Soup Swap!  Italian Wedding Soup

Soup Swap! Italian Wedding Soup

Part of the beauty of being a grantee through People’s Liberty is the great meeting opportunities it provides.  Kate Zaidan is a young woman in my 8 member class that shares my love for cooking, teaching and connecting people.  She took over her dad’s store, Dean’s Mediterranean Imports in Findlay market and is quite the go-getter.

A true foodie, Kate is hosting a soup swap today at People’s Liberty. The point of the swap is to share stories of where your recipe came from, as well as soup!  Each participant brings 6 quarts of soup to share in addition to the recipe.  Brilliant idea Kate!

I was worried about having to make (and eat) soup when this week’s February weather felt more like May.  But alas, the stars have aligned and we’ve got a cool 40 degree day ahead to chat and enjoy soup! Below is a spoiler- my mom’s famous Italian wedding soup.  Mine is a bit simpler.  You can add more greens as desired.

To read more about Kate’s mission, check out the link:


One, 3 # chicken               ¾ cup rice or tiny pasta

½ yellow onion, diced

4 large carrots, peeled & cut into coins

4 stalks celery, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

10 frozen meatballs, quartered

1 box frozen spinach

8 cups water, 1-2 tsp. salt to taste


Boil whole chicken. Remove from pot & skim fat from broth. Cut off visible fat from chicken & return meat to the pot.  Add chopped onions, carrots, celery, garlic, & spinach and simmer until vegetables are soft.  Add meatballs & rice and cook for another 10 minutes until rice is cooked.  Serve with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Makes 8 servings.  Per serving: 216 calories, 8 gm fat, 21.5 gm carb, 1.9 gm fiber, 15 gm protein, 35 mg cholesterol, 400 mg sodium

Housing means food security

Housing means food security

Today I met a true hero: a woman that works for Habitat for Humanity who shared her own story of poverty, and how ironic it is that she’s now working to build affordable housing.

She is the second person to recommend the book Evicted by Matthew Desmond.  The book highlights the plight of tenants and landlords in poor areas of Milwaukee in 2008 to 2009.

She shared a quote from an interview by the author that really struck me.  It made me think how much I, and others, take for granted having a roof over our heads.

“I always come back to the question of scale. Do we believe housing is a right and that affordable housing is part of what it should mean to be an American? I say yes. Then the question becomes how do we deliver on that obligation? I think taking this program that works pretty darn well and expanding it to all families below the poverty line is the best way to do that. These families spending 80 percent of income on rent would be paying 30 percent. They’d be saving and spending money on their kids. We know from previous research that when families get a housing voucher after years on the waiting list, they buy more food, they go to the grocery store, and their kids become stronger. The book goes into how much that would cost and how to do that. But first we have to recognize how essential housing is to driving down poverty and recognize that we can’t fix poverty without fixing housing.” – Matthew Desmond

Being interested in fighting food insecurity, this is most definitely on my list of “must read”. And volunteering for Habitat for Humanity is now on my bucket list.

Eat to the beat!

Eat to the beat!


It’s Valentine’s Day and February is heart health month, so let’s eat to the beat!  The following are foods to include this season to keep your ticker, ticking:

  1. Avocados- fat is the new black, especially heart-healthy, mono-unsaturated fat. Add some avocado chunks to your salad or tacos or spread it on toast in place of butter or margarine.


  1. Kiwi- the fuzzy fruit has been found to lower blood pressure because of its high potassium content. Three kiwi a day reduces systolic blood pressure (upper number) by over 3 points.  Systolic pressure measures the pressure in the arterial wall when the heart contracts. Try kiwi in Greek yogurt or eat solo.


  1. Citrus fruit- citrus fruit are in season, so add a variety to your fruit bowl! Oranges are high in soluble fiber to lower cholesterol as well as potassium to lower blood pressure.  Grapefruit and grapefruit juice may interact with cholesterol lowering medication, so read the label on prescription medications.


  1. Kale- this leafy green just won’t quit. Kale is high in potassium to lower blood pressure and vitamin C and beta-carotene to protect cells from oxidative damage.  Add to salad or soup or bake into kale “chips”.


  1. Greek yogurt- this thick, tangy yogurt is not only higher in protein and lower in sugar to curb appetite, it’s also a great source of calcium and potassium, nutrients found to reduce blood pressure. Mix in fresh or frozen fruit or substitute plain yogurt for sour cream in dips
Affirmations of a chronic dieter

Affirmations of a chronic dieter

About 8 weeks ago, I met with a woman that had struggled with her weight her entire life.  She’d been a chunky child, a heavy college student and now, an obese adult.  She’d always felt bad about her weight.  It was tied to her self-esteem and self worth.  If she gained weight, she felt awful about herself.  If she lost, she’d fear she’d just put it right back on.  She’d become a chronic dieter on what I call, the “bummer cycle”:  Diet, cheat, repent, repeat.  She simply did not know how to diet appropriately to lose weight and not feel deprived.  She truly believe that to lose weight, you must punish yourself.

After our first visit, she thanked me for not “shaming” her with 2 shakes and a protein bar.  After seeing her doctor, she was told she should either follow a stringent meal replacement program or see a dietitian.  She chose me instead.

She weighed in today with a 22 lb loss.  Granted, she’s been swimming a few days/week and cutting back on calories, but she stated these 5 things that she’s learned on losing weight:

  1. I will (and should) eat regular meals including foods I love.
  2. I should not eat foods that I don’t enjoy.
  3. I will not starve myself.
  4. It’s OK to have dark chocolate now and then.
  5. Eating food I like means being good to myself.

I could see the tears of joy in her eyes that she was losing weight, but still eating real food.  She had no desire to be on a drastic program that only shamed her.  Her goal is simple- 50 lbs down every year until she reaches her goal.  While it may be a lot over time, it’s one pound per week, which is not punitive in the least.

Pesto pasta with chicken and broccoli

Pesto pasta with chicken and broccoli

I hate to waste food.  Pasta is no exception.  I made this recipe on a whim with leftover chicken and cooked penne.   I keep jarred pesto on hand because of its convenience and delicious taste.  It’s made with olive oil and garlic, so you can’t go wrong here!  If you don’t have chicken, cooked turkey or white beans (Great Northern, Navy) would also work well in this recipe if you want a vegetarian option.  I prefer whole grain penne, ziti or spiral pasta to boost fiber content and color. If needed, you can also use gluten-free pasta made from corn, brown rice or quinoa.  Broccoli adds color, vitamin C, beta carotene and fiber to the dish.  Enjoy!


2 cups cooked chicken, cut into chunks

4 oz. jarred pesto

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

1 clove garlic, minced

1 lb fresh or frozen broccoli

1 lb whole wheat pasta (penne or other tubed pasta)

½ cup Parmesan cheese


  1. Cook pasta according to directions and set aside.
  2. Steam broccoli for 4 minutes in microwave and set aside.
  3. Sautee garlic in 1 tsp. olive oil.
  4. Add chicken, pesto and broccoli and remaining olive oil and simmer for 2 minutes.
  5. Add pasta to chicken and pesto mixture and blend. Serve with 1 tsp. Parmesan cheese

Makes 8 servings.  Nutrition Facts per serving:  343 calories, 12.6 grams fat, 46.8 grams carbohydrate, 12.2 grams protein, 6.7 grams fiber, 8 mg cholesterol, 181 mg sodium.

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