Review: Mina Harissa


Disclosure Agreement: Review of Mina Harissa was due to compensation from the company’s whose products were reviewed. We Dish Nutrition tested each product thoroughly and gives high marks to only the very best. Opinions expressed at We Dish Nutrition are our own. 

By: Nikki Nies

Expanding your palate can be done in many ways, whether that’s aimlessly grabbing new ingredients in the supermarket, hoping to find a hidden find of foods or meticulously assessing what flavors are already incorporated into your daily meals and where expansion would be most appropriate.

Why all this talk about expansion? As someone who always reached for the Tostitos’ mild salsa, I can’t help, but regret what other flavors over the years I’ve passed up because I deemed them as too spicy. However, a couple of years ago, I finally came to my senses, being introduced to the new world of flavors, textures and pizzaz that peppers can do to elevate any dish.

Harissa is a mostly commonly associated with Tunisia, Libya and Algeria, but has recently made a scene in Morocco via the Columbia Exchange.  The versatility of harissa, a Maghrebian hot chili pepper paste makes it a viable candidate to join your regular meals.  Variations of harissa include cumin, red peppers, garlic, coriander, lemon juice, roasted red peppers, serrano peppers, vegetable oil, olive oil, garlic paste, caraway and/or garlic paste. See how the options are endless?

I recently tried the brand Mina Harissa, a red pepper sauce created by Mina herself. Since the age of sixteen when Mina was first introduced to harissa, she has been in love with the fiery red sauce’s endless possibilities.  Mina worked tirelessly to add her own twist and personality to the sauce, finalizing it the recipe with red chili pepper, red bell pepper, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, vinegar and salt.  While the proportions of the ingredients are not known, use of Mina Harissa’s sauces leave you grabbing the jar for seconds.

IMG_8925However, for today, we used the harissa recipe in Bon Appetit’s Pan-Roasted Chicken Harissa with Chickpeas’ recipe.  The harissa was used inside the chicken thighs to provide flavor. The chickpeas absorbed the spiciness of the harissa, that permeated the entire chicken. This recipe was a great initial use of the harissa as it provided a well balanced meal of protein, fiber and was low in fat.

The presentation of the meal highlights the different elements of flavor in the meal. I have to note that the lemon and parsley come directly from my parent’s house-yes, my parents have a few lemon trees!

Mina Harissa has cleverly come up with three kinds of sauces, mild, spicy and spicy green pepper sauce. Blended with green chili pepper, green bell pepper, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, cumin and salt, the green harissa adds an additional element of spice to any dish. These 10 ounce jars can be interchangeably used in the same dishes depending on the spice level wished. Keeping on hand in the kitchen, Mina Harrisa’s sauce can be used to create spreads, dips,drizzled on top of nearly any dish, or in this case, encassed in chicken with chickpeas.

If I had to quantify the level of spiciness on a ten point scale, the mild would be a two or three, reflecting the softer palates  The spicy Mina Harrisa is would be an eight. Use of Mina Harrisa’s products, particularly the spicy harissa is not suggested for those with gastrointestinal issues, sensitivities to chilis or peppers and/or the light hearted.

Many foodies have joined the harissa bandwagon, with tons of recipes catering to these unique flavors. I can wait to finish my jars of Mina Harrisa with the recipes I’ve already gathered to try, including Harissa Spiced Sweet Potatoes, Jalepeno Boats and Spicy Green Haddock. How do you plan to add Mina Harrisa’s products to your daily menu? I know you won’t regret adding this extra punch of flavor to your dishes.

Check out Mina Harissa’s Facebook | Twitter | Instagram Contact | Site 

Photo Credit: Mina Harissa 


Review: Visual Veggies

log12Disclosure Agreement: Review of VV software was due to compensation from the company’s whose products were reviewed. We Dish Nutrition tested each product thoroughly and gives high marks to only the very best. Opinions expressed at We Dish Nutrition are our own. 

Visual Veggies Software created by Ryan Hartz MS, RD, CSSD

Review by: Nikki Nies

Use: Practice exam questions and tests to help study for the licensure exam to become a Registered Dietitian

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Are you familiar with Visual Veggies (VV) software? There is a large following and use of the Visual Veggies software, with universities around the country either using the software in the application and/or recommending it to students.

test-correctThe VV Registered Dietitian (RD) Practice Exam allows one to study for the RD exam at own pace, using multiple choice quiz application that resembles the RD Exam format. The software provides immediate feedback of selected answer and detailed explanations.

The founder, Ryan Hartz, is a graduate of Marywood University in Scranton, PA. covering for several temporary maternity leaves, as of 2006, he is a full-time Registered Dietitian with Nestle Nutrition. The software idea came to fruition after the summer months following his internship, with a demo launched three short months of writing the program. As Ryan proudly states, he has been “Helping Nutrition Students Pass Their Registration Exams Since 2005!”

Since the development of the RD Practice Exam, Ryan has developed the DTR Practice Exam and RD/DTR Hanging with Nutrition. However, the main focus of today’s review is on the RD Practice Exam. After extensive use of the RD Practice Exam this past week, I’ve been impressed by the array of features and thought out layout of the programming software.


  • Enclosed step-by-step YouTube tutorial provided when the software is initially downloaded!
  • Breakdown of strengths/weaknesses of RD exam via Progress Trackerprogress-strength
  • Provides an extensive, thorough explanation for why the answer is correct. It includes a picture, % of correct
  • Ability to adjust text size
  • Illustrations to expand on some questions and ability to enlarge picture view
  • Ability to enable or disable timer
  • Provides explanation of all multiple choice options
  • Clever way of encouraging one to retake tests—“Redeem yourself”
  • Practice Exam Monitoring Tool: allows instructors and/or students to monitor progress of software use; pretest scores, average scores overall; individual test results and overview snapshot of how well student is doing in each domain is provided


  • Option to purchase Student and/or Academic Edition of the software. The Student Editions are intended for individual students, while the academic edition is designed for colleges, universities or other academic institutions that would like to install the software for multiple users
  • Option to pay for software via check or credit card
  • Ability to share results with others
  • Mac and PC compatible, and soon for iOS devices

The VV software has evolved into a great medium to study for the RD exam. There is still room for improvement in future versions of the software. For example, it would be helpful if one could “save” explanations to add to library for further studies, such as bookmarking and/or copying and pasting explanations into a Word document. It would also be beneficial to be able to disable or enable the feature of sharing the answer while taking the practice exams. In addition, it can be hard to scroll through the entire “explanation” of the correct answer, with the program not instantly “registering” that scrolling down to the bottom portion of the explanation is requested.

There are always opportunities for improvement and enhancement of a product, with VV launching timely updates of its software and Ryan is receptive to constructive criticism. In fact, due to student demand, VV is underway to go mobile! The goal is for the RD and DTR Practice Exam mobile versions available on iOS App Store by end of the first quarter of 2015. The Hanging with Nutrition mobile version will be launched shortly after.

Want to contact the founder? You can reach Ryan Hartz at 570-814-6665 or

Visual Veggies Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

If you find you can’t get enough of VV’s software, check out its supplemental software, RD Hanging with Nutrition, which is an additional interactive study tool hangman style.

Interested in getting your own version of the VV software? Buy the software by December 31st, 2015 and receive $20 off the software when you use the code: WEDISHNUTRITION

Photo Credit: Visual Veggies

Adopt Private Mind Tricks

portion-chartBy: Nikki Nies

While the words portion control, calorie counting and “mindfulness” are regularly thrown around as necessarily components of weight loss.  Unfortunately, there’s often times a discrepancy in the information provided to the public and what information the public retains and understands when temptation confronts them. In addition, when environmental bias cues bias one’s feeling of satiation, the task can become even more challenging.

Rule of thumb strategies, technically known as “heuristics,” create for ourselves — such as not spending more than $15 on an item of baby clothing, or more than $50 on a pair of shoes — can help simplify the daily choices we make. Behavioral economists believe that adopting good heuristics can help one develop sound habits.  In terms of nutrition, these habits can be healthier.

For instance, most people know that eating an apple is better than eating a slice of cake and that eating a slice of cake is better than eating two slices of cake.  With many restaurants, movie theatres and grocery stores now providing nutrition fact labels to consumers, it does not appear that consumers need more nutrition information, but perhaps, better heuristics to help develop bias towards eating less unhealthy foods.

Such rules could offset irrational tendencies, as found by studies led by Brian Wansink.  In a pilot study consisting of 1000 participants from a weight loss website were randomly assigned three small behavior changes over a three month period.  The results found the weight loss ranged from a 1.93-pound monthly weight loss (e.g., use ten-inch plates for dinner) to a 0.83-pound monthly weight gain (eat oatmeal for breakfast), the average heuristic resulted in an average weight loss—1.16 pounds per month per person.  The most effective heuristic was found to entail little decision making, such as the use of smaller plates and/or eating in the kitchen versus in front of the TV.

Less restrictive interventions are also found to be more effective to implement long term, such as the consumption of hot breakfasts instead of more restrictive heuristics, such as specifying one eats oatmeal for breakfast.  Additionally, by weighing the effectiveness of an intervention by compliance and estimated weight loss may increase compliance and make overall healthier food choices.

The use of heuristics can be a great way to integrate small, modifiable changes to one’s lifestyle, while increasing likelihood of long term implementation that gives clients the autonomy to adapt changes to preferences and lifestyle. What heuristic strategies have you found to be most successful? What do you hope to incorporate into your life?

Photo Credit: Diabeter


Increase the Lifespan of Your Appliances

By: Nikki Nies

With a little tender, love and care, maintaining clean appliances can prolong their life span! I admit, I’m not the first one to jump at the chance to cleaning my appliances, but with some vinegar, water, and dish soap you’ll thank yourself in the long run that you took such good care of these “necessities.”The in depth infographic below shares estimated life span of appliances and how you can maintain their pristine condition with some easy cleaning tips.

Thank you e Replacement Parts for sharing these step by step guidelines with us!


Photo Credit: EReplacementParts

Mark Menjivar’s “Refrigerators”

By: Nikki Nies

The love of food has no boundaries. You only have to look at Mark Menjivar’s portfolio of “Refrigerators” to grasp the concept of “a picture is worth a thousand words.” I found his recent photo montage in National Geographic to be too interesting not to share! Menjivar’s photo are an insider’s look into the concept of “you are what you eat.”

Before looking at the included captions, what’re your initial impression of the refrigerators? Any guesses as to what kind of person the food belongs to?

Marketing professional/documentary filmmakers, 2008, left, and 2012, right
Fridge of marketing professional and documentary filmmaker in 2008 (L) and in 2012 (R) | San Diego, CA | 3-Person Household | Efforts have helped send millions of dollars to children in Uganda
L: The fridge of a photographer/carpenter in 2008 R: The photographer, now homemaker's fridge in 2012
L: The fridge of a photographer/carpenter in 2008 R: The photographer, now homemaker’s fridge in 2012 | San Antonio, TX | 3-Person Household | 12 Point Buck shot on family property
Midwife/Middle School Science Teacher | San Antonio, TX | 4-Person Household (including dog) | First week after deciding to eat all local produce

I’m sad to admit that I wasn’t aware of Menjivar’s project, “You Are What You Eat”, which started in 2007 until I was perusing an overview of his works recently.  However, if you’re late to the party like me, it’s not to late to peruse the photos and get an insider’s look into people’s lives through their fridges, literally.

As you can see, a lot of Menjivar’s photos are side by side pictures of 2008 and then of the same fridge in 2012. Menjivar had initially taken picture’s a midwife’s fridge in 2008, who had just started a commitment to eating only local produce. In 2012, the presence of Dole and Minute Maid products attest to how that turned out. Additionally, he revisted a bartender in 2012, after initially having a fridge stuffed to the brim with Styrofoam take-out containers, and it smelled so bad that Menjivar almost couldn’t stand to keep the door open long enough to photograph it. Fast forward to 2012, bartender lost a lot of weight and drastically changed his eating habits, but the American flag towel that he used to absorb dripping in the back of the fridge remains.

Bartender's fridge in 2008 (L) and 2012 (R)
Bartender’s fridge in 2008 (L) and 2012 (R) | San Antonio, TX | 1-Person Household | Goes to sleep at 8AM and wakes up at 4PM daily

His project spanned over four years, traveling to over twenty American communities, peering into more than sixty fridges in the hopes to explore the intersection between eating habits and identity.  His work has been exhibited at museums and universities across the country.  I would say he successfully achieved his aim, wouldn’t you? What does your fridge say about you?

Photo Credit: Mark Menjivar 


Cast Iron Skillets

castironBy: Nikki Nies

While cast iron skillets may be “heavy” in weight, they require a lot of tender loving care (TLC)! Not only do these skillets require special attention while cleaning, but they need to be seasoned properly to be used at optimally. Okay, they’re kind of high maintenance, but the care that is required is well worth it. As one of the oldest forms of cookware, they’re durable and reliable, heating evenly and retaining heat amazingly!

Tips for using cast iron skillet:

  • Oil skillet generously to limit sticking. Olive or coconut oil will do.
  • Before placing any food in skillet, let the skillet preheat
  • Limit use of metal utensils
  • Since the entire skillet’s made out of iron, the entire skillet will get hot! Out of habit, you may find yourself touching the skillet, but only do so with a pot holder
  •  “Seasoning” is oil baked onto the iron at a high temperature, not a chemical nonstick coating. Seasoning creates the natural, easy-release properties. The more it’s used, the better it gets
  • Dry thoroughly after each wash.
  • If you can’t part with the thought of cleaning without soap, wash with mild soapy water and dry and oil immediately.
  • Dishwashers, strong detergents and metal scouring pads are not recommended, since they remove seasoning
  • Do not place in microwave scraping-burnt-bits-off-skillet
  • If rust appears, scour rust, rinse, dry and rub with some vegetable oil
  • Cover it with a paper towel to stack in cupboard to absorb moisture and prevent scratches
  • When first cooking with a cast iron skillet, stick with skillet staples, such as fried chicken and/or homemade pizza
  • Don’t try to make eggs, fish or cook tomatoes with a cast iron skillet, as the eggs can be hard to remove from skillet, fish is too delicate and better off being steamed.  Lastly, the acidity of the tomatoes can cut through the seasoning!
  • The most renown line of cast iron skillets are, Lodge, the United States’ major cast iron cookware manufacture

After a few rounds of using the cast iron skillet, you’ll be itching to experiment with your new skillet. How many of you have a personal history with your cast iron skillet? Was it passed down to you from your mother and/or having a history of stories behind it?

Photo Credit: Pioneer Settler and Fine Cooking


Familiar With the 5th Taste-Umami?

how_humans_experience02By: Nikki Nies

I’m sure you’ve heard of the fifth type of texture, umami. Yet, even if you’re familiar with this word, how familiar are you with what the actual taste is? While we’ve got our sweet, savory, salty and bitter flavors, umami (pronounced “oo-mommy”) encompasses another spectrum of tastes that are absolutely delicious. Umami taste is one of richness, fullness and complexity.

Coined from Japanese chemist, Kikunae Ikeda, umami derives from the meaning of savoury.  The direct translation of “umami” means “yummy” or “meaty.”  A long time ago, Ikeda was enjoying a bowl of dashi, a classic Japanese seaweed soup.  He couldn’t put his finger on the distinct tastes of the soup, but recognized the flavors were beyond the four existing taste categories–bitter, salty, savory or sweet. Ikeda went straight to his lab and found that the secret ingredient was glutamic acid.  While glutamate’s found in most living things, the molecules break apart when organic matter breaks down–i.e. when you cook meat, the aging of parmesan cheese by fermentation or when a tomato ripens under the sun.  However, when glutamate, an amino acid, converts to L-glutamate, that’s when “yummy” comes in! worldmap03

Umami is usually present with salt to add more complexity and depth to food. Traditional sources of umami include soy sauce, miso paste and bonito flakes in Eastern cuisine.  Head over to Western cuisine and examples of umami can be seen in mushrooms, cured ham, tomatoes, ketchup and cheese.

So, you don’t necessarily have to eat Asian food to experience the wonders of umami, yet, recognizing that there’s more to eat and taste than bitter, salty, sweet or savory gives us all additional options!

Photo Credit: Umami Info and Cook Think