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5 Substitutes for Pasta | Healthy Recipes

5 Substitutes for PastaThe primary crux of my practice as a nutritionist is transitioning people away from processed foods. Like most people, I grew up on a staple of casseroles, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, and the like. Pasta is by far one of the more processed foods, predominantly made from the starch of a grain. Even when you buy‘whole wheat’ pasta, it wouldn’t hold together without a significant ratio of that fine, white starch.

Nobody wants to give up flavor … and old habits are hard to break, but here are five delicious alternatives that will not only increase the nutritional value of your meal, but help make eating gluten-free cheaper!


One of my favorite recipes using cauliflower as a substitute for pasta is my Smoked Mac-n-Cheese. Using chopped cauliflower (steamed and well drained) and about half as much white rice for ‘mouth feel’, I create a base for an American favorite that even the kid’s love. I happen to love smoked cheeses, but you can get creative here (– just try to refrain from the Velveeta please!). Mix up a batch of cheese sauce and pour it over your cauliflower mixture. Place it all in a casserole dish and garnish. (I use green onions and bacon for my garnish) Heat at 350 until it bubbles. Don’t worry, there won’t be any leftovers.

Mung Bean Sprouts

In my house, soup is a huge staple and we occasionally fall back on some old standards like “Chicken and Noodle” and the likes. In this case, I use mung bean sprouts as a replacement for the egg noodles. It never fails and I am always so thrilled with how amazingly the sprouts complement my soup. This one is just way too easy.

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is like the string cheese of squash. When it is cooked, you can pull it out of its shell in strands that look a little like orange angel-hair pasta. The biggest difference between squash and pasta – aside from the nutritional value – is how light and fresh it feels in your dish. You can even crisp it back up if you place the strands in a bowl of cold water directly after removing the strands from the skin.

You can use spaghetti squash as a bed for just about anything: stir-fry, pasta sauce, 101 Asian dishes… you get the picture.


My first exposure to using zucchini as a replacement for noodles was in zucchini lasagna. Here, you take your zucchinis and slice them thin length-wise. You have to dry them out by laying them on a towel (or paper towel) and sprinkle with salt to draw the water out. Then just use them exactly the way you would use the lasagna noodles. This too adds a beautiful flavor to a traditional dish that won’t disappoint. It will also leave you feeling much less heavy than the traditional version.

You can also prepare zucchini in long thin strips for a different texture in salads and main dishes.

Brown Rice

I should really say “whole grain rice” here because there are about 90 varieties of rice and not all of them are ‘brown’. I strongly encourage you to explore the wonderful world of rice, but don’t get too dependent. Diversity and moderation is key.

Rice makes great casseroles and works well as a bed upon which to layer your favorite sauces, vegetables, and meats. You also can mix it up a little by mixing some of the other alternatives into your rice … kind of like a ‘dirty’ rice. This helps keep the portion of rice down just a bit.

Rolled Oats (Bonus!)

Rolled oats are still a whole grain in most cases. You can get oats rolled like what you are used to in the traditional Quaker box; quick oats – which are just really fine flakes of rolled oats; and, thick rolled oats. Just like pasta, the density of the oat affects the texture of the dish.

I use rolled oats as a substitute in my ‘Tuna-noodle Casserole”. You’ll be amazed at how tasty this is for sure. Growing up, we made this with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. I don’t use that anymore either.

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Vegetable Recipes – Acorn Squash with Apple Stuffing

We are big on vegetable recipes over here and since squash is in abundance this time of the year, we are coming up with all kinds of wonderful ways to enjoy them. This recipe is quick, simple, and positively delicious. This recipe made 4 stuffed acorn halves.

Recipe: Acorn Squash with Apple Stuffing

  • 1 lg apple cored and diced
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 3 slices thick cut bacon
  • 2 acorn squash
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp smoked salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper

Prepare acorn squash by slicing in half and removing the seeds. Place in an oven set at 350, flesh side up, with a small pat of butter in each of the acorn bowls. Cook these until they are tender…about 40-55 minutes.

During the last 15 minutes of the baking acorns, start the stuffing mixture by cooking bacon over medium heat. Remove the bacon and add the apple, celery, pine nuts, and onion to the pan. (3 slices of bacon should not produce too much grease, but feel free to pour some of it off if needed. You can also add a little olive oil if there is too little.) Give them a quick stir-fry to soften. Chop and add bacon to the mixture along with seasonings. Heap stuffing into the baked acorn halves and serve immediately.

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Roasted Vegetables in Garlic Butter Sauce | Vegetable Recipes

Roasted Vegetables in Garlic Butter SauceOven roasted vegetables are always a hit at my house, but the magic is not necessarily in the veggies it is in the great vegetable recipes!

When I do a roasted veggie dish, it is really just a matter of what I have available. This time it was a combination of starches and cherry tomatoes from the garden. The special part about this version comes in the butter sauce that actually makes an amazingly tasty gravy that keeps the vegetable medley moist. The tomatoes were also key as they added a delicious tang. My veggie list is included below, but like I said, use what you have.

You can eat these as a side dish, or served in a bowl under a filet of lemon pepper roasted fish. I lamented on the flavor in this dinner for hours.

1 ½ – 2 lbs of raw potatoes (I don’t peel mine)
1 lb fresh carrots
1 large leek sliced
1 lb cherry tomatoes
1 ½ lbs cubed butternut squash
2 cups chicken broth

Mix the veggies into a large cake pan that has been lightly coated with olive oil spray. Pour Butter Sauce over the top and add chicken broth. Bake at 350 until potatoes and carrots are tender – about an hour.

Garlic Butter Sauce

1 stick of butter
2 TBSP minced garlic
1 ½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp red pepper

This sauce is going to be a little strong as it is the seasoning for all those veggies.

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The Benefits of Antioxidants In Fruit

We already know the benefits and function of antioxidants in vegetables, now it’s time to discuss the benefits of antioxidants in fruit!

Fruits are different than vegetables in many ways and the first one that comes to my mind is how we prepare them. We tend to cook our vegetables by boiling, steaming, baking, grilling or frying them. Fruits seem to be simpler; we often enjoy fruits raw, with the occasional baking in a pie. Because of this, we don’t need to go into great depth discussing the best method to minimize antioxidant loss due to processing.

Instead, we’re going to look at the bioavailability of fruits and a few ways we can maximize the amount of antioxidants we get from them. It may seem easier to take an antioxidant supplement, but research has found that antioxidants found in fruit are more potent than any supplementary or pill form of vitamin.


First let’s discuss bioavailability and ways we can increase it. Bioavailability is a term that refers to the way your body reacts and absorbs different vitamins and minerals. Some fruits naturally have a high bioavailability in their raw state. However, some fruits need a little help to reach their bioavailability potential. For example, the bioavailability of lycopene and beta-carotene is improved with heat treatment.

Lycopene is currently the most powerful antioxidant and is thought to play a role in preventing cancer and heart disease. So this is definitely something we all want to include in our diet! This particular antioxidant is a carotenoid that gives many fruits and vegetables their red color. Guavas, watermelon, grapefruit, and persimmons are a few examples of fruits that have a high lycopene content. Tomatoes are also known for their high levels, and being the exception that they already are, tomatoes yield higher levels of antioxidants in paste form.

Here are a few tips that I think will help make it easier to consume your daily recommended amount of antioxidants.

A cup a day:
1 cup of berries provides all the antioxidants you need in a single day. However, the general rule of thumb when eating for antioxidant benefits is the more fruit, the better. Studies have shown that variety was the key to obtaining the most antioxidants.

Color your diet:
Research has shown that purple, blue, red and orange fruits are the highest in antioxidant content. The best way to ensure that you’re consuming a variety of antioxidants is to eat a serving of each color a day.

Find fruit easier :
Although fresh fruits have the most antioxidants, tests show that frozen and dried fruits that do not have additional sugar or additives are a positive source of antioxidants. This is a great way to get your antioxidants year round without having to by expensive, out of season fruit.

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Healthy Soup Recipes – Chunky Curried Sweet Potato Soup

There are such things as healthy soup recipes year round! Soup can be an attractive menu item even in the heat of summer. Don’t forget about good nutrition either! We can’t be barbequing all the time. So think about a soup for lunch or dinner. This soup is fresh and light: perfect for summer fare. This hearty little soup was quick and flavorful. Then it just happened to start raining as I served it up. Give it a try!

Chunky Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Healthy Soup Recipes - Chunky Curried Sweet Potato Soup2 small sweet potatoes
¼ small onion, diced
½ lb pork, diced
4 cups chicken stock
½ teaspoon sweet yellow curry
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 clove crushed garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Red pepper to taste

Pour chicken stock in 1-qt saucepan. Peel and slice one of the sweet potatoes, and place in stock. Bring to a light boil until are soft (poke easily with a fork). Remove from heat and process the potatoes with enough liquid in a blender to make creamy. Shred remaining potato and place into saucepan. Return to low heat and allow to simmer until potato shreds are desired tenderness (about 5-7 minutes).

Dice pork into ½ inch cubes. Place into hot skillet with olive oil and allow pork to seer. With pork still a little pink in the middle, add onions and garlic to the skillet. Cook until pork is no longer pink. Add contents of the skillet and remaining seasonings to the potato soup mixture. Yum!
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Can’t “Beet” this Rhubarb Crisp

This beet stem and healthy rhubarb crisp recipe is a great way to use all parts of a plant!

I hate wasting food. Couple that with my innate belief that every part of the plant (in many cases) is just as much a food as the ‘pretty’ part, and you have a girl with a healthy creative streak.

Our spring beet experiment in the green house is drawing to a close as we harvest them. I have been working on creating some new recipes for all parts of the beets. Winter Solstice salad out of the Rawsome cookbook is a fantastic introduction to a raw beet salad. Beet greens are wonderful in soups, salads, or steamed like spinach – which is not new to me, but it is new to everyone else in my house. My conundrum has been around what to do with the beet stems. I tried fermenting them and was less then thrilled with the end product. Then it hit me: Rhubarb!! I also had a bunch of rhubarb sitting in the refrigerator waiting for my creative attention.

I served this dessert to my family and guests at our July 4th dinner. Although I ran to get the camera, it was gone before I got back. Safe to say, this was a huge hit. (Another side note: the beet stems brought a fantastic crimson red into the dish)

Can’t "Beet" this Rhubarb CrispCan’t “Beet” this Rhubarb Crisp

6 cups sliced rhubarb
2-3 cups sliced beet stems
1 cup sliced strawberries
2/3 cup of sugar (give or take based on your tastes, this was on the sweeter side)
½ cup water
½ teaspoon almond extract

¼ cup butter
¼ cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ cup chopped almonds
¼ teaspoon sea salt
pinch powdered cardamom
1 tablespoon flour (I used Pamela’s gluten-free blend. This is optional, but helps firm up some of the fruit juices.)

In a small saucepan, melt butter on medium heat. Add remaining topping ingredients and stir until well mixed. Set aside.

In a larger saucepan, add rhubarb, stems, berries, sugar and water. Bring to a low boil until rhubarb is soft but not necessarily mushy (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and add extract. Place fruit mixture in a 9×9 cake pan and sprinkle topping on top of fruit. Place the pan in the oven on a low broil to brown and crisp up the topping (maybe 15 minutes, but keep an eye on it). Served warm is wonderful, but it is also quite tasty cold. Ice cream is optional. This is a great recipe for using plant parts that are usually discarded.

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Healthy Salad Recipes – Cucumber Salad with Curried Pumpkin Seeds

I have been playing with some new healthy salad recipes from one of my favorite cookbooks: Rawsome by Brigette Mars. The first recipe in the salads section is the Asian Cucumber Salad. I added my own flair with roasted pumpkin seeds and my own curry rub. You have to get the original version by buying the book, but here is mine. Enjoy!!

Amazing Cucumber Salad

Great Easy Recipe-Cucumber Salad with Curried Pumpkin Seeds1 English cucumber, sliced thinly
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
¼ – ½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon butter
Jaye’s curry rub (see below)

Place butter in a medium-hot skillet to melt. Pour pumpkin seeds in the skillet and shake to distribute evenly. Toss frequently as seeds begin to brown but be careful not to burn. Take off the heat and coat generously with curry rub.

Combine cucumber and cilantro in a bowl. Pour olive oil and limejuice in a jar with a lid. Shake to mix thoroughly and pour over cucumber mixture. Add warm seeds as topping and serve immediately (keeps the pumpkin seeds crisp!) You could double this recipe and still not have any leftovers.

Jaye’s Curry Rub
Sea Salt
Garam Masala
Sweet Yellow Curry
Cheyenne Pepper
Ground Ginger

Okay, I just do this by taste so its hard to say exactly. That means that you have to work it out to your tastebuds!! Start with 2 tablespoons of sea salt. Garam Masala has a very unique flavor, but I use it in very small amounts. ½ – ¾ teaspoon of Yellow Curry and Turmeric. Maybe another ½ teaspoon of ground ginger and red pepper to your liking.

Rubs are supposed to be robust in flavor and you use them generously! This is a great easy recipe so I hope you try it.
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Salad Dressing Recipe: Warm Pecan Vinaigrette

With all the greens we have in the green house, I had to come up with a new dressing. This one quickly became one of our favorites, but I had to make some alterations. Balsamic vinegar comes in lots of varieties. Ours is a heavy, sweet syrup and when I used it in the original recipe it was overwhelming. The fix turned out to be a mellow rice wine vinegar. Don’t be afraid to play around with it and dial it into your tastes. We are serving our salad up here with a fresh batch of ceviche!

Salad Dressing Recipe: Warm Pecan VinaigretteWarm Pecan Vinaigrette

3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1 T balsamic vinegar
2 T rice wine vinegar
1 t salt
1/4 t pepper

Heat oil in a small heavy skillet over moderate heat. Add garlic and nuts and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden. Stir in vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour warm vinaigrette over greens and toss to combine.

The Ideal Gluten – Free Meal or Just The Ideal Meal? Home Made Broth Recipe

Every once in a while someone will ask a question that just begs for a few extra words. When I was asked, “What is the Ideal Gluten-free meal?” it brought a few topics to mind. The first place we get into trouble with gluten-free foods is when we try to replicate those foods that are explicitly prohibited. Truth be told, those foods in general are not actually healthy for anyone. Pastries and cookies, breading, boxed cereals, snack bars, and meal replacement drink mixes are ridiculously processed and riddled with chemicals. You can label it “gluten-free”, “all natural”, or even “organic” and it does not necessarily make it healthy food. When dealing with digestive disorders – especially when it includes poor nutrient absorption – the quality of your food becomes even more important.

The Ideal Gluten- Free Meal or Just The Ideal Meal?Lets get back to basics. The ideal gluten-free meal could just as easily be “The ideal meal”. Homemade soup takes the prize, hands down!

I’m not talking about anything you buy in a can in the grocery store. I’m talking about fresh meats and vegetables cooked in a rich broth. The best broth comes from slow cooking a stew bone, and is rich in minerals and other nutrients that support healthy bones and skin. Add plenty of seasonal vegetables, seasonings, and a small amount of meat if you so choose and you have a well-balanced meal that delivers satisfaction at all levels. It is pretty hard to make a bad soup and a great way to use up odd and ends in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.

If you have never made your own soup, you are in for a real treat!

Basic Home Made Broth Recipe


1. Stock

  • bones—from poultry, fish, shellfish, beef, lamb, cooked remnants of a previous meal, with or without skin and meat
  • raw bones, with or without skin and meat
  • use a whole carcass or just parts (good choices include feet, ribs, necks and knuckles)
  • don’t forget shellfish shells, whole fish carcasses (with heads) or small dried shrimp

2. Water—start with cold water

  • enough to just cover the bones
  • or 2 cups water per 1 pound bones

3. Vinegar—apple cider, red or white wine, rice, balsamic

  • a splash (avoid malt vinegar for gluten content!)
  • 2 tablespoons per 1 quart water or 2 pounds bones
  • lemon juice may be substituted for vinegar (citric acid instead of acetic acid)

4. Vegetables (optional)

  • peelings and scraps like ends, tops and skins or entire vegetable
  • celery, carrots, onions, garlic and parsley are the most traditionally used, but any will do
  • if added towards the end of cooking, mineral content will be higher


Combine bones, water and vinegar in a pot, let stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour, bring to a simmer, remove any scum that has risen to the top, reduce heat and simmer (6–48 hrs for chicken, 12–72 hrs for beef). To reduce cooking time, you may smash or cut bones into small pieces first. If desired, add vegetables in last ½ hour of cooking (or at any point as convenience dictates). Strain through a colander or sieve, lined with cheesecloth for a clearer broth. Discard the bones. If uncooked meat was used to start with, reserve the meat for soup or salads.

An easy way to cook broth is to use a crockpot on low setting. After putting the ingredients into the pot and turning it on, you can just walk away. If you forget to skim the impurities off, it’s ok, it just tastes better if you do. If you wish to remove the fat for use in gravy, use a gravy separator while the broth is warm, or skim the fat off the top once refrigerated. Cold broth will gel when sufficient gelatin is present. Broth may be frozen for months or kept in the refrigerator for about 5 days.


Simple Food Substitutions

When we think about food substitutions, it is almost about eliminating something. Low-fat cooking, sugar-free products: these are just a few of the more common examples. Being true to my philosophy on a healthy diet, I believe that substitutions have a greater purpose: ADDING nutrients!

Simple Food SubstitutionsBelow I have listed some of my favorite, and sometimes unusual substitutions that help turn the most common dishes into superfoods.

Rolled Oats

I was watching a cooking show about meatloaf. The chef was using saltine crackers soaked in milk, which is a very traditional way to do meatloaf – right up there with breadcrumbs. What I have found is that you get wonderful results using rolled oats in place of the crackers or breadcrumbs. Although oats are also processed, they are less processed and still resemble the whole grain.

Spaghetti Squash

I didn’t believe this when I first heard about it, but it is true! Spaghetti squash is a wonderful substitute for traditional spaghetti and rice in some of your favorite recipes. Just bake the spaghetti squash, allow to cool slightly, and scrape out the strands with a fork. Rinse with cold water to maintain crispness if the recipe allows, or just serve immediately when it needs to be warm. You will be amazed at how flavorful your recipes are with this substitution


This one is a little geeky but it is hard not to be fascinated. We all know that protein is critical to a healthy diet. Proteins are configurations of amino acids, but so are enzymes. Enzymes are present in raw foods (meat and vegetables) and assist in the digestion of that food. The extra cool thing about getting your protein through enzymes is that your body has to do a lot less work. Where we have to break down proteins into the individual amino acids in order to rebuild proteins, we can also build proteins from a supply of enzymes. This can be handy when balancing the grocery budget.

Coconut Milk

Dairy products are such a huge staple in our culture, but in truth, roughly 80% of the world population does not digest it well. Cow’s milk is by far the most difficult. Fortunately, coconut milk offers a tasty alternative. Check out my recipes for coconut whipped cream, creamy ranch dressing, and cream of mushroom soup (which makes wonderful gravy and scrumptious green bean casserole).

Buttercup Squash

This is a sweet and creamy winter squash. I picked buttercup over butternut because I think it is better, but butternut is commonly carried in stores and readily available. Buttercup makes a wonderful soup base, and is a great substitute for tomato sauce. I particularly like it ladled over spicy chicken sausage ravioli. I also used a buttercup sauce in a popular stroganoff recipe.

Duck Eggs

This one is a true shocker. Duck eggs outperform chicken eggs in nutrients by multiples. Your taste buds may not be able to tell the difference, but your body knows. If you can get them, duck eggs are by far the unsung hero in superfoods.

Mung Bean Threads

This is another substitute for noodles in soups. Egg noodles are really just a lot of calories for the nutrient bang, but bean threads are a whole food. The flavor they add to your soups is a surprising treat.

Bib Lettuce

Whenever you can replace the bread in a sandwich with a big leaf of crisp lettuce, take it! We think of lettuce as having little to no flavor, but you will be surprised at how much better burgers and sandwiches taste when you are not burying all the stuff between the bread…. in bread!

Giant Zucchini

Zucchini boats are a big treat for my family and me every fall. If you have a garden, or know someone at work who does, then you are familiar with the runaway zucchinis. The bigger they are, the better in my book. I call them zucchini boats and recipes vary from pizza to Frito pie. Cut those monsters in half the long way and scrape out the seeds. Sprinkle them with salt and place in the oven at 350 for about an hour to pull some of the water out. Remove from the oven and stuff with all the ingredients to make your masterpiece. Place your boats back in the oven to heat the stuffing and voila, you have an amazingly nutritious meal for the whole family. Zucchini is packed with nutrients!


This is a great way to cut back on salt. Vinegar tickles the same areas of your tongue as salt, so you can use it to create the same salty bite with less salt.

Sea Salt

I recommend this to all my clients. Sea salt is a whole food full of trace minerals your body needs to function at its best. Unlike its counterpart, table salt is just another processed ‘fake’ that may fool your tongue but wreaks a bit of havoc everywhere else in your body.

The list can go on for pages, but give these a try and share your experience. I would also love to hear about your favorite substitutions!