Super Simple Chicken Thighs and Cauliflower in a Slow-Cooker

1 pkg. (about 5-6 pieces) boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 tsp. dried onion flakes
1 cauliflower head, sectioned into quarters
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
20 oz canned crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
2 sprigs rosemary
salt and pepper

In the photo, we used a homemade puree of a mixture of red and yellow home-grown heirloom tomatoes (hence the orange color) but you can use store-bought.

Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper and place them, along with the tomatoes, onion flakes, garlic and rosemary in a slow-cooker on high. Cook 3-4 hours. One hour before serving, add the cauliflower, nestling it down into the liquid. (If it doesn’t all fit submerged, simply rotate their position once or twice during cooking so it absorbs the tomato flavors.) When tender and ready, spoon and serve.

Notes: We don’t like dry, chicken breasts in our house, preferring the juicier, dark meat instead. To offset the fact that they are slightly higher in fat and calories, I simply do a good job of trimming before cooking and don’t add any extra fat (although olive oil would be okay). Much of the chicken fat is released into the tomatoes, and most of that isn’t actually eaten–unless you want to. If you do, it is lovely spooned onto potatoes or pasta. There is a lot of flexibility with this dish. It’s one of my go-to recipes I keep in my head.

Learn to Handle Stress

Personal growth comes from making wise choices every day.

I don’t mention this often, but it’s important to handle stress in healthy ways in order to lose weight and maintain it at a healthy level. I am one of those persons who would, if I let myself, turn to food for comfort when life becomes stressful. In addition to that, I tend to want to eat when I’m bored. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and feel bored. I’m not making a joke, it’s an odd quirk. As long as I’m aware of it, I can go back to sleep without snacking.

I digress, let’s go back to handling stress. Life will always be stressful, and when that changes, it may only be to become more stressful. This is why we must find healthy ways to deal with it that don’t involve eating. Vigorous walking is one of my favorite things. It works for me, and it burns calories. it’s a perfect solution. Whatever method you choose to handle stress, it needs to be enjoyable, and something you can do consistently. When life drops a bomb on me, I go for a walk, rather than eating or drinking. That reminds me: alcohol offers only empty calories, and it’s addicting. It’s not a solution. Leave it behind as a part of your lifestyle change. I know this last point will be unpopular, but I stand by it as part of a healthy overhaul of one’s daily routine. Personal growth comes from making wise choices every day.

Release Sugar and Reclaim Vitality

Professional Coach, Rita Johansen shares insights on sugar, how it affects our bodies and how she reversed her own blood sugar disorder and revitalized her life.

Low fat ice cream made in your freezer without a machine

a bowl of blueberry-strawberry ice cream

Making ice cream (or ice milk) yourself, allows you to have better control over fat and sugar content.

Ice Cream – No Machine This is made with whipped milk, so it is lighter and lower in calorie than traditional ice cream. However, there is still sugar in here, so be wise in serving size. 1 can (13 oz.) evaporated milk (chilled in refrigerator overnight) 1-1/4 cup powdered sugar 2 teaspoons vanilla extract Pour chilled milk (the colder, the better) into a large mixing bowl and whip about one minute or until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar gradually, then vanilla and whip again until very fluffy. (At this point, you can add pureed strawberries, blueberries or other fruit if you are going for a flavor. Use your imagination.) Place the bowl in the freezer for an hour. Pull out from the freezer, whip for 1 minute and back to the freezer. Repeat one more time.

When Ice cream (milk) is desired consistency, place in a container with a lid and store in the freezer. Serve sprinkled with a handful of homemade granola. About 180 calories per 1 cup serving. Standard vanilla ice cream is around 300 calories per cup, and Ben & Jerry’s will be close to 500. This recipe is delicious and allows you to have ice cream with less guilt.

In this picture, I pureed blueberries into the mix, and then swirled chopped strawberries that had been slightly warmed in the microwave (to release their juices) then chilled before adding, making a blueberry-strawberry swirl.

Two things about homemade ice cream:  It freezes harder than store bought, and melts a little faster.

5 of the best tips to lose weight naturally

Head shot of author wearing white cap and sporty white sunglasses.

Mike Bravo

Guest post by Mike Bravo: 5 Of the Best Tips To Lose Weight Naturally

Everyone knows that losing weight naturally is not easy, however these great weight loss tips will have the fat melting away. Whilst these tips may not be classified as a scientific breakthrough, they are effective, healthy and will help you to shed your excess body weight. Furthermore, this is not a quick fix but more of a lifestyle change that could improve both your body shape as well as your health.

Weight Loss Tips To Allow You To Shed Weight Easily and Naturally

1. Drink Water

Drinking lots of water is a great way to suppress your hunger. However, if water is not your thing, you can replace with green or herbal tea but stay clear of flavored water as it may contain sugar and other fattening preservatives.

2. Be Careful About Snacking Before Bedtime

Snacking on treats and crisps in front of the telly before going to bed is a sure way to put on weight. In fact many people think eating cereals would be healthy replacement but again this is a big no-no as they contain sugar and are simple carbs which are addictive and cause weight gain.

3. Eat Eggs For Breakfast

Eggs have had a bad rap in the past as being unhealthy and bad cholesterol but this has been proven to be untrue. Having a few eggs for breakfast are healthy, satisfy your hunger and keep you feeling full longer and therefore discourage you from snacking on other things.

4. Limit Your Alcohol Intake

Alcohol contains empty calories which our bodies do not process well and they end up being stored in your gut as fat.

5. Avoid Addictive Foods

Foods containing sugar as well as convenience foods are neither healthy nor satisfying and will only leave you wanting more and causing you to pile on the weight. Eating these types of addictive foods are the major cause of obesity in the US not to mention causing other chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, etc.

Conclusion On Losing Weight Naturally

It is also worth mentioning that foods in the “simple carb” category (those that are high in sugar) can cause progressive weight gain. This would include convenience foods, fast foods, pastries, cookies, sodas and so on. They should be avoided permanently. The problem is that these refined, highly processed carbohydrates get dumped quickly into our systems without being processed properly causing us to feel hungry and wanting more minutes after finishing eating. This causes progressive weight gain leading to obesity and a whole host of chronic illnesses. So to avoid becoming obese or diabetic (or both) you need to take an honest look at your diet and commit to a lifestyle change. If you are willing to commit to making these life changing modifications to your diet you should begin to see a dramatic change in your body shape as well as an improvement in your health and the way you feel.

PS: Find out here how the Paleo Diet could be your ticket to magical weight loss, or go to the following link to find out how the Paleo way of eating could impact your life by causing you dramatic weight loss & a significant boost in vitality:

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Healthier party snacks

Nadia showing party snack mix in an oval aluminum bowl.

Nadia with her version of a popular party snack mix.

This episode of  WomanVision TV has direct relevance to weight-loss and healthier eating.

Going to picnics, homecomings, and football parties means bringing something to the table. There are always plenty of good-tasting things to choose from, but other than the gratuitous bowl of crudités, most of it will be highly caloric and laden with salt and fat. I’ll show how you can make crunchy, savory substitutes for greasy potato chips and overly salty snacks. The first one is a slow-cooker version of a popular party mix, and the second, is my best-loved, Sunbutter Kale Chips.

Easy vegetable smoothies

Green Smoothie

Green Smoothie

I don’t use a recipe, because I never have the same things on hand in my refrigerator on any given day. The following blender formula works best for me: 1/2 to 3/4 c. almond milk and a handful of ice cubes along with a small amount of fruit and some vegetables. In the smoothie on the left, I used a half of an apple (include skin) along with a handful of kale, a chunk of zucchini and a little bit of cabbage. For the one on the bottom right, it was red cabbage, rhubarb sauce (sweet), carrots, and again some kale.

Other options:  Broccoli is a favorite addition because of how well it blends, and celery brings high fiber to the mix. Use your imagination.

It’s a fresh, slightly sweet tasting way to work more vegetables into your diet, and only takes a minute to whip up. It is important to have a good blender. Keep the consistency about the same as a milkshake, adding a splash of almond milk, or ice cubes if it gets too thick.

Pink Smoothie

Pink Smoothie

There is no need to count calories with something like this, but if you do, the almond milk is 30 calories per cup (I use less than a cup), fresh vegetables are about 25-40 calories per half cup serving depending on the vegetable, and a half an apple is 50-60 calories. This formula will make about two servings, or 12-16 ounces total–less than 100 calories per serving.

You can enjoy this without reservation. I find that it makes me feel full for 2-3 hours and also give me an energy boost. I make this mostly for breakfast, but also sometimes as an afternoon pick-me-up.

If, it is evening, and I’m having this to curb a dessert craving, I will change the mix to something more like a milkshake, using a half banana and cocoa powder or fresh fruit (strawberries are great) and a splash of vanilla. Sometimes I will add Stevia sweetener. I usually add some vegetables even when I make a dessert smoothie. For example, sweet red peppers are good with strawberries and brighten the color.

Since I published this post a few weeks ago, I’ve received requests for a more specific recipe. In response, I shared my method via video as an episode of WomanVision TV. You can watch it below:

Quinoa is a great tasting source of protein

Cooked quinoa

Cooked quinoa

Quinoa is a great tasting source of protein, among other things. This is something you may not have known. A staple of ancient Andean civilizations, quinoa barely gets a second look in our modern society except for vegetarians and other health conscious individuals. It deserves more attention. I won’t bore you with the nutritional details, you can follow the link for that—and this one for additional background information. Quinoa tastes great! Yes, you can look up all sorts of creative recipes, but my favorite way to eat it is simply to cook it in boiling water (with a touch of salt) until you can see the germ separating (little white rings). For my taste, it is fully cooked in about 10 minutes, which keeps the grains slightly chewy. 15 minutes will give you a softer result, but still very good. Drain it and eat it as you would plain white rice. Quinoa is equally as good as rice, and in my estimation, beats couscous and millet hands down. Raw quinoa is known for having a bitter-tasting coating that needs vigorous rinsing to remove (perhaps that is why some people don’t attempt to cook it). But most pre-packaged commercial products are ready to cook with nothing more than a light rinse. Even bulk quinoa that I’ve purchased at local co-op stores has been pre-rinsed. At 222 calories per cooked cup, it is relatively low in calories. Quinoa is for me, one of the high-satisfaction foods in my arsenal. It’s one of my secret weapons.

Going commando In the kitchen

Nadia Giordana, Basic PLUS Author
Going commando: the practice of going without underwear under one’s outer clothing.” –Wikipedia definition

While the phrase, “going commando” sweeps American culture today, its origins remain uncertain. Nevertheless, it consistently elicits a knee-jerk, “heads up” reaction whenever it is used. As you can see, it works—right now I have your full attention, but if you think I am writing today about cooking or eating food while not wearing underwear, I’m sorry to disappoint you—I am not. That would be gross.

What I’m suggesting you do, is eliminate the habit of dressing your foods with sauces and condiments. They are high in fats and/or sugars, add nothing other than unnecessary calories and they “cover up the good stuff” on your plate or in a sandwich. One tablespoon of butter will add an extra 100 calories and the average salad dressing comes close to that number. A tablespoon is small and one is never enough. Two is better, right?  By making these simple changes over the course of an average day, you can save 500 to 800 calories without affecting the volume of real food you can eat. 500 fewer calories per day means 3500 per week = one pound lost. Walking at a pace of 3 mph, it will take an average person a little over 9 hours on a treadmill to burn that same 3500 calories. Which would you rather do?

Fruits are complete foods just as they are, so eat them like that, and eat your vegetables lightly steamed. If you must season your vegetables, use a sprinkling of herbs. Once you become accustomed to the true tastes of your foods, and train your mind to like those tastes—and you can train your mind to do that, you will look forward to eating them in their natural state. Peel a banana or an orange and eat it. Grab an apple. But don’t mess with cutting, chopping, slicing, dicing, tossing and overdressing until you’ve turned your fresh produce into a high calorie dish. I agree that it’s tough to eat a salad without some dressing, but you can cut it (half water, half dressing) and serve it on the side.

Few people can make such sweeping changes overnight, so I suggest you start out easy. Dedicate two days a week to eating in this manner. If that’s all you ever do, and you do it consistently, over time you will lose weight.

So think about going au naturale with your fruits and vegetables, forgo the butter on your morning whole grain toast, don’t sprinkle sugar on your breakfast granola, drink your coffee black, and drink water instead of carbonated beverages. It’s easier than you THINK.

Nadia Giordana

The 2,000 calorie per day misconception for women and how it messes up your diet

THE 2,000 CALORIE PER DAY MISCONCEPTION FOR WOMEN: How It Messes Up Your Diet, And How To Calculate What Your True Calorie Intake Should Be

For the purpose of this argument, I’m referring to women and the USDA recommended calorie guidelines. We tend to forget that they are simply guidelines. Other factors that can affect your daily calorie needs are age, gender, and activity level. You can find dozens of websites that will help you zero in on your specific calorie needs but I’ve included a workable outline here for women using myself as an example.

I am a petite, mature woman, 5′ 2” tall with small bones. My calorie requirements are lower than those of a younger, taller woman with, let’s say a medium to large frame, yet we seem to focus on that nebulous number, 2,000 calories across the board for  all women (2,500 for men).

Question: I know I’ve been eating around 2,000 calories a day so why is it that I’ve gained so much weight?

Answer: If you continue to eat 2,000 calories per day with your sedentary lifestyle, you will soon weigh 200 pounds, I can guarantee it. You are taking in more calories than you are burning each day.

Here is a formula to calculate what your calorie intake should be:

  • If you are sedentary: you work a desk job and get little or no additional exercise—multiply your desired weight (the weight you want to be) times the number 10. This will give you the number of calories you need each day to maintain that goal weight once it is achieved. Since you currently weigh more than that, eating only the number of calories needed to maintain a lower weight will, steadfastly result in a loss of weight, until balance is achieved.
  • If you are lightly active: you get some exercise only 1-3 days per week and it’s not strenuous—multiply your desired weight by 13.
  • If you are moderately active: you get some exercise on weekends or about 10-15 (up to 30) minutes 3-5 days a week—multiply your desired weight times the number 15.
  • If you get vigorous exercise regularly: you have a physically demanding job or you exercise 60 minutes 5-7 days a week—multiply your desired weight times 17.
  • The highest level of fitness activity, that of an experienced athlete, uses a multiplication of your desired weight times 19.

The preceding information is a guideline only, and for general purposes, one of the first four levels will apply to almost anyone reading this book.

The formula works like this:

Desired weight, 150 pounds

Sedentary: 150 x 10 = 1,500 cal/day

Light activity: 150 x 13 = 1,950 cal/day

Moderately active: 150 x 15 = 2,250 cal/day

Vigorous exercise: 150 x 17 = 2,550 cal/day

Athlete: 150 x 19 = 2,850 cal/day

Desired weight, 125 pounds

Sedentary: 125 x 10 = 1,250 cal/day

Light Activity: 125 x 13 = 1,625 cal/day

Moderately active: 125 x 15 = 1,875 cal/day

Vigorous exercise: 125 x 17 = 2,125 cal/day

Athlete: 125 x 19 = 2,375 cal/day

As you can see, a woman of my size cannot eat at a 2,000 calorie per day level without inevitably gaining weight, unless I were to significantly and consistently increase my level of physical activity (something I have done in recent months).

About 1,200 calories is the minimum number per day for the average person to fulfill necessary nutritional needs. True, you can eat less than that for short periods of time and lose weight without harm, but it is also likely to lead to bingeing and other harmful habits. A better way is to find a natural balance you can live with. I have become accustomed to eating a 1,300 to 1,500-calorie-a-day diet, making sure I include foods that satisfy me nutritionally, physically and emotionally. I never feel like I am on a diet.

–Nadia Giordana

New England Journal of Medicine releases new study

I could kick myself for falling prey to the ’90’s way of thinking that persons who restricted calorie consumption to lose weight were in a word, anorexic–or on the way to becoming anorexic.  Twenty years after the “diet wars” gained momentum, many medical experts now agree that any diet that is low in calories and saturated fats, focuses on vegetables, fruits and whole grains (complex carbohydrates), and encourages a healthy protein intake is a reasonable choice for individuals planning to lose weight and get healthy. Such a diet, if tailored to an individual’s personal preferences, can become a permanent and easily sustainable lifestyle change.

The February 2009 report from the NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine) titled, Comparison of Weight-loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein and Carbohydrates, challenges the notion that calorie counting is superfluous and goes on to reveal that after studying four popular dieting concepts, the amount of weight lost per person studied over two years was about the same regardless of the diet used. It didn’t matter what they ate, it boiled down to calorie consumption. In the study, doctors calculated each participant’s energy needs, and structured a diet for him/her that allowed 750 fewer calories than needed to fuel their daily activities and maintain their current weight. The assigned calorie requirements ranged from 1400 to 2000, with women being on the lower end of this range. (I personally do well on 1200 to 1400 calories per day.) Jennifer Levitz at the Wall Street Journal said this about the newly released study: Calorie Counters Have It Right, Diet Study Says.  To read the full report by the NEJM and decide for yourself,  CLICK HERE.

This study is one of the most important in recent years on the subject and it validates an important component of the method I myself used to lose nearly half my body weight. When you take this knowledge a step farther and factor in the mental and spiritual pieces of the quotient, you will have a cocktail for success that gives you a workable range of diet choices, the “glue” to hold it all together, and the power to supercharge your overall weight loss results. (My personal average was consistently around 2 lbs. per week, which is a lot higher than the individuals noted in the study mentioned above.)

–Nadia Giordana

Size zero? c’mon now.

What’s with the new sizing? We are getting larger and more obese nationwide and to make our ballooning population feel better about themselves (thus encouraging sales) clothing manufacturers have taken to downsizing women’s dresses.  No one wants to buy clothes in a larger size, so if that ‘8’ you bought last week fits, it doesn’t mean you are the same size you were 10-15 years ago, and I think you know that. Women’s dress sizes have changed significantly in recent years. If a gal wears a size 2 today in ready-to-wear clothing, 20 years ago she would have worn a size 7/8. “Vanity sizing,” as it is called, has become the norm. Case in point: I just bought a blazer in size 1 and I can tell you, it compares in fit to some old size 4’s and 6’s I wore a number of years ago.  That same day, I bought a pair of size .5 slacks. Yes, that store actually offered pants in fraction sizes. Not all manufacturers are doing this and I applaud those that don’t, because really, size zero? What’s next, -1? -2?

Nadia Giordana

Pizza that won’t wreck your week

icaneatpizzaI’ve dropped 88 pounds, 9 dress sizes and worked too hard to blow it now. I love pizza and I like to have it once a week. Too many ‘diet’ recipes compromise taste for calories and I won’t accept that. Here is my low-fat, delicious, fast, fun and economical solution:



1 10-inch spinach & flour tortilla

½ c. marinara sauce (recipe below)
½ c. shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
½ c. 95% ground lean beef, pre-cooked
1 6 oz. can sliced mushrooms
Hot red pepper flakes (opt.)

Vegetarian? Use sautéed sliced vegetables instead of ground beef.

You will need a 12-inch Teflon frying pan. Make marinara sauce ahead (or use your favorite canned sauce). Have all ingredients chopped or sliced, pre-cooked and ready to go. If you plan to add vegetables like green pepper, broccoli or onion they should be sautéed in advance to al dente.

Stove temp: medium low (on my electric stove that means turning the dial to the #3 mark). Place pan on burner, set temperature and let warm. When your pan is hot, spray a little olive oil or non-stick spray on one side of a tortilla and place in the pan to cook until golden and lightly crisp (roughly 2-3 minutes). Then remove from pan, flip the tortilla, and spray more oil on the opposite side of the tortilla and return it to the skillet to lightly brown and crisp the other side as you immediately begin building your pizza. Spread sauce over the surface of the tortilla. Add mozzarella cheese, cooked ground beef or veggies, and mushrooms. Cover with a lid and cook approximately another 3-5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and the bottom is toasted and golden. If your crust is getting too dark, too fast, lift the pan from the burner, adjust the temperature down and resume cooking. When finished, slide your pizza out of the pan onto a cutting surface and cut into 8 skinny wedges, sprinkle with hot peppers (optional) and serve immediately. This pizza is wonderfully crispy and holds its shape—doesn’t droop or hang, making it perfect to use with a warm marinara dipping sauce. Recipe below makes enough sauce for two 10-inch pizzas (or one pizza with dipping sauce).

One pizza equals 4 servings. Serving size, 2 slices, 33 calories per slice. If you eat the whole thing yourself (don’t), you are still at only 524 calories compared to 1100+ in an average 10-inch commercial pizza.


1 15-oz. can tomato puree
1/4 cup water
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
Salt, pepper
Italian seasoning to taste
Red pepper flakes (optional)

In a saucepan, bring tomato puree and water to a simmer. Add garlic, shake in Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, all to your own taste. Simmer about 20 minutes on low heat. Use as a pizza sauce, Optional: serve extra sauce on the side and dip you crispy pizza slices. 40 calories per 1/2 cup serving.

Nadia Giordana

Lose an extra pound or more per week

A pedometer is small and easy to wear. It will measure your steps (and open your eyes). Get one and wear it for a week to determine the number of steps you actually take in any given work day. For the average person, about 2,000 steps equal a mile and burns between 100 to 120 calories. Then dust off that treadmill you’ve been hanging laundry on (I know–that’s how mine was used for several years) and start walking an extra 2-3 miles per day; or if weather permits, go for a real walk outdoors. We hear a lot about the recommended 10,000 steps per day and that’s a good rule of thumb to follow. For me, walking a comfortable 2.8 to 3 mph burns 120 calories per mile and I can cover three treadmill miles in the time it takes to watch “The Dr’s” on afternoon TV. Burning off this extra 360 calories per day will help you drop a pound every 10 days. Bump this up to 4 or 5 miles per day and you will be losing an additional pound per week. Combined with the elimination of 500 excess food calories per day (eliminate one unnecessary indulgence, like designer coffee, or a frozen smoothie) and you’re at 2 pounds per week. One pound = 3,500 calories. In order to lose that one pound, You must burn it off through exercise or eat fewer calories each day than your body needs to maintain its present weight. (See “The 2,000 Calorie per Day Misconception” post in this blog).

IMPORTANT: Don’t ignore your mental, spiritual and emotional well-being. Your state of mind must be in the right place if you hope to maintain your focus and make good progress. I was not able to use the treadmill until I had lost 60 pounds because of a leg injury. That’s why I began to use nightly visualization techniques along with a dialogue with the Holy Spirit to speed up my progress and get me to the point where I could add weight-bearing exercise. It made a huge difference in my success. This is what I’m talking about when I say you can supercharge your weight loss program. I cover those techniques, step-by-step in the book, THINKING SKINNY.

 Nadia Giordana

10 casseroles under 300 calories

 10 casseroles under 300 calories per serving (from I’ve tried several of these, all good. This is the link I use when I’m bringing a hot dish to a Minnesota-style, pot luck occasion. Casserole dishes are always delicious, but notoriously high in fat and calories. This casserole link helps me keep my waistline in check. No, I probably won’t indulge in the luxury of sampling my favorite aunt’s to-die-for specialty when I’m going through the line–I’m on a mission here!