I'd love to hear from you!
Category - Health & Wellness
Likely due to general laziness, my husband and I often get caught up watching cooking shows on Saturday mornings. We flip through the channels, see a cooking show, and end up watching until we get inspired to make something unique for dinner. Our favorite show for this, hands down, is America’s Test Kitchen.
Recently we watched an episode featuring a number of Asian dishes, including Singapore Noodles. Neither of us had ever tried this dish, so we decided to give the recipe a shot. It turned out really well, but I was highly disappointed at the number of excess calories in the dish. There was simply way too much oil being used. Instead of frying things up on a nonstick pan, they recommended just using oil on everything to keep it from sticking and to fry it up quick. I was also mildly disappointed with the overall lack of veggies in the dish. I don’t mind a heaping pile of vegetables mixed in with my noodles for flavor and variety.
Suffice it to say, I thought the recipe could use some tweaking, so I modified it. I reduced the overall oil and increased the soy sauce–so the spices would have enough of a liquid base to coat the noodles. I used a nonstick pan to completely eliminate the need for oil when frying up the shrimp, eggs, and veggies. And finally, I replaced the scanty scallion with a hearty amount of onion and added in half a yellow bell pepper to the veggie mix. I reduced the overall calories per serving by 100 calories, which I think is pretty impressive, and you can hardly tell.
I feel like mug cakes were a trendy dessert about a year ago. I remember noticing the trend, thinking it was cute, but never trying it. Then recently, I got a serious craving for a chocolatey dessert. Making a full cake or batch of cupcakes never works out well for me–I end up throwing a lot of it away usually because I can’t eat it all. So instead, the thought of a mug cake floated into my mind. It seemed like the perfect solution: a one-serving chocolatey dessert.
I crafted my recipe based on many other mug cake recipes I found. The main differences I made were to use half flour, half quick oats (which are much lower calorie and better for you) and to keep the overall amount of sugar low. The result was a dark chocolate tasting, gooey, cakey dessert that I am sure I’ll be making again and again.
Raw brussels sprouts have a totally different taste from cooked brussels sprouts. They lack the bitter taste that some people love (like me) and some people hate (like my husband). I’d seen raw brussels sprouts salad recipes floating around Pinterest and thought they might be a way I could serve brussels sprouts in a way we both enjoy. As it turned out, I was right.
This salad is very light and fresh–perfectly suited as a side for a piece of meat. I have a feeling I’ll be making it frequently throughout the summer.
My best friend and I are well known for our ability to house a good dip, and French onion dip is both of our favorites. I have to credit him with introducing me to it. His favorite preparation is to buy a box of Lipton French onion soup mix, dump it into a vat of sour cream, and eat it with ruffled potato chips. It’s delicious… but also really heavy on the calories. The other day I was pining for this flavor and I had an idea. I could use the same method but replace the sour cream with nonfat yogurt and the chips with veggies to achieve a much healthier version.
At first, I tried making my own French onion spice mix, but none of the results were very good. It often turned out too bitter and lacked that rich umami flavor of the real thing. I gave up the ghost and went with the Lipton French onion soup mix and the results are fantastic, plus it’s something I can easily make at work, where mixing up 5-10 different spices isn’t really an option. My favorite veggies are celery and cut peppers for dipping. I’m thinking of making this tomorrow for some Superbowl snacking.
I often categorize pad thai away among the dishes I love but can never order because they’re simply too caloric or too hard to estimate in terms of calorie total. Luckily, after some research I’ve discovered that pad thai can be relatively simple to make at home. The real key is the fish sauce, which I found in my grocery store’s asian food section. By using zucchini noodles instead of rice noodles, I drastically lowered the calorie total of this dish while preserving its the peanuty, rich taste.
One thing to note, since zucchini is a watery vegetable, the main struggle you’ll have with this dish is in keeping it from getting soupy. The key is to drain the noodles and to sponge them with a paper towel before mixing them in with the sauce. And also, be sure not to skimp on reducing the sauce. It should be very thick before combining it with the noodles.
Three years ago my husband, his parents, and I escaped the harsh Midwest winter and spent a week in the Bahamas (Exuma, to be exact) soaking in the sun, swimming in the ocean, and drinking many tropical cocktails. After we had visited several restaurants I noticed that I had a penchant for the “rum punch” that was on every menu. I asked a bartender what was in it and he generously told me that what I was drinking was known locally as a Goombay Smash and gave me the recipe. I liked them so much that I’ve been making them ever since.
After sharing them with my friends in Chicago, I regularly get requests for them when we throw parties–I often have pineapple juice in the fridge just in case someone might want one. I prefer to make them with Malibu for my coconut rum (I also really like Ricardo, which is a Cuban rum you can find in the Caribbean) and Mount Gay for the regular rum. Feel free to substitute to your liking.
A word of warning: not only are these tropical drinks delicious, they go down fast. Be careful to drink them in moderation!
For Christmas this year I got two highly useful gifts when it comes to healthy cooking: a spiralizer and an immersion blender. I’ve had a ton of ideas for immersion blender soups floating around in my mind–so this will be the first of many.
I’m a big fan of roasted red pepper soup–it’s savory and smokey and perfect for a meal in the winter. Generally it’s served as a side dish and consists mostly of roasted red peppers blended with chicken broth and cream. I’ve lightened it up by replacing the cream with cauliflower–a great low-calorie soup thickener–and I’ve turned it into a meal of its own by adding quinoa and bacon to the mix. It’s rich, full of protein, and extremely low-calorie, though you’d probably never know it!
Gin and tonics are one of my go-to cocktails simply because they’re so easy to make. I also like that they’re a sweet cocktail that isn’t too sweet and that you can easily lighten them up by using diet tonic. If you’re not into diet, simply replace the diet tonic with soda water and you’ll have a gin and soda. I generally find those much less tasty, but they’re similarly low calorie.
I like mine heavy on the lime with a lot of tonic–so I can sip on them for longer. Feel free to play with the ratio until you get it just the way you like it. Similar to rum and cokes, G&Ts are the kind of cocktail for which the ingredients themselves are much more important than any specific ratio of the ingredients.
To me, mac ‘n’ cheese is the ultimate comfort food. But, like most comfort foods, it packs a heavy caloric punch. Luckily, this can be easily mitigated with the use of zucchini noodles (a.k.a. zoodles). I actually didn’t do much to reduce the calories in this dish other than swapping out the noodles for zoodles, so it still has its creamy, rich goodness intact.
I used the large noodle blade on my spiralizer for this dish, though you could definitely make smaller noodles if you prefer. I kept my noodles long, but if you want your noodles to seem more like macaroni, just give them a rough chop after spiralizing.
I like to serve this dish for lunch or dinner topped with a protein like shrimp, grilled chicken, tuna, bacon, or even hot dogs.
Yogurt, particularly the Greek variety, is well known for being a superfood. That said, unless you buy the plain variety, its generally full of added sugar. You can easily get the majority of your daily recommended sugar intake from a cup of sweetened yogurt. I find that pretty unacceptable. I’ve gotten used to eating plain yogurt with fruit as a sweetener over the years, but sometimes I do miss just eating smooth, sweet yogurt without chunks of fruit in it.
Luckily, the immersion blender I got for Christmas this year makes it a cinch to make homemade fruit-sweetened yogurt. Simply blend your yogurt with a fruit of choice–I’d recommend a sweet one–and you’ve got a much healthier alternative to store-bought sweetened yogurt. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can also just use a regular blender with this recipe. If you’re not a fan of mango, feel free to substitute it with another sweet fruit, like bananas, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, or even apple (to which I’d add some cinnamon).
I had never heard of lemon chicken soup until relatively recently. It was the soup option at my local deli–perhaps my proximity to Chicago’s Greektown had something to do with this. I thought it sounded odd, but I loved it as soon as I tasted it. It has a rich hearty flavor with lots of bright citrus to keep it fresh and light.
Now that January’s freezing temperatures are truly upon us (it’s in the single digits as I type this) I’ll be making soup on the regular. Soup has the added benefit of making you feel fuller for longer, studies show, so it’s excellent for keeping the calories down–something that can be hard at this time of year.
Stroganoff is a comfort food that I’ve long denied myself due to its high calorie content. Back in college, I frequently ordered the mushroom stroganoff at Noodles in Company and enjoyed it at a solitary table doing homework. It’s been quite some time since I’ve had it, so when I got my spiralizer it was one of the first recipes I thought of.
Given that the calories in zoodles are basically negligible, I figured I could keep the recipe for the sauce relatively unchanged and end up with a reasonable number of calories for the overall plate. My only real substitution for the sauce was to replace sour cream with Greek yogurt and to use nonfat milk. I think it turned out wonderfully–it’s creamy and comforting, perfect for dinner on a cold January night.
One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year was a spiralizer. After having great success with spaghetti squash noodles in the last few months I’ve been determined to make more veggie noodle dishes. They have all the comfort of a real noodle dish with drastically fewer calories. One cup of zucchini noodles has about 19 calories, whereas one cup of regular spaghetti noodles contains around 200. That’s ten times fewer calories!
To cut my teeth, I decided to make zucchini noodles, which may be the most popular form of veggie noodle out there. I was very pleased with the result. They weren’t overpoweringly flavorful, so they blended well with the other flavors in the dish. Overall, I’m thoroughly happy with my spiralizer and can’t wait to make more veggie noodle dishes.
– I spent much of the month recovering from my neck injury, which involved MRIs, doctors visits, and lots of physical therapy.
– I decided to give up the ghost and start wearing a backpack to work.
– I reformatted Lifestyle by Joules based on what I’d like my life to be like at 40.
– I made the first and likely last purchase I’ll ever make at Tiffany and Co.
– I went to Mexico with my best friend for my bachelorette party.
– I bundled up and attended the Michigan vs. Michigan State hockey game at Soldier Field.
– I watched the Superbowl, mostly to see Katy Perry’s amazing performance.
– I got married.
– I went blonde.
– I had an impromptu movie night/Cinco de Mayo celebration with my best friend that resulted in way too many margaritas being consumed. It was a blast, though.
– I played through Lego Lord of the Rings with my husband.
– I attended an interesting (and inspiring) PHP conference.
– I turned 30, and spent my birthday weekend in Las Vegas with my husband. We stayed at the Encore (loved the pool), ate at É by José Andrés, and gorged ourselves at the Wynn Buffet (among other activities).
– I spent a fabulous happy hour aboard the Chicago Elite–a cruise ship which docks at Navy Pier.
– I watched the Stanley Cup victory parade from my office in downtown Chicago. It was quite the spectacle.
– I played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and loved it.
– I took my best friend to a cooking class at merchandise mart as a thank you for all he did at our wedding.
– I attended the opening party for the AH Hotel, which included specialty cocktails and appetizers, a fun pillow fight photo shoot, and fabulous jazz.
– I went to the Chicago Pride Parade with my best friend and had a blast celebrating the national legalization of gay marriage. #proud
– I attended Tommy Bahama’s pre-4th-of-July party and actually won their Instagram window display contest.
– I went to a family reunion in southern Indiana (it was my husband’s extended family) for the 4th of July.
– I got a raise (and celebrated appropriately).
– I finally changed my last name.
– I played host to my family for a full week, which was great, since my family all live in different corners of the US.
– We threw a wedding celebration party in Ann Arbor.
– I threw one of my good friends a baby shower (with the cutest owl cupcakes).
– I enjoyed having beers with friends at Flanders on the new Chicago riverwalk.
– We attended a good friend’s wedding in Indianapolis–to which I wore this outfit.
– I traveled to the Pacific Northwest to visit my husband’s aunt and uncle and my brother and his wife.
– My husband and I spent an amazing day watching the best golfers in the world at the BMW Championship.
– We drove back to Ann Arbor to visit with family, tailgate and attend a Michigan football game, and meet my good friend’s new son Jonathan Julius.
– We drove to Grand Rapids to attend the wedding of one of my friends from collage, at which we ran into many old friends I hadn’t seen for years. I wore this lace dress.
– We drove back to Ann Arbor for yet another tailgate as well as my husband’s birthday, which we celebrated at Salt Springs Tap.
– I played Mass Effect. Fem-Shep for life.
– We celebrated Halloween by carving pumpkins and having a bad ’90s teen movie night with my best friend, at which many drinks and Pumpkin Spice Oreos were consumed.
– I saw (and thoroughly enjoyed) The Martian.
– I saw Vanessa Carlton in concert at The City Winery and stuck around to have her sign my vinyl copy of Rabbits on the Run. #fangirl
– We had “family” hunting camp at a gorgeous lodge in northern Michigan.
– I spent Thanksgiving in Ann Arbor with my husband’s family. I made apple and bourbon pecan pie, watched the Turkey Day Marathon, and watched Michigan lose spectacularly to Ohio State.
– I attended jury duty for the first time in my life. Luckily, I was not selected to actually sit on a jury.
– I began playing Mass Effect 2.
– I had a lovely holiday party with my best friend which included frosting cookies, watching holiday movies, and drinking a bit too much egg nog.
– I watched the MST3K kickstarter telethon with my husband, and we pledged enough to attend the Chicago premier in 2017.
– I spent Christmas with my husband’s family in Ann Arbor. I also Skyped with my family to open gifts, which was fun.
– I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Ann Arbor with my husband and his family and we loved it. I can’t wait to see it again.
2015 Book Reviews:
The first time I tried a Moscow Mule it was far too sweet, and it put me off of them for years. It wasn’t until recently that I tried them again using a different recipe and I realized how great they are. The key is in using the correct ginger beer and in using enough lime juice to offset the sweetness. Moscow Mules are now one of my go-to drinks–I likely be sipping one tomorrow for New Year’s Eve.
Classic frosted cookies are great and all, but after making and eating a few this year I felt a bit frustrated that I wasn’t getting more bang for my calorie buck. They’re awfully high in calories–mostly due to high sugar content–for their size. I resolved to make a healthier Christmas cookie, and after a bit of thought I settled on a more adult idea: a fruitcake cookie.
As a kid I never much liked fruitcake, and I think that’s because I wasn’t interested in things like fruit or nuts. I wanted sugar, and lots of it. But as an adult I find that fruitcake has a little bit of everything I enjoy: fruits, nuts, and a bit of alcohol too. Plus, the fruits add sweetness that doesn’t come from refined sugar (a decided bonus) and the nuts provide stomach-filling protein.
When I was a kid, my mom always made a make-ahead cinnamon sweet role for Christmas morning. It was delicious, but as I got older the over-abundance of sweets around Christmas had me searching for other make-ahead Christmas morning breakfast ideas. After I started dating my husband, I sampled his father’s breakfast frittata at a University of Michigan football tailgate and was sold on it for a Christmas morning recipe. It’s easy to make ahead and pairs excellently with a mimosa–another adult Christmas staple.
I’ve taken the original recipe from my father-in-law and modified it a bit to reduce calories. The original recipe is made with swiss chard, which I’ve switched out for baby kale, and heavy cream, which I’ve swapped for 2% reduced-fat milk. I’ve also used reduced-fat feta cheese. Otherwise, the recipe is largely the same–and just as delicious.
Frosting cookies has been a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember. My mom used to make fluffy sour cream sugar cookies when I was a kid. She’d make a big bowl of frosting, divide it into four mugs and put food coloring in each one, then hand each of us a frosting knife. Our only rule was that we couldn’t eat any until all the cookies were frosted. The waiting was torture, but the frosting was always a hit every year.
As an adult, I’ve switched to using a recipe I found in a Penzy’s spice catalog (of all things). I’ve modified it over the years, but the general difference is that these cookies are much more flavorful and much thinner than my mom’s old cookies (which I also still love, don’t get me wrong).
Pro tip: these cookies are fabulous warmed up. I like to have them with a cup of tea or coffee. I place them on a plate in the oven at 250 degrees for about 5 minutes and they’re just fabulous.
It was well known among my family–who always had the 4 CD Time Life Treasury of Christmas on constant repeat throughout December–that “Blue Christmas” was one of my least favorite Christmas songs. Having said that, I think it’s still an appropriate title for this blue-hued healthy holiday breakfast. I don’t know about you, but I still feel like I’m coming out of the food-and-wine-induced haze of Thanksgiving weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but I’m feeling like it’s time for a bit of a detox.
This dish is incredibly simple–it has only three ingredients, none of which are sugar. The blueberries provide enough sweetness to keep the bitterness of the Greek yogurt at bay. Using frozen blueberries has the added bonus of keeping the yogurt nice and chilled as you eat, but you can certainly use fresh blueberries if you prefer.
Leftovers are a fact of Thanksgiving. I have fond memories of late-night snacking with my dad on cold dark turkey meat. But even with all the snacking and the leftover dinners it often happens that all the leftovers don’t get eaten, which is a shame. That’s why this year, I plan on making soup with whats left of the turkey.
Soup is one of my favorite healthy foods simply because it really fills you up for a relatively low number of calories. This particular soup turned out even better than I expected. The turkey makes the broth really rich and savory, and the wild rice and shiitake mushrooms give it a nice deep earthy flavor, perfect for a cold fall night.
Cranberry sauce was always my dad’s specialty on Thanksgiving. Like me, he loved to smother turkey in it. I prefer a nice sweet cranberry sauce over tarter, more citrusy varieties. Naturally, this poses a calorie issue since sugar = calories. Luckily, there’s agave nectar, which is both a low-glycemic sweetener and much sweeter than sugar, so you need less of it overall. This is my dad’s same recipe, I’ve just replaced the sugar with agave nectar. Enjoy!
To continue my series on lightened-up Thanksgiving dinner dishes, today I’m going to focus on a staple side: mashed sweet potatoes. Unlike standard potatoes, sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients (like Vitamin A and Vitamin C) as well as anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories. They make regular appearances on lists of super foods. But like their ordinary cousin, sweet potatoes are loaded with calories. And if you mash them up with a boat-load of butter and cream, you’ve got a recipe for a calorie bomb.
Enter the pumpkin. Best known for its role in Thanksgiving’s signature dessert, pumpkin is surprisingly low calorie and has a flavor similar to any ordinary squash. It pairs well with nearly everything, including sweet potato. By cutting sweet potatoes with pumpkin, you create a much lower-calorie version of this Thanksgiving staple dish. I’ve swapped out butter for sour cream, which adds a nice tang to the dish, and the parsley and garlic create a broad flavor palette.
Ah, pumpkin pie. The quintessential Thanksgiving dessert. You might feel as though lightening it up is blasphemy. After all, it’s dessert. It’s supposed to be bad for you, right?
Well, I would argue that you can reduce the calories, fat, and sugar and still have a delicious, tasty dessert. In fact, I bet if you tried this pumpkin pie without knowing it was lightened up, the only difference you would notice would be the whole wheat crust. It’s still sweet, tasty, and rich.
So how did I lighten it up? I chose non-fat evaporated milk over the full-fat variety (the calorie difference is monumental) and replaced some of the evaporated milk with sour cream. I also traded in a good portion of the sugar for a smaller volume of agave nectar–a low-glycemic sweetener that is actually sweeter than pure sugar, so you need less of it. And last but not least, I swapped out some of the butter in the crust for sour cream and replaced the white flour with whole wheat flour. The results are a rich, full-flavored pie with drastically fewer calories than it’s traditional version.
A note on the crust–I know it doesn’t look as appealing as a fluffy, white-flour full-fat crust might look, but don’t be put off by appearances. It’s got a rich earthy flavor and a great consistency.