Thursday, November 10, 2011

16 Bean Soup

This is a great recipe that I found online for making 16 bean soup. I changed it slightly, because the original instructions had you add the beans dry, without soaking or rinsing them beforehand. I much prefer to soak them and discard the rinse water before eating them, just personal preference I guess.


1/2 pkg. 16 bean soup
1/2 lb Italian pork sausage
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cans low sodium chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes, pureed
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1/2 lb baby carrots, diced
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse beans and remove foreign material. Place in large pot and add water until beans are covered and water is 2 inches above beans. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Add more water to cover beans if needed. Let soak overnight. Discard water and rinse well.

Crumble sausage in skillet with olive oil and saute until slightly browned. Add onions and cook until transparent. Add garlic. Add chicken broth to deglaze pan and transfer to a crockpot.

Add remaining ingredients except for tomatoes. Set crockpot to high setting and cook for 2 hours, then set to low and simmer until beans are very tender. Add tomatoes during final hour of cooking. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Healthy Snacks

For me, one of the biggest challenges to eating healthy has always been snacking. How do you overcome that urge to snack in the mid-morning or late afternoon? With my new training as a health and nutrition counselor, I really felt the need to step up and start living what I am preaching! It's difficult, if not impossible, to eat healthy 100% of the time. But I knew I could make major improvements in the foods I was snacking on.

At IIN, it's all about "crowding out" the bad foods and adding in good ones. So I made a commitment to always have a bowl of fresh fruit on my kitchen counter, even if it means I have to visit the grocery store or farmer's market more than once a week! I also committed to eat three of those fruits a day, and then if I still want a not-so-healthy snack after that, like chocolate, I can have it.
I also try to keep a stash of nuts on hand for munching on. Just be sure to limit the amount you eat by putting some in a small cup or baggie. It's easy to eat a lot of this treat without realizing it. Natural (no salt added) is best, but if you must have a little salt, look for nuts flavored with sea salt.
Another great snack I discovered is a brown rice cake with a little natural peanut butter spread on top. It satisfies my sweet craving, leaves me feeling satiated, and has less than 50 calories if you go easy on the peanut butter! It's also awesome with a little honey on top!
There are some days, most days actually, when I just have to have the chocolate! I have discovered this treat is even more special when I treat myself to the really good, more expensive dark chocolate with 70% or more cocoa. It's very rich and creamy, and usually one or two squares satisfies my craving.

A new favorite healthy snack I just discovered is hummus! I've had it at a Greek restaurant, and loved it! I think it would be a great snack to have with some fresh vegies like carrots, celery, red and yellow peppers, etc. I have not really liked any of the ready-made versions from the grocery store, so if anyone has a great recipe they could share with me, I would appreciate it.

Please feel free to share you favorite healthy treats in the comment section below. Healthy snacking!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Importance of Water

One of the best things I have learned so far in my IIN course is the importance of water. Water is the foundation of our diet, the thing we need the most of and probably get the least of. Water helps us break down our food more effectively. It helps us overcome sugar and salt cravings. It can prevent premature aging and wrinkling of the skin, eliminate pain and headaches, lower blood pressure and help us lose weight.

I have learned the hard way that dehydration can lead to the formation of kidney stones. I have suffered with kidney stones several times in my life, and I know of many other people who have also experienced this extremely painful condition. I cannot stress enough the need for each of us to drink more water!

From the website I learned:

Water is the basis of all life, and that includes your body.

Your muscles are 75% water.

Your blood is 82% water.

Your lungs are 90% water.

Your brain is 76% water.

Your bones are 25% water.

Your entire body is 75% water.

Dehydration produces pain as its first alarm signal. If the dehydration persists and is not corrected naturally with water, it becomes symptom-producing and, in time, develops into a disease condition.

Soda, coffee and tea don't replace water needs of the body. These dehydrate the body even more, and within an hour you will urinate a cup more than the beverage you drank.

Dry mouth is one of the very last indicators of dehydration of the body. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already extremely dehydrated.

Dark yellow or orange urine
Decreased coordination
Dry skin, nose, mouth
Decreased urine output
Impairment of judgement

Divide your body weight by two, and drink that many ounces of water a day. If you weigh 200 pounds, you should drink 100 ounces or 10-12 cups per day. If you weigh 100 pounds, you will only need about 50 ounces or four 12 oz. cups per day.

Most municipal water is safe to drink. If you are unsure of the water quality in your area, you can get a water filter that attaches to your faucet.


Morning is when you are most dehydrated and full of toxins. Drink a big glass of water first thing in the morning to flush out toxins and get blood flowing.

Drink water before a meal and afterwards to help in the digestion process.

Balance your sodium intake with your water consumption. You should take in 1/4 tsp. of sea salt per quart of water. Low sodium levels in the blood can lead to sickness and even death.

Keep a water bottle by your side at all times. Take it everywhere with you. Don't wait until you are thirsty to drink.

Drink at least 1 liter of water for every 60 minutes of exercise. Drink more if it's hot. During exercise, replenish fluid every 20 minutes.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Starting a New Chapter

I am starting a new chapter in my life. It's called the "Pre-Empty Nest" chapter! I still have one child at home, but he started high school this year, and so I realize how quickly the time will fly and he will be leaving the nest. I have dedicated the last 23 years of my life to raising my children, and I don't regret any decisions that I made to put them first in my life. I know that they are all wonderful, caring people who will go out and do great things in the world. But what about me? What can I contribute to the world now that my nurturing days are coming to an end? I know that my children, even when they are grown, will always need me, and I will always need them and want them to be a huge part of my life. But the days of feeding, changing, chauffeuring, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, supervising homework, and just taking care of are dwindling.

So I am very excited that I have found a program in which I will be training to become a certified health coach! It is a year-long program that I will start on September 12th! I have been studying and learning about natural health and nutrition for 10 years now, and I have decided to take the next step and get some formal training. I am nervous about having homework again, it's been quite a long time since I've had to do that, but mostly I am so eager to jump in and start learning how to teach other people the concepts that I have been researching and implementing in my own life!

I will keep this blog updated on my progress as I go along, and I will share as much of this journey with you as I possibly can!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tropical Smoothies

When we went on a cruise a few years ago to the Eastern Carribean we stopped on the island of Dominica. We saw a sign that said "Best smoodies on da island" and it made us laugh! This recipe for tropical smoothies reminds me of those island "smoodies" and they are so tasty on a hot summer day! The best part about these smoothies is how good they are for you. Give this one a try!

1/2 cup water
1/2 lime, peeled
1 medium banana, peeled
1 cup fresh spinach, washed
1 cup pineapple chunks (fresh is best but canned will work)
1 cup ice cubes

1. Place all ingredients into a vita-mix or high powered blender in the order listed.

2. Turn machine on and quickly increase speed to variable 10, then switch to high.

3. Blend for 1 minute or until desired consistency is reached. Drink immediately.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Light Will Soon Return

We spent a few days over Easter weekend in Flagstaff, AZ. As we were exploring the historic part of town, we came across this mural. I wasn't holding the camera at the time, Devin was, but I commented on how much I loved the wall. Devin must have thought it was pretty cool too, because he took a few pictures of it. The message on the wall is this: "When you see only the dark, know the light will soon return."The first thought that came to my mind when I read this was the weather. We have had so many days of dark and gloomy weather, and it seems as if the warm and sunny days will never return. I am a person who needs sunlight in order to function. The gray skies make me feel sad, depressed and hopeless at times. But I know that eventually the sun will shine again, flowers will bloom, the skies will be blue and warmth will envelope me. I just have to hold on until the sun returns.

As I have pondered on this mural I realized that it also has a deeper meaning, at least for me. Life itself can be pretty dark at times. There can be so much sadness, tragedy and grief in this life that it can be overwhelming and consuming sometimes. But we know that it won't always be dark. The good and happy times will return eventually. We just have to hold on and trust that things will get better. The bad things can only defeat us if we allow them to, by focusing on them instead of the good and wonderful things in our lives.

I have learned that what we resist persists, and what we fight against only grows stronger. The bad times in our lives only have power over us if we give them that power. We can accept what is, deal with it and move on. We don't have to dwell on the negative. We may be surrounded by darkness from time to time, but if we just hold on, the light will soon return.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bulgar Greek Salad

I'm posting another recipe because I thought this one was too good not to share. I found it in a Healthy Cooking Magazine from last year. This won first place in a whole grains recipe category, and it sounded so good, I wanted to try it. The prep time was a little more than I usually like to spend, but it was fairly easy to make. I think it's a great alternative to a summer pasta salad, and much healthier for you!

1 1/2 C bulgar wheat
3 C boiling water
1/4 C + 2 Tbsp lemon juice, divided
1 tsp salt, divided (I use sea salt)
1 1/4 C cubed cooked chicken breast
1 1/4 C chopped cucumber
1/2 C cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 C pitted greek olives
1/4 C minced fresh parsley
1/4 C roasted sweet red peppers, drained and chopped
1/4 C chopped red onion
3 Tbsp minced fresh basil
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 C crumbled feta cheese

1. Place bulgar in a small bowl. Stir in the water, 1/4 C lemon juice and 1/2 tsp salt. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Drain well.

2. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, parsley, red peppers, onion and basil. Stir in bulgar.

3. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, oregano, pepper, cayenne, and remaining lemon juice and salt. Pour over bulgar mixture; toss to coat. Sprinkle with feta cheese.

*2/3 C serving has 137 calories, 5 g fat, 12 g cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 7 g protein.

My kids don't generally like salads, so Devin wasn't a big fan of this one either. However, David and I both really liked it and it stayed good for quite a few days in the refrigerator to snack on.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Healthy Corn and Black Bean Chili

I found this great recipe in a Cooking Light cookbook and it has been a big hit with my family. I thought I would share it because it is so good and so easy to make.

1 lb lean ground beef or ground turkey
2 tsp chili powder
1 14 oz. package frozen seasoned corn and black beans
1 14 oz. can fat free, less sodium beef broth
1 15 oz can seasoned tomato sauce for chili
Reduced fat sour cream (optional)
Sliced green onions (optional)

1. Brown the meat in a large dutch oven (I just use a big pot). Add chili powder while browning. Drain off any remaining fat.
2. Stir in frozen corn mixture, broth and tomato sauce; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 min. Uncover and simmer 5 more min.
3. Ladle chili into bowls and top with sour cream and onions if desired.

(If it seems too thick, add a little more tomato sauce and a little water.)

FAT: 3 g.
PROTEIN: 20 g.
CARB: 20 g.
FIBER: 3.4 g.

Monday, February 28, 2011

My New Healthy Obsession

A friend of mine introduced me to these wonderfully weird but quite tasty bars, and now I am obsessed with them! Here's the cool thing: they are 100% natural -- no dyes, preservatives, HFÇS or anything else bad for you! They are also vegan, gluten free, soy free, dairy free and kosher.

So what is in them? The first one I ate had three ingredients: unsweetened cherries, almonds and dates. Its like you took a blender and tossed in the ingredients until it made a paste and then shaped it into a bar. Sounds gross, I know, and they even smell a little bit weird, but they actually taste really good!

I thought it might make my stomach hurt, with all those raw ingredients, but it didn't, which surprised me since I have a sensitive stomach. They come in all kinds of flavors, I've only tried three, but I plan to buy more and see which ones are best. The apple pie and peanut butter cookie ones are good, as well as the cherry pie which I already mentioned. Each bar has around 200 calories and 8 to 12 grams of fat. Cherry had the lowest fat content, and apple was the lowest in calories.

I'm thinking this is a good thing to keep one or two of in your purse for those times when you feel like reaching for a candy bar or bag of chips. These are satisfying and good for you :)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Breaking my Sugar Addiction

I love sugar. Well, not sugar so much as foods that have sugar in them. Doughnuts, cake, brownies, chocolate, all of it. But the more I learn about this sweet stuff, the more I am convinced that I need to break my addiction to it. So for the past week or so, I have been seriously cutting back on the amount of sugar I allow into my body. It's really HARD! I knew I loved sugar, but I didn't realize how seriously addicted I was to it. Here are some reasons why I feel the need to ease up (alot) on the sweet stuff.

* Sugar gives you a temporary "high" or burst of energy, but leaves you feeling depleted and lethargic when it wears off.

* Sugar can cause wide swings in your blood sugar levels which can lead to anxiety.

* Too much sugar can lead to vitamin B deficiencies, which leads to depression.

* Too much sugar can lead to insulin resistance, weight gain, and ultimately diabetes.

* Sugar suppresses the immune system which makes it harder for your body to fight off infections.

* A drop in blood sugar after a sugar "high" can cause neck, shoulder and head muscles to spasm which leads to tension headaches and migraines.

* Too much sugar causes yeast overgrowth which can lead to sinus infections.

Here are some easy ways to start cutting back on the amount of sugar in your diet:

* Check the label. If high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, glucose or sugar are one of the first three ingredients, put it back on the shelf! (Make sure you check everything, even salad dressings and whole wheat breads can have tons of sugar in them.

* Have healthy snacks that you actually like on hand. This will keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day and you'll be less likely to grab for that doughnut.

* Include a carbohydrate, a protein and a fat in every meal, and lots and lots of vegetables. Protein and healthy fats give you sustained energy, whole grain carbs help you feel full, and vegies add fiber which helps with digestion.

* If you are craving sugar, allow yourself one or two bites of your favorite treat instead of eating the whole thing.