Sunday, August 14, 2011

Souper Simple Soup Starter

If you keep these three ingredients in the kitchen, you can always make yourself a nice pot of healthy soup! Cannellini Beans are high in protein and fiber, so this can be the start to a great healthy vegetarian soup. This is a minestrone-type soup, but feel free to add whatever vegetables and meats you have on hand, to these three basic starting ingredients:

1 32 oz. Carton Vegetable Broth
1 14 to 18 oz Can of Diced Tomatoes
1 Can Cannellini Beans (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained

My favorite way to prepare this soup is to first put a little oil in a pot (about 4 quart). Chop up a handful of onion and garlic, (no, I am not very precise in my measurements) and saute in the oil, stirring occasionally while gathering and cutting other veggies. You could also cut up celery and carrots and saute them with the onions and garlic.

When the onions are soft, stir in the Broth and the Tomatoes.
Add the rinsed and drained Beans.
Stir in your favorite Herbs (parsley, basil, marjoram and oregano are all good).
To add some heat, you can add Crushed Red Pepper Flakes.
Stir in the fresh or frozen vegetables you have on hand. Broccoli, carrots, spinach, cauliflower, peas, zucchini are all good options. Shelled Edamame (soy) beans are good too, and add even more vegetarian protein.

If you don't want to depend on the bean protein, feel free to stir in cooked chicken or beef, or even meatballs. (Trader Joe's Frozen Turkey Meatballs are good in here. Sometimes I cut them in quarters so they'll heat faster)

If the soup starts to get too thick, just stir in a little water, or a little red wine.
You could add small pasta early on (when you first pour in the broth), but allow more time for the pasta to cook through (smaller pasta cooks faster).

Keep a spoon handy, so you can taste as you go, and add more herbs or salt and pepper, if it needs it. (I don't use much salt, but I know many people do.) It's fun to improvise and add your favorite flavors.

Cook until the vegetables are tender, ladle into bowls, and top with shredded Parmesan Cheese.

Simple, delicious, hearty and healthy!

Easy Peachy a la Mode

Peaches are in season right now. Picking out ripe fruit is not something I'm very good at. It's always a bit of a gamble when I get them home and cut them open. This week I was very pleased with my peach selection; they were juicy and sweet.

Of course they're delicious just eaten fresh and raw.
But I also have a fast and easy way to get the flavor of peach pie a la mode. (without the crust)

Easy Peachy a la Mode
Peel and slice Fresh Peaches. Place in a microwave safe bowl.
(if fresh peaches are not in season, just use a bag of Frozen Peach Slices)
Sprinkle liberally with Cinnamon.
Microwave for just a minute or so, until they're hot and juicy.
(Exact time depends on how many peaches you are using)
Remove bowl from microwave and top the hot peach slices with a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream.
If you really miss pie crust, you can always eat a few vanilla wafers or butter cookies with the hot peaches and melting ice cream.

Simple and delicious!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Lemon Vermouth Fish Fillet

After reading that vermouth is made of wine with added herbs, I thought it must be good to cook with. And it is. I've experimented a bit, and came up with a light sauce that tastes great poured over fish fillets before baking. I've used it on salmon and orange roughy fillets, and I think it could be used on many types of fish. The combination of lemon, dijon mustard and dry vermouth has a great aroma while it's cooking. It's quick, easy, and delicious!

The exact amount of liquid to make depends on how much fish you're cooking, but make enough to pour over the fish fillet pieces, leaving some in the pan. The fish doesn't need to be swimming in sauce.
The amounts here are approximate, and meant for about 2 small to medium fillets, but feel free to experiment!

Lemon Vermouth Fish Fillet
A pat of butter, melted in the microwave in a cup or bowl large enough to add the other ingredients.
(Be careful, it melts very fast, in a few seconds)
Into the melted butter, stir:
1 Teaspoon of Dijon Mustard
1/4 Cup of Lemon Juice or Lime Juice
1/4 Cup of Dry Vermouth (the white kind, that's used in martini's)
Stir in dry or fresh herbs. Use whatever you like. Parsley, Basil, Thyme, Dill are all good.
Black Pepper (add salt if you wish, but I don't think it needs it.)

2 small to medium fish fillets

Combine the ingredients, and pour the liquid over the fish fillets, in a baking dish deep enough to hold the liquid.
Bake it in the oven at 375 degrees for about 20-30 minutes.

Timing will vary a bit, depending on the size of your fillets and if they are fresh or frozen. Typical wisdom is to always thaw a frozen fillet, but, if the fillets are not very large, I often don't thaw them first. If you have an enormous fillet, you will want to assure the center is cooked before the edges get crispy. So in that case, thawing first is a good idea. A fresh fillet will cook faster than a frozen one. Check that fish is baked through in the middle, and flakes with a fork. Leave it in longer if it needs it, checking every 5 minutes. This liquid helps keep the fish moist and adds lots of great flavor. When it easily flakes with a fork, it's ready.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Herbal Green Iced Tea

Green tea is good for you, according to many articles I've read lately. I don't drink it very often though. My preferred morning beverage is a cup of coffee.

But I have come up with a way to drink more green tea. By combining green tea with herbal teas, and chilling it, I can make up my own flavored iced green tea concoction.

Brew a pot of tea, using one or two green tea bags, and two or three herbal tea bags, using your favorite flavors.

Remove the tea bags after a few minutes, when it has brewed enough. Let the pot of tea cool down, then pour it into a covered container and put it in the fridge.

Whenever you're thirsty, you have a ready-made healthy green tea beverage. If you've made it strong, just add more ice cubes and cold water, to suit your taste.

Using fruit-flavored herbal teas adds a refreshing sweet fruity flavor to the green tea, so you might not have to add any sugar or sweeteners. Your iced tea will be healthier than many pre-made, pre-sweetened tea beverages that are out there. I like to use herbal tea flavors like berry, pomegranate, apple cinnamon, and lemon.

Green tea does have caffeine in it, so using more green tea and less herbal tea will give you a tea with more caffeine. To reduce the caffeine, use only one green tea bag and several herbal tea bags.

Brew up a pot once a week, and experiment with different herbal flavors. You'll have your own personal flavor of iced green tea.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Favorite Healthy Oatmeal Add-ins

We know oatmeal is good for us. But what can we add to make it more delicious and still keep it nutritious?

I'm not a serious health food nut, I eat plenty of junk. But whenever I read about a food that's healthy, and it's something that I like, I try to add it wherever possible.

For me, breakfast has to include protein and should not include sugar. Eating sugar in the morning seems to just make me hungrier all day. And artificial sweeteners all have an aftertaste that I just don't like. So... no sweeteners here.

Use the standard measurements of 1 part dry oatmeal to 2 parts water (i.e., one serving: 1/3 C oats and 2/3 C water). Sometimes I cook it in a saucepan on the stove, but I often nuke it in a glass bowl in the microwave.

Here are my favorite healthy, tasty oatmeal additions (the amounts can be a spoonful, a handful, a pinch... whatever tastes good. Start with a little, add more if you like.)

Before cooking the oats, add any of these:
  • Cinnamon (adds good flavor, and no sugar)
  • Walnut pieces or Almonds (Trader Joe's unsalted dry toasted sliced almonds are great)
  • Blueberries, fresh or frozen (and they turn your oatmeal a lovely color purple)
  • Peach Slices, fresh or frozen (delicious with the cinnamon)
  • Flaxseeds, freshly ground. (If you've always wondered what to do with a mortar and pestle, that works great for this, a spoonful of flaxseeds grinds up in a minute)
After cooking your oats, (about one minute for Quick Oats, 3-5 minutes for Old Fashioned Oats) add any of the following:
  • Sliced Bananas
  • Raspberries, fresh or frozen (these are better added cold or at room temp., not cooked)
  • Plain Nonfat Yogurt (adds protein and calcium, with no fat, and no sugar)
  • Natural Peanut Butter (natural, where the only ingredient is peanuts and maybe salt. Trader Joe's natural peanut butter is great.) And if you add peanut butter while the oatmeal is hot, it melts in and gets gooey and is surprisingly tasty in here. Plus it adds a nice protein boost.
  • Milk (I use skim milk, but use whichever kind of milk you like: soy, rice, almond.)
When I eat a bowl of this oatmeal, with any or all of these healthy things stirred in, I don't get hungry for a very, very long time. It's a healthy, filling and delicious breakfast.

Do you have other healthy oatmeal additions that you enjoy? Feel free to leave a comment and share your favorites.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Sunday I attended opening day of a new exhibition at the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach, CA, which I highly recommend, if you're in Southern California. It runs until September 4, 2011, and it's called:

Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art
Form, Balance, Joy

Calder (American artist, 1898-1976) invented the mobile. They did not exist before him. And if you think building a mobile is easy, I encourage you to get some wire and some shapes, cut out of whatever material you find, (even pipe cleaners and paper) and try it. It's very hard to get the balance right, and to create something that looks so effortless. And graceful. And joyful.

Apparently, Calder's art has not always been considered serious enough to be important. It's interesting, because what I like most about him is his joyfulness and playfulness. Maybe Calder makes it look too easy...
It's just shapes hanging from a few wires...
A funny bird, made from old cans and wire...
A face made from discarded glass and wire...
Or one of many figures and faces he sculpted from wire. He called it "drawing in space" with wire, creating a sculptural line drawing.

Just go to Google and search Images for Alexander Calder, to see some of what he created. And then search for Calder's Circus, to watch a big kid at play. So inventive, creative and fun.
Or go to the Calder Foundation page at

His art makes me smile. How can bits of steel, scrap metal and paint cause a positive emotional reaction like that? How can he make heavy steel look so graceful and balanced? I think that's an amazing accomplishment for an artist.

This exhibition also includes the works of several contemporary artists who show the influence of Calder's earlier works. It's interesting to see his influence in more recent interpretations. But his pieces are still my favorites in this group.

This exhibition first opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. (In fact, I viewed it there, on Day One of my 30-days of travel in September 2010.) In Chicago they included more of Calder's pieces, and I'm glad I got to see them. But I'm thrilled to be able to see it again in California.

For information, go to the OCMA website:
Click on "Visit" for directions, admission, etc.

And while I encourage you to support the museum by paying admission, if you're on a tight budget here's a tip.... Free Second Sundays, sponsored by Target (thanks, Target).

For more information about Calder, has compiled some great information. Here's the link to their Calder page:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Would you rather type than talk?

While I appreciate the value of emails and texting in many situations, I'm curious how many people are typing, primarily to avoid talking to people.

Originally it seemed that texting was a way to use the phone when you shouldn't be on your phone at all ... in class or in a meeting. Then someone told me that they didn't actually want to talk to their friend and get into a long phone call, they just wanted to send a message to them. It's more of a one-way communication to me ... until your friend texts you back, I guess.

So, would you rather text a friend than actually speak to them? There are situations where typing is better than talking, but are those situations becoming more frequent for many people? Is there an age gap in how we think about texting? It seems that kids, teens and 20-somethings may spend more time texting than talking. But I start to wonder, are they still learning how to have conversations or are they avoiding that by texting?

Is there any danger that people will lose their verbal skills? It is still important to develop the ability to quickly verbalize your thoughts on the phone, or make eye contact in face-to-face conversation, isn't it? It's something that you can really only learn by doing. We've all been in awkward social situations... feeling shy, standing alone at a party or at a business function, trying to find a friendly person to talk to. By going through this, we begin to learn how to connect, verbally, face to face. Small talk may seem unimportant, but it can lead to great connections and conversations. It is different than typing into a computer or phone keypad.

Both written and verbal communication have value. I just hope we're not losing the ability for face-to-face verbal conversations.

With new technology, it takes awhile for us to figure out the best balance, the proper usage, and how it fits with other technology. In the New York Times article that got me thinking about this talk vs. text subject, the writer says it was the same when telephones first appeared. What was considered the proper usage for the telephone has changed quite a bit through the years.

The article, "Don't Call Me, I Won't Call You" is an interesting and amusing take on it. Here's the link:

What do you think? Do we still know how to converse with each other? Would you rather type than talk?

Monday, January 3, 2011

A New Year. Friends. Experiences. Balance.

2011 Where did that first decade of the 2000's go anyway?

Though I know it's a cliche, time does seem to travel faster as we get older. But it is always a good time for reflection. How did we do last year? What would we like the next year to look like? What choices will we make? What is important? How do we find the balance that works for us?

Most people have limited amounts of money and free time. And we never seem to have both at once... When you have money (you're working) you don't have much free time (that work thing takes up way too much of our precious time!). And when you have free time (as in unemployed) you usually don't have money.

So when you have a little extra time and money, what do you do? Would you rather acquire more things, more stuff? Or do you spend it on experiences, like travel? Finding a good balance is the key. And living in small apartments has taught me a lesson about owning too much stuff... "but where would I put it?"

So last year, I took some money out of savings, and opted for an experience, a travel adventure. Using the JetBlue All You Can Jet Pass, I travelled for 30 straight days, spending money on transportation, food and lodging. More importantly, that pass enabled me to visit many friends and family who are scattered all over the country.

Maybe the secret to making choices in the new year is to keep in mind the relationships that are important to us and try not to lose track of them. It's hard to do because everyone's lives are so busy. But enjoying time with our real family and our "chosen family" (our friends) is valuable. And I always like to shake up the routine, see new places, explore new horizons.

So now the obvious question for me in the new year is .... where can I go and who can I visit in 2011?