a fresh approach to health

I went to the grocery store today - something I don't need to do anymore on a weekly basis now that I order my produce box online - to stock up on basics for my pantry and freezer. As I filled my cart with fruits, veggies and beans, whole grains, spices and baking ingredients, lean dairy and meats, I watched many others fill theirs with boxed and frozen meals, fake cheeses, packaged cookies, chips, candy, artifically flavored and sweetened snacks and other junk. In many cases, I didn't see so much as a single piece of fresh produce in their carts. Not surprisingly, the majority of these people were overweight and generally looked unhealthy, despite the fact that their carts also contained 100-calorie snack packs, meal-replacement shakes, diet sodas, "lite" breads, and other supposed weight-loss products. Part frustrated and part sad, I thought about what the problem is all the way home.

It seems as if people have gotten confused about and have forgotten what they are supposed to eat. Even the government's food pyramid is so complicated that no one can understand it. If we would all just take a deep breath and think about what generations have been eating for centuries it becomes obvious: we should be eating fresh food. Generations before us ate what was in season. They ate what grew in their window sills and backyards. They ate until they were full. They drank water and savored sweet foods, even fruit. In fact, my grandfather used to jump for joy at the oranges left in his Christmas stocking!

Our original snacks - fresh produce, nuts, yogurts and cheeses - have been replaced with processed food products. As we add in chips and soda and cookies, we eat less and less of the fresh, simple foods that contain naturally occuring vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. Instead, we buy processed foods that have these things added in by a food scientist. Why? When did an apple stop being delicious and satisfying?

This shift in eating is the obvious and the not-so-obvious link to our alarming obesity and cancer epidemics.  Because of this, I feel compelled to tell you how I - an average chained-to-my-desk-for-eight-hours-a-day person - manages to feel full and satisfied, generally sickness-free, and at a healthy weight each and every day. It's so easy, there's nothing really to remember. It's all based on good, old common sense. In fact, you might remember your mom telling you half of it when you were a kid.
  • Get enough sleep and rest when you're tired.
  • Keep fruit and veggies in your kitchen and fridge for easy grabbing (I try to keep a fresh fruit salad in my fridge, like the one shown above, most of the time).
  • Breakfast should include fruit, a whole grain, and/or a healthy source of fat (like peanut butter) everyday.
  • Skip the sugar or artificial sweetener and add honey or agave to your coffee.
  • Eat a produce-based mid-morning snack.
  • Bring a water bottle with you to work and keep it full, fresh and within reach.
  • Eat fresh and filling foods for lunch - salads with beans, chicken, veggies, and cheese; a healthy sandwich on whole-grain bread or leftovers from a healthy dinner the night before. Eat fruit with your lunch.
  • SNACK frequently and pair fiber and a low-fat protein together to keep you full. Good proteins include a handful of nuts or a smear of nut butter, cheese, a boiled egg, dairy. Good sources of fiber include fruit and vegetables, whole-grain bread or naturally low-sugar cereal. (So, think an apple and peanut butter, a cheese stick and whole-grain crackers, a hard-boiled egg and a peach, or a bowl of naturally high-fiber, low-sugar cereal and skim milk.)
  • Exercise almost everyday, but vary the intensity and activity to keep it interesting, let your body heal and prevent injury. (My "off days" still usually include a one to two mile dog walk.)
  • Eat a dinner that's made up of mostly vegetables and lean protein. Add a whole-grain side only if you haven't eaten many grain-based foods that day. Grains are important, but keep them in check, always shoot for whole-grain foods, and fill up on the fruit and veggies first.
  • Watch your portions.
  • If you must have dessert, keep it small and try to add fruit to it. Dark chocolate, chocolate soymilk, and frozen yogurt are good choices in moderation.
That's it. By the end of the day, I promise that you will be full and satisfied. You'll get sick less often. You'll lose weight slowly and steadily if you have it to lose. Overall, you'll feel better. Remember, this isn't a diet - this is the way we are supposed to live. Think of this as a lifestyle commitment. And when you have a bad day, forgive yourself and start over the next day. Bottom line: love your body in this way, and it will love you back.

Like this rambling? Check out:


summer salads, part three: spinach and bacon salad with grilled peaches and homemade bleu cheese dressing

Bacon lovers, unite! Here's a salad that anyone will like (unless you're a bacon hater ... but I don't believe in those people). Salty from the bacon, sweet from the peaches, spicy from the red onion, creamy and tangy from the dressing - your whole mouth will be happy. And so will your belly.

The other neat part? Spinach is a true super food. It has twice the amount of iron as other leafy greens and it's a really great source of fiber, folate and a myriad of Vitamins, like A and K. But its superpowers really get amped up by the Vitamin C in the peaches which help the otherwise poorly absorbed iron absorb. And the fat in the bacon helps your body take in the vitamins.

Yep, you have the green light to eat bacon. And all is right with the world again ...
Spinach and Bacon Salad with Grilled Peaches and Homemade Bleu-Cheese Dressing

For the salad:
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 4 ripe peaches, pitted and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
  • 1/2 pound hickory-smoked bacon, roughly chopped
  • 8 cups baby spinach
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
For the dressing:
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) crumbled Danish blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden and fragrant, 6 minutes; roughly chop.
  2. Preheat a grill to medium-high heat on one side and medium heat on the other. Lightly brush the peaches with oil and grill over medium until nicely marked, about 4 minutes per side. Meanwhile, place a flat cast-iron skillet on the grill over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.
  3. Combine the spinach, red onion, grilled peaches, pecans and bacon in a large bowl.
  4. Make the dressing: Mash the blue cheese with a fork in a bowl. Mix in the buttermilk, sour cream, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss with the salad just before serving.
Also check out: 


cowboy spaghetti with beer, cheddar and hot sauce

So, technically this is cavatappi (corkscrew) pasta. But it doesn't matter because it's sinfully good for dinner. Or lunch.

"Cowboy" for the Worcestershire and hot sauces, beer, bacon and cheddar, garlic and onions, this pasta dish is uniquely westerny-Italian. My sister-in-law and I have loved this recipe for years, though we both didn't know quite what to think at first. If I could offer advice, it would be to try it on a night when you want something satisfying and different. And make a big fat salad to go with it so it doesn't count.

And per the name, this is a cowboy-sized portion. But, it made for a better picture.

 Cowboy Spaghetti
(Courtesy Rachel Ray)
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 3-4 slices smoky bacon, chopped
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce, eyeball it
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, eyeball it
  • 1/2 cup beer
  • 1 (14-ounce) can, chopped or crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 (8-ounces) can, tomato sauce
  • 8 ounces sharp Cheddar
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • Salt, pepper and "spicy flakes" (the term for crushed red pepper given by the hubs)
Need other Italian-ish ideas? Try these:


tale of a tomato plant

I am continually amazed at the simplicity of food. It doesn't have to be complicated or come in a fancy wrapper. As I get older, I'm finding that the best things truly are often are the simplest. This tomato plant was grown in healthy, rich soil and only required daily watering and ample sun.

To repay me, the little seedling provided me with a bounty of crimson fruit. No additives. No artificial colors. No preservatives. Just food.



summer salads, part two: grilled shrimp salads with basil-garlic dressing

The second in my series of satisfying summer salads, this one had me licking the bowl primarily because of the dressing. It was so good, I brought it to lunch the next day. This one's guilt-free all the way around, and won't leave you hungry.

Grilled Shrimp Salads with Basil-Garlic Dressing
Serves 2

Basil-Garlic Dressing
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
Shrimp and Salad
  • 1 lb. shrimp, cleaned and detailed and deheaded
  • Two large handfuls of lettuce (I used spring mix)
  • Two roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 can corn, rinsed
  • 1/2 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1-2 scallions, chopped
  • 1/8 c shredded cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Place dressing ingredients in a food processor until combined.
  2. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper and thread onto skewers. Grill on medium heat until pink.
  3. Arrange greens on a plate and top with corn, beans, tomatoes, scallions and cheese. Top with dressing and shrimp.
Also check out:


fresh tomato and oregano scramble with white cheddar

We've been out of town for a full week and had one glorious Sunday to ourselves at home before heading back to work on Monday. Times like these scream for brunch. My overflowing herb garden and a home-grown tomato were the inspiration for this simple and satisfying dish. A little wedge of leftover white cheddar proved to be the perfect last minute add in. So simple, it doesn't even need a recipe.

Fresh Tomato and Oregano Scramble with White Cheddar
In a small bowl, mix four to five eggs with a little splash of milk and salt and pepper. Stir in about a tablespoon of fresh herbs (like oregano). Add a dab of butter to a hot pan and pour the eggs when melted and sizzling. Stir the eggs constantly over medium heat to scramble them. When the eggs are almost cooked, add the tomato chunks and cheese. Stir to combine. Salt and pepper to taste.

Need more brunch ideas? Try these:

deep-fried zucchini bites

Yes, I said it: deep fried. As in these were made with a deep fryer (see photo below for evidence). Remember folks, a healthy diet (and a happy human) requires variety and the occasionally junk food. Deep fried junk food.

Plus, I made these for a lot of people. I didn't eat all of them - just a significant portion of them.

Oh, and the "bites" in the title? Perhaps that's a little misleading. They would make a very large bite. Technically, they're more "strip-like." But that's besides the point.

No matter how big your mouth is, make these "bites" when you're feeling the need for something different and fried. If you don't have a deep fryer (I don't - this was my brother-in-law's house), just heat a pan with olive oil and dip a smallish, breaded slice into it once it's hot; if it sizzles, the pan is ready. And you will be, too.

Deep-Fried Zucchini Bites
  • 1 3/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 medium zucchini, cut into 3-inch long by 1/4-inch wide strips
  • Ranch dressing
  • Marinara
  1. In a shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs, cheese, salt and pepper. Note: fresh herbs, like basil or parsley would be delicious here too - as well as a shake or two of Italian seasoning. In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs until blended.
  2. Dip the zucchini slices in the egg and shake to remove any excess. Transfer to the breadcrumb mixture and press to make the breadcrumbs stick.
  3. Heat oil to 350* and submerge the breaded zucchini bites into the oil for several minutes, until golden brown, being careful not to overcrowd the fryer. Serve hot with marinara and ranch dressing on the side.