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Soup tips!

Soup tips!

Despite the recent warm up in temperatures, I still consider February to be soup season. In all honesty, I eat soup almost year-round with the exception of July and August when the temps rise above 90 in Cincinnati.

I have picked up a few tricks to making soup faster and more delicious as I almost always do soup as a food demo for companies. It’s a recipe that can easily be scaled for a larger crowd and I’ve never had a complaint of a bad recipe.

Here are a few tips to make a tastier, healthier soup:

  1. Sautee dried herbs and spices along with onions and garlic. This enhances the flavor of your soup. If you are adding fresh herbs like basil, cilantro or parsley, add them at the end.
  2. Consider corn oil when you cook. Corn oil has 10 x more plant sterols, a chemical found to lower LDL (lousy) cholesterol than coconut oil, 4 times more than olive oil and 1 1/2 times more than canola oil. It’s also less expensive than most of the above cooking oils.
  3. Add beans or lentils to your soup. This boosts protein and fiber and makes a more filling, hearty soup. Lentils take about 2 hours to simmer before they soften, but canned beans are pre-cooked and ready in about 20 minutes.
  4. Use frozen spinach or peppers to boost color, flavor and nutrition in your soup. These are inexpensive ways to sneak in more veggies without having to chop them.
  5. Use reduced sodium stock to cut back on the salt in recipes.It’s great if you’ve got your own homemade stock, but most of us don’t have the “thyme” (har har). Despite popular opinion, there are not any health advantages to bone broth. It does make a tastier stock, but it not going to cure cancer, anemia or any other ailment.

Below is one of my favorite soup recipes. Enjoy!

Pizza Soup:

1 Tbsp. corn oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. basil
1 tbsp. rosemary

1 can diced tomatoes (15 oz can, keep liquid)
2 cans white beans (drained and rinsed)
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 box chopped frozen spinach

Turkey pepperoni (optional)

Sautee onions, garlic and spices in corn oil until the onions are translucent.  Add broth, tomatoes, spinach, and beans and continue to simmer on low heat until soup thickens (~30 minutes). Serve with shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese and your favorite crusty bread.

Makes 12 servings. Nutrition Facts per serving: 160 calories, .2 grams fat, 10 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrate, 8grams fiber, 107 mg sodium


Cures for that super hangover

Cures for that super hangover

Oops!  You’ve done it again.  You agreed to that last beer at closing time, tequila shot with your persuasive friends, or victory champagne after the Eagles win.  Here are 5 tips to get your brain and body back to full throttle today:

For nausea:

Ginger tea or peppermint.  Ginger has been used for centuries as a natural nausea cure.  It’s not just for morning sickness!  Try ginger tea, ginger ale or non-alcoholic ginger beer to calm your stomach.  Peppermint oil relaxes stomach muscles and can have a soothing effect.  Peppermint oil is often used with IBS, but should be avoided in those with reflux, as it lowers esophageal sphincter pressure.  The sugar in peppermint candy will raise blood sugar, too for energy.

For energy:

Toast or crackers.  Normally when blood sugar is low, your liver kicks in to release sugar from stored glucose (called glycogen).  But if it’s been metabolizing alcohol all night, it can’t handle the extra work.  Toast, crackers, bread or any other carbohydrates (like fruit) will bring your blood sugar up and give you energy.

For headaches:

Water, water, water.  It’s a known fact that alcohol is a diuretic- meaning it will make you pee most of the night, resulting in dehydration and a headache.  If you can, drink at least 2 glasses before going to bed the night before.  If not, start drinking as soon as you wake up.  You CAN over-hydrate yourself- resulting in hyponatremia (low blood sodium) and brain edema.  Three liters/day is plenty for most people.  Seltzer is another good option for an upset stomach.

Coffee.  If you’re a regular consumer of coffee, you’ll need it to prevent a headache.  But overdoing it, won’t help as it is also a diuretic.  Too much can cause stomach upset.  Enjoy your usual 1-2 cups, but continue to hydrate throughout the day.

Pain meds.  Stick with aspirin, Naproxen or Ibuprofen for your hangover headache.  Tylenol mixed with alcohol can lead to liver damage.  Take your non-steroidal drugs with food or a glass of milk as they can eat up your stomach lining over time.

What to cook in a bare minimum kitchen

What to cook in a bare minimum kitchen

I take my kitchen for granted.  Last year, I turned 50 and decided that what I really wanted for my birthday was an upgrade in appliances.  We spend the majority of time in our kitchen, so this was the equivalent of new furniture to me.  Our dishwasher with the robin’s egg blue liner survived the 50’s and our white stove top had nasty splotches of burnt yellow in several spots.  The microwave was not awful, but once you replace the stove, the microwave has to match.  We kept our white frig since it was still fairly new.

Today I met someone that does not have a functioning kitchen.  Her frig is the college dorm type where the freezer is a layer of useless frost.  She’s very limited with space and cannot keep much perishable food. She only has a microwave and a toaster oven to cook with.  In addition, she’s on a limited budget. I didn’t realize how good I had it to have functioning appliances.  I was so spoiled to want new ones.

Her main concern was “what can I cook given what I have and still eat fairly healthy”?  She’s been living on grab and go foods at our local grocery, some that were healthy and the others pretty processed. Below are 3 simple recipes to create with limited cash, space and appliances.

  1. Black bean burritos.


1 can black beans, drained and rinsed


2% milk shredded cheese

4 whole wheat tortillas


  1. Place the beans and 3 Tbsp. salsa in a microwave safe bowl and mix together. Microwave for ~2 minutes, stir and microwave again for 2 minutes.
  2. Place 3 Tbsp. black beans on a whole wheat tortilla with 2 Tbsp. shredded cheese.
  3. Roll up and eat with additional salsa.

Makes 4 servings.


  1. Green eggs, no pan


1 egg

1 tsp. water

Non-stick cooking spray

1 cup fresh spinach leaves or other chopped veggies (onions, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc.)

1 tsp. shredded cheddar cheese

1 whole wheat English muffin (optional)


Spray the inside of a small, glass cereal bowl with non-stick spray.

Crack 1 egg and add 1 tsp. water and scramble the egg in the bowl.

Place fresh spinach over the egg and microwave for 1 minute.

While the egg is cooking, toast the English muffin.

Take the egg out of the microwave and sprinkle cheese over the spinach.

Microwave the egg again for 20-30 seconds until the cheese is melted.

Take the muffin out of the toaster and put on a plate.

Fold the egg over twice and place on one half of the muffin, then place the other half of the muffin over it to make a sandwich.

Makes 1 sandwich, but more can be made.


  1. Thai peanut noodles with chicken


1 (16 oz bag) cooked pasta (Barilla)

1 can cooked chicken, drained

2/3 cup peanut butter

2 Tbsp. Teriyaki sauce

1/2 cup water


Place cooked pasta and chicken in a bowl

In a separate bowl, combine 2/3 cup peanut butter, ½ cup water and 2 Tbsp. teriyaki sauce.

Microwave the sauce for 2 minutes and stir when done.

Pour peanut sauce over the noodles and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

What to do when your child decides to be vegetarian

What to do when your child decides to be vegetarian

I’ll admit, as a dietitian and fairly decent cook, I figured it would be no big deal when my 12-year old daughter decided to become vegetarian this year.  She’d been on the fence about it for a while, so my husband and I knew it was coming.  She voiced being “grossed out” when we cooked a full chicken and would only eat half of a small hamburger because she claimed to be too full every time.  When she was little and disliked a food, she’d say it was, “Too spicy”.  Now she was able to clearly communicate, “I just don’t want to eat meat”.

Initially, it was a breeze.  We are well stocked with natural peanut butter, cheese and black beans- a handful of Maria’s favorites.  We make pizza once a week every Friday but now leave off the turkey pepperoni.  But after a few weeks, I realized she wasn’t really getting much variety in her diet. I made vegetarian chili, but she didn’t like the kidney beans.  We smeared hummus on a tortilla for something different, but she complained it tasted “weird”.  I’ll admit, I grew frustrated with her particularly picky palate.  It led to lots of food fights at the table, which  I knew had to end.  I didn’t want her to end up with an eating disorder over not eating chicken.

I had a conversation with her about nutrition and why it’s important to eat a variety of foods.  We talked about protein and vegetables, vitamins and minerals.  Oh my!  This was like talking to a kid about the mechanics of a car. But she listened and voiced a few things she’d be willing to try (lentils, tuna salad, 3-bean salad).  We talked about being strong and eating foods we enjoyed and felt good about.  I even admitted how I was frustrated trying to find new recipes for her.  Me. A dietitian. That loves to create food!  If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few suggestions.


  1. Don’t fight it. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them drink.  We’re all entitled to what we like and don’t like to eat.  Forcing foods that your child considers “gross” will not excite them to eat them and may only make them control or restrict food further.
  2. Provide easy alternatives. No one wants to be a short order cook.  Make a few dishes that can easily have the meat left behind such as Thai peanut noodles, bean soup or spaghetti.
  3. Give them a multi-vitamin. While my motto has always been “forks first”, in the case of my 12-year going through puberty, I know iron and zinc are essential.  If nothing else, it may prevent deficiencies and put your mind at ease.
  4. Encourage and teach your child to cook for themselves. This is a life skill ANY child will benefit from.  My daughter can make simple omelets, grilled cheese sandwiches and microwaved veggies.  The more involved they get, the more control they’ll feel they have.
  5. Include some vegetarian meals yourself! Consuming less meat is not only better for our bodies, but also our wallets and the planet. Stock up on eggs, beans, lentils, low fat cheese and nut butter.  Make meatless Monday the norm.  You probably won’t even miss that chicken carcass.
Vegan black bean chili

Vegan black bean chili

This simple recipe is not only quick, but very healthy.  Beans provide a hefty dose of belly-filling fiber as well as protein, potassium, folate and magnesium.  In addition, adding tomatoes or bell peppers (high in vitamin C) increases the bioavailability (absorption) of iron in the body, which is important for women, vegetarians and vegans.

Black beans are used in the recipe, but kidney beans or pinto beans would make an easy substitute.  Drain and rinse the beans prior to using to reduce sodium content by 30%.  Leftover chili can be used over rice or in a tortilla for burritos.



2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can diced tomatoes w/green chiles

1 tsp, minced garlic or 1 clove garlic, minced

½ onion chopped (or ½ cup frozen onions)

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. chili powder

½-1 tsp. salt to taste

2% milk shredded cheese



Place tomatoes in a medium sauce pan and add garlic, onion and spices.  Simmer until vegetables are soft.  Add 2 cans of beans and cook for another 10-15 minutes until beans are soft.  Add salt to taste.  Serve with 2% milk shredded cheese.

Makes 6 servings.  Per serving:  160 calories, 30 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams protein, .5 grams fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 11 grams fiber, 73 mg calcium, 3 mg iron, 500 mg sodium.

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