Wash fresh fruits and veggies under cold running water before eating
No eating out of the jar or double dips with the chips

This is the time to redefine:
You may want to change the bar- not lowered but realigned
Find something that makes you laugh out loud every day
Reconnect with those that may live far away
If you are feeling overwhelmed or afraid, that is ok
Don’t beat yourself up when you have – “I can’t” days

This is not the time to self- bully or blame, be nice to yourself, it is one of the best ways to take care of your health

Stay Home
Stay Safe
Stay Well

How to Practice Good Self Care in a World of Health Scare

The goal is flatten not fatten the curve. You’re stressed, you’re scared, your body is crying out for comfort. Panic-eating does not have to make you manic. Quality, quantity, consistency are key.. You want to find ways to nourish and nurture without adding more stress because you are eating to excess. If you have more time on your hands, turn this #isolationstaycation into something positive.

1) Lengthen the time of your meals. Take the time to chew.

Sit and savor

2) Even if you are inside more, you still need to think about your pour. Alcohol can stimulate appetite and veggies are not usually the first thing we think about. A glass of wine is just fine, but if you find yourself going through a bottle a day, are there other beverages you can add to the mix? Sparkling water? Herbal tea? Spicy tomato juice without the booze? A glass of milk?

You don’t have to lose all the booze, but because it can affect your appetite, health and sleep you may want to rethink your drink.

3) Make your dine-in feel more like a dine-out. Eat in courses rather than all at once. In a restaurant, the server does not bring you the appetizer, salad, entrée, sides and dessert all at once but spaces them out. Why not try the same thing at home.

4) Activate your kitchen

Expend some calories chopping, stirring, mixing , kneading. Part of the enjoyment of eating is more than the chew and swallow but also the preparation. So being more hands-on ( washed hands of course) rather than hands-off, may help you to eat a more appropriate amount of foo foe you.

5) Appeal to your senses:

Light a scented candle

Listen to some calming music

Knead dough

Pop the color with a napkin, a fruit bowl, a colorful scarf

6) Time to Explore to have your food do more

This is the perfcet time to try new spice combos, new cooking techniques, a new way of preparing an old standby.

The internet can provide a wealth of ideas to help you create, innovate, and activate your inner chef

7) Combine cooking with a workout


While your food is cooking, do some lunges, curls, pushups or crunches.

Explore online recipes but also workouts

8) Quarantine can be the new clean

Scrub not only your hands but counter tops, shelves and cabinets

Strategize and organize: do an inventory of boxes jars, cans and bottles in your kitchen- out with the expired or what needs to be retired and use up the oldest first

9) Lobby for a hobby

Tune to unleash your inner artist to keep your hands busy and let your brain not be in such a tizzy.

Paint, draw, sew, knit, collage, photograph, learn a new language, or skill

Deep clean

10) Put some Smile in your style

For me, this is reruns of funny shows, and reading funny books. Laughing is a good release and helps blow off some steam. This is the time for all emotions to be present, and balance the scare with a little self care.

11) Nurturewithnature

When it just feels too stressful, get up, get out, get moving. Just be smart and stay apart.

12) Out with the self-blaming and food shaming. Right now, we need to do our best to take care of ourselves. Feeling  guilty or ashamed about food escalates the stress and adds to the unrest. What do you need food to do for you? What helps you to relax and chill and why shouldn’t what we eat provide a taste thrill?

Control What You Can with an Eating Plan

As we all try to navigate a new way of working, living and socializing, we still need to take care of ourselves. Trying to put up resistance by keeping your distance means stay at home and don’t roam. So what do we do when we are upset and stressed? When we feel this way, we tend to seek solace, soothe ourselves and look for comfort quite often in the form of food. Yet, comfort food has such a bad connotation- redolent of indulgence, excess and leading to guilt.

So does this mean we have to shun the foods we turn to when we are out of our comfort zone?

A food can provide comfort on many different levels:

The temperature of the food- a steaming bowl of soup or oatmeal or the thrill of the chill of ice cream

The texture of the food: the crispiness of an apple or the crispiness of fried chicken or the creaminess of pudding

The aroma of a food: freshly baked bread or garlic sauteeing in a pan

The flavor of the food: salty, sour, sweet, bitter or umami

The visual appeal of the food: a pan of brownies, a bowl of pasta, a roast with potatoes and carrots

Taking care of ourselves by nurturing and nourishing is the variable we can control in these uncertain times. Chopping can be a stress reliever. Kneading bread can help to dissipate some of that pent up energy. Preparing a soup or stew can give us a sense of accomplishment.

That being said, if you are going to spend time in the kitchen, remember that #quarantineisthenewclean. Wash your hands, wipe surfaces, rinse produce well under running water.

Food can help brighten the mood. Appeal to your senses. Choose foods that allow you sit and savor. This may the time to browse through a recipe book or surf online to try that recipe you’ve been eying for a while.

A self imposed #isolationvacation can also allow you to clear the clutter.  Maybe you have several boxes of opened pasta, or foods that are expired. A thorough cleaning of cabinets and shelves is a way to be productive and constructive.

And if your gym is closed, spending time cleaning and/or cooking is physical activity.

This is certainly an opportunity to take good care of yourself. Make sure you are well hydrated, do eat on a regular basis. Include foods that help to support s healthy immunes system such as adequate protein through lean meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, fish, seafood and also plant based proteins such as soy, beans and veggie burgers and crumbles, and also, and produce in the form of fruits and vegetables, fresh, canned, frozen freeze dried or dried.. Also try to minimize what can be stressful to the body- too much caffeine or alcohol. Do keep moving. Do get your rest.

Right now, let’s emphasize what we can do to maximize and optimize a healthy self. Eating well, hydrating appropriately, keeping fit and finding the time to rest are variables that we can control. Quality, quantity and consistency are key to creating a #healthyselfie.