Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

“Salad Jar Daze”

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

You know it’s important to eat your veggies – a 3rd grader could tell you that.

Yet when most people think about adding more veggies to their day, bags of plain (boring) baby carrots and plates of (over) steamed broccoli often come to mind, squashing even the best of intentions. Even a devoted veggie lover like me can’t get excited about that.

If one of your goals is to “put more plants on your plate”, packing a salad (along with the dressing) in glass canning jars is a fun, creative, efficient way to make that happen.

Canning jars come in a variety of sizes, but the wide-mouth pint or quart sizes work well for this purpose. A pint jar holds two cups, perfect for a lunch or side salad, while a quart jar holds four cups – good for crowd or dinner size salads.

Simply pour salad dressing (1-4 tablespoons) into the bottom of the jar, then layer the veggies, starting with heavy, non-absorbent varieties like carrots, onions, cauliflower and cabbage, and ending with the lighter ingredients like spinach, lettuce, arugula, etc. on top.

Press down the veggies, screw on the lid, and that’s it! “Salad jars” keep will in the refrigerator for up to 5 days (yes!), making it super easy to have a ready-to-eat salad available at any time. When you’re ready to eat, just shake the jar to distribute the dressing, or simply pour the contents into a bowl and toss a bit with your fork.


Have fun mixing and matching ingredients and dressings, and congratulations on accomplishing your goal!

“A Lunchtime Tale of Love, Hate, and Obsession”

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

It happens every, single, workday, Monday through Friday. LUNCH.

I LOVE lunch, especially the lunches I make for myself (nutritious, delicious, and FREE!). I’m definitely not a lunch skipper; I’ve got to be on top of my mental game for afternoon clients, meetings or speaking events. Low energy and blood sugar, and foggy, sluggish thinking don’t allow me to do my best work, and that’s a disservice to anyone who entrusts their health and wellbeing to me.

What I’m definitely NOT a fan of, however, is actually making my nutritious, delicious, free lunch every, single, day. Truth be told, I hate it. When I get home from my office, I only want to decompress, eat dinner, and spend a little time with my husband before heading off to my crazy-early bedtime. See? No space for lunch making.

With no private chef or housekeeper to make my noon meal, I had to get creative to solve my love/hate relationship with lunch. Here’s what I came up with; prep once, eat 5 times.

The solution is pure genius, and involves three of my obsessions. I’ve outlined my approach below – I’m certain it will work for you, too.

Obsession #1 – I’ve become obsessed with Snapware®, the GLASS version. I use two large rectangular containers,


and on Sunday I pack them FULL of salad fixings. I haven’t measured the volume (the volume indicated on the bottom is in milliliters, which doesn’t translate well to cups of veggies), but I would say they easily hold 4-5 cups of chopped veggies. These two containers provide five generous salads, which means I only have to do all of that chopping ONCE!

Obsession #2 – A wide variety of fresh, “heavy-hitter” vegetables. I don’t want a salad that’s wimpy on quality nutrition, nor one that’s “just lettuce” – I’d be STARVING within 20 minutes of polishing it off!  Here’s a sample of what I typically include:

  • Carrots
  • Red or green onion
  • Fresh kale or spinach
  • Red pepper
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Red cabbage



I top each salad with a sprinkle of raw, unsalted sunflower seeds and raisins. Heaven!

Obsession #3 – Homemade salad dressing, which is ALWAYS tastier (and better for you), than store-bought. I have a few I rotate through, but here’s my current fav; (I use white miso). I make enough for the entire week – if there’s any left over, I take it home and use it up over the weekend.

What rounds out the meal is a good protein source, so I’ll add a week’s worth of hummus or bean-based soup. I also bring five pieces of fruit (typically oranges and apples), which serves as a sweet finish to my feast.

I also keep crackers and raw almonds stashed at the office; the crackers serve as a crunchy accompaniment to my salad, and the almonds are a satisfying side to my fruit.

Bring it ALL in on Monday, and essentially, you’re set for the week. So there you have it! My secret weapon in managing my love/hate lunch relationship. Pure genius.

“Francene In The Kitchen!”

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

If you follow my NutriFit blogs and Facebook postings regularly, the declaration below will come as no surprise, as I unfailing lend my voice to the cause for cooking. For those of you new to my work, please join me in this most important cause!

“I believe everyone can benefit from preparing more home cooked meals and snacks.”

There, I said it.

And I said it knowing full well that:

  1. not everyone likes to cook
  2. not everyone knows HOW to cook
  3. not everyone is interested in learning to like or how to cook

Before you list all the reasons why more cooking will never happen in YOUR kitchen, let me clarify.

I’m not suggesting you spend ALL your time preparing home cooked meals, nor preparing every dish from scratch. I’m simply advocating for devoting MORE time to a practice that gives you more control over the nutritional content and overall healthfulness of the food you eat – two benefits that support efforts to eat better – and who doesn’t want THAT?

And while some of the latest “fad” recommendations for achieving a healthy lifestyle call for herculean efforts (often discouraging a person from even starting), a gentle nudge to spend a little more time in the kitchen feels attainable to the most rudimentary cooks.

To further encourage you, I’d like to share what one of my clients is discovering in her quest to cook at home more often.

First, a little background.

As a rule, Francene (permission granted to use her real name) and her husband eat their main meal at a restaurant – pretty much every, single day. Francene is a beginner cook, intimidated by meal preparation, and lacks confidence in her culinary skills – not the best skill set for retreating to the kitchen and whipping up a quick meal.

Through nutrition sessions based on education, encouragement and guidance to start small, Francene became determined to give cooking a try. As it turns out, she did more than merely try.

When we met following the Thanksgiving holiday, Francene shared the lineup of dishes she’d prepared over the long weekend, and completely blew me away. She prepared not one experimental dish – but five – and brought photos of her masterpieces to share (spaghetti photo missing, as is the cauliflower and sweet potato sides that accompanied the roasted chicken before it became soup).


“Perky Salads!”


“Pork Roast”


“Roasted Veggies”


“Chicken Noodle Soup”




















Francene googled “beginner cook” recipes, and after finding several that looked appealing and called for familiar ingredients, she set to work simply following the directions – drawing on inspiration and encouragement provided during our nutrition sessions. How amazing is THAT?

At our meeting this week, Francene reported that she and her husband have eaten out only once in two weeks; which made me curious to learn what benefits she’s recognized from “eating in”.

  1. More time. It takes them ~2 hours to drive to a restaurant, order, wait for their food, eat, and drive home. That is NOT an unreasonable estimate, either.
  2. More energy. Says Francene, “It’s “tiring” to put the energy into going out; getting dressed and presentable,” vs. simply sitting down to the kitchen table.”

I hope Francene’s story has inspired you. Hopefully you see that home cooking doesn’t have to be elaborate, just simple, homey and nourishing – the best cooking there is.

So what are you waiting for? Get in that kitchen, and cook for a cause – your health. There’s none better!


“Tricked Out” Veggies For Your 4th of July Table”

Monday, June 30th, 2014

For many, the 4th is a favorite holiday, what with no obligatory gift giving or main event meal requiring days of advance preparation. But every holiday has its celebratory foods – and why should the 4th be any different?

Holiday foods ARE fun, but they tend to include choices you may not make on a regular basis. With a typical 4th food lineup boasting pounds of barbecued meat, gallons of alcoholic beverages, and loads of frozen desserts, “balanced nutrition” can be pushed ever so slightly out of balance.

It’s important to remember that one meal, heck, even one day of eating “out of balance” doesn’t make or break a healthy diet; it’s the choices you make day in and day out that matter over the long haul.

Even still, it never hurts to offer healthy choices, for yourself and your guests; they’ll appreciate it, and you’ll feel good about it.

Since there’s often a dearth of vegetables on the 4th table – so sad considering this is the time of year when they’re plentiful and at their peak – here are a couple to consider, tricked out to taste delicious and deliver an explosion of flavor.

Roasted Carrots and Garlic w/Honey Drizzle and Sea Salt: Stop by your farmer’s market for fresh carrots, garlic, and local honey. Clean, peel and chop carrots into 2 inch pieces. Peel several large cloves of garlic. Drizzle the carrots and garlic with olive oil and roast at 450 degrees for ~ 30 minutes. When they’re fresh out of the oven, toss with honey and sprinkle with sea salt.










Sauteed Cabbage Ribbons: While you’re at the market, pick out a heavy, green cabbage. Use a food processor attachment or sharp chef’s knife to make thin “ribbons”. Saute the “ribbons” in olive oil with a sprinkle of sugar and kiss of sea salt until buttery soft and translucent in color. Delicious as a side dish, or piled high on a veggie burger. Cabbage dscn07301






“Kissin’ Wears Out. Cookin’ Don’t.”

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Kissin Wears Out Cookin DontTo me, one of the most interesting finds in boxes of dusty old books are those small, plastic-spined cookbooks, compiled through contributions made from members of churches, groups and associations. Recently, while digging through a pile of those little cookbooks, this title, “Cook and Tell”. . .“Kissin’ Wears Out, Cookin’ Don’t” had me in stiches – once I got past the grammar, LOL!

What these compilations frequently lack in the way of “healthy” recipes, they more than make up for in their message and inspiration. Specifically, COOK.

Much to my consternation, but not surprise, way too many people (particularly those who are young), appear to have no idea how to feed themselves, outside of calling into service the microwave, drive through, or carry out.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones. At a young age I learned from my mom and grandma not only how to cook, but bake (tricky!). That base education was furthered through four years of home economics classes, and while I took an extended hiatus from cooking when I moved out on my own, over the years I’ve brought it back with a vengeance.

The ability to feed yourself is the one reliable self-care effort you can always draw on. Like the cookbook title implies, certain things in life may lose their appeal – or breed contempt. But cooking is always new, interesting and fascinating – even on a small “grilled peanut butter sandwich” kind of scale. Now there. Doesn’t that just make you feel more self-sufficient?!

Or maybe look at it this way. If everything else falls apart, you can always make yourself a nice, big pot of soup. And some days, depending on your particular situation, soup may just win out over kissin’.



Divorcing Old Man Winter

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Dear Mother Nature,

Please divorce Old Man Winter.

I’m personally not a fan of divorce – believe me, I’ve witnessed the damage left in its wake.

Yet there is no question that some relationships become so toxic, anyone remotely connected to the couple can be damaged by the poison that escapes the immediate boundaries of their “love”.

I’m afraid it’s happening.

Those in your path have been suffering through weeks of relentlessly frosty days followed by dangerously chilly nights; enough to suck the life out of even the happy-go-luckiest person. Your relationship casts a gray gloom that leaves folks snappish, lethargic, and depleted, draining energy and triggering cravings for chocolate by the truckload; none of which supports good health, balance, or the ability to utter “Have a great day” without feeling like a fraud.

What started out as a harmonious pairing has turned frigid, icy and bitter to the core. I don’t fault your choice of partners – on the contrary, you’re certainly not the first woman to fall for a man with a bracingly strong personality. But the relentless intensity of your stormy relationship has pretty much lost its appeal. The first melt-down was tolerable, even expected, but now? We’re crying uncle.

Send him packing, yet don’t be cruel. Take the high road and give him this recipe for a soup guaranteed to thaw even the coldest of hearts – after all, a man’s gotta eat.

Crockpot White Bean Soup

2 Tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

5 large carrots, chopped

1 pound dry navy beans

2 whole bay leaves

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon dried rosemary

½ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon paprika

Freshly ground black papper

2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

6 cups water 

  1.  Add the olive oil, garlic, onion, and carrots to the crockpot.
  2.  Sort through the beans and remove debris or stones, rinse them under cold water then add to the crockpot.
  3.  Add six cups of water and stir to combine the ingredients. Cook on LOW for 8 hours.
  4.  After 8 hours, stir soup and mash the beans slightly. Add ½ teaspoon Kosher salt at a time, until the flavor is to your liking.

Adapted from

Small But Mighty – Almond Quinoa Muffins

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

I may have mentioned this before, but for me, cooking, and especially baking – is like therapy. I’ve given this a lot of thought, trying to figure out why it’s so relaxing and satisfying to create something delicious. My musings have made me realize that one of the most therapeutic things about cooking and baking is that there’s a definite beginning and a definite end; you get a final result every, single time. Absolute completion.

Much of my work week revolves around things that are open-ended; they simply never get finished. When you own a business that comes with the territory, but honestly, sometimes I just like to start and finish something.

So there’s that, and then there’s the fact that I’m actually spending time in my kitchen – which always grounds and centers me. I work a lot, and miss spending time puttering in my “small but mighty” creative workspace.

That’s where muffins come in – sort of “small but mighty” in their own right. They don’t take a lot of time, you typically have the basic ingredients on hand, it’s easy to start up a recipe, ending with a delicious product, you can load them up with nutritious powerhouse ingredients, and last but not least, muffins are multi-purpose, serving as breakfast, a snack or dessert.

What could be better? I know. An easy way to clean muffin tins.

Those Hard-To-Clean (but orderly) Tins

Those Hard-To-Clean (but orderly) Tins

Muffin Batter

Adapted from Veganomicon cookbook. My changes/additions/substitutions are in italics.

1 cup vanilla soy milk (or use plain, and increase vanilla extract to 1 1/2 teaspoons)

1 tbsp ground flaxseeds

1/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup agave nectar or pure maple syrup (used maple syrup)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup almond meal almond flour (or omit and use 1/4 cup more quinoa – haven’t done this, but for those with nut allergies it’s worth a try)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon (increased to 1 teaspoon)

1/2 tsp cardamom (used 1/2 teaspoon cloves and 1/4 teaspoon allspice)

1 1/4 cups cooked quinoa

1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots or currants (used golden raisins, no chopping required!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a non-stick 12-cup muffin tin. In a medium size bowl, whisk together the soy milk and ground flaxseed.  Allow to sit for 1 minute, then whisk in oil, agave nectar and vanilla. In a separate large bowl, stir together flour, almond meal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing until just incorporated.  Gently fold in the cooked quinoa and the dried fruit and mix until only the large lumps are gone. Pour into the prepared muffin tin and bake for 20 to 22 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Photo: It's the second week of "Feed Me Friday!". I promised recipe for Almond Quinoa Muffins. It's coming via my blog in time to whip up over the weekend; just a little behind this week. Thx for your patience. . .trust me, they're worth the wait!

Finished! “Small But Mighty”

Feed Me Friday!

Friday, November 8th, 2013

I am a huge fan of cooking on the weekend for the week ahead. It saves time, money, energy and YOUR SANITY!

That said, I know how easy it can be to get into a cooking rut, making the same dish over and over and over; many of my clients struggle with this. Because my mission is to provide nutrition solutions to my client’s nutrition dilemmas, I thought a “Feed Me Friday” theme, featuring a new plant-based recipe each week could help.

I don’t have an actual pic of my dish, simply didn’t get it done, so I’m using “other” photos. I’ll be better in future – promise!

The photo below is one I took while dining at a Persian restaurant in San Diego. My dish is similar in appearance, so this gives you an idea of the finished product.

Here’s my inaugural post, I hope you enjoy the delicious results.

Curry-Kissed Lentil Millet Soup








1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 tablespoon curry powder

3 tablespoons black mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 can pumpkin (not pie filling)

1 can tomato paste

8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

3/4 cup green lentils

1/3 cup millet

1. In a large stock pot, saute onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons water until soft (add more water as needed to prevent sticking).

2. Add turmeric, curry powder, black mustard seeds and kosher salt, mix well with the onion and garlic. Cover the pot; the mustard seeds will begin to pop and jump and you don’t want them to escape. When the popping stops, remove the cover and stir the spices again, adding a bit of water as needed to prevent sticking. Cook the spices and vegetables ~ 5 minutes.

3. Stir pumpkin and tomato paste into the spice/veggie mixture, blend well and cook for 5 minutes.

4. Add broth, lentils and millet, stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down so the soup simmers gently. Partially cover the  pot and let cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally until lentils are soft.


* Add more water if you like “soupier” soup.

* Find millet in grocery stores sporting a bulk section that includes a variety of grains, dried beans, etc. Whole Foods, of course, but also check co-ops and other nutrition-forward locations. If you can’t find (or don’t want to search for) millet, don’t let it stop you from making this soup; it’s delicious even without it. However, this small yellow grain is a good source of fiber and protein, vitamins and minerals. It also contains the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, beneficial in promoting eye health. Learn about millet.


Raw Millet








* This particular collection of spices is common in Indian cooking. As a whole, this combination adds a rich, satisfying layer of flavor; individually these spices contribute important vitamins, minerals and strong antioxidant properties.  About this link: I haven’t used this particular company to purchase spices, but the founder is a fellow Chicagoan (solidarity!). I ran across her work one day and was smitten, partially because I love Indian food, but also because I found her story fascinating! Indian Spice Selection.

Indian Spice Collection

Indian Spice Collection








Get Well Dishes

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Early in 2013, my father-in-law was diagnosed with bladder cancer. If that wasn’t startling enough, tests to determine whether the cancer had spread revealed lung cancer; different from the bladder cancer. Which turned out to be a good thing, in the hierarchy of cancer goodness that is.

Needless to say, it’s been a long, bumpy ride. As we head into fall, I’m visiting my in-laws to help as best I can with recovery from a radical surgery (fingers crossed, the final major medical hurdle in his journey back to health), one that hopefully has kicked this unwelcome visitor to the curb.

We’ve got a recovery team in place, with each of us playing to our strength. As the dietitian/nutritionist/chef/personal trainer, I’m in charge of meals and walks. I confess, the opportunity to cook up nutrient-rich, plant-powered and delicious meals each day has me giddy.

A long-time follower of a vegetarian/vegan diet (with fish rotating through on occasion), I’m a huge advocate of plant-based meals for preventing and managing disease. Not that my cooking will be the ultimate cure, but it certainly can’t hurt. For the last 90 days or so, I’ve been experimenting with a 100% vegan diet, so I’ve packed those principles along for this trip.

Several days into my stay, we’re raving about the taste and the EFFECT of my cooking. My father-in-law is gaining strength daily, experiencing a perkier appetite, has color returning to his cheeks, and a small but perceptable pep to his step on our daily stroll. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not running a marathon any time soon – but by his own account and what we’re observing, he’ll be tough to hold back!

John Enchilada

I’m featuring one of my “get well dishes” here; vegan enchiladas. I made a huge batch, which with leftovers makes it easy to simply reheat and eat (they’re just as delicious the next day)!

EnchiladasVeggie Enchiladas

1 medium red onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 red bell peppers, diced

1, 6 ounce bag organic baby spinach

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

8 ounces extra-firm, water-packed tofu, drained and crumbled (I used sprouted tofu)

2 cups cooked pinto beans (I cooked my own, but you can use 1, 16 oz. can, rinsed and drained)

1 cup cooked quinoa

12 whole wheat tortillas

2, 12 ounce jars low-sodium salsa

1. In a large skillet, saute onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons water (add more water to prevent sticking/burning). Cook and stir 10 minutes, or until onion is soft.

2. While onion is cooking, place the sweet potato and 3 tablespoons water into a glass bowl; microwave 8-10 minutes, or until soft. Mash with a fork or potato masher, set aside.

3. Add bell peppers to the pan, stir and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the sweet potato, mix well. Tear the baby spinach leaves in two, toss them into the pan with the other vegetables. Stir and cook until spinach is wilted. Remove the cooked vegetables from the heat.

4. In a large bowl, mash the tofu and beans together (it’s ok to leave some of the beans whole). Stir in the quinoa.

5. Combine the vegetables with the bean/tofu/quinoa mixture; mix well.

6. In a 9 x 13 glass baking dish (larger if you have one), spread enough salsa to cover the bottom of the dish (save some for topping). Place ~ 1/4 cup filling on the long side of a tortilla, then roll tortilla around filling and place in the pan (I used an additional smaller dish, 12 enchiladas won’t fit into a 9 x 12 pan).

7. Spread remaining salsa over top of filled tortillas. Cover pans tightly with foil, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.

8. Serve topped with chopped green onions, fresh cilantro, and sliced avocado, or if you’re feeling ambitious, the following avocado “cream”.

Avocado Cream

In a food processor combine 2 large avocados, 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 cup packed fresh cilantro, 1/8 cup water. Blend until creamy, adding additional water as needed to thin into a pourable consistency (from “Oh She Glows” food blog).

Enchilada Avocado Cream


Cooking My Way Through “Forks Over Knives” – Better Late Than Never

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Though “The How-To Companion” to the feature documentary “Forks Over Knives” has been out for a couple of years, I’ve only recently picked up a copy. The reasons for only now getting to this small but mighty book are many, but primarily, I didn’t know it existed.

Yum Yum!

Yum Yum!

I did, however, know about the documentary, and this past weekend I actually viewed it. What can I say? It’s a “must-see”, even if like me you’re a little late to the party. As a nutrition professional, my radar is always up for the latest on the health and nutrition frontlines, but it can be a struggle to keep up with it all. I mean, even though I LOVE my field, there are times I want to simply absorb a great foreign film and give my professional brain a (temporary) break.

That said, I highly recommend both the documentary and the book (you can check out both from your local library to sample, then purchase your own copy). The great thing about the book is that parts 1 and 2 illustrate the connection between a plant-based diet and health (in a reader-friendly way), and highlight some of the folks featured/profiled/starring in the film, while part 3 is all about the recipes. The bonus? Part 3 is bigger than parts 1 and 2 combined! Why is that so exciting? Because the recipes offer so much in the way of variety that I can’t imagine my taste buds ever getting bored. Oh, and every, single recipe that I’ve prepared has been surprisingly DELICIOUS.

It’s not that the actual deliciousness of plant-based recipes surprises me. On the contrary. I’m a longtime vegetarian/vegan constantly on the prowl for new plant-based recipes and ideas. The surprise comes from discovering such a strong consistency of deliciousness. Sometimes cookbooks have a handful of stellar recipes while the remainder merely fill pages. I’m five recipes into this cookbook and haven’t found that to be the case – so for me, it’s a winner.

I’m including a soup recipe here, along with the changes I made. Unfortunately there’s no photo – we ate it before I snapped a pic! Even though summer is in full swing here in the Chicago area, my husband and I love soup. Any time of year, really. It’s easy to tote to work, quick to re-heat for lunch, and is typically a meal-in-one-bowl. Love soup’s simplicity and utter satisfaction, especially this one.

 Yellow Split Pea and Leek Soup

2 cups yellow split peas

6 cups water

2 carrots, cut into small dice (I had no carrots, so I used a large sweet potato, peeled and diced)

1 red onion, cut into small dice

3 leeks, white and light green parts, cut into small dice

4 celery stalks, cut into small dice

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons low-sodium tamari

1. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil and add the peas. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the peas are soft (start checking them 45 minutes into the cooking time; it will vary).

2. When the peas are soft, add the carrots, onion, leeks and celery. Cook for 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add salt and tamari, stir to blend well.

** I used an immersion blender to produce a smooth, creamy textured soup. I also added a cube of vegetarian bouillon (can’t remember the brand) along with the vegetables. Although I used water as the base, a good vegetable stock would also work nicely.




Shedding “The Shoulds”

Friday, June 28th, 2013

This past week I sort of felt like I was in a nutrition therapy session loop (nothing to do with my Chicago loop office, just a rather continuous conversational loop).

Repeatedly my clients used the word “should”, like this: “I SHOULD not have ordered that sandwich, but I did anyway”. “I thought I SHOULD have eaten less of that, but it tasted so good”. “It was my birthday/anniversary/golf outing, so even though I didn’t think I SHOULD eat X, I told myself it was ok”.

See what I mean? Over and over and over. The theme of “should”.

There’s nothing wrong with “shoulds” when they’re used to keep you safe, healthy or happy, or make things convenient. For example, you should brush, floss, and shower daily (healthy, happy – you and others). You should keep gas in your car’s tank (safe), and extra toilet paper under the bathroom sink (convenience). Outside of that, where else does “should” serve you, or serve the process of eating intuitively and mindfully?

That’s the thing about “shoulds”. They don’t allow you to intuitively listen to, nor honor, the subtle signals that your body constantly sends you.

Your body will tell you what you’re in the mood for (maybe you actually DO want a sandwich). It will tell you how much to eat (maybe the amount you ate was adequate, instead of too much). And, your body will tell you when you’ve had enough (we all eat “celebratory” foods at celebratory occasions – your body will signal you to stop).

You can’t out-think, out-analyze, out-rationalize, or outsmart your body’s wisdom. . .don’t even try. Yet when my clients employ “shoulds” based on outside information (plate size, occasion, menu items), that’s exactly what they’re trying to do.

Speaking of “shoulds”, I frequently remind my clients that exposing themselves to foods they feel they should avoid lessens the power of that particular food. The food becomes less scary, and they’re less frequently confronted with, “I should not have eaten that entire batch of cookies”.

To that end, I’m sharing one of my favorite oatmeal cookie recipes; cookies regularly top the “should not eat” list.

I respectfully disagree.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie


Makes 2 dozen cookies.

1/3 cup soy milk

2 tablespoons ground flax seeds

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh is best)

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 quick-cooking oats

1/2 cup raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, use a fork to vigorously mix together the soy milk and flax seeds. Add in the sugar and oil and mix until it resembles caramel, about 2 minutes. Mix in the vanilla. Sift in the flour, spices, and salt, mixing the dry ingredients as they are being added. Fold in the oatmeal and raisins.

3. Drop dough in generous tablespoons, about 2 inches apart, onto the baking sheets. Flatten the tops a bit (use a spoon dipped in warm water) since they don’t spread much. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

4. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in a tightly covered container.

From “Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero



Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 3

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

48 hours from now, I will have completed my half marathon. I can’t believe it’s so close!

Essentially, I’m finished training – completely. At this point, there’s nothing else physically that I can do to get stronger, faster, or fitter. I follow a religious foot, Achilles, and calf stretching and strengthening routine that I’ll do tonight and tomorrow; can’t really ever overdo that, and it’s helpful, even in this final hour.

Today I walked 1/2 mile to warm up, then ran an easy two miles. By easy, I’m referring to intensity. I followed that up with a yoga class – it felt really good to fit in some extended total-body stretching. The instructor’s emphasis for today’s class was on stretching and opening the sides of the body; loved it! Yoga is a wonderful antidote to running and strength training, and I try to fit it in as often as I can – unfortunately, I’ve been neglecting it because my training has taken precedence. It’s ironic that we offer Vinyasa yoga for beginners here at the NutriFit studio, but since I’m working when class is in session, I never get to reap the benefits. Too bad. . .it’s an awesome class!

A couple of days ago I was kicking around the idea of bringing food along so that once we check into our hotel we’re not held captive by over-priced, underwhelming restaurant food. It’s rare that food bothers my digestive system, but now would be a ridiculously horrible time for it to be one of those rare times. . .bringing my own food just makes more sense, especially since we’re driving. My brother likes the idea as well, so that sealed the deal and I decided to go for it.

In advance, I’ll cook up a big pot of whole wheat pasta (extremely difficult to find at a restaurant), saute’ veggies and vegan meatballs for me, and bring shrimp or chicken for my brother, nephew and husband. I’ll toss a huge salad of spinach, mushrooms, and strawberries, mix up my special olive oil-based dressing, and bring fruit and dark chocolate for dessert. When it’s time to eat, I’ll simply plug in the wok, heat the pasta and toppings, and serve up the rest. Cheap, delicious, nutritious, and smart. Well, except for the dish washing; bathtub? Nah. . .just kidding.

I’ll take pics and let you know how it works out in my post-run follow-up blog.

For now, here’s the recipe for the salad dressing – it’s divine!


1 tablespoon orange juice

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 small garlic clove, smashed

½ teaspoon ground, black pepper

In a small glass jar, combine orange juice, vinegar, olive oil, mustard, garlic and black pepper. Put the lid on the jar; shake contents vigorously until thoroughly mixed.

This salad is actually tossed with this dressing. Yum!

This salad is actually tossed with this dressing. Yum!





Chickpeas Are Missing From Your Diet? Learn How To Add Them, Deliciously.

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

I am crazy about chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans). Especially BAKED chickpeas. And also especially, blended into hummus. Oh, and especially in a curry dish. I think you can get a sense of my especially strong devotion.

My adoration for this scrumptious and completely nutritious food is so strong that this blog post practically wrote itself. So here we go, ideas and a recipe to inspire you to add these cute little guys to your pantry – and your diet.

Chickpeas Dry vs Soaked

Raw, dry on left. Soaked overnight on right.

I like to cook my own chickpeas. They taste better, they’re less expensive, and because they’re not canned, there’s no worry about BPA Are Plastic Bottles and Containers Safe (overview of BPA). It’s simple to cook your own, you just need a couple of tricks to streamline the process.

I buy dried chickpeas from a local Mediterranean market. They’re prepackaged in large sizes and are extremely inexpensive. I typically purchase a 5# bag, which after cooking yields 21 quart freezer bags (holding 2 cups each) of cooked chickpeas! There’s no need to cook the entire bag at once, I just need to be efficient with my time, so cooking all 5#’s worked for me.

Chickpeas must be soaked about 8 hours before they’re cooked. An easy way to do that is to soak them overnight, say, on a Saturday – leaving you a leisurely Sunday to actually cook them. Dump the dried beans into a large stock pot, cover them by about 2 inches with cold water, and head off to bed. The work happens while you sleep! As you can see in the photo above, there’s a dramatic difference in size between dried and soaked beans. Next morning, drain and rinse the soaked beans, and pick out any that are discolored. If you can’t cook the beans right away, cover and store in the refrigerator – I’ve left them for up to 3 days.

Place the beans back into the stock pot and again, cover with about 2 inches of cold water. Add a 3″ piece of kombu (optional). Kombu is a type of seaweed that imparts minerals, nutrients and flavor, and helps soften the beans. It also aids in making the beans easier to digest.



Bring the beans to a boil, then turn down the heat and place the lid on top, slightly ajar. Take a peek periodically to be sure the water hasn’t reduced too much (add more if needed). After ~ 1 hour, check the beans; they should be soft and practically creamy inside. Once they’ve reached that point, drain them, and pour onto a jelly roll pan to cool (the 1 inch sides prevent the beans from escaping).

Cooling chickpeas.

Once they’ve cooled completely, it’s time to prepare them for storage. Scoop two cups into a 1 quart freezer bag, label, and store in the freezer. That’s it!

Bagged chickpeas (and black beans!)

Bagged chickpeas (and black beans!)

When it comes to using them in cooking, there’s no need to thaw the beans for dishes like soups or casseroles – just add them in. However, if you need to QUICKLY thaw for a salad, run the bag under warm water until it pulls away cleanly from the beans, use scissors to cut the bag open, and place the frozen chickpeas in a glass bowl (NEVER microwave in a plastic bag or container). Put them in the microwave for a short time using the “defrost” option, and check to see when they’ve thawed and are ready to use (all microwaves cook and defrost at different speeds).

Now that you’ve learned a couple of secrets for cooking chickpeas, here’s a fabulous recipe for enjoying them!


2 cups chickpeas

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place the chickpeas in a large bowl. Toss with the olive oil, cumin and salt. Transfer the seasoned chickpeas to a baking sheet in a single layer. Place the baking sheet in the center of the oven and bake until golden, about 35 minutes, tossing from time to time to keep from burning.

3. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the chickpeas to cool. Store in a sealed glass container for up to one week (if they last that long!).

** Feel free to vary the seasoning according to individual preference; curry powder, garam masala, garlic powder, etc.


Life Without Microwave

Monday, May 9th, 2011

When was the last time you went an entire week without using your microwave? Assuming you HAVE a microwave. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just assume that most every U.S. household (and beyond), has one. Standing at the ready to heat leftovers, melt chocolate, or actually “cook” food, the microwave is easy to take for granted. Except when it’s broken.

Since our 2003 kitchen remodel, our KitchenAid stainless steel microwave had reliably done it’s duty. I spent last Saturday afternoon whipping up my version of Mark Bittman’s “Pinto Beans Enchilada-Style” from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, with the microwave in full-on heat/melt/warm-up mode.

But sometime during the night, it met its demise. Other commitments on Sunday prevented us from dropping everything to replace it – and that’s when the challenge began.

My husband took to re-heating his coffee in a pan on the stove, with me heating dinner “planned-overs” in the same way. Not difficult, mind you, but the “just nuke it” habit was certainly put on hold.

Thankfully, we picked out a replacement yesterday. After quadruple checking the dimensions to be certain it would fit into the microwave cubby, who would have thought about a bulky vs. flat plug-in and the extra space it would require. . . .grrrrrr.

How To Feed A Triathlete

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Before my husband and I were even married, there was one characteristic (of many, of course) that particularly attracted me to my then boyfriend. He was physically fit, cared about what he ate, although not in an obsessive, crazy sort of way, and had long been a proponent of both. I loved to run, bike, and do aerobics, and although I wasn’t a dietitian then, I did value the importance of a healthy diet. Sort of a match made in heaven, right?

Fast forward through what in October 2010 will be 20 years of married life, and he maintains the status quo. Although I would say he’s taken it up a notch. Before we were married, and during the early years of our married life he ran, biked, and worked out at the health club – like lots of people. But this Saturday he will compete in his 8th triathalon, the Evergreen Lake Triathlon in Normal, IL – which is not like lots of people!

Although I’m a personal trainer and run my own private personal training and fitness studio, I don’t train my husband; but I am in charge of feeding him – my other professional specialty! How do I keep him fueled, healthy, and ready to compete? Two words; real food. And plenty of it.

With the exception of the GU and electrolyte drink he uses on the bike, I don’t feed him special supplemental foods, protein drinks, or gimmicky sport specific items. I cook and we eat foods that most everyone has in their pantry. The exception that I take with our food is that I go for “nutrient-density” for the calorie buck. In other words, empty calorie foods don’t really make either one of us feel very good (and who needs that?), but it’s not to say we’re living on sprouts and water, for heaven’s sake.

I prepare whole wheat pasta, a variety of rices, from brown to jasmine to basmati to wild, high fiber, low sugar cereals – with a strong leaning toward oatmeal (not flavored and not in a packet), high fiber, whole wheat breads, English muffins and pita, heart healthy spreads and oils, organic non-fat milk, yogurt, and kefir, dried beans of all sorts, from black to garbanzo to butter, and lentils of red and brown, salmon, shrimp, and scallops, tofu, tempeh, and eggs, a wide variety of nuts, and a steady intake of 70% dark chocolate. Not to mention that there is near panic when our enormous fresh fruit bowl is close to empty and the veggie bins in the fridge are looking lonely – there’s fruit and/or a vegetable at every meal.

I love to bake, and my repertoire consists of whole grain fruit and nut cookies and fruit-based desserts like crumbles, crisps and cobblers. See, that doesn’t sound like punishment does it?

One final note; no one eats a perfect diet, not even in the home of a dietitian! But making healthy, nutritious food a priority, eating to fuel your life and your sport, and home-cooked vs. restaurant food helps balance out those occasional trips for a summer after-dinner ice cream. . .DQ anyone?

Cabbage Patch

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Remember those cabbage patch dolls that were all the rage in the 1980’s? People formed long lines outside store entrances for the opportunity to (maybe) snag one for their kids. I didn’t jump on that bandwagon – but I’m wondering if there’s any way that I could start a cabbage rage (for the real vegetable I mean) that would reach anywhere near the same level of enthusiasm.

Maybe if people knew that cabbage is truly delectable when prepared well, little cabbage patches would spring up all over the country. Especially now that it’s spring planting season, cabbage plants are a perfect garden addition to consider.

I cooked up a batch of sauteed green cabbage and sliced onion just last night. I always prepare it in my huge cast iron skillet – love the even heat and the way the food gets gorgeously brown.

Maybe if people knew just how powerfully nutritious cabbage is, they’d rush right out, snatch a couple of heads from the produce department and start shredding, sauteeing, mixing with dressings, and devouring the stuff with wild abandonment.

My friend David Grotto, RD notes in his fabulous book, “101 Foods That Could Save Your Life!” that that cabbage, as a member of the crucifer family is rich in phytochemicals called glucosinolates, indole-3-carbinole, isothiocyanates, and sulforaphane, which may protect against cancer. Cooking reduces these helpful compounds somewhat, but hey – if it’s cook it or don’t eat it, by all means, fire up the stove and try my method!

Cut the cabbage in half lengthwise and cut out the tough center core. Thinly slice the cored cabbage. Peel a large onion, cut it in half lengthwise and thinly slice it. Heat the cast iron skillet, drizzle in olive or canola oil and add the two sliced vegetables. Give them a stir to coat with the oil, then sprinkle in freshly ground black pepper, salt, and about a teaspoon of sugar (yes, sugar). The sugar nudges along the carmelization process, it’s sort of like the secret ingredient. Mix it all together, let it cook for about 15-20 minutes stirring every 3 minutes or so, until everything begins to get brown, carmelized, and soft.

I serve this as a side dish with everything from pizza to veggie burgers (actually, I like it ON my veggie burger) or piled into warm corn tortillas with a bit of melted cheese for a delectable veggie taco – yum.

Cabbage and onion before cooking

Cabbage and onion before cooking

Cabbage and Onion AFTER Cooking

Cabbage and Onion AFTER Cooking

Do You Know Tempeh?

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Tempeh (tem-pay) originated in Indonesia, where it has for hundreds of years served as a high protein food staple. At its most basic, tempeh is fermented soybean cake; doesn’t sound too appealing if you’ve never tried it and have no idea what to envision, right?

I adore it. The same way that some people crave a good steak, I crave tempeh – go figure. Its taste profile is based in umami (more about that in another blog entry, but suffice it to say it’s the opposite of a sweet tooth).

If you eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, tempeh is your “go to” meat substitute; it’s whole soy, with 10 grams of protein, 4.5 grams of fiber, and significant amounts of calcium and iron per 4 ounce serving.

I like to slice a cake of tempeh horizontally into 1/2 inch pieces, pop them into a hot cast iron skillet with a bit of olive oil and black pepper, and cook until both sides are brown and crispy. I find that 1/2 cup of water mixed with 1 tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce poured into the pan just as it begins to dry out (tempeh tends to absorb the oil) lends just the right level of flavor. Let the tempeh sit and bubble away in the water/soy sauce bath until all of the liquid evaporates; then let the tempeh cook a few minutes longer until it’s deliciously browned; if you can wait.

Serve on toasted whole grain bread (homemade if you can swing it), smothered in a mix of sauteed onions, mushrooms, and cabbage. Melt low-fat cheddar on the bread as you toast it, then smear on Dijon mustard and a touch of horseradish before piling on the veggies and tempeh (thanks to Deborah Madison for the inspiration).

Smoothie Recipes

Monday, January 4th, 2010

On December 31st I had a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate three healthy smoothies on WGN Chicago’s Channel 9. These recipes attack the top New Year resolutions: losing weight, eating healthy, and getting fit. As a bonus they contain super healthy, easy to find ingredients that are kind to your budget. For those of you who missed the segment (it was on early in the a.m.) here it is and here are the recipes.

I don’t make New Year resolutions, but my GOAL for 2010 is to blog on a regular basis; no less than twice per month. There. I’ve said it out loud, so it will definitely happen, right? Enjoy my 2010 kickoff blog, and a happy, healthy, delicious 2010 to all!


1 cup reduced-fat chocolate milk (can use soy milk)

1 banana, sliced (freeze it for an extra-creamy drink)

1 tablespoon natural peanut butter

In a blender, puree all ingredients until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately. Calories 330, Protein 13 g, Carbohydrate 52 g, Fat 8 g.


2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate (yep, scoop it right out of the container)

1/2 cup frozen strawberries, unsweetened

1 cup vanilla soy milk

In a blender, puree all ingredients until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately.

Calories 182, Protein 6 g, Carbohydrate 31 g, Fat 3.5 g


1 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt

1/2 cup frozen blueberries

1 tablespoon wheat germ

1/2 cup ice

In a blender, puree all ingredients until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately.

Calories 221, Protein 10 g, Carbohydrates 42 g, Fat 1.4 g

Cocoa Peanut Butter No-Bakes

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Sometimes you want just a little bite of something sweet, dense, and rich – but you still want to keep it healthy. These gems are just the ticket.

This is a quick, absolutely “no cooking required” (unless you consider microwaving cooking) cookie recipe.  I got lucky; I totally guessed on the measurements, but they turned out really well. Hope you enjoy them!

Cocoa Peanut Butter No-Bakes

1/2 cup oatmeal (quick cooking or old-fashioned)

1/4 cup natural peanut butter

1/4 cup shredded coconut

2 tablespoons cocoa

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Put all of the ingredients into a medium glass bowl.

2. Microwave on high for 15 seconds. Remove the bowl and stir the contents. If the peanut butter is still sticky, not melted, put it back into the microwave for 5-10 seconds more.

3. Mix well, until all of the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Let the mixture cool briefly until you can handle it comfortably, but don’t let it cool completely. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the “dough”. Press, squeeze, and mold the dough back and forth between your palms to form 1 inch balls.

4. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the cookies on the baking sheet and stash it in the freezer for 30 minutes (or several hours if you can wait that long).

5. Store the cookies in the freezer in a zip lock plastic bag. Makes 10 – 12 cookies, but you can double the recipe and make a larger batch.

Energy Bar Recipe

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

To all of you who promptly jumped onto my blog in search of the “missing” energy bar recipe that I referenced, I apologize for the confusion.

This recipe is from Eating Well magazine, a subscription definitely worth purchasing if ever there was one. The first time that I tasted this recipe I thought it was overly sweet, but then it grew on me, as long as I consumed it in small doses. I especially like it with a big glass of skim milk after my early morning workouts. The protein and simple carbohydrate mix is great for recovery following heavy strength training or an extra long cardio workout (something in excess of 60 minutes.)

This quick recipe doesn’t require baking, a huge plus and particularly appealing during hot summer weather, assuming that summer even makes an appearance in Chicago this year.

  • 1/2 cup dry roasted salted peanuts *
  • 1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds or other chopped nuts
  • 2 cups raisins or other chopped dried fruit
  • 2 cups rolled or instant oats
  • 2 cups toasted rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies
  • 1/4 cup toasted wheat germ (optional)
  • 1/2 cup creamy or crunchy natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup or honey **
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Coat an 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
2. Combine peanuts, sunflower seeds (or other nuts), raisins (or other dried fruit), oats, rice cereal and wheat germ (if using) in a large bowl.
3. Combine peanut butter, brown sugar and corn syrup (or honey) in a large microwaveable bowl; microwave on High until bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes. Add vanilla and stir until blended. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until coated.
4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Press down firmly. (It helps to coat your fingers with cooking spray.) Let stand for about 1 hour to harden. Cut into bars.

* Assuming that you use unsalted, natural peanut butter, the salted peanuts add the only sodium in the recipe, but it’s perfectly fine to use unsalted peanuts if you prefer.

** I used honey.