Category Archives: Closer Look

Closer Look: Radishes

Closer Look: Radishes

Today I’m taking a Closer Look at radishes. If you’re like me, you’ve seen others eat them, tried them once or twice in the past and didn’t like them. My grandpa used to grow them and my husband has grown them and I just always thought that I didn’t like them, so I didn’t eat them.

So, why am I taking a Closer Look at radishes today? I was at my friend Mary’s house for a party a couple months ago and she had radishes on an appetizer tray. I tried them and actually really liked them! Who knew? It hadn’t been that long before that I tried them and didn’t like them. But for what ever reason I do now and I’m really glad. So here’s a Closer Look at these little red roots and why you should give ‘em a try again!

What are radishes?
Radishes are a member of the cruciferous family, which means they’re related to broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower. There are several different varieties of radishes. They vary in color from red to purple to black to white. They can be very small or rather large. You can not only consume the root, but the greens as well. The mustard oil found in the vegetable gives it its tangy flavor.

How to select the best radishes?
Look for radishes that have brightly colored roots that are firm and have crisp greens.

What are the nutritional benefits of eating radishes?
These little guys are packed full of the good stuff. They are high in the cancer fighting antioxidant vitamin C and the greens have even more than the roots. Radishes are a great source of folic acid, calcium, iron, potassium, and thiamine. They are a great source of fiber and have been traditionally used to relieve constipation and assist with weight loss. They’re low in carbs and help to keep the liver and kidneys functioning properly.

What are some various ways to use prepare radishes?
You can eat radishes and their greens raw. They make a nice addition to salads and veggie appetizer trays. I like to eat them raw with hummus. You can saute them and include them in a variety of dishes. Add them into anything you want to add a little zing to, including pasta dishes and vegetable sautes.

Stay tuned this week for one of my new favorite pasta dishes using radishes.

I hope you’ll give radishes a first or maybe a second try. You never know, they could become a new favorite for you!


Sauted Mushroom Side Dish

Sauted Mushroom Side Dish

Mushrooms are tasty cooked into various sauces, soups, and pasta dishes. But I’ve found their a really great side dish to grilled meats and especially steaks. This recipe is much like a recipe your grandma would give you, not really exact measurements but a little of this and a little of that. Its very simple and very tasty!

Sliced mushrooms
Minced garlic
Lemon (for juice)
Sherry cooking wine

1. Heat some butter over medium heat in a saute pan. Add the sliced mushrooms to the saute pan and cook until they start to soften.
2. Add some more butter as you cook the mushrooms. Add a spoon full of minced garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice.
3. Continue cooking until the mushrooms are cooked through and right before you remove from the heat add a little cooking sherry. Enjoy!

Collard Green & Lentil Soup

Collard Green & Lentil Soup

This recipe is a Lebanese inspired dish that I tried last week and loved it! It has a beautiful blend of spices that may be totally new to your palette. It was new to mine and I really enjoyed it…the leftovers were great too.

It was originally a vegetarian dish, but I added some ground turkey for extra protein as my hubby and I both like to eat protein rich diets. It is a great use of collard greens. So here is a great way to add these greens into your diet.

*1/2 pound ground turkey (optional), sauteed (cooked through)
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup dried red lentils (I couldn’t find red ones, so used the ones I could find in the store), rinsed and drained
6 cups water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch collard greens, rinsed and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/3 cup lemon juice

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium in large sauce pan; stir in onion and salt, cook until soft and translucent (about 4 minutes). Stir in lentils and cook for 1 minute. Pour in water and bring to boil over high heat, then turn heat to medium low, cover and simmer until lentils are tender (about 15 minutes). If using cooked ground turkey, add now.
2. Meanwhile heat remaining olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add collard greens and heat until wilted, about 10 minutes (stirring occasionally).

3. When lentils are tender, stir in collard greens and add cumin, cinnamon, and garlic; allow to simmer 10 more minutes. Add lemon juice before serving and enjoy!

*Serves 4
* Recipe Source:

Closer Look: Collard Greens

Closer Look: Collard Greens

If you grew up down south, Collard Greens were probably a staple in your diet. But, for us yankees (as my southern grandfather called us northerners) Collard Greens may be totally foreign to you. So here is a Closer Look at Collard Greens, followed with Collard Green recipes posted later this week.

How to choose the best Collard Greens?
Collard Greens are in season from November to April. Look for leaves that are bright green and crispy with stout stalks, not yellowish or wilted.

What are the nutritional benefits of Collard Greens?
Collard Greens are low in carbs and packed rich with vitamins A, C, K, E and folate. They also contain a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and dietary fiber.

How do I prepare Collard Greens?
Both the stalks and leaves can be eaten. The leaves and stalks should be washed thoroughly first. You then cut the leaves into small strips. I most commonly sautee the greens in a little olive oil in a frying pan with a little minced garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. You can then add the sauteed leaves into soups, stews, or eat them as a side dish. You can also eat them raw blended with other salad greens or include some raw leaves in your fruit smoothie (trick here: more fruit than veggies and you won’t even taste the veggies).

Stay tuned this week for recipes using Collard Greens!


The Sweet Stuff and Your Weight

The Sweet Stuff and Your Weight

I’m wordy again today, but I’m hitting a topic that you’ve got to know the facts about! Did you ever wonder why people who continually drink diet sodas often seem to be overweight?…then read on. I noticed this through pure observation when I was really young, which is why I’m fascinated by this research.
Let’s get the facts and stop letting advertising campaigns educate us about what’s good for us.

Sugar has become the villain in today’s diets and artificial sweeteners have become a hero to dieters everywhere.
More and more research and studies are exposing the truth about artificial sweeteners, showing they not only contribute to weight gain, but can cause a whole world of health issues.

The Problem We’re Trying to Solve:
We as a society (I’m definitely included) love sweet foods, juices, sodas, yogurts, desserts, cereals, etc. But, we don’t like the negative side effects that consuming excess sugar has on our bodies. Side effects such as weight gain, diabetes, elevated triglycerides (leading to heart disease), suppressed immune system, etc. So, we look for ways to still indulge in the sweet taste, without these terrible side effects…thinking that we can have our cake and eat it too.

Real Sugar:
According to a series of experiments done at Purdue University and published in Behavioral Neuroscience, when you consume real sugar (from foods such as fruit, table sugar, honey, real maple syrup, etc.) your body connects and anticipates the caloric load that comes from eating these real sugars and it revvs up your metabolism.

According to various research studies and written about by Andreas Moritz ( ),

“The body has a self-regulating mechanism, a kind of thermostat that measures the amount of energy (or calories) it can obtain from a particular meal. When your body has received enough energy from the food you have eaten, then your mouth, stomach, intestines, and liver send messages to the brain that all energy requirements have been met. Subsequently, your nervous system secretes hormones that stop your desire for more food. This point of saturation is essential for your wellbeing, for without it you would continuously want to eat and never feel satisfied.”

The problem is we eat too much sugar and require our foods to be sweeter than our ancestors ever did. According to Dr. Hubber,, if you look back to 1910 the sweet foods that people consumed were mostly from natural sources like fruits. Even table sugar was not highly used. Our problem today is that we eat far too much sugar. Our tolerance for sugar has risen; we need/expect our food to be sweeter.

Artificial Sweeteners:
To solve this dilemma (wanting the sweet taste without the negative side effects) many people have turned to artificial sweeteners. This includes anything that’s labeled diet, sugar free, or products that contain sucrolose, aspartame, saccahrine, NutraSweet, Sweet ‘N Low, Neotame, Splenda, Equal, etc.

The Truth About Artificial Sweeteners
Why Artificial Sweeteners Make you Fat:
Dr. Huber ( summarizes all the research and science stating,

“Translation: fooling the body with excessive sweeteners resulted in increased calorie intake at subsequent meals as their appetite was stimulated, increased weight gain and fat deposits, lowering of metabolism so fat burned less efficiently.”

Basically, artificial sweeteners never satisfy your body’s craving for calories and cause you to just crave more. That’s not so good for those trying to loose weight by eating these substitutes, but is really good for the companies making these “diet” foods and drinks because you’ll eat more and more of them.
other sources:,8599,1711763,00.html

The Other Side Effects of Artificial Sweeteners:
You can look through all these sources to see the details including how these items scooted their way past the FDA, but here are the basic facts.
Aspartame (and the sweeteners made from it, phenylalanine) are especially dangerous as they damage the central nervous system. Some of the health issues they cause include migraines, fuzzy thinking, changes in behavior, depression, seizures, visual disturbances, gastrointestinal reactions, joint pain, fatigue, etc. Aspartame is the cause of over 75% of adverse food reactions reported to the FDA.

Other artificial sweeteners can cause cancers, testicular damage, negative effects on baby of a pregnant woman, and much more.


What to do?
So, you feel like you’re between a rock and a hard place? You don’t want to eat sugar because you’re watching your weight, are prone to diabetes or candida overgrowth, but obviously these artificial substitutes are not a better option.

I’ve personally noticed that when you eat sugar, your body craves more. One thing to do is to fight the cravings and just not give in. I crave sweets, but for me its especially chocolate. With my restricted diet, unless I make sweets from scratch I often cannot eat them. I satisfy my craving, by keeping a bar of high quality dark chocolate on hand. When I crave sweets, I’m shocked that a small piece of this high cocoa content (less sugar than lower cocoa content chocolate bars) bar often satisfies my craving.

Find a way to satisfy those intense cravings, that works for you. Such as:
-Fruit, its sweet and natural
-Indulge in what you crave in smaller amounts
-Real soda but a small amount

Another option is the natural sweetener that’s been used for centuries called Stevia. You can find it in the health food section of your grocery. Its made from a leaf and contains no sugar and its natural (not man made, but found in nature).

Another option is Agave Nectar. Made from the agave plant, its also a natural product. It contains sugar but has a lower glycemic index (good for those watching weight or those with diabetes).

I hope this will encourage you to know what you’re eating before you eat it. The sources I’m linking to in this article are just some of many that are out there supporting these facts.
Still confused about what to eat and not eat? My general rule of thumb is, eat real stuff…ingredients made by God, not a scientist. Eat what you love but in moderation.

Have a good weekend!

Other sources:

Spicy Sriracha-Glazed Chicken

Spicy Sriracha-Glazed Chicken

This recipe is for all those guys and gals that love spicy food! I always say that my hubby, Matt, doesn’t have taste buds anymore because he probably burned them off eating so much spicy food in his lifetime. He likes that spicy that would bring anyone else to tears…me, I like the flavor of spicy food, but not the burn that turns your lips bright red and makes your nose run.

This recipe will give you that spicy food fix, without bringing you to tears.

This recipe uses Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce which is a blend of chiles, sugar, salt, garlic, and vinegar. A native of Thailand, it can be used to add a little spice to any dish from stir-fries, to eggs, to hamburgers. You can add it to hummus, mayonnaise, ketchup, or cocktail sauce to add a kick.

You can pick it up in the Asian Food aisle of your supermarket.

You know those spicy chicken wings you get at restaurants? Well, here’s how to make a version of those tasty little guys at home. Matt loves chicken wings, but if I had to do this one again I would have done some chicken thighs along with the wings for me…I always think chicken wings are a lot of work for very little meat, so I’d add some chicken thighs.

*Recipe source and Sriracha Hot Sauce information: Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, January/ February 2011 Issue

1/4 cup (gluten free) soy sauce
2 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon Sriracha Sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 pounds chicken wings (I’d use some chicken thighs within this 1 1/2 pounds as well)

1. Blend together all ingredients except chicken.
2. In a glass baking dish toss chicken in sauce to coat. Marinate in fridge for 30 minutes, tossing half way through.
3. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Bake until chicken is cooked through and sauce thickens, 30 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through. Serve and enjoy!

*May need to bake chicken less than 30 minutes, or cover with tin foil toward the end of baking because sauce in the bottom of dish may start to burn toward the end of baking.

*I served this dish with baked sweet potato fries and sauteed brussel sprouts.

Asparagus Soup

Asparagus Soup

Technically its still winter, but I guess I’m so ready for Spring that I’m getting a bit of a jump start on the season. This Asparagus Soup is a delicious way to welcome a little Spring into your home, while still having some hearty warmth to chase away the winter blues.

When I first saw this recipe I thought “asparagus in soup…I don’t know.” But Matt and I have been making this soup for a few years now and love it every single time. Think of it as a potato soup with Asparagus in the mix.

I love this soup because it uses the discarded ends of Asparagus, so no waste here. It definitely hits the spot for me because I love creamy soups, but can no longer eat dairy and this soup has that creaminess without the dairy. It can also be made vegetarian/ vegan.

I hope you’ll try this tasty soup and add it to your favorites’ list!

1 pound asparagus
6 cups chicken stock (or use vegetable stock for a vegetarian/vegan version)
1/2 cup minced shallot (if you don’t have shallot you can use onion)
1 potato, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated lemon peel and snipped fresh dill for garnish

1. Snap off ends of asparagus (trimmings). (see my post on Asparagus to see how to do this
2. In a large saucepan bring stock to a simmer and add asparagus trimmings. Simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, rinse remaining asparagus spears. Cut off tips and set aside. Cut remaining stalks into 1 1/2″ pieces.
Picture above: asparagus tips (right) and remaining stalks cut into 1 1/2″ pieces (left and in photo below)

4. Remove asparagus trimmings from simmering broth and discard.

5. Add asparagus stalks, shallot, grated potato, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the liquid to a boil then simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes.

6. Meanwhile in a saucepan of boiling salted water blanch the asparagus tips (boil for less than a minute until the tips turn bright green then submerge in cold water).

7. Using a submersion blender (shown above and my favorite new kitchen device) or in a standard blender puree the soup until smooth. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
8. Serve soup with blanched asparagus tips, grated lemon peel and dill to garnish.

*Recipe Source: Food Network, recipe courtesy of Gourmet Magazine

I served this Asparagus Soup with the Lemony Red Quinoa I posted last week ( This makes a delicious vegetarian/ vegan meal when made with vegetable stock.

I hope you enjoy this tasty soup. To read more about Asparagus (how to pick it, nutrition facts, etc.) check out my Closer Look: Asparagus post (

Lemony Red Quinoa

Lemony Red Quinoa

So, you saw the previous post on Quinoa and why you should add it to your diet. Here’s just one tasty recipe for Quinoa to help you introduce it into your diet. I made this last night for dinner and both Matt and I loved it! We’ve been trying to add more protein to our diets, so I’m so glad this tasty recipe hit the spot.

This one can be eaten as a side dish or as a main dish for your meal.

1/4 cup pine nuts (they’re kind of expensive, so I used sunflower seeds instead)
1 cup quinoa (I used red quinoa)
2 cups water
sea salt to taste
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 a red onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 ground cumin
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped (I didn’t have a fresh parsley so I just added a little dried parsley)

1. Toast pine nuts (or sunflowers seeds) in a pan over medium heat, stirring continually for just a minute or two. Set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat add quinoa, water , and salt to taste (just a little will do) and bring water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until water is absorbed (stir occasionally). Cool slightly.

3. Transfer to serving bowl. Stir in lemon juice, pine nuts (sunflower seeds), spices, celery, and onion. Serve and Enjoy!

*Recipe Source:

Closer Look: Quinoa

Closer Look: Quinoa

Today I’m taking a Closer Look at Quinoa. Maria commented a while back that she wanted to know what to do with quinoa. So, here I’m posting why you should try quinoa and consider adding it to your diet. I’ll follow with a recipe post, so you know a tasty easy way to prepare it.

What is Quinoa?
Quinoa is technically not a grain, but is actually a seed from a plant that’s related to beets and other leafy greens. Even though its technically not a grain, its used as a substitute for almost any grain and therefore is often called a grain. Quinoa is an ancient crop that grows heartily in even poor soil or dry climates.
The quinoa grain itself is small, oval shaped and when cooked expands, much like rice. The grain itself is soft when cooked like rice, but the outer shell part that separates when cooked has a crunchy texture. Quinoa has various color varieties including red (shown in the photo), yellow, brown, and black.

Why eat Quinoa?
Quinoa is a great source of protein and dietary fiber. Its rich in minerals including iron, potassium, magnesium, folate, phosphorus, zinc, copper, maganese, selenium and calcium. So, no doubt quinoa is a great addition to your diet!

Where to buy Quinoa?
Most supermarkets carry quinoa in the rice section or with the health foods.

How to prepare Quinoa?
You can prepare quinoa much like you prepare instant rice. Follow the package directions, which most of the time say to boil 2x the amount of water as quinoa, add the quinoa and cook for 10-15 minutes. This is a pretty bland way to make it, so stay tuned for tasty quinoa recipes.

Closer Look: Salmon

Closer Look: Salmon

Today I’m taking a Closer Look at one of my favorite proteins: Salmon. There’s so many ways to prepare it to enhance its natural flavor and it has great nutritional benefits.

Why eat salmon?
Salmon has an extremely high amount of protein. Its a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, E, folate, and B vitamins. Salmon is rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and selenium.

How to select salmon?
I buy wild caught salmon whenever possible. Even if its frozen, wild caught fish is always better than farm raised fish because the fish has been eating what it naturally eats in the wild rather than whatever the farms decide to feed the fish. Thus the nutritional value to you is much better. Look for a fillet that is dark pink or red in color. But, be careful because I’ve seen that a lot of stores carry salmon that has been dyed red to make it look better (check the label and make sure there are no dyes listed in the ingredients).

I love to experiment to find new ways to cook salmon and here’s one of the simplest, yet delicious ways to cook it.

Salmon Fillets
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pike Place Fish Rub (or other prepared herb rub for fish; supermarkets carry various types)
*This Pike Place Fish Rub is simply a blend of brown sugar, paprika, cilantro, garlic, pepper, onion, salt, and other spices.

1. Rub fish fillets lightly with olive oil.
2. Sprinkle herb rub over fish fillets and pat into fillets. (Be careful if your rub contains salt not to add too much of the rub)
3. Heat some olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add fillets and sautee until the outside of the fillet is slightly browned; flip fillet and sautee until the other side is slightly browned and center of fillet is just cooked. Serve!

*I served my herb rubbed salmon with half a baked sweet potato with butter and oven roasted asparagus and broccoli.