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.

Pickled Watermelon Salad

Light and satisfying, this will become a family favorite.

PICKLED WATERMELON SALAD

Brine:
3 1/2 c. water
2/3 c. sugar
1 T salt
1 c. cider vinegar
2 T fresh dill weed chopped
½ tsp minced garlic
2 dashes cayenne
1 tsp. black peppercorns
2 tsp mustard seeds

1 small round watermelon, rind removed, seeded and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes (about 16 cups)

Garnish: Fresh chopped cilantro or parsley

Combine brine ingredients: water, sugar, salt, vinegar, dill, garlic, cayenne, peppercorns and mustard seeds, in small saucepan and simmer 30 minutes. Strain and cool.

Clean and cut watermelon. Place in a 1-gallon jar (or use two, 2-qt canning jars). Pour strained brine over watermelon to cover, and chill for about an hour. Drain and serve topped with fresh chopped, flat leaf parsley (In our family, we like cilantro.) Makes 1 gallon of salad.

Pineapple Cucumber Salad

pineapple salad

This salad makes a wonderful dessert

Not just another fruit salad. This fresh-tasting salad works as a dessert, side dish, or even a between-meal snack. The lime juice is the only dressing necessary. Many people don’t care for cilantro and you can use parsley if you must, but it’s the addition of cilantro and cucumber that makes this unique. Using salt and pepper sounds a little odd, but they do round out the flavors.

1 pineapple, peeled and chopped
1 English cucumber, chopped
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced or quartered
2 limes, zested and juiced
1/2 cup cilantro (or parsley), roughly chopped
Pinch of salt and pepper

Instructions
1. Combine all ingredients and toss lightly to distribute the lime juice and zest evenly.
2. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
3. Serve immediately or keep chilled until ready to serve.

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

tabboleh salad

Quinoa Tabboleh Salad

This recipe is light on calories and a delight to my vegan friends. Not vegan? You can toss in a little feta cheese if you like. That’s always good. Instead of mint, which is more traditional, I love using cilantro in this along with the parsley.

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large English cucumber, finely diced (1/4 inch)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2/3 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint (or cilantro)
2 scallions, thinly sliced

1. Cook quinoa to package directions, drain and let cool (spread on a large, rimmed baking sheet).

2. Whisk lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Transfer quinoa to a large bowl; mix in 1/4 cup dressing. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill, reserving remaining dressing and other ingredients until serving time.

4. Just before serving, add cucumber, tomatoes, herbs, and scallions to bowl with quinoa; toss to coat. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Drizzle remaining dressing over.

5. Options: feta cheese, black olives or kalamata olives.

Green Beans with Sweet Red Peppers and Balsamic Vinegar

Green Beans with Sweet Red Peppers and Balsamic Vinegar

Green Beans with Sweet Red Peppers and Balsamic Vinegar

1 pound fresh green beans
1 sweet red pepper, julienned
(or use roasted red peppers from a jar, cut into strips)
1 Tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Clean and julienne sweet red pepper and saute’ in olive oil until al dente’. Meanwhile, cook or steam green beans to al dente’ and drain. Place hot beans in the skillet with sweet red pepper, add a little salt and pepper, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar, tasting once or twice adding olive oil if needed. What you want is to just barely taste the balsamic vinegar, more so that it brings out the flavor of the beans and doesn’t dominate the dish. Stir until coated. Serve warm or at room temperature.

This is one of my favorite, go-to recipes. It is suitable for any season of the year. I usually use fresh green beans, but in the winter, if you can’t get good ones, you can do this with frozen (or even canned) green beans.

Rustic Cornbread

cornbread with piece cut out

Rustic Cornbread

1 cup milk
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg
1 ¼ cups organic, coarse ground white or yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup unbleached, organic all-purpose flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup cane sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder (not a teaspoon)
½ teaspoon salt

This recipe uses a little less butter and sugar than most cornbread recipes. I find that I can always dial back the sugar and fat and still have a great finished product, and that’s what I’ve done here. I also incorporated buckwheat flour. I’ve taken a standard, old-fashioned recipe and made it a little healthier for my family. (The original recipe called for 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup sugar.)

Heat oven to 400º F. Grease bottom and side of round pan, 9×1 1/2 inches, or square pan, 8x8x2 inches.

Beat milk, butter and egg in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients all at once just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy). Pour batter into pan and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. This recipe can be doubled and baked in a 9×13 cake pan. I like to use coarse ground cornmeal because it gives a pronounced crunch in the final bread.

My husband eats this warm with butter and honey as a dessert. I usually omit the additional butter and simply drizzle with a little honey over warm cornbread. Little choices like this as part of my commitment to a healthy lifestyle, have helped me keep the weight off since 2008.

Or–come in from the cold and serve this instead of bread with a big bowl of chili or stew and you’ll be the star of the day.

Cranberry Orange Chutney

pint jar of cutney

Cranberry Orange Chutney

The original recipe I used called for more than twice this amount of sugar. That’s unnecessary.

1 lb. fresh organic cranberries
1 organic orange
½ cup golden raisins
1/4 cup cane sugar or brown sugar (more if you like, depends on the cranberries)
1-3 teaspoons chopped ginger (Fresh ginger is fine but if you have a ginger bug, use it.)

Wash and clean the berries well, being sure to discard any that are not fresh. Using a peeler or zester, remove the zest from the orange. Then peel the white pith from the orange and discard. Place the berries, roughly chopped orange, orange peel, and sugar in a food processor and chop coarsely. Add raisins and mix thoroughly.

Let mixture sit for 1-2 hours. It will begin to shrink a little and make juices. Pack into a wide-mouth quart jar, cover and leave out at room temperature overnight so flavors marry. Cover and store it in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.

My husband puts this on toast each morning, I sprinkle it on my salads. We’re happy to be getting plenty of antioxidants among other good things.

Also, this is fantastic as a relish alongside turkey, pork, fish and lamb.

stuffed acorn squash

Acorn Squash with Stuffing and Gravy

I first spoke with Debbie about her recipes and cookbooks in the fall of 2014 on my TV show. To this day I continue to use her recipe for Acorn Squash with Stuffing and Gravy. This is the 2014 episode. You will see the recipe demonstration at minute 16.05 after our conversation.

Garden Fresh Quinoa Stir-Fry

Excerpted with permission from the August 8, 2016 episode of It’s a Woman’s World: Registered dietician, Val Schonberg and Dr. Susan Strauss observe as Nadia Giordana prepares a quick, easy and healthy Quinoa Stir-Fry.

Cucumber and Red Bell Pepper Refrigerator Salad

7 large pickling cucumbers unpeeled sliced thin
1-1/2 cup sliced onions
1-1/2 cup sliced red peppers
1 T salt
1 c white vinegar
½ c sugar
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp mustard seed
2-3 fresh (or dried) bay leaves
¼ to 1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes

Makes 2 quarts. Most refrigerator salad recipes I found were way too sweet, so I made my own, reducing sugar by 3/4 and came up with a delightfully fresh and clean tasting salad. It was half gone the 1st day.

Mix cucumbers, onions, peppers and salt in one bowl and let sit for about an hour, then pack lightly into a 2-quart mason jar.

Put vinegar, sugar, celery seed, bay leaves and mustard seed in a cooking pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature before pouring over cucumber mixture.

Store in refrigerator, shaking to distribute brine once or twice the first day. Ready in 24 hours. Will keep for up to 2 months. Use as is or spoon over lettuce or tomatoes in a bowl.

Adjust ingredients to your own taste. My husband prefers fewer onions, I like lots of cucumbers. You can’t go wrong as long as overall volume of vegetables and brine are okay.

Cucumber and Red Bell Pepper Refrigerator Salad

Cucumber and Red Bell Pepper Refrigerator Salad

Green Beans with Sweet Red Peppers

Nadia recently demonstrated her favorite way to make green beans for a local TV show. It’s fast, easy and delicious. Try it you’ll like it:

Buttermilk Parmesan Salad Dressing

Buttermilk Parmesan Salad Dressing
2 T minced onion
1 clove garlic
1/3 c. lite mayonnaise (or Greek Yogurt)
½ c. buttermilk
2 T. finely grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh or dried herbs: oregano, Italian, your favorite. Flavors are better if made a day ahead. Things to try: turmeric, ground bay, rosemary, sage.

Vegan Mac and Cheese

a bowl of Macaroni and Cheese

Click on image to go to recipe

It’s not necessary to be vegan or vegetarian to appreciate the health benefits and tastiness of the cuisines. Why not incorporate meatless meals into your menu from time to time? Here’s an idea: Designate Tuesdays and/or Thursdays as meatless meal nights (that’s what I do). It’s fun to come up with new dishes and it’s much more interesting than the same old routine. To kick things off, try Gail Roddy’s Vegan Mac and Cheese (pictured).

My husband usually joins me and loves it. But there are times when he prefers meat as usual and that’s when we each do our own thing in the kitchen. I don’t make a fuss about that. I’m setting a healthy example and over the last several years, he has adopted a number of good eating habits and is now a solid 50 pounds lighter. Yaay!

Vegan: Zucchini Pasta Two Ways

I simply must share this one because zucchini pasta is something that is in my refrigerator all the time. Later on I will show you how I (Nadia Giordana) do it, but today, Gail Roddy is in the spotlight with her vegan versions and they are delicious and easy to make.

Three Fresh and Fast Party Snacks

Party foods can be light, guilt-free and satisfying. In this cooking episode of IAWW TV, we learn three fresh and easy to make party foods:

Sun Drenched Cod

This is one of my favorite go-to, quick and easy recipes. It’s clean, it’s easy and it’s healthy.

SUN-DRENCHED COD

4 cod fillets
1 Tablespoon minced fresh kale leaf
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup orange juice
1 Tablespoon lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1 teaspoon grated orange (or lemon) zest
Orange or lemon slices and kale leaves for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place fish in a 2×10-inch round baking dish (or a 11×7-inch oblong) coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with pepper and salt.

In a small skillet, saute onion and garlic in butter along with chopped kale leaf until tender; spoon over fish. Combine juices and orange zest; drizzle over fish.

Bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, or until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork. Makes 4 servings, about 155 calories per serving.

Eye-Opener Smoothie

a yellow-orange colored smoothie

Make this Eye-Opener Smoothie with candied ginger, kombucha, apple, turmeric and grapefruit.

It’s Smoothie Week at Williams-Sonoma, and in honor of that, I decided to kick my routine up a notch. Ordinarily, I make my smoothies with almond milk, colorful fruit or veggies (like kale and beets), but today I decided to make a smoothie with unique ingredients, some not usually associated with blender drinks.

I whipped this sweet concoction together in just minutes using 2 Tablespoons of candied ginger (for zip), 1 cup kombucha (for probiotics and  fizz), 1 teaspoon turmeric (brain food), 1/2 of a pink grapefruit (vitamin C and bioflavonoids) and a half an apple (keeps the doctor away).

Did I get the eye-opener I was expecting? Yes. This sparkling, frothy, invigorating on-the-go breakfast (or afternoon pick-me-up) is my new go-to favorite.

Here is my method: Using a sharp knife, cut off the skin of the grapefruit and chop it into chunks. Cut the apple into chunks (don’t peel it). Put apple and grapefruit into blender. Follow with minced candied ginger, turmeric and kombucha (plain or ginger flavored). Throw in 3-4 small ice cubes, blend and serve immediately. Fills two, 12-ounce glasses. What’s not to like?

if you don’t have a blender, or are planning to upgrade soon, here is the place to start looking: blenders at Williams-Sonoma.

Quinoa Stir-Fry

I threw this dish together one day a couple of years ago and I’ve been making versions of it regularly ever since. It is a low-calorie, highly satisfying meal. I think it’s time I shared it with the rest of you. You can watch this short video to learn the basic ingredients and my method, but I also share the list of ingredients and proportions below.

QUINOA STIR-FRY

oil – 1/3 c. chopped onions – 1/4 c. chopped celery – 1/4 c. sliced mushrooms – 1/4 c. diced carrots – 1/4 c. zucchini slices – 1/4 c. pre-cooked green beans (or diced sweet red peppers) – 1 c. chopped kale – 1/4 c. chicken broth – 1 tsp. herbs (your choice) – 1 or 2 T. soy sauce – 1-1/2 c. pre-cooked quinoa

Optional additions:  1/4 tsp. sesame oil and 1/2 c. chicken, turkey or other leftover meat.

In a hot skillet, saute’ onions in a little oil, adding each of the rest of the ingredients in the order listed. Serves 2 as a full meal, or 4 as a side serving. Quinoa is a good source of complete protein, containing all nine amino acids in addition to lysine, riboflavin, manganese and magnesium.

Pumpkin Spice Macchiato Lite

Creamy coffee in a floral teacup and saucer

43 calorie Pumpkin Spice Macchiato

Highly caloric coffee drinks don’t fit my lifestyle. But I love the idea of a creamy, pumpkin flavored, steaming, strong coffee in the fall. Not to worry! I came up with my own 43 calorie drink that in my book, is way better than sucking down a 380 calorie Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Winning!

 

PUMPKIN SPICE MACCHIATO LITE

2 teaspoons heavy cream
½ tsp sugar
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 double espresso brewed coffee

1. If you have an espresso machine, brew a double espresso.

2. Meanwhile, place 2 teaspoons of cream in the bottom of a teacup along with ½ teaspoon sugar and ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice.

3. Using a hand milk frothing tool, whip this until thick and creamy.

4. Pour espresso down the side into the whipped cream mixture. Top with an extra pinch of pumpkin pie spice.

If you would like to see a video demonstration of this recipe, CLICK HERE.

Rhubarb Crisp Lite

I’ve shared this recipe in the past. It is a favorite of mine, but this time, I’m showing you step-by-step how easy it is to make my Rhubarb Crisp Lite. I know you will like it as much as we do in our house. One of the reasons I have successfully maintained my 88-pound weight loss for the last seven years, is because rather than going on a diet, I made permanent changes in my lifestyle. This is one of the recipes that helped me do it. Indulgences and treats can be part of any healthy diet as long as we are mindful of the fat and sugars we are consuming (moderation rocks) and portion sizes are appropriate. Recipe makes 9 servings of rhubarb filling/compote, 58 calories per serving. The topping is 60 calories per tablespoon, so use sparingly. NOTE: For a text version of this recipe, click here.

Butternut Squash Soup

3/4 c. onion, chopped
5 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 tsp. dried onion flakes
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 can (14 oz.) chicken (or vegetable) broth
1/2 c. water
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. Sriracha sauce
1 T olive oil

Pureed, orange squash soup in a purple bowl and purple plate.

Butternut Squash Soup

In a large, high-sided pot, saute onions in 1 tablespoons olive oil until translucent. Add diced squash, onion flakes, diced apples, then chicken broth. Cover and simmer about 30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat off, allow to cool for a few minutes, add 1/2 cup cold water. Puree soup directly in the pot with a mixing wand (or you can do this with a blender).  It’s ready to serve. About 90 calories per 1 cup serving. Fore a video demonstration of this recipe, CLICK HERE.

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.

Enjoy a “Vinegar Cocktail” instead of alcohol on special occasions

a glass with ice and red, juce cocktail with straw and an orange slice

Aronia Berry Vinegar Cocktail

Enjoy a “Vinegar Cocktail” instead of alcohol on special occasions:

Yes, it sounds kind of funny, but hear me out. Vinegar cocktails are also called “shrubs” and they’ve been around for more than a hundred years, though not very common. They have fewer calories than regular cocktails and contain healthful probiotics, an added bonus. My favorite method is to make them with fruit juice, raw honey, raw apple cider vinegar, and sparkling water.

FRUIT JUICE VINEGAR COCKTAIL (also called a SHRUB)

Start by making your vinegar-fruit juice base:

1 cup fruit juice (choose your favorite; I used Aonia berry (chokeberry) for this picture)
1/3 cup raw honey (more or less, depending on the juice and your taste)
1 cup organic, raw, unpasteurized, unfiltered apple cider vinegar

Lightly warm the fruit juice on the stove (about the same temperature as a baby’s bottle), stirring in the honey until it is completely dissolved. Cool completely before adding vinegar (you don’t want to kill the probiotics). Store in your refrigerator in a covered jar.

When ready to make your drink, combine 1 part shrub mixture with 3 or 4 parts sparkling water, and pour over ice. Garnish with fresh fruit (a slice of orange, or a strawberry slit and perched on the edge of the glass looks nice).

If you look online, you will find dozens of variations using different ingredients, and many that include wine and/or alcohol. I don’t add alcohol to mine, it defeats the purpose of having a refreshing, festive, healthy, probiotic, energy drink. The origins of these concoctions date back to the Colonial era.

Want more? Click here for some homemade energy drink recipes.

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.

Soup and Salad 1-2-3

Two salads made with red cabbage

Cabbage Salads

The latest episode of WomanVision TV aired a few days ago. It is one of my cooking segments, so I know readers of Thinking Skinny will want to see it. I show step-by-step, how I make two of my favorite recipes: Salmon Chowder and Cabbage Salad. You can CLICK HERE to see it, or you can click on the image.

The Mayo Clinic cookbooks

Mayo Clinic Cookbook

Mayo Clinic Cookbook

When I developed my own weight-loss program a few years ago (losing 88 lbs. over a period of 14 months), a significant part of my research took me to the Mayo Clinic website and resources. I checked my choices and tailored my plan in a way that would work for me, as rapidly as feasible, and not be excessiely stressful to my body. Using the Mayo website helped me keep my plan in a healthy range. I still go there to stay current now that I am on maintenance.

I don’t often recommend cookbooks, there are so many. But the Mayo Clinic has several cookbooks and diet books I love, and I think you will too.

You may also like the Mayo Clinic Diet Community on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The.Mayo.Clinic.Diet

Rhubarb (or Fruit) Crisp Lite

This lighter method of making crisp gives you a delicious and enjoyable summer dessert. The filling is baked separately from the topping which is served on the side, allowing you to control how much you use.

Rhubarb Crisp Lite

Rhubarb Crisp Lite

FILLING:

5 cups diced fresh rhubarb or frozen rhubarb, thawed
¾ c raw sugar for tart fruits (or ½ c for sweeter fruits)
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large bowl, mix together the raw sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon. Add rhubarb (or other fruit) and mix well. Spoon into an 8-inch baking dish, cover and bake in a preheated oven at 400°F for 35-40 minutes or until bubbling. While filling is baking, make the topping as follows:

CRISP TOPPING:

1/3 cup butter, softened (no substitutions)
1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup flour

Cream the butter and brown sugar.  Blend in flour until evenly mixed. Spread on a lightly greased foil-lined baking sheet (about ¼-inch in depth) and bake separately at 400°F for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. (You can save time and slide this into the oven while the filling is baking, but watch carefully.) Remove from oven, cool and later, keep in a covered container. It will be a lot like cookie crumbles.

To serve, sprinkle topping over “naked” crisp and drizzle with milk (optional).

When using apple, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches or other sweeter fruit, reduce filling sugar to ½ cup.

Makes 9 servings of filling, 58 calories per serving. The crisp topping is right around 60 calories per tablespoon, so use it sparingly. 1% Milk is 6.5 calories per tablespoon. a quarter cup is a little over 25 calories, and it works well with rhubarb.

Rhubarb is a surprisingly high source of calcium, potassium and manganese. More nutrition info.

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.

Grow celery in your kitchen

An end cut from a stalk of celery on the left, and a sprouting celery plant in a pot on the right.

Sprouting end cut, left, and growing celery on the right.

We often think of celery as one of the most common raw vegetables to have on hand as a healthy snack food—and it is. Let’s talk about having some fun in your kitchen with this savory vegetable. This idea has been circulating for some time now. Here is a fun idea for you to do:

When you slice off the big end of a large bunch of celery, don’t throw it away. (The correct name for the whole bunch is the head or stalk. The individual pieces are ribs.) In the springtime, you can plant the end pieces outside in your garden and let them grow. But what can you do in winter? Take the clean end piece of celery and set it cut-side-up in a shallow dish with about one inch of water in it. Let it sit there for several days (up to a week) until you see a sprout coming out of it. Then plant it sprout-side-up in a medium-sized pot using ordinary household potting soil. See photo.

In days your celery will be growing like gangbusters. Don’t be afraid to clip and snip for salads, use as garnish, and in soups. It will recover and continue to produce. You can have as many as you need waiting on your window sill.

Impromptu healthy soup anyone can make

I’ve been on maintenance now for a few years. That means I am always looking for new things to make for myself to keep my regular diet appealing and sustainable, thus avoiding the temptation to go back to my old ways. Here is something I whipped up today without a recipe. Soups are soups, a free hand sometimes makes for the tastiest of surprises. I had all these things in my refrigerator since I have a garden, but I’ve written this with substitution suggestion so you can do the same (measurements are approximate only):

Late Summer Garden Chowder

I started by sauteing about 3 T of chopped onion in 1 teaspoon butter.

In a saucepan, I brought to a simmer, 2 cups of chicken broth.

To that I added a big handful of chopped chard (spinach or kale would be good too).

I had about 1/4 cup sliced, fresh mushrooms (whole kernel corn is another choice).

Then came a handful of diced root vegetable: I used an exotic, white radish similar to daikon, but potato, turnip, parsnip or carrot will work as well).

The meat: about 1/3 cup of leftover canned salmon, but ham or chicken could substitute.

Seasonings were garlic salt, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, and some Italian herbs.

Optional: Immediately before serving, I drizzled in about 1/4 cup of evaporated milk. Makes two generous bowls of chowder.

10 casseroles under 300 calories

 10 casseroles under 300 calories per serving (from MyRecipes.com). 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!