The Infinite Variety of Chili

Friday, October 31, 2014

I was getting ready to create a new version of my favorite chili recipe when it occurred to me why I like chili so much. Chili is just like my “kitchen sink” salads and my other favorite dish, frittatas. You can put just about anything in to a chili and it is super easy to make healthy varieties.They are also ideal to cook in a slow-cooker making preparation even easier.

The origins of chili are a little murky. Just like pizza, it is really an American made invention. All agree that the name comes from the use of fresh chilies in the recipe. Most food pundits also agree that the original basic ingredients for an authentic chili included chilies, meat and beans. According to one online source chili as a spice has been around for a long time- The origin of chilies is believed to be as old as 7000 B.C. used in Mexico. Chilies were grown and cultivated from 3500 BC. Mexicans used it to spice up their food. Then the same source goes on to tell an amusing version of the introduction of chilies to Spain by Christopher Columbus: Chili was brought to the rest of the world by Christopher Columbus who discovered America in 1493. Christopher had set from Spain to reach India to bring spices such as pepper back to his country. Christopher not only mistook America for India, but also mistook chili as the black pepper. That is how the chili got the name ‘chile pepper.’ He took chile pepper back to Spain where it became a very famous spice.

The dish “chili” was made popular in New Mexico and Texas because of the cowboys. It was an easy meal to fix on the trail. You could use whatever was available depending on location, like different types of meat. And many of the ingredients could be dried which was easier to carry and transport. 

According to the International Chili Society our love of chili in the United States and worldwide has only grown over the years.  As stated, In 1977, a bill was introduced in the Texas legislature to designate chili as the official state dish, and one year earlier, back in California, Rufus (Rudy) Valdez, a full-blooded Ute Indian, won the world chili championship, using what he claimed to be a two thousand-year-old recipe.

Whether you are getting ready for a holiday like Halloween or just want an easy supper that can serve as few as 2 or as many as 20, chili is a very accessible and easy “go to” meal. Here are some links to recipes and versions I enjoy:

Weekend Chili
Vegetarian Chili
Chili Made with Late Harvest Tomatoes
State of Slim Crowd-Pleasing Slow-Cooker Pumpkin Chili with a Livliga Flair

Complete the meal with a simple tossed green salad. And don’t forget the cornbread!

Perfect Cornbread
Rosemary Cheddar Cornbread

Enjoy! And Live Vibrant! And Eat Mindfully.


Testing Out A New Health Trend- Yacon Syrup

Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Recently there has been a lot of buzz around yacon syrup. It soared in popularity when it was featured on a Dr. Oz show (photo by

As a blogger about healthy lifestyle living I get the opportunity to try out new gadgets and trends. I honestly relish the chance to check out what the hype around a product is all about. And I must admit I am a pretty harsh critic in general.

Recently there has been a lot of buzz around yacon syrup. It soared in popularity when it was featured on a Dr. Oz show. Then it appeared on Amazon and was available from no less than seventeen companies. I decided to check it out. To read the entire article click here...

Re-posted from Sheila's Blog on


Great Healthy Living Quote #118-- Secrets of a Happy Life

Monday, October 27, 2014
Great Healthy Living Quote #118-- Secrets of a Happy Life (photo by LivligaHome)

Give in to a small treat

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Let's Celebrate and Get Vocal About Food Day

Friday, October 24, 2014

Including our kids and friends in meal preparation makes mealtime so much more fun and successful (photo by LivligaHome).

Today is National Food Day. There is nothing like a title that tells us we are all in this together. As I have learned and studied about healthy eating, weight management and our behavior related to changing our unhealthy habits it has become abundantly clear that it is nearly impossible to succeed in embracing a healthy lifestyle by doing it alone. The change has to be systemic. We have to involve everybody in our world from our family to our friends to our co-workers. We need to surround ourselves with a world that is supportive of good health and healthy habits. Good news is such a world is beneficial for everyone. As I have personally found, it is a world that is much more fun and joyful. I see a lot more smiles in the world I live in now.

The challenge is how do we get started. For me it was all about adopting small changes and sticking to them. For some it may work better to go for broke and make major changes all at once. It can be as easy as replacing sugary sodas with flavored waters. Or you may want to right size your food environment so you tackle your food portions altogether. The only way I know you can do this successfully is to right size your dishware-- which is why I created Livliga. I have now lost almost 60 pounds, and kept it off, just by right sizing my portions and going back to actual serving sizes.

Now that we have gotten started, how do we sustain the change? By making it an automatic habit. This means it has to be doable and repeatable. It also has to be enjoyable. Our attitude can make us or break us. As an example, my husband and I started eating oatmeal for breakfast about a year ago. It is just what we do. It makes preparing breakfast easy and fast. Either one of us can get it ready. It is healthy, tasty (we add dried cherries and nuts) and has helped lower our cholesterol significantly. We really enjoy this healthy habit.

One or two changes does not make a healthy lifestyle so how do we keep adding more healthy habits to how we go about living our lives? We have to take on the next challenge. Sometimes, literally taking on a challenge helps us with change. Think of how many people you know who are working on being healthy who start running 5Ks. Others may eliminate different foods in their diet to help them gain more control of their health. My husband and I recently agreed to not drink alcohol during the week and just savor it on the weekends to help us control calories. Instead we are exploring various hot teas. Totally fun. My current favorite is Moroccan mint. It has become a successful new change.

Being inclusive with our healthy habits and lifestyle is not only helpful to us but also to the others in our lives. Including our kids and friends in meal preparation makes mealtime so much more fun and successful. Recent studies show that by having our kids, for instance, choose which healthy food they want to try and then letting them participate in the preparation of the meal being made they are much more likely to try new foods and like them.

I came across a wonderful and informative YouTube video "Our super-sized kids" that shows how important it is to support our kids in adopting healthy habits. It also shows that successful change can only be achieved if everyone in the family gets involved. Embracing healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle is everyone's business.

Let's get up and get vocal about healthy eating wherever we live and eat. We deserve it!

Apples and Autumn—My Favorite Apple Cake

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
This version of Apple Cake is healthier and easy to make (photo by LivligaHome).

Autumn is such a wonderful season. The air becomes crisp. The light from the sun is softer and the leaves on the trees turn amazing colors of orange, yellow and crimson. The best, though, are all the Fall Harvests like pumpkins and apples.

You can’t beat the variety of apples that you can choose from this time of year. Of course, they are delicious on their own. Picking one and eating it whole is the best of experiences. Each type of apple has its own personality of flavor from Delicious to Jazz to Gala to Ambrosia to Crisps. Just reading the names makes my mouth water with expectation.

It is also fun to cook with these apples. You can make it as simple as sautéing apple slices in a cast iron skillet or as complicated as baking an Autumn Apple Cake, which isn’t actually that complicated.

My in laws owned some farmland in Missouri that had an old apple orchard on it. It was the highlight of our autumn when the kids were little to go pick the apples and eat them fresh from the tree. The grandparents loved riding everyone around in a wagon pulled by the tractor. They also baked lots of great dishes with apples and the children helped. One of the favorites was an apple cake with chunks of the fruit in it. Today when I bake this cake I get a rush of happy memories and can still imagine the bumpy tractor ride.

Since we are happily living a healthier lifestyle these days, I have tweaked the recipe for healthier results. Get ready for the wonderful aroma of apples with cinnamon baking in your oven! Here is the recipe for the updated version:

Apple Cake


  • 5 apples, peeled and cut into square chunks
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups flour, unbleached
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup Trivia sugar baking blend
  • 3 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cooking Spray, canola flavored


  1. Put apple chunks in a bowl and sprinkle with cinnamon and 5 tablespoons of sugar.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine next 11 ingredients. Beat until smooth.
  3. Pour half the batter into an angel food cake pan sprayed with the cooking spray. Arrange half the apples over it.
  4. Pour in remaining batter and top with rest of prepared apples.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours until golden brown and tooth pick comes put clean.
  6. Let cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pan while slightly warm.

Serves: 12 – 16. Serving size: 1 slice. Calories: 356/268.

Here are a couple of other recipes from my blog that incorporate apples:

Enjoy! And Live Vibrant!

Re-posted from Sheila’s Blog on


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Great Healthy Living Quote #117-- Finding Contentment

Monday, October 20, 2014
Great Healthy Living Quote #117-- Finding Contentment (photo by LivligaHome)

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Exercise Addition—Sit Ups with Leg Extended

Friday, October 17, 2014

Exercise Addition—Sit Ups with Leg Extended (photo by LivligaHome).
There is a great camaraderie at a gym, or should I say the “Y”?  I am hardly in the league of most of the other regulars you see there, especially using the free weights. What I have found though, is it is not an exclusive club. In fact, the hard-core jocks are eager to share and challenge everyone to achieving the next level of ability.

This happened to me recently. I was doing my regular sit up routine on the exercise ball when I observed one of the regular “jocks” lifting one of his legs up straight on a bosu ball while lifting his weights. I uttered appreciation for his ability and he smiled back. The next thing I knew he came over and started telling me that it was a great exercise for muscle toning as well as balance. Then he proceeded to show me how I could do the same sort of thing with my sit-ups by keeping one leg raised while doing my usual number of crunches.

I was a complete klutz for the first few times I tried to keep my leg raised. It is actually pretty challenging to keep your balance on a ball with one leg raised while doing crunches. The goal, of course, is to alternate legs with each cycle of crunches. What I found was that it was easier on one side to keep my leg raised compared to the other. Something else to work on!

After a few weeks of working on my crunches with alternating legs raised I have become better and better at it. I have also increased the number of crunches I do per cycle. I start with doing my regular crunches. Then I raise my right leg and keep it up through the next cycle of crunches. Next I raise the left leg and do the same number of crunches. Sometimes I lose my balance and have to steady myself before continuing. I never stop until I achieve the current number of crunches per rotation. Currently I do 40 crunches each cycle.

It feels good and has added a level of challenge that requires me to pay attention. My stomach muscles have definitely felt the change. This is a good thing. Now to keep on increasing the number of crunches until the next challenge!

Enjoy! And Live Vibrant!

Salmon Grilled in a Pouch

Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Healthy Salmon Grilled in a Pouch
Salmon cooked on the grill in a pouch is easy to do and the results are delicious (photo by LivligaHome).

Salmon we have grilled on our outdoor grill often ends up dry and with a charred skin. Don’t get me wrong, when my husband grills the salmon just right it is succulent and tasty. Regardless, though, we end up with charred skin. Sometimes it is nice not to have that charred taste as part of your meal.

Thanks to a friend we were recently reminded how to cook salmon in a pouch on the grill. It was so delicious. The meat was rosy and succulent with the flavors infused into the meat. Because it was cooked in a pouch there was no charring. It also makes for quick and easy clean up. And unlike baking in an oven, the cooking on the grill does add some smokiness to the salmon.

Preparing and cooking the salmon is easy and non-time consuming. Here is our quick and delectable version below.

Salmon Grilled in a Pouch


  • 2 pound salmon fillet, deboned
  • Fresh dill
  • 1 lemon, sliced thinly
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Dash of ground pepper
  • Cooking spray, olive oil flavored
  • Aluminum foil


  1. Tear a sheet of aluminum foil that is twice as long as the salmon fillet. Make sure you will be able to roll and seal the foil once the salmon is prepared.
  2. Spray the foil with cooking spray. Place the salmon in the middle of the foil
  3. Drizzle the olive oil over the top of the salmon. Use your fingers to spread the oil evenly across the top.
  4. Sprinkle the sea salt evenly across the top of the salmon. Do the same with the pepper. Next lay sprigs of dill all along the top of the salmon. Finally, place the lemon slices on top to cover as much of the salmon as possible.
  5.  Make a pouch over the salmon and seal the top and sides.
  6.  Place the pouch directly on a high, hot grill. Immediately turn the grill down to medium. Grill on medium heat for 20 minutes. Remove from grill. Open the pouch and check for doneness. The meat should be rosy and flake when separated with a fork. Serve promptly.

Serves: 8. Serving size: 4 ounces.

For other fish recipes and salmon specific recipes check out my blog.

Enjoy! And Live Vibrant!

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Re-posted from Sheila's Blog on

Great Healthy Living Quote #116-- Let us be Grateful to People

Monday, October 13, 2014
Great Healthy Living Quote #116-- Let us be Grateful to People (photo by LivligaHome) 

Who makes you happy? Let them know you are grateful.

#Who MakesYouHappy

Product Review-- The Flex Belt

Friday, October 10, 2014

Flex Belt Product Review (photo by LivligaHome)

This is a big year for me. It is the year of my 40th high school reunion. It is hard to believe but it is really here and I plan to attend. So when I was contacted by Flex Belt to receive one of their belts to test out I thought the timing was great. What could it hurt? And with luck, it might just help!

Can it be effectively used by those of us who are overweight? One concern I had that I communicated up front is that I am not a skinny woman. I may have lost almost 60 pounds but I am not a small woman. They have accommodated for this with an extension piece to attach to the belt. 

Honestly, I wondered how the belt would do on a person like me who is big, with a layer of fat around my middle.  Would the toning system be strong enough to make a difference? It seemed like a good question I could personally research and experience to share with others.

How might it affect those with IBS? Another area of concern I had was whether the stimulation of the belt might trigger my IBS. The first couple of times I used the belt I did have uncomfortable twinges after finishing the session. I wondered if it would escalate into an “episode” but it never did. This is meant to be a caution alert for those who may have severe cases of IBS; talk to your doctor first. But it was a relief for me that I could use the belt without negative consequences.

How easy is it to use? When I received the Flex Belt I was impressed with its packaging. It is attractive and the information provided is clear. There is a little assembly required to attach the control unit and the gel pads to the belt but nothing is difficult to do.

Once I assembled the necessary pieces I then tried on the belt. The gel pads make it cool to put on. And the belt is stretchy enough I didn’t end up needing to add the belt extension. Next I had to figure out the settings. There are many. There are a number of different programs you can choose from. They recommend you start with #1. Then you can adjust the amount of time the belt is on. That starts at 20 minutes. Then you can adjust the intensity. It can range from 1 to 150. They recommend you get up to 15 during your first session. Then they recommend you use the belt at least three times a week or up to five times, if you can manage it.

All of this was very manageable. It was actually fun to play with the different levels of intensity. They provide a booklet with the Flex Belt. You can record the days you use the belt and the programs and intensity you choose. This made it very easy to keep track of what I was doing.

What kind of results do you see? I was great at using the belt 3 to 4 times each week for the first 3 weeks. Then I started traveling and my consistency of use faded. While I used it I did feel a difference. I measured my waist at the beginning and after two weeks my waist had shrunk by ½ inch. Regrettably, after the hiatus my waist went back to its former circumference. But I did see it made a difference and with longer-term use I suspect I would have more impressive results. What has remained is the improved muscle tone. I do sit ups and can now do more with ease.

So what do I really think? I liked the quality of the product. I saw results. The results were such that it has motivated me to want to use it for longer and more intensely to see how far I can go to maximize overall results.

As a product by itself it is not a panacea but as part of an overall healthy lifestyle plan it is a good addition. It is pretty effortless but plays an important role in reminding us about the steps we need to take to live a healthy life. Anyway we can keep reminding ourselves throughout the day how to live vibrant and be healthy is a good thing. And you do also get results!

The Flex Belt is one more tool for our Healthy Lifestyle Tool Chest by helping us stay focused on the ultimate goal to be healthy and live life to its fullest.


There is Progress When it Comes to Helping Those Living With Obesity

Wednesday, October 8, 2014
At the Your Weight Matters Convention Talking with the Hard Working Staff

I recently attended the Obesity Action Coalition’s “Your Weight Matters” convention in Orlando, Florida.  I attended the same conference last year. It was encouraging to see the breadth of presenters as well as the number of attendees increase.

It has been a year since Obesity has been officially labeled a disease.  I am not big on labels but in this case it has helped frame the conversation around what it means to be obese, what the health consequences can be and, most importantly, what are the various options available to help navigate in the world of obesity.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Sharma spoke to the audience about how there is not one size fits all when it comes to obesity and our health. He confirmed using BMI as a measurement for health is basically worthless and not an indicator of a person’s potential health risks. It really has to do with where you store your fat. Accumulating fat is actually a natural and healthy phenomenon. If we keep the fat on the outside of our bodies it does not pose a health risk. However, if the fat exists on the inside and around our internal organs that becomes a big problem and more of a predictor of health problems.

Dr. James O. Hill talked to the group about the National Weight Loss Registry and the lessons learned from those who are part of the registry, particularly those who have kept their weight off.  He told us some of their secrets of success. For instance, they exercise regularly, mostly an hour a day-- come rain or shine. They also weigh themselves regularly to keep on top of how they are doing and to stay within range of their target weight. And they have a limited range of weight gain before it triggers behaviors to get the weight off immediately.  More than food, those who have successfully kept their weight off have done so by boosting their on going activity and exercise…permanently.

I heard about many approaches to losing weight. Bariatric surgery is certainly on the rise but it is not the answer for everyone.  It does force a dramatic lifestyle change, which is incredibly important for many. In reality all of us engaged in weight management have to embrace a healthy lifestyle for the long term.

To live a healthy lifestyle takes deliberate steps. We have to create a positive food environment filled with healthy foods, mindful eating and thoughtful planning.  We need to surround ourselves with people who support our new lifestyle. It is a lifestyle that is equally about exercising as it is about eating well. And, yes, we need to face our demons. We have to let the rays of sunshine come in. We have to name our demons and share them. We also have to realize we are not alone.

That is what is so wonderful about the Obesity Action Coalition. They are our advocates. They convene experts, share information and resources. They bring together people who get it, are at various stages of the journey and are willing to open up about it and help others.  It is a growing community of friends as well as long-term supporters.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to be there talking about Livliga and my own personal journey that prompted me to create this elegant portion control tableware because of my own need and experience. It felt great to be part of an environment committed to positive, constructive solutions. There is indeed progress when it comes to helping those living with obesity. 

Live Vibrant!


Great Healthy Living Quote #115--Everything in Life has a Purpose

Monday, October 6, 2014
Great Healthy Living Quote #115 (photo by
When you listen, what do you hear as your purpose?


Livliga--Martha Stewart Finalist--How Our Livliga Story Deserves Your Vote

Thursday, October 2, 2014
Who would ever have imagined just a few short years ago that I would have started a company of elegant portion control tableware, Livliga,  and one of my glasses would be a finalist in the Martha Stewart Made in America contest!?!

It has been an amazing journey developing Livliga. It all started with a conversation at the kitchen table. Then, after a lot of research, I sat at the same kitchen table with my measuring cups, stencil paper and a sharp pencil to start experimenting with possible designs for our dinnerware line. It was a concept, hardly a line of tableware, at that point. Indeed just circles on a piece of paper.

I knew I wanted to create right-sized dishes that had measurements built into them...but they had to be subtle. In fact, they had to be beautiful. I knew it had to be something I  would want to use everyday, at every meal, and with my family and friends. Nothing existed out there that even resembled what I was talking about. I wanted everything I used to be appropriately sized and part of a suite so it all matched in design and feel, even if its purpose was portion control.

Since I had no reference point I had to draw what I was imagining. Then I went to the local "color your own" pottery store to fashion what I wanted to create. It was hardly elegant but it was fun and it did incorporate the measurements I wanted that would help me with the servings sizes I should use for the different food groups, according to the USDA.

Then there was more I learned about how design, shape, size and color could affect us psychologically, in a positive way, to help us in feeling satisfied with right sized amounts of food....instead of the super-sized amounts we are used to. I wanted to incorporate those elements into the tableware too. That required more experimenting.

Once I knew it could be created and that it worked because each of us using my hand-painted portion control dishes lost weight,  I went in search of an artist to take the VisualQs concept to the next level.

Tim Foss is a very talented artist. The best part was he took my concept seriously and was actually very excited about the vision of Livliga. His genius has helped us create beautiful tableware that supports people in right-sized eating...and drinking... as part of a healthier lifestyle.

Today we have two designs of dishware available, Halsa and Vivente, with a third near completion. We have another design, Aveq, for our glassware, which includes our "Made in America" wine glass, and serveware. This design adds a fun eclectic aspect to our line.

In production, to be launched at the beginning of the New Year, are our LivSpoons. They are a merger of a measuring cup with a serving spoon. They will come as a set of four in different measuring sizes-- 1 cup, 3/4 cup, 1/2 cup and 1/8 cup to go with the typical serving sizes of the different food groups. And, of course, they map to the circle measurements incorporated in the tableware.

It is incredible to realize that this July we received a  patent for our concept of elegant portion control tableware. And now, thanks to the Martha Stewart Made in America contest, Livliga is being recognized  for our design. There is something truly wonderful about a portion control tool being made a Wild Card Finalist in a design contest. And why not? Shouldn't everything we use, regardless of purpose, be both useful AND beautiful?

Now we need your help to vote for our product to become one of the award winners! You have until October 13 to show your support. Each day you can cast 6 votes. The more you vote the more chance you have to win your own "award" of $300 from Martha Stewart.  Click here to vote for Livliga. As a fledgling start up working hard to make a positive difference in people's lives we can't thank you enough for your help. Let's make the world a little more beautiful and a lot healthier by spreading the word about Livliga and casting votes!

Live Vibrant!

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Easy Homemade and Healthy Sweet Potato Chips

Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Homemade Sweet Potato Chips
Easy Homemade and Healthy Sweet Potato Chips (photo by LivligaHome)

Every once in a while I get a hankering for a potato chip…the real kind. There is so much salt and fat in the store bought kind that I decided to experiment with creating my own. My first efforts resulted in tough, chewy chips. With a little more experimentation I came up with a yummy recipe.

There are three things I have discovered that make a difference in creating a tasty baked chip. Bake at a low temperature… for a long time …and make sure the potato slices are as evenly cut in thickness as possible. It requires patience to make a crunchy chip. Once you get it down you will love making them and sharing them. To read the entire article and see the recipe click here...

Re-posted from Sheila's Blog on

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