Category Archives: Uncategorized

Corned Beef & Cabbage

I grew up celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day as though we were 100% Irish! If I actually did the genetic testing I’d say 1/16 would be lucky, but it’s all in the heart, right?

Every March 17th, or there abouts, my Mom would make our traditional St.Patrick’s Day meal

  • Corned Beef
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Irish Soda Bread (in the same electric bread warmer with the yellow top with black spots, circa 1960-something)
  • and, don’t laugh – Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Pie in a Chocolate Cookie Crust. Green, not Irish, but my Mom’s favorite flavor!

I love to share this holiday tradition with my family, and I love time-saving-kitchen-hacks! The Instant Pot saves hours of crock pot cooking and infuses the flavors to the beef and vegetables.

We are a family of 4 and make this recipe that serves 8-10, and wish every year that we had made more! The ingredients are simple and inexpensive, but I recommend getting good quality beef, it matters.

Instant Pots come in different sizes. If the vegetables don’t all fit into your pot, cook them in batches. Just remove the cooked vegetables from the liquid and add the remainder.

Sweet Potato Turkey Chili

This a great dish for cold nights when you want something different than the traditional beef and beans chili. This recipe can be made on the stove top or in an Instant Pot pressure cooker. If making in a Crock Pot slow cooker, you will need to saute ingredients first and then transfer to slow cooker.

This recipe is gluten and dairy free as written and can be made vegetarian by swapping chick peas for the ground turkey.

Sneaky Sugar


We all know that sugar is far from a health food. It rots our teeth, makes our kids hyper, leads to diabetes and a ton of other health issues. But, like many things, it’s all in the dose, right?

Eating sugar in moderation isn’t harmful, is it?

I don’t think it is. A cookie or ice cream cone is not going to hurt most people. This is where the dose matters and sneaky sugars start to add up to negatively effect our health.

Food manufacturers add sugar to foods for 2 reasons

#1 – To make shelf-stable food taste better

#2 – It’s CHEAP $$$$

When foods are processed and packaged they have to be shelf stable to survive the shipping and storage conditions and not spoil sitting on the shelf for months or years until their expiration date. Natural foods, the way they come from the ground are far from shelf stable. You’ve seen rotting produce in the grocery store, maybe even in your refrigerator at home.

Sugar is cheap! I won’t dive too deep into lobbyists or subsidies, but sugar is a commodity that is inexpensive for manufacturers to add to their products. ((notice I didn’t say “FOOD.”))

Ok, but processed and packaged foods have an ingredient label and that would say “SUGAR” as an ingredient, right?

And, the Nutrition Facts label would list it as grams of “SUGAR,” right?

Yes…and no. Sugar has MANY different names. You can even think of a few different types of sugar you may have in your pantry:

  • Sugar (white, cane sugar)
  • Brown Sugar
  • Molasses
  • Honey
  • Maple
  • Corn Syrup
  • Agave Nectar

That isn’t even counting the chemically derived sugars that are made in a lab. Here is a good list from Cynthia Thurlow on some of the Sneaky Sugars you may find on Ingredient Lists:

Items in packaged food Ingredient Lists are listed by weight in the food. This is where use of a WIDE VARIETY of “sugars” comes in handy. Manufacturers can use multiple different types of sugar so each one is in a lower quantity and therefore moving on down on the LOOOOONG list of ingredients.

A well informed consumer knows to flip the box and read the list on a granola bar, box of cereal, tub of yogurt or even jar of pasta sauce before tossing it into their grocery cart. They scan the first line or two and if they don’t see “SUGAR” figure, oh, it’s a good, “low-sugar” choice. Maybe…maybe not. Look for these other pseudonyms and all the other ingredients before making that choice.

Well, all these sugars would add up to grams of sugar on the Nutrition Facts label, right? Again, not always so clear, but getting better.

The Nutrition Facts label lists Total Sugar and Added Sugar. Added sugar separates out the naturally occurring sugar. In applesauce for example; there is naturally occurring sugar in the apples themselves, but…if they add sugar or corn syrup to further sweeten it, that would come under Added Sugar. Beginning to make sense?

I want to share an example that drives home ALL the points I’ve made thus far about SNEAKY SUGAR.

Frosted Flakes Cereal vs. NutriGrain Cereal Bar.

I posted this question last week to see if people could guess which had more sugar. The votes were heavier for the Frosted Flakes. I understand why, too. The adjective “Frosted” in the name implies COATED with sugar. The prefix “Nutri” implies nutritious breakfast bar, not to mention all the creative labeling;

  • Strawberries implying real fruit
  • Whole Grain and Good Source of Fiber

You would think this breakfast bar was like a bowl of oatmeal with sliced strawberries, in bar form. Not quite – NOT. AT. ALL.

Truth – by the numbers – see the info on one serving size below.

Frosted Flakes Cereal Label
NutriGrain Breakfast bar Nutrition Label from
NutriGrain Breakfast Bar Ingredient List from

The NutriGrain bar has MORE total sugar, MORE added sugar and LESS fiber than the Frosted Flakes.

Let the effect of food label marketing versus reality sink in….

Now let’s go just a bit deeper and check the Ingredient Lists. The length of the lists alone is eye opening. The Frosted Flakes list Sugar – one form, one name. The NutriGrain bar, I did you a favor and highlighted the Sneaky Sugars – 8.

The take away?

  • Read labels, don’t be fooled by marketing and branding tricks.
  • Check the Nutrition Facts for total versus added sugar, though it’s really all just sugar.
  • Check Ingredient List for lengthy lists of chemical-sounding names and watch for sneaky sugar pseudonyms.
  • And enjoy that ice cream cone or homemade chocolate chip cookie for the delectable dessert it is. Moderation not depravation – make your choice and don’t be fooled.

I want to thank everyone that replied to my posts and voted and commented on which they thought had more sugar and the great questions that inspired me to dig deeper in this blog post. And to Cynthia Thurlow for sharing such a helpful graphic. Check her site, social media and podcast for more great information on the real issues with sugar.

St. Patrick’s Day

This is often the holiday featuring Lucky Charms & ALL things with added artificial green food coloring. Green beer. Sugar cookies with green frosting.

This year thanks to COVID19, many of us are stuck home and the LAST thing you want are kids hopped up on sugar and artificial food coloring!

On the up-side, being home allows more time to make actual food. If your kids are home-schooling this is also an opportunity to get them involved and check these subjects off the list for a day:

  • math (measuring(
  • science (measuring, mixing)
  • language arts (reading a recipe)
  • FACS or HomeEc (cooking, cleaning up)
  • probably more but hey – I’m a mom and I gotta get this posted so I can get these kids doing their next ‘subject’!


See my post Go Ahead and Steal Me Lucky Charms for a smoothie and green muffin recipe. This post was from a few years ago – check the sweet faces on my now 10 and 12 year olds – but I’d also bump the protein in the smoothie with some Plant Works Vanilla Protein powder.

For the traditional St. Patrick’s Day dinner – my Corned Beef and Cabbage recipe…of course, made in the Instant Pot!

Corned Beef and Cabbage

  • 4 lb beef brisket (NOT already seasoned)
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 t pickling spice
  • 1 green cabbage, quartered or cut into smaller sections.
  • 4 potatoes quartered
  • 6 carrots, chopped into 2″ sections.
  1. Place beef, onion, garlic and spices in instant pot and cover with cold filtered water.
  2. Seal and set to high manual for 70 minutes and allow to naturally release pressure for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove beef and all but 2 cups cooking liquid from the pot. Trim excess fat from beef and cut for serving. Set into crock pot on low to stay warm.
  4. Place cabbage, carrots and potato into the instant pot.
  5. Replace lid, seal and cook 5 minutes and quick release pressure. Place a towel over the lid to contain the steam.
  6. Move cooked vegetables and all liquid to crock pot until ready to serve.

Vegetarian Options

If you’re not a beef-eater you can enjoy the cabbage, potatoes and carrots roasted in an oven – since, honestly, they’re not as good cooked in vegetable broth as they are in the beef broth. Just sayin’.

If you want go to green – make my White Bean Falafel and add lots of basil, parsley or cilantro to the mix, or top with a homemade or prepared pesto.

Health-ified No Bake Cookies

My 9 year old daughter wanted to make cookies the other day…while we were waiting for a new oven to be installed. So we looked up some no-bake recipes. They all had 2 cups of sugar for about 2 dozen cookies – seemed a bit extreme. They also said NOT to use natural peanut butter because the cookies were too dry… I KNEW we could do better!

Photo Nov 26, 4 20 59 PM

Health-ified no-bake cookie ingredients

We softened some dates in hot water for a few minutes and threw them in the blender with the milk (not pictured) and were able to cut sugar by more than half!

Health-ified No-Bake Cookies

  • 1/4 c butter
  • 5 dates (pits removed and soaked in hot water to soften)
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 c milk (dairy or non dairy)
  • 1/2 c peanut butter
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 3 c oats
  • 1/4 c chocolate chips
  1. Soak pitted dates in hot water to soften. Remove from the water and put in blender with the milk. Blend until smooth.
  2. In a saucepan over med-high heat combine butter, date puree and sugar. Bring to a boil and stir for a minute. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in peanut butter, vanilla and salt until all melted and smooth.
  4. Stir in oats and chocolate chips – which may melt if the mixture is still warm.
  5. Scoop onto parchment lined pan or silicone mat and freeze 20-30 minutes or until firm.
  6. Store refrigerated or frozen.

Makes about 2 dozen gluten, dairy, egg free cookies. You could use almond butter in place of peanut for peanut free cookies.


Cashew Chicken / Cashew Tofu

Long ago I realized why take-out Chinese food made me feel so sick. Like I was hung-over…before I even knew what that meant! MSG is a seasoning often added to Asian dishes that makes many of us sick. It’s really awful stuff also often found in packaged foods – so be on the look out and stay away!

Making traditional Asian take-out at home not only saves $money$, but is healthier and you can modify for all the different nutritional needs and preferences around your table.

In this recipe I took a traditional Cashew Chicken and subbed extra-firm tofu. Yes, I made 2 batches, one with chicken and one with tofu. It’s a Sunday night and this double batch only takes a couple extra minutes but saves me headache later in the week. BONUS!

I always ask the kids which version they want. Boy chose a little of chicken and tofu, girl ate all tofu and finished it!  At 9 she’s in a phase where any different texture in meat turns her off from eating anymore of her dinner. Fun times. Soy products, like tofu, are a rarity in our house but I grabbed whole foods organic extra firm tofu just to try this dish. You do need to press it though to remove any extra moisture so the cubes hold shape during cooking.

Photo Nov 11, 5 21 29 PM (1)

Pressing Tofu

Photo Nov 11, 6 00 17 PM (1)

Cashew Chicken

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 lb cubed boneless chicken
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 stalks of celery thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 T fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 c broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 c roasted cashews
  • Slurry (2 T arrowroot powder + 1/4 c water, or cornstarch or flour thickener)
  • Sauce
    • 1/2 c soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
    • 3T rice vinegar
    • 1T oyster / fish sauce
    • 1 T grated fresh ginger
    • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  1. In a large pan with sides heat the oil and brown the chicken. Removed cooked chicken from the pan. Meanwhile mix the thickening slurry and sauce ingredients in separate bowls
  2. Add the bell pepper, celery, garlic, ginger and broth. Simmer until peppers are softened but not mushy. Return the chicken to the pan.
  3. Add the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and stir in thickening slurry 1T at a  time until desired thickness.
  4. Add cashews
  5. Serve over rice or cauliflower rice.

Photo Nov 11, 5 21 19 PM (1)


Photo Nov 11, 6 03 45 PM (1)

Cashew Tofu

Cashew Tofu

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 8 oz pressed, extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2″- 1″ cubes
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 stalks of celery thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 T fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 c broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 c roasted cashews
  • Slurry (2 T arrowroot powder + 1/4 c water, or cornstarch or flour thickener)
  • Sauce
    • 1/2 c soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
    • 3T rice vinegar
    • 1T oyster / fish sauce
    • 1 T grated fresh ginger
    • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  1. In a large pan with sides heat the oil and add the garlic and ginger. Heat for 30 seconds and carefully add the cubed tofu.  Brown on all sides. Meanwhile mix the thickening slurry and sauce ingredients in separate bowls
  2. Add the bell pepper, celery, and broth. Simmer until peppers are softened but not mushy.
  3. Add the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and stir in thickening slurry 1T at a  time until desired thickness.
  4. Add cashews
  5. Serve over rice or cauliflower rice.



The Cashew Chicken can be made in the crock pot. Add ALL ingredients to the slow cooker except for the cashews and thickening slurry. Cook on HIGH 2-3 hours, LOW 4-6 hours. Add cashews and thicken before serving.


To make into a freezer meal place all ingredients into a gallon sized zip-top freezer bag – except for cashews and thickening slurry. The follow Crock Pot instructions.

Thai Pumpkin Soup

No pretty pictures, yet. Just want to get this one down. You can use fresh roasted and pureed or canned pure pumpkin. Just not canned pumpkin pie mix.

Thai Pumpkin Soup

  • 2 t coconut oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 2 c pumpkin puree
  • 2 c broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 2 c or one can of coconut milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 t thyme, dried
  • 2 T red curry paste, or 1 t red curry powder.
  • 1 t grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste.

  1. In a large stock pot, melt the coconut oil and add onion, carrot and garlic. Saute until the onion is translucent.
  2. Add the pumpkin, broth and spices and bring to a simmer, covered, until the carrots are soft.
  3. Remove from the heat and add the coconut milk. Puree with a stick blender. Alternatively, allow to cool and then pour carefully into a blender in batches.

You can serve as is or top with pumpkin seeds and chopped fresh cilantro.



Cabbage Soup for ALL

Another cold day ending in 2 hours on the windy lacrosse field and I was SO grateful I’d thrown this cabbage soup together before we left for practice!

As many of you know, I don’t give myself labels : Vegetarian, Vegan, Pescatarian, etc. I’m more of a “Flexitarian” meaning that I listen to my body and eat what it needs. For years that has NOT been beef. But this is good beef – raised on my friend’s family farm and crazy lean, so great for the hubby and kids. Beef also gives great flavor to cabbage soup so I cooked it up and then removed it from the pan before adding the vegetables. This gave me the flexibility to make one meal that met all dietary needs.

Photo Oct 22, 4 02 31 PM

** Look, it’s seriously just a handful of ingredients! That’s what I LOVE about soups! SOUP-ER simple!  **


Cabbage Soup

  • 1 lb ground beef (or turkey)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 t garlic, diced
  • 6 c green cabbage, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 5-6 c broth (beef, chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 (14 oz) can of diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • top with 2 T chopped fresh parsley
  1. brown ground meat – remove from pan.
  2. Add olive oil and onion, cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
  3. Add cabbage, carrots and celery and season with salt and pepper. Cook 3 minutes.
  4. Add broth, tomatoes and bay leaves.
  5. You can add the ground meat back to the soup or leave it out and add it to the bottom of the bowl when serving. This made 6 large servings.
  6. Top with chopped parsley.

Health — THROUGH — the Holidays


What do those numbers mean?

Is it a complicated locker combination? Football team starting lineup?

Nope. It’s the # of days from TODAY until Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve. And why is that important? Because having so many food related holidays so close together can be detrimental to your waistline and general wellness.

Halloween starts with candy corn and those darned mellowcreme pumpkins…and then the left over candy at the office and late night raids of the bags the kids ‘planned’ to donate to the dentist / troops / church.  A few pumpkin spice lattes over the next couple of weeks and it’s Thanksgiving. Ahh, the day we give thanks for our family and friends with a lot of sitting watching football and enjoying what studies have shown is the LARGEST single sitting calorie consumption in year – unless you’re a competitor in that Coney Island Hot Dog eating contest. The month of December we ‘fa-la-la’  from one festive gathering to another bringing carols…and cookies…and a cocktail or two. And before you know it, New Years Eve is here and you’ve moved to the “comfort fit” waist band and leaving shirts un-tucked.

Many cultures celebrate with food – I don’t plan to address that with one blog post – but a handful of guidelines can get you to 2019 feeling good, like yourself and not the Jolly Old Elf.


Normally, I agree with the 80/20 ratio of the importance of eating over exercise when it comes to weight loss or maintenance. But this time of year MOVEMENT moves to #1 because of the multitude of benefits of exercise. Besides helping to maintain weight due to the metabolic effects, it also reduces stress, encourages the maintenance of healthy habits, can be a way for family and friends to bond over a game of ball and PHYSICALLY gets you away from the food.


Planning is imperative. Look at your week ahead. Bring a healthy dish to a party – it saves the host some work while ensuring you have a clean option. When choosing where to begin, hit the veggie tray before the meat and cheese, a handful of grapes and cocktail shrimp over the creamy crab and artichoke dip. If you can’t stick to just one small portion of decadent dishes like cornbread stuffing or pecan pie – avoid it all together.


Hydration is tricky in the winter months. The air is drier and who wants a tall glass of cold water when it’s cold and wet outside? But, dehydration makes us confuse thirst for hunger…and then we’re eating AGAIN when we really just needed to drink water. Hydration is also key to a healthy immune system and digestion.

Now the ‘drinking’ you really want to know about. Alcohol not only packs a caloric punch but lowers inhibitions so we eat things we wouldn’t otherwise and alcohol leads to inflammation and belly bloat. Hello comfort-waist pants! But you CAN imbibe wisely.  Plan it out and schedule dry-days during the week or between parties. Avoid sweet drinks like eggnog or spiked cider and go for light beer, dry wine, clean mixed drinks such as vodka/ soda water / lime. You can add a splash of cranberry juice for color! Alternate alcoholic drinks with water to stay hydrated.


We know lack of sleep can turn you into the Grinch. But it also contributes to weight gain and weakened immune system. Getting enough sleep keeps your hunger hormones balanced and gives you energy to exercise and clearer thinking. Hit the hay instead of staying up to binge watch Hallmark movies with the apple pie.


It’s the most STRESSFUL time, of the year! Well it definitely can be but you can reduce the stress with exercise and sleep, as listed above. One of my favorite: Just. Say. No. You can’t be everywhere all the time. It’s ok, and expected for you to have to say NO to some events and obligations. Ask for help and delegate where you can but be ok with saying No.

When feeling the effects, care for yourself. Take a bath, get a massage, go for a walk or get coffee with someone you WANT to talk to. See a funny movie – laughter can be the best medicine. Christmas vacation is a personal favorite.


Enjoy the next 70 days of this festive holiday season. Focus on the friends and family not the food.

Want more information on exercise through the season, how/when/what to eat, healthy festive food and cocktail recipes, how to keep your kids hydrated and manage their sleep and stress?  Even healthy gift ideas – you know how to find me!

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram as I’ll be sharing nuggets of wisdom as we go! 

Minestrone Soup

The weather this year has been NUTS! It seemed summer would never end with 85+ degree days in October here in NoVA! When fall finally descended in the middle of the month we got a few autumnal days…then yesterday temps took a nosedive and we woke to frost this morning!

Why is the weather forecast important?

Explains my obsession with soup! I, personally have a hard time getting and staying warm and warming from the inside with soup or hot tea are much more efficient that walking around like an Eskimo!

This recipe for Minestrone Soup is based on what I had in the refrigerator leftover from earlier in the week and pantry items I had on hand. You can choose different veggies in place of the green beans, peas or spinach. Some options would be summer squash, kale or lima beans. I cook beans in bulk and freeze – cheaper and better for you than canned options- and had red kidney beans on hand, but cannelini or great northern beans are also a good addition!

Minestrone Soup Ingredients

Minestrone Soup

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 cups of broth or stock, chicken or vegetable
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cups of beans (kidney, cannelini, etc.)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups of chopped vegetables (green beans, squash, etc.)
  • 2 cups of fresh spinach (or chopped kale)
  • 1 cup of small pasta, uncooked
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 T dried basil
  • 1/2 T dried parsley
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook until softened about 3 minutes.
  2. Add broth/stock, tomatoes, beans and bay leaves and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.
  3. Add chopped vegetables and pasta and cook to al dente according to pasta package directions.
  4. Stir in spinach and peas and season with herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Remove bay leaves before serving.

I served with garlic cheesy bread.

Garlic Cheesy Bread

  • Cut a fresh baguette in half, or use slices of French bread. Spread with softened butter, sprinkle garlic powder and top with shredded cheese of your choice.
  • Broil about 3 minutes until cheese is melted.

Minestrone Soup