Rolled oats with pumpkin spice, ground flaxseed and almonds

Rolled oats with pumpkin spice, ground flaxseed and almonds

I’m known for scouring my cupboards and frig and coming up with random meal ideas. Today, a friend stopped me and asked about how to lower cholesterol in her 12-year old daughter. She mentioned it was familial and we had a nice conversation about what to eat and what to limit. No one wants to limit their child’s diet too much, but I see these opportunities as addition rather than subtraction.

Soluble fiber!

One of the best foods to include in your diet if you’ve got high cholesterol are foods high in soluble fiber. This type of fiber forms a soft/gummy gel and helps to bind cholesterol and get it out of the body (yes, through poop!). Think of it acting like a lint roller through your gastrointestinal tract.

Soluble fiber is found in oats, barley, dried beans and lentils, ground flaxseed and the flesh of fruit. Most of us don’t eat enough of it (self included). Our conversation reminded me that I need to increase my intake, too. Women need 25-30 grams of fiber daily and men need 38 to 40 grams per day.

Although the pre-sweetened packaged oats are convenient, I prefer the old fashioned, giant cylinder of oatmeal because it’s cheaper, less processed, has zero sugar AND I can add anything to it for more versatility. I like to add oddball ingredients (like tumeric) in my recipes to give them a slightly different flavor and boost nutritional content. I had a bag of ground flaxseed that hadn’t been opened, so I decided to toss that in as well. Here’s what I came up with today.


1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats

1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed

1/2 tsp. pumpkin spice

1/4 tsp. tumeric

1 tsp. almond slivers

drizzle of maple syrup


  1. In a microwave safe bowl, add the oats and ground flaxseed with 3/4 cup water.
  2. Microwave the oats for 2 minutes until all the water is soaked up.
  3. Stir in pumpkin spice, tumeric and the almond slivers.
  4. Drizzle with maple syrup or honey and eat!

Makes 1 serving.


Vegan black beans and rice for #NationalVeganDay

Vegan black beans and rice for #NationalVeganDay

There’s something to be said about simple comfort food. Recipes don’t always need to be complicated to be delicious, and quite frankly- who has ‘thyme’ for that?

I like to stock my pantry with a variety of beans and lentils because they’re cheap, nutritious, versatile and quick to cook. I can add salsa, garlic, ginger, dried herbs or any variety of spices (cumin is probably my favorite) and make meals in minutes.

With people worried about weight gain during this pandemic, consider plant-based meals to be your ally, not your nemesis. Insoluble fiber from the skins of plants provides bulk, which is filling. Soluble fiber from oats and beans have a low glycemic index and are digested slower, helping you feel fuller, longer. Beans are fat free- meat is not! Lower fat means less calories.

Many dieters hear that high protein (meat based) diets work better, which may be true in the short term because glycogen stores and water are initially lost.  There are a few small studies to suggest that the protein in fava beans and peas is more satisfying that animal protein.  If you’re not ready to be completely vegan, below are some plant-based swaps to try:

  • In chili, double the beans and delete the meat
  • Use almond or peanut butter on toast in place of butter
  • Add a slice of avocado to your sandwich instead of cheese
  • Add nuts to your salad in place of croutons
  • Eat steel cut oats for breakfast in place of eggs
  • Have hummus in a sandwich wrap instead of lunch meat

Finally, if you’re concerned about getting enough iron in your diet when you delete meat, try lentils.  Lentils contain 20% of the daily value for iron.  Adding peppers or tomatoes, which are high in vitamin C, boosts iron absorption.  Try them in soup or as a cold salad.

In honor of #NationalVeganDay, here’s a quick meal that everyone can enjoy.

Vegan Black Beans and rice


1 cup brown rice

1 Tbsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. salt

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 tsp. cumin

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. seasoned salt

Chopped cilantro, optional


  1. Add paprika and salt to rice before cooking. Cook rice on a stove top, rice cooker or Instant pot according to directions.
  2. While rice is cooking, place beans, cumin, garlic, oregano and seasoned salt in a small pan. Heat on medium for about 10 minutes.
  3. Serve beans over rice with chopped cilantro (optional).

Makes 6-8 servings.

Smoky sweet potato and black bean chili with kale and fresh tomatillo salsa

Smoky sweet potato and black bean chili with kale and fresh tomatillo salsa

If you’re looking to put the most nutritious ingredients into one pot, season them to perfection and call it dinner- this is it. This chili is not for the faint at heart, but damn is it delicious!

I prepared this recipe for a live cooking demo for the Civic Garden Center http://civicgardencenter.org for their garden education series every third Wednesday of the month. The idea is to use what’s growing in the Victory gardens around the city. The first Wednesday features a master gardener providing gardening tips and the class I teach includes a recipe or two using what’s available at the time.

This month, the garden coordinator communicated to me that sweet potatoes, tomatillos, peppers, kale and cilantro were on hand. Sounded like a pot of chili and fresh salsa to me!

I decided to use chipotle chili pepper in place of standard chili powder and flavor was out of this world! Serano peppers added a serious kick, but could be left out if you’re not into the spicy bits. The tomatillo salsa with cilantro was a fresh addition to the hot chili. Fresh tomatoes could be used in place of canned, but you may need to add some liquid or broth to the chili. This recipe included black beans, but pinto or kidney would work well, too.


  • 1 tablespoon canola or corn oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 serano pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. chipotle chili powder/pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1” chunks
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans of diced tomatoes- do not drain
  • 2 cups cleaned, chopped kale (any variety)


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, and saute the onion, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, and garlic until tender.
  2. Add chili powder, cumin and salt to the vegetables and stir until coated.
  3. Add sweet potatoes, black beans, and diced tomatoes.
  4. Boil for 3 minutes, then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes until the sweet potatoes are soft.
  5. Stir in kale and continue to heat for 5 minutes until kale is soft.
  6. Serve with your favorite salsa (try our fresh tomatillo salsa)!

Makes 6-8 servings.

Fresh tomatillo salsa


  • 10 medium (blank)s tomatillos, husks removed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  1. Place tomatillos in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Simmer until tomatillos soften and begin to burst, about 10 minutes.
  2. Drain tomatillos and place in a food processor or blender with onion, garlic, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, salt and pepper. Blend to desired consistency.

Makes 2 cups salsa




Instant pot sweet potato lentil soup with tumeric & fennel

Instant pot sweet potato lentil soup with tumeric & fennel

I fully admit to purchasing ingredients at times that are on sale, but I have no idea how I’ll use them. This could be a vegetable, protein source (like protein power that’s on sale) or a spice. It’s like buying a beautiful scarf and not having anywhere to wear it…yet!

Recently, I found a tiny box of fennel seeds at a close out store. I suppose I was wowed by the $1 price tag and the fact that they were organic. Fennel seeds usually remind me of the sweet ending of a meal at an Indian restaurant when they’re served with colored candy bits at the check out register. It always brings back memories of Good and Plenty candy!

I love the licorice-like flavor of fennel and figured it might go well in a soup. I found a lentil recipe online and luckily had all of the ingredients on hand with the exception of coriander. If you know anything about the way I cook, I typically substitute at least 1 or more ingredients in a recipe I see, then tweak the amounts the way I’d like.

I made this soup in my Instant pot, but it can be made on the stove as well. The beauty of lentils is that they are an excellent source of fiber and protein as well as potassium. They cook up much quicker than other dried legumes. The cook time will be about 45 minutes for the lentils to soften if cooked on the stove. This is what transpired


1 cup red lentils

2 Tbsp. canola oil

1 onion, chopped

1 Tbsp. dried fennel seeds

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks

2 large carrots, peeled and chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. tumeric

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

1/8 tsp. cinnamon

6 cups vegetable or chicken broth

chopped cilantro (optional)


  1. Rinse the lentils and set aside. Set the Instant pot to the sautee setting.
  2. Place the oil, onions, fennel seeds, sweet potatoes, carrots, garlic and spices in the instant pot and sautee for 5 minutes until vegetables are soft and coated with spices.
  3. Add the lentils and blend them with the spices.
  4. Add the vegetable or chicken broth and set the Instant pot on soup setting.
  5. Let the soup cook until done and release the pressure when cycle finishes.
  6. Serve with chopped cilantro

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Fall harvest salad with kale, apples and dried cherries

Fall harvest salad with kale, apples and dried cherries

I’m a creature of habit when it comes to shopping, but if I’m in a certain neighborhood, I’ll take advantage of whatever grocery store or small market is available. Recently, I was in Kenwood and decided to pop into Trader Joes since the parking lot looked manageable.

I happily picked up some apples and brown rice, but had to take advantage of their variety of bagged salad. Normally, I stick with hearts of romaine or loose spinach leaves. This week I treated myself to a bag of shaved kale, red cabbage and Brussels sprouts.

I love this combination for a number of reasons. For one- it’s so dang pretty! Plus, the combo platter of cruciferous vegetables can’t be beet. These are high in potassium, fiber and loads of cancer-fighting phytochemicals. All you need is a decent dressing for a salad or a few ingredients to roast these.

I opted for a fall harvest salad with crisp Pink lady apples. Gala, Fiji or Honey Crisp would go well here, too. I like to add more color to my salad, so I skipped the usual Granny Smith. I made this salad vegan, though I have to admit- blue or feta cheese would really pull the salad together.

I’ve always been a fan of dried cherries- but hey, if dried apricots or raisins are your thing- toss them in. I had slivered almonds on hand, so those went in as well. Walnuts or pecans are also a great addition to salads.


1 bag Trader Joes kale, Brussels sprouts & cabbage salad mix

2 pink lady apples, cut into 1″ chunks

1/2 cup almond slivers

1/4 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup poppy seed dressing


Combine salad mix, apple chunks, almonds and dried cherries in a bowl. Add poppy seed dressing and toss to coat.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Pumpkin oatmeal breakfast squares with cranberries

Pumpkin oatmeal breakfast squares with cranberries

Now that it’s October, it’s officially pumpkin spice season. If you’re like me and you have either a full or partial can of pureed pumpkin on hand, you cannot help but bake with it!

Pumpkin is a great source of beta-carotene and potassium and also contains some vitamin C. Oatmeal and pumpkin pie spice flavor the bars nicely.

With the temps cooling down, I thought I’d try warm up the house with a new recipe. I’d never made breakfast bars, but they tend to have longer shelf life than cookies and are a bit less sweet.

I used quite a bit of rolled oats in these, which reduced the amount of flour in the recipe and provides a hearty, chewy texture. I added chopped pecans, but walnuts or almonds would work well, too. If you don’t have any cranberries, try raisins or dried cherries. Either would go well.

These bars are great for a grab and go breakfast, mid afternoon snack or after dinner not so sweet, treat.


6 Tbsp. butter, softened

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup pureed pumpkin

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)

1 cup flour

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup chopped almonds


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Prepare an 8 x 8 pan by spraying with non-stick spray.
  3. Combine butter and sugar together, then beat in the egg.
  4. Add the pumpkin and vanilla, then blend in the baking soda, pie spice, flour, rolled oats, cranberries and chopped nuts.
  5. Press the pumpkin mixture in the 8 x 8 pan evenly to the edges of the pan.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 16 squares

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