Slow Cooker French Onion Soup—Easy & Healthy Meal for Family and Friends

Friday, October 30, 2015
Slow Cooker French Onion Soup Recipe
For years I was intimidated by the thought of making an authentic French Onion Soup. Recipes I had read made it sound like it would take days. It seemed way to complicated and time consuming. Then I talked to a dear friend who is, in fact, a chef who "poo-pooed" the idea that delicious, homemade onion soup was difficult to accomplish. With that I decided to take on the challenge. I took out calories where I could without sacrificing flavor and I kept the process as simple as possible.

There are many wonderful things about onions. They are a nutrient dense food which also means they are low in calories. There is evidence to show they are heart healthy, diabetes and cancer fighting, mood boosting as well as great for our skin and hair. And on the practical side, they are a food with a long shelf life so they are easy to keep on hand, ready to be used in any recipe. Click here for a blog that tells you all about different onions and how to grow them in your own back yard!

Check out the recipe below. My family loved it and we enjoyed it as easy meals for a couple of days during the week!

Slow Cooker French Onion Soup

Cooking Spray, olive oil flavored
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
5 pounds large yellow onions, vertically sliced (about 16 cups)
1 teaspoon sugar
6 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
24 (¼ inch slices whole grain French bread baguette)
1 ¼ cup Gruyere cheese, shredded

1. Spray slow cooker with cooking spray. Add butter, thyme and bay leaf to pot. Next place onions and sprinkle them with sugar. Cover and cook on HIGH for 8 hours.
2. Remove the sprigs of thyme and bay leaf; discard. Add stock, vinegar, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on HIGH for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat broiler to high.
4. Arrange bread in single layer on a cookie sheet; broil each side until browned. Next place a generous ½ tablespoon of cheese on the top of each slice of bread. Broil until melted.
5. Fill right-sized soup bowls with 1½ cups of onion soup. Top with two slices of cheese topped baguette. Serve hot.

Serves 12. Serving size 1½ cup soup with 2 slices cheese topped baguette.

Enjoy! And Live Vibrant!


Livliga Healthy Lifestyle Tip--Plan Ahead

Monday, October 26, 2015




Crisp or Crumble- is there a difference?

Friday, October 23, 2015
Crisp or Crumble?

The other night a friend of ours made a “crumble” for dessert. We were in New York. It seemed a lot like the “crisp” I make so I asked him what was in his crumble. The ingredients were identical to what I put in my crisp. This then launched a discussion about the difference between a crisp and crumble.

Interestingly, we have a perception that there is a difference. Depending on who you talk to the differences are defined by which one includes nuts, oats or biscuit dough. Funnily, also depending on who you talk to, the differences can be the opposite of what you think. There is no clear distinction. Not even by country or region. Simply, it is based on your own frame of reference and tradition.

For me, I grew up using the term “crisp” for a fruit based dessert that was topped with a flour, butter, oat and brown sugar mixture and baked. A “crumble” was more like a streusel topping which had more sugar and no oats.

Other fun names that are similar to a crisp or crumble are slump, grunt, buckle and cobbler. You may just have to try them all!

What I like about a crisp is that it is more fruit and a lot less crust or topping. In my pursuit to keep making everything a little bit healthier, I have updated my crisp to be gluten free. The recipe is below.

Gluten Free Apple Crisp

cup oat flour
½ cup rolled oats
¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into pieces
7 cups Fuji or Gala apples, sliced and peeled
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup granulated sugar
Cooking spray

1. Combine first six ingredients. Mix by hand or in a food processor until moist and crumbly.
2. Place apples in a large bowl; sprinkle with lemon rind, lemon juice and toss well. Next sprinkle with granulated sugar and remaining teaspoon of cinnamon; toss until mixed well.
3. Spray a 9x9 inch or 7x11 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place the apples in the dish. Top with the oat mixture.
4. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350 degrees for an additional 40 minutes, until apples are tender and the topping is crisp and brown.

Serves 8. Calories per serving: 290.

Enjoy and Live Vibrant!


Livliga Healthy Lifestyle Tip--Tantalize Your Taste Buds

Monday, October 19, 2015




How to Exert Self Control--Successfully

Friday, October 16, 2015

How often do we all wonder why certain people are able to resist temptation? A new study indicates their secret is not sheer willpower but rather consciously avoiding situations that test their self-control. In a recent article,  The Wall Street Journal reported that researchers at Florida State University conducted the research. The university recruited 38 volunteers and rated their levels of self-discipline using a series of 13 questions. Half were ranked as above average at self-control and the other half, below the average. 

The students were given an anagram to solve and told they could either start it immediately in a noisy student lounge or wait until a quiet lab became available. Among those with below-average self-control, most went for the lounge.  Among those with better self-control, most chose to wait for a quieter place to work. 

Previous studies have found that everyone has finite stores of willpower, which can be exhausted by repeated temptations. This new research showcases a different approach that avoids overworking our willpower.  Researchers summarized that the wisest way to pursue a goal—such as academic success or weight loss—is to structure your environment to minimize distraction and temptation.

Something for all of us to keep in mind as we shop in the grocery store, walk along a street with the local bakery or chocolate shop and eat in a restaurant with tempting goodies. Maybe we should just not go down the cookie isle at the grocery store, not choose the street with the bakery and chocolate shop, and only occasionally choose that restaurant with the hard-to-avoid goodies. 

 Let's set ourselves up for success...not failure!

Livliga Healhy Lifestyle Tip--Go for Colorful

Monday, October 12, 2015



The Cooking and Canning of Fresh Green Tomatoes

Friday, October 9, 2015

Prepping Late Summer Green Tomatoes

At the end of summer and right before the first frost our tomato vines are laden with tomatoes at all stages of ripening. At a certain point we decide we have to harvest what is left and prepare the beds for winter. This means picking buckets of tomatoes.

In reality we have already eaten lots and lots of tomatoes making fresh salads, adding them to many other dishes or simply roasting them for dinner. I’ve even developed chili recipes with fresh tomatoes. All are delicious ways to eat home grown tomatoes. With the final harvest, it is time to face preserving the remaining tomatoes—green and red.

Many people are not sure what to do with green tomatoes. There is the well-known way of “Fried Green Tomatoes” but you can only eat so many of those. With two buckets of tomatoes, many of them green, I decided it was worth it to try making Green Tomato Sauce and see if it was tasty enough to can and save for later, when we all dream of sunny warm days in the dead of winter.

Classically you peel the tomatoes you use for tomato sauce. I discovered this is particularly important with green tomatoes. Their skin is thick and tough. The way you skin tomatoes is to place them in boiling water for about 60 seconds. For green tomatoes you need to leave them in the water for about three minutes in order to get the skin softened enough to peel. After boiling you need to place the tomatoes in ice-cold water. The process is time consuming but when you are cooking and canning your own home grown tomatoes it seems to be worth it. Just make sure you start early in the day and leave open the remainder of the day so you have the time you need to get the whole process completed. Having someone help you also makes it a lot more fun.

The recipe for Green Tomato Sauce is very similar to what I prepare for a strictly red tomato sauce. The difference is that I added much more garlic and a strong teaspoon of red pepper flakes. I think this helped balance the tartness of the unripe tomatoes. Below is the recipe:

Fresh Green Tomato Sauce for Canning


Olive oil cooking spray

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 garlic cloves, diced

2 small onions

12 cups green and red tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped

⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon basil

2 bay leaves


1. Spray olive oil cooking spray in a Dutch oven and add the olive oil. Put on medium-high. Put the garlic in first, browning for 1 minute. Then add the onion and cook for 3 minutes.

2. Place all the tomatoes in the pot, stirring to mix it with the onion mixture. Add all spices.

3. Place the Dutch oven, covered, in a 300 degree oven for 1 hour.

4. Cook for an additional hour uncovered. Thickening the sauce.

5. Remove bay leaves before canning.

Makes 5 pint-sized jars per recipe.  

Helpful Hints: Make sure to prepare your jars properly before canning. It is important to follow the instructions to boil them and the tops. Everything, including the sauce, needs to be hot when you can for proper sealing.

You can fill the jars with the chunky mixture to use as sauce or in other dishes that use stewed tomatoes. If you plan on only using it as sauce puree it in a blender before canning it. Just remember to reheat it before placing it in the jars to ensure a good seal. Or you can always puree it later if you want a smooth sauce for spaghetti.

Enjoy! And Live Vibrant!

Canned Green Tomatoes!


Livliga Healthy Lifestyle Tip--Measure Your Food

Monday, October 5, 2015



Can I Really Feel Fuller Because of the Size and Shape of My Plate?

Friday, October 2, 2015
Right-sized amounts of food can look plentiful

Simple answer? Yes, absolutely. In recent years a number of studies have been done around the size and shape of the dishware we use and how it influences how much we eat and our sense of satisfaction. It is hard to believe that something so basic can have a quantifiable effect on our eating habits.

Remember the phrase- “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach?” It is true. Our eyes are what make all the decisions about the food we eat, not our stomachs. Our eyes measure relatively so depending on the size and shape of our dishes depends on how much we end up serving ourselves. Our eyes need for our food to look like enough and we will serve up quantities of food according to that perception.

For starters, the size of our plates has grown by over 51% in the past 30 plus years from 9.5 inches to nearly 12 inches. Why is this important? The bigger the plate the more food we can put on it. And we do.

Another reality is that the most popular plate for people to buy today is the coupe plate. This is a plate with no rim. Not only are our plates bigger but we have also gotten rid of the rim. This means we can put even more food on our plates. And our eyes direct us to do so.
Coupe plates have no rim so they can be piled up with large amounts of food
The shape of our dishware is also important. Studies show us that the shape of our plates and other dishware can also influence how we perceive the amounts of food on and in our dishes. A good example of this is the shape of our mugs and glassware. If they are short and squat we will end up pouring more into them because amounts look like less in them. On the other hand, in a tall, more cylindrical vessel, what we pour will look like more.

Have you ever been on a diet and served up a right-sized meal on your modern dinner plate? It looks puny, doesn’t it? Before you even start eating, your eyes have told your brain that what you are going to eat doesn’t look like enough so your brain is already sending the message to your stomach that you won’t feel full once you’ve eaten it.

Nineteenth century scientists, Delboeuf and Ebbinghaus have shown us how visual illusion can be used for our benefit when it comes to seeing right-sized amounts of food as plentiful. Delboeuf, for instance, showed us that by putting a circle around a smaller circle we can make that inner, smaller circle look larger. That is why choosing a plate with a rim can help you serve up right-sized amounts of food and have it look plentiful. 
The plate on the left has been designed to make right-sized amounts of food look plentiful
There are other elements that can positively influence your sense of satisfaction at a meal. Color can have a profound effect on your mood. Hot colors like red, orange and yellow, like you see in fast food restaurants, are stimulating so you end up eating faster and most likely, more. It is better to choose calming colors; the best color is blue since it has been shown to be an appetite suppressing color.

Attractiveness is also key for our sense of satisfaction. Just think about when you have an important meeting or are looking forward to seeing someone. You think about what you are going to wear and how you want to look, right?  Why do we do this? Because of the way it makes us feel. Feeling great empowers us. And when it comes to eating, the better we feel the more in control we are. The more in control we are the better decisions we are able to make when it comes to the food we eat.

So as you can see, the size and shape of your plates does make a difference in helping you right-size your eyes and your serving sizes. For best results you need to use a dinner plate that is no larger than 10.5 inches and has a wide rim. Every piece of dishware and glassware needs to be right-sized and shaped such that standard servings look plentiful. The design and colors you choose will also have an effect. If you are interested in finding out more or learn what choices are available, check out Livliga as a helpful resource. You deserve to eat off of attractive, beautifully designed and right-sized dishware. Investing in your wellbeing and health is the best investment any of us can make for long-term success.

This blog was originally published on the dLife website. Since its inception in 2004, dLife has become the premiere platform to inform, inspire, and connect with millions of diabetes patients, consumers, and caregivers and in the process positively impact engagement and ultimately health outcome.