Happy Summer ~ and Happy 4th of July! As July brings on some serious summer heat, we still make the move from our indoor ovens to the heat of the outdoor grills. Trying to stay cool while enjoying delicious summer fare, it is definitely a sweaty and celebratory time of the year😅. Barbecues, picnics, dining on the beach, all call for light and tasty foods, while keeping ourselves balanced, hydrated and happy.
It does not take much to get caught up in all of the well-deserved fun and excitement amongst friends and family, and put your health goals on the back burner. Of course you should be enjoying every precious moment, but you can enjoy life to the max without veering completely off your path. Sometimes just pressing pause, taking some deep breaths (instead of another glass of wine…#relatable), will keep you on track. One way to challenge yourself in the heat, when you have a spare few minutes, is to complete an exercise called the Raisin Challenge. What and why would I challenge myself with a raisin🥺?? I am well aware if you never heard of this, it sounds silly and perhaps a bit ridiculous, but it is actually really hard.
The Raisin Challenge is all about cultivating mindfulness, reducing stress, and enjoying everyday pleasures. Sounds quite fabulous, huh? There are many methods out there to help us work on increasing mindfulness. The raisin challenge or meditation helps to promote mindfulness, as well as mindful eating. Beyond making healthy food choices, it helps you to hit the refresh button on your relationship with food. It is not about one food or one beverage or one meal. It is about balancing your total food and beverage intake with your nutritional needs and physical activity, with your cravings, desires and party times🥳. Increasing your mindfulness around food and beverages, will help you find more satisfaction, with less intake. So let’s do it:
The Raisin “Awareness” Test:
The suggestion is to complete the test for at least a week, but even once is a win. What was this experience like for you? Would love for you to share with me!
Mindfulness around food and drinks (and all of life’s moments) has the potential to provide you with a strong and effective tool for weight regulation and health. As all of us are often experiencing many personal challenges in our worlds, to just being more aware of your mindless environment during these heated months, will beneficial your mind, body and soul. Be strong, be mindful, absolutely have fun, with your whole self💛.
Let’s sizzle up some heat and cool down with these summer salads. They are filled with lean proteins and lots of veggies. Balance out your plate with a whole grain of your choice, to keep you satisfied and smiling in the sunshine☀️ ~
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon paprika
1 pound chicken tenderloins, skinless, boneless (or substitute: extra firm tofu, sliced into 1-inch wide strips)
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cups spring mix salad greens
1/2 cup nonfat yogurt
1 Tablespoon honey
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 Tablespoon water
freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat grill to 350˚to 400˚F (medium-high heat). In a small bowl, mix together the first 6 ingredients in a small bowl (brown sugar through paprika). Pour olive oil in a separate small bowl. Brush the chicken with olive oil and rub with spice mixture.
Place chicken on grill and heat 4–5 minutes per side, or until chicken in fully cooked through. Remove from grill and set aside.
Place salad greens in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, honey, lime juice and water. Toss with salad greens. Serve salad with chicken on top and freshly ground pepper to taste. Makes 3–4 servings.
1 pound salmon fillets, cut into 4 equal portions
freshly ground pepper and salt
3 garlic cloves, crushed, + 1 whole clove
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup dill sprigs (a few stems in the mix is fine!)
1 scallion, white part chopped into about 1/2-inch pieces
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup buttermilk, low fat or nonfat
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
6 to 7 cups shredded red and/or green cabbage (and yes, the coleslaw mix in a bag is perfect here)
Preheat grill to 350˚to 400˚F (medium-high heat). Place salmon fillets on a plate, and rub the crushed garlic evenly all over the fillets. Sprinkle with pepper and salt.
Place salmon on grill and heat for 5–6 minutes per side, or until desired doneness. Remove from grill and keep warm.
Prepare the dressing by placing 1 clove of garlic, parsley, dill, scallion, lemon juice, buttermilk and olive oil in a blender and process until a smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste and blend until well-combined. (Tip: double or triple for extra).
Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl. Pour 3/4 cup of dressing on top and toss well. Place one quarter of salad on 4 separate plates. Place salmon fillet on top and drizzle with dressing and freshly ground pepper to taste. Makes 4 servings.
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 Tablespoons cumin
1 1/2 Tablespoons paprika
1/2 Tablespoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper — depending on your level of heat desired!
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 red onions, sliced
4 bell peppers, any colors, seeded and sliced
1–2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus 1 lime, sliced into wedges
8 taco-size corn tortillas
Taco toppings of choice, like nonfat yogurt/sour cream, guacamole, salsa, fresh cilantro, etc.
Preheat grill to 350˚to 400˚F (medium-high heat). In a small bowl, mix together the first 6 ingredients (chili powder through cayenne pepper). Place shrimp in a separate medium bowl and rub with 2 tablespoons of spice mixture. String shrimp on kabob skewers and set aside.
Place sliced onions and peppers in a sealable bag. Add olive oil and 2–3 tablespoons spice mixture. Seal bag and toss until evenly coated.
Place onions and peppers in a grill basket on the grill and heat for 8–10 minutes, stirring often, until tender and slightly charred. Add shrimp skewers to the grill, heating 3–4 minutes per side. Remove all from the grill, place in servings bowls and keep warm set aside.
Place 4 tortillas at a time directly onto the grill. Heat for about 45 seconds, until browned in spots. Use tongs to flip and repeat on second side. Serve tortillas with shrimp, onions, peppers and desired toppings. ~A sprinkle of fresh cilantro, a tablespoon of nonfat Greek yogurt, and a dash of fresh lime juice works well. Makes 3–4 servings.
2 ounces green apple vodka (or any fruity flavor)
2 ounces Triple sec (OR, Blue Curaçao)
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon of fresh blueberries and raspberries
6 ounces sparkling water
lemon or lime slice for garnish
Fill cocktail shaker with ice. Add vodka, triple sec or Blue Curaçao and lime juice. Shake it up! Fill about a quarter of a tall 12-ounce drinking glass with crushed ice. Add your mermaid mixture and top off with sparkling water. Add fresh blueberries and raspberries on top. Garnish with a slice of lime. Sip slowly ~ cheers to you! Makes 1 serving.
Healthy Grilling Techniques and Tips:
We all wear masks, and that while masks have uses, taking them off can allow for deeper connection, shared growth, and more fruitful collaboration
~Priya Parker, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters #vaxx up;mask off
For comments, thoughts, requests or anything else you feel the need to share, please do: firstname.lastname@example.org
Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Total Diet Approach to Healthy Eating. www.eatright.org
Mantzios, M., Egan, H. & Asif, T. A Randomised Experiment Evaluating the Mindful Raisin Practice as a Method of Reducing Chocolate Consumption During and After a Mindless Activity. J Cogn Enhanc 4, 250–257 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41465-019-00159-y
When you experience the flavors of New Orleans, from the food to the music, to the culture and to the people, you just want more of all of it. And as delicious and rich as all of it is, finding a healthy way to enjoy it back home is challenging. You can crank up the jazz easily enough, but cranking out the food is more challenging.
Digging into the pleasure of the culinary gifts of New Orleans brings on unique spices, seafood, chicken, sausage, rice, vegetables and more. However, finding a healthy balance of culinary therapy and gluttony can be accomplished! The key is how much, especially when it comes to the roux and the rice.
A third cup of cooked rice is approximately 70-80 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrates. Therefore a cup of rice brings you to about 200+ calories and 45 grams of carbs. Take a moment to measure both of these portion sizes. The third cup is likely less than you are calling one serving, and one cup is likely not what you had in mind for 3 servings. But it is what it is :), so how can we work our Nola delights into a nutritionally balanced equation?
Going with less rice or removing rice completely from dishes does not change the comfort deliciousness of this spicy cuisine. Brown rice provides you with the bonus of some extra fiber and nutrients, yet you are still managing with the same portion challenge. Choosing which dish you may include the rice (it is kinda impossible not to have rice with the traditional rice and beans :)), go with less rice, or skip the rice, replacing it with extra peppers, tomatoes and onions, will create a non-carb loading experience.
The roux. There is a roux in quite a few of your traditional Cajun fare as well, which is an equal portion of a fat (usually oil or butter) and flour. It is not a lot when you break it down into servings, but it is indeed necessary for the consistency of the dishes. Just another piece of the caloric puzzle to keep in balance. I used the least amount possible in each dish, without losing any flavor.
These authentic Louisiana entrees can still take you down to Nola without having to loosen up your jeans upon your return.
1 cup of all-purpose flour
2/3 cup canola oil
1 bunch celery, diced
2 green bell peppers, chopped
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tablespoon)
1 bunch fresh parsley leaves, chopped + 1 Tablespoon for garnish
2 Tablespoons Cajun seasoning
7–8 cups low sodium chicken broth (or veggie)7–8 cups low sodium chicken broth (or veggie)
1 pound chicken andouille sausage, sliced (again, can go veggie-style here)
12 cooked shrimp, jumbo size
The Roux: In a large stock pot combine flour and oil. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly for about 30–40 minutes. Be patient, as it should be chocolate in color and thick consistency. Set aside in pot.
The Gumbo: Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cooked until well-browned, about 6–8 minutes. Remove sausage from pan and set aside.
Add celery, peppers, onion and garlic to skillet, and continue cooking over medium-high heat until tender, about 6–7 minutes. Add cooked veggies, parsley and 6 cups of broth to the stock pot with roux. Stir well and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook 6 minutes. Stir in cajun seasoning. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add cooked sausage and stir well. Add 0–1 more cup of broth as needed, for consistency. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve in 12 ramekins with one jumbo shrimp and garnish with fresh parsley. Not having 12 guests tonight :)? Feel free to refrigerate for 3–4 days.
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 pound andouille chicken sausage (or other lean, spicy chicken sausage), sliced into thin slices
1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 medium bell peppers (any color combo), chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning, separated
2–3 medium tomatoes, diced (about 2 cups)
3 cups low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth if going veggie)
1 1/2 cups long grain brown rice
Nonstick cooking spray
Prepare rice according to package directions and set aside.
In a large skillet (that has a fitted lid) add the oil and place over medium high heat. Add the sliced sausage and chicken pieces and brown well for about 8 minutes, sprinkling 1 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning and making sure to brown all sides. Remove to a plate and set aside.
Add butter and flour to the pan (roux time!) and stir well, scraping up leftover brown bits from the pan. Add the onion, garlic, celery and bell peppers and saute’ for about 5–6 minutes. Add basil, teaspoon of Cajun seasoning, diced tomatoes and stir well to combine. Simmer for 2–3 minutes.
Add broth and reserved meat. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add cooked rice, stir well and simmer with lid for another 10 minutes or until broth is mostly absorbed. Remove from heat, stir to combine and cool about 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. Makes 5–6 servings.
1 pound dried kidney beans
5–6 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 Tablespoons)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 bell peppers (green and red), chopped
10 cups water (6 +4)10 cups water (6 +4)
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1 pound chicken andouille sausage, sliced (again, can go veggie-style here)
2–3 medium tomatoes, diced (about 2 cups)
2 cups long grain brown rice
Nonstick cooking spray
Day 1: Rinse beans and soak in large pot of water overnight.
Day 2: Place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Add onion, bell peppers, garlic and cook for 6–8 minutes, or until onions are lightly browned.
Pour beans into a colander and rinse well. Rinse the large pot and place 6 cups of water and beans back into pot. Place over high heat and add cooked veggies, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, thyme, sage, parsley and Cajun seasoning. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer with lid for 2 1/2 hours.
Stir in sausage and continue to simmer with lid for another 30 minutes. While simmering, prepare rice according to package directions. Serve beans over cooked rice. Adjust seasonings, which may included the vinegar splash. Makes 8 side dish servings or 4–6 main dish servings.
Beans, beans, they’re good for you heart❤️, the more eat, the more you…why are they worth it ;)?? This little tune is right. Beans are good for you for many reasons:
❤️Beans are an awesome source of fiber. Why does fiber matter again? Fiber helps keep you regular and is protective against heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and digestive illness. Remember your goal is to consume the recommended 25 to 38 grams each day.
❤️All the fiber helps keep you fuller for longer, keeping your hunger satisfied for longer, and therefore, helping you manage your total caloric intake and weight.
❤️Beans are packed with protein. A half-cup has about 7 grams per serving. This is equal to an ounce of cooked chicken, beef, pork or fish. An easy add to a salad, side dish or entree topping. Keep in mind, if most of your protein comes from plants, make sure that you mix up your sources so no essential components of protein are missing.
❤️Beans contain other nutrients we need like folate and potassium. Eating more plant-based foods (even if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan) will benefit your purse, your health and the environment.
Don’t follow the path. Go where there is no path and begin the trail. When you start a new trail equipped with courage, strength and conviction, the only thing that can stop you is you!
The rebellious Rd.
As a longtime promoter of healthy cooking and eating, Amy's focus is on plant-based eating, with a rebellious twist - that she and no one, needs to be perfect.