Build Your Own Tacos (Vegetarian)— Fun Food With Friends & Family

Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Colorful Diabetes-Friendly and Family-Friendly Meal

We had so much fun the other night "building our own" tacos. They were even vegetarian! We used the MyRecipes (see link above) for the taco filling and then organized the healthy toppings to include when building your own taco. You can choose hard taco shells or soft tortillas depending on your family's preference. Everyone loved them and thought it was a lot of fun putting together the tacos as they wanted. Each taco could be different and they got to choose! There were lots of smiles and laughter. We even imagined this could be a fun dinner to have when friends are over. The key is picking healthy and filling toppings.

The Healthy Taco Bar Toppings (for 4)-

Vegetarian Kid-Friendly Tacos

1 small onion, chopped
1 green or yellow pepper, chopped
1/2 head lettuce, shredded
1/2 (10 ounce) package shredded carrots
1/2 (6 ounce package radishes, sliced
1 (15 ounce) can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 (16 ounce) jar salsa
1/2 (8 ounce) package shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
1/2 (8 ounce) package shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

As you can see, there are a lot of shredded and sliced vegetables. There is no guacamole or sour cream. It makes a big difference. But the fun and satisfaction are no less without fact, they many even be better because you feel healthier and you don't have to worry about over doing it! The best way to be when enjoying a meal with family and friends.

Build Your Own Tacos Night Is A Hit With Everyone!

Nutritional Information: Calories (two tacos per serving): 334. Calories from fat 34%; Fat 12.5g; Satfat 3.8g; Monofat 0.0g; Polyfat 0.0g; Protein 20.3g; Carbohydrate 34.4g; Fiber 6.1g; Cholesterol 17mg; Iron 0.0mg; Sodium 494mg; Calcium 0.0mg.

I paired this with a fruit salad (1/2 cup = 54 cal). Fat 0.81g; SatFat 0.614g; PolyFat 0.042g; MonoFat 0.051g; Protein 0.63g; Carbohydrate 12.5g; Fiber 1.7g; Sugars 10.23g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 5mg.

The total calories for the meal were 415.

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Quick & Easy- 5 Fruit Salad

Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Five Fruit Salad

I found a very easy and flavorful fruit salad that I paired with a vegetarian taco dinner the other night. I couldn't find it on the internet so I thought I would share the recipe with you on my blog. It is from the Cooking Light Five Star Recipes cookbook found on page 123. It would be good any time of year however with the pears, oranges and clove spice it suits this time of year particularly. Here is the recipe:
Five Fruit Salad with Taco Dinner

1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1 cup fresh orange sections
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
1 cup cubed fresh pear
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar (I used even less)
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Fresh mint sprigs (optional)

Combine first 8 ingredients in a medium bowl; stir mixture well. Cover and chill at least 2 hours (I didn't do this because I didn't have time...still very tasty!). Garnish with fresh mint sprigs, if desired. Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup). Calories: 81 per serving.


Weekly-- Daily Aspiration #11

Monday, October 29, 2012

Today I will rejoice in knowing and naming those who love me

Warm & Cozy New England Fish Chowder

Thursday, October 25, 2012
Warm & Cozy New England Fish Chowder
I have never been big on making homemade soups. However, since I have become more and more aware of how unhealthy canned soups can be for you because of the added corn syrups, salt and preservatives, I have wanted to reconsider.

My daughter has always loved New England Clam Chowder so when I was roaming around in one of my favorite cookbooks (The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook) a recipe caught my eye since it was called New England Fish Chowder. It is pretty simple in the ingredients and looked to have all the qualifying elements for a New England Chowder from a little butter to diced potatoes. What was interesting is that the recipe calls for non-fat milk instead of a rich whole milk or half & half. I was a little nervous about how satisfying a non-fat milk based soup would be. Although it is hardly a thick soup, it was creamy and tasty thanks to the roux you create in the beginning and the potatoes. It was definitely thick enough. Everyone enjoyed the soup. It will be a repeat.

The per serving calories for the soup are 299. I completed the meal with homemade Bacon- Cheddar Corn Muffins (see yesterday's blog/142 cal per muffin) and a tossed green salad with 2 tablespoons of your favorite dressing (50 cal) for a total of 338 calories for the meal.


Bacon-Cheddar Corn Muffins

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

We had a great dinner. I made a home-made New England Fish Chowder and really yummy Bacon-Cheddar Corn Muffins. It was a perfect Autumn meal.

I normally don't make muffins like this. Somehow adding bacon and cheddar seems very decadent. I get scared I am adding too many calories. But with this recipe one muffin is just 142 calories! No harm in this kind of decadence!

The Bacon-Cheddar Corn Muffins were a perfect match for the chowder. Both hardy. Definitely a dinner that is warm and cozy. We all felt comforted and satisfied at the end of the meal. A big hit and a definite repeat.

Muffins Are A Friendly Food

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I am partial to homemade muffins. They come in all varieties and can incorporate all sorts of ingredients. They can be savory or sweet. They can dress up a meal and impress guests. Generally they are easy to make, not requiring the kneading and rising of breads. They are also great because they come already pre-packaged in a nice one serving size. One muffin equals one serving. They are simple and straightforward that way. And they take the guesswork out of trying to figure out a serving size at the point of serving up your meal.

They also make a great snack. They can be be packed full of satisfying, wholesome and filling ingredients like yogurt, wheat germ, fruit, vegetables, oatmeal, whole wheat flour and cornmeal. Once baked you can also wrap them individually and store them in your freezer to take out one at a time over the course of a week for a snack or to use with a planned meal. They can truly make life easier and healthier helping you to make better choices for snacks and helping to make prep time for a meal less complicated becasue one batch of muffins can be used for several meals or snacks. Yep, it is true, muffins are the friendliest of foods.

Here are links to some of my favorite savory and sweet muffins-

Banana Walnut Muffin

Oatmeal Muffins with Muscat Raisins

Zucchini-Lemon Muffins

Orange-Cranberry Wheat Germ Muffin


Weekly-- Daily Aspiration #10

Monday, October 22, 2012

Today I will be mindful of each bite I take, savoring it

New Blog

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hello Blog Readers. I wanted to share some news with you. I have changed my blog address. The new name and address is- It is a very exciting time for me as I am integrating my personal journey, my passions and a new business. The out come of this is Livliga- which in Swedish means lively, vibrant or vivid. I can't wait to tell you more! Please keep reading and I will keep sharing!

In celebration of Good Health & Living Vibrant!


How Healthy Is Your Diet?--Take The Quiz

The truth is we always need to keep tabs on our health. I think it is fun to take quizzes every few months that I find roaming out on the internet from reputable sites. They keep me honest. Old habits die hard. Inevitably I end up having to refocus on an area of my health that I have let slide. These quizzes help me refocus. As we advance towards the holidays, it is a good time to recheck our health and re-motivate our minds towards the healthiest of lifestyles.

Here is a link for an easy "health check up"-

Let me know how you do!

Creamy Cucumber Dressing- Delish with Greek Yogurt!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Salad Dressings can make or break a meal. The challenge is finding a variety of recipes, suitable for different meals that are tasty but do not have a ton of calories in them. I hate store bought dressings. They always have a strange "preservative" taste to them, no matter the brand. And they end up with too much sodium and too little taste. Much to my surprise, I have found there are many different healthy recipes for dressings. Most of them keep in your refrigerator for a couple of weeks so you can make it once but use it multiple times for different meals...even snacks, depending on the recipe.

Last week we had some leftover cucumbers I had bought at the Farmer's Market. I thought it would be fun to find a recipe for a cucumber dressing to help use up this fresh produce. In my Cooking Light Five Star Recipes cookbook I found a Creamy Cucumber Dressing. It uses low fat yogurt. I used the low fat Greek Yogurt I had on hand. It made the dressing thick and creamy. It was not hard to make and was so fresh and summery tasting.

Here is the recipe:
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
⅓ cup peeled, seeded, and finely chopped cucumber
¼ cup low-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dill
teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients; still well. Cover and chill. Serve over salad greens. Yield: 1 ¾ cups (serving size: 1 tablespoon). Calories 12.

We have used it for a dressing to complement a pasta dinner and we have also used it for a dip with our raw vegetables at snack time. It has kept well in our refrigerator for a week. Everyone has liked it. For 12 calories a tablespoon, you can't beat it! A definite repeat.

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Why We Need Good "Brain Food"

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I am constantly amazed at how all our health is tied to our weight and what we eat. Getting control of my weight, maintaining that control and doing it by eating healthy foods (avoiding the highly refined and processed  kinds)  is truly the secret to the success of a healthy lifestyle. Here is what I recently read from an American Heart Association newsletter about how our Brain Health and our Memory are tied to our healthy eating (or not!):

Forget the hype when it comes to fads for memory enhancing supplements or brain health.
Protecting memory and brain health is a matter of keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy, said Riska Platt, M.S., R.D., a New York-based nutrition consultant and volunteer with the American Heart Association.

“The brain is nourished by nutrients passed by the blood vessels,” Platt said. “If the blood vessels become clogged or impaired, that’s not good for the brain.”
Preventing a stroke, which can occur when a blood vessel carrying oxygen to the brain become blocked or bursts is crucial. When the brain can’t get the oxygen it needs, it starts to die. That can cause the brain to not function as well, or have mental cognitive decline, Platt said.

Healthy Weight, Healthy Brain
To help your heart and blood vessels healthy, Platt recommends eating a well-balanced diet, keeping your body within a healthy weight range and doing plenty of exercise to keep extra pounds off.

Obesity has links to inflammation in the body and that’s not good for your brain,” Platt said.

Making sure your cholesterol levels and blood pressure are in check is also important. Diets should be high in fruits and vegetable, lean meats and low-fat dairy.

The D.A.S.H. (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is a good model for a heart- and brain-friendly approach to eating, Platt said.

Eating foods rich in potassium – found in many fruits and vegetables – is also important for stroke prevention because it helps control blood pressure.

Platt cautions patients to stay away from trans fats. Trans fats – also called “partially hydrogenated oils” on food packaging, raise your bad cholesterol(LDL) levels and lower your good cholesterol (HDL) levels and increase your risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

There’s No Magic Food

While there’s no one magic food that can prevent problems with brain health, ongoing research points to promising signs about Vitamin D and omega fatty acids, Platt said.
Omega-3 fats, found in oily fish such as salmon or mackerel, are also believed to lead to better brain functioning, Platt said. And some research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids could decrease the risk of abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias), slow the growth of plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis)and decrease triglyceride levels.
Studies have also highlighted possible benefits from vitamin D as a way to ward off stroke and cognitive impairment.

“The No. 1 thing to do is have a well-balanced diet,” Platt said. “Don’t just focus on one food, because nutrients work together.”


Brown Sugar-Cornmeal Muffin

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

With the cooler weather I have a desire to bake more often. Muffins are a very satisfying food to bake. They can fit any mood, are generally easy to assemble and can help round out any meal from a chili supper to a cilantro chicken salad. I also have not found a muffin that doesn't freeze well so one batch can serve multiple uses from snacks to lunches or dinners.

Recently I tried baking a Brown Sugar-Cornmeal Muffin I found in my Cooking Light Complete Cookbook on page 68. I found a similar recipe online you might like to try on's website. There are two things I like about this recipe. First it does not use any refined sugar. Secondly, it uses a cup of low-fat vanilla yogurt. There is nothing better than adding protein to any recipe to help keep you feeling full and satisfied. And by not having any refined sugar you are less likely to trigger a blood sugar spike. I found this to be true when I tried this muffin. They are tasty and moist. And with a little sprinkle of brown sugar on top, they are also pretty visually, always something I try to achieve with the food I make. They were a big hit with the family and a definite repeat.

Weekly-- Daily Aspiration #9

Monday, October 15, 2012
Today I live in the now each moment of each day

Mediterranean Pasta with Fresh Heirloom Tomatoes

Friday, October 12, 2012
Mediterranean Pasta with Tomatoes

I have been revisiting old favorites recently. When you have been cooking for a family as long as I have there are many of them! Along with the fresh beets we have been delighting in from the Farmer's Market, we have also been indulging in fresh heirloom tomatoes. Ever since I read the article about how store bought tomatoes have had the taste bred out of them I have been hunting down heirloom tomatoes. It is like Christmas everyday for me. Now instead of searching for a tomato that doesn't turn my tongue into a pickle and tastes like something, I am now reveling in discovering all the different tastes a tomato can have! This means I often come home from the market with a bunch of heirloom tomatoes that I need to make sure I make good use of in our menus for the coming week.

One such recipe I tracked down from the past is a Mediterranean Pasta from my Cooking Light Five Star Recipes cookbook on page 100. I couldn't find it on line so here it is below:

4 cups chopped tomato
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups angel hair pasta (cooked without salt or fat)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled feta cheese

This is a quick & easy recipe to make. So fresh you feel like you just grew the ingredients! It is also a great light recipe that is most enjoyable in the heat of the summer when it is impossible to imagine cooking much over a hot stove!

To complete the meal I added a slice of store bought garlic toast (found in the freezer section pre-sliced for 140 calories) and a tossed green salad with 2 tablespoons of creamy cucumber dressing (see my previous blog; for 24 calories). Calories for the meal were 450. A hit with the family and a definite repeat.


Gorgeous Fall

Thursday, October 11, 2012
There is something so inspiring about the Autumn. I live near the mountains where you can find lots of Aspen that turn a golden yellow this time of year. It is joyous to see. I also find it very energizing. The change of seasons are always inspiring to me.

The seasons make me want to get out and be a part of what is happening. I can then notice the changes to the sky, the air, the new snow on the mountains as well as colorful leaves on the trees. Each season is a season of discovery.

It is also a time to be contemplative. Allowing our minds to wonder and explore the "what ifs" of life. If the trees can change this dramatically and express beauty in yet another amazing way...what could my season of change be?

What's So Special About the Long Life Cocktail?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012
A while ago I wrote about my husband and I making and drinking a Long Life Cocktail every morning as part of our breakfast. Someone recently asked me to talk a little more about the Long Life Cocktail and what its benefits are so I thought I would devote a follow up blog to the subject this morning.

The Long Life Cocktail is a concoction of Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., C.N.S. and is a cornerstone to her Fat Flush Plan. In her book The Fat Flush Plan she describes the benefits of the Long Life Cocktail as the following:

To increase elimination, you will drink this refreshing mixture filled with emulsifying enzymes from unsweetened cranberry juice diluted with water to help digest those fatty globules in the lymphatic system -- your body's fat disposal dump... The high-fiber additions of psyllium (or ground-up flaxseeds) to the cocktail block fat absorption, increase fat excretion,  and bind toxins so that they are not reabsorbed into the body.

She further goes on to say on page 56 that the Long Life Cocktail also "balances hormones".
It just makes you feel healthy reading this, doesn't it? Who wouldn't want to drink a Long Life Cocktail everyday!?! So even though we don't adhere to the Fat Flush Plan these days, we still do drink a Long Life Cocktail every morning.

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Weekly-- Daily Aspiration #8

Monday, October 8, 2012
I release myself from my anger and let the past go

Crazy Squirrels Adding to the Exercise Challenge

Friday, October 5, 2012

Walking the dogs at this time of year is CRAZY MAKING! Since it is that time of year when the squirrels are scurrying around gathering up their winter store of nuts they are everywhere. This is hard on my two Springer Spaniels. They love to run after anything that moves...and they particularly like the challenge of animals that run across the street, run up trees and make angry clicking noises at them from the branches. The hard part is having them on leash as their primal instincts kick in. There is no time for having those peaceful wandering thoughts or problem solving moments. They can be lethal when the dogs go charging. Nope this is the time to be present...every moment of our walks.

I started to get cranky the other day, thinking about how much I hate this time of year because of how hard it is to control the dogs on leash as well as how much harder it is on my body because of their charging forward snapping my arm and shoulder as I attempt to rein them in. But then I realized how they are the perfect reminder of how glorious the change in seasons are. They are the ultimate enthusiasts....wagging their tails, whimpering with glee and charging forward in celebration of the annual chase. This brought a smile to my face realizing they were my reminder to be present, take notice and do a little celebrating myself as I notice the frenetic squirrels, the turning leaves, the softer light and the balmy breezes. Yep, its fall and I am loving it!

Farmer's Market Dinner

Thursday, October 4, 2012

It is true, we are stuck on beets and other Farmer's Market produce these days! Last night we enjoyed a meal focused on our recent purchases. The meal was simple, fresh and easy to prepare. The menu consisted of a herb rubbed grilled chicken, a salad of roasted beets placed on a bed of lettuce and sauteed okra. The calories for the total meal was 347.

The chicken was rubbed with Emeril's Chicken Rub (0 calories) and then grilled on our outside grill. Everybody got 4 ounces for 187 calories..

The beets were prepared according to our Roasted Beet recipe posted earlier this week (89 calories). I added a tablespoon of feta for 25 additional calories for a total 114 calories.

The okra was done in a cast iron skillet with 1 teaspoon canola oil and a light sprinkle of salt and pepper for 46 calories. Cutting them length-wise and letting them brown a bit made them visually attractive and delicious to eat.

It was a colorful meal. Fresh and healthy to eat. A fun way to celebrate the end of summer bounty. A definite repeat.


Easy & Cheap Outdoor Activities

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I look for inspiration in all places. Frequently I find that iVillage has some great tips and provides new takes on our ongoing needs to keep from getting bored or stuck in a rut as we exercise and strive to keep active. As we get closer to having to move indoors for our exercise I thought it was a good idea to look for ways to make the most of outdoor activities while we can. It is not necessary to spend a lot of money on keeping active outdoors. Some of the suggestions below are easily found by calling local parks with lakes as well as contacting your local community centers. I belong to the YMCA and with my membership I  have access to classes with no extra charge. iVillage had these suggestions for outdoor activities to make the most of now-

Best and Most Fun Outdoor Workouts

Fresh Beet Salad

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

There is nothing more beautiful than a bowl of freshly roasted beets. As the end of summer comes to a crescendo, so does our consumption of fresh foods from the Farmer's Market. One of our labor's of love is roasting and peeling fresh beets (please see my previous blog on September 26). The one thing we have learned is to lightly coat the beets with some balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil. In effect you are "dressing" the beets from the start. It keeps them fresh looking and they also don't stick to each other. Honestly, with a sprinkle of sea salt and cracked pepper your beets are ready to eat and use in salads and all sorts of other recipes. I would recommend this vinaigrette recipe which will cover 4 bunches of prepared beets which is about 8-- 1 cup servings for 89 calories  -

Vinaigrette for Fresh Roasted Beets:
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Weekly-- Daily Aspiration #7

Monday, October 1, 2012

Today I trust my intuition to lead me to abundance