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For me, soup is the ultimate comfort food. On a cold evening (that’s anything under 65 degrees for this native Angeleno), a good bowl of soup warms me from the inside out.

Soup is like a renaissance man – someone with a variety of skills and a broad knowledge base. It can be a healthy and filling start to a meal, and it is a lovely “significant other” to a grilled cheese sandwich. It provides a clever way to get some extra veggies into your diet and is easy to make. Even most doctors agree that the heat and steam from a savory broth can provide relief for congested noses and scratchy throats. I don’t know if there is any scientific proof on that one, but a nice bowl of chicken soup has worked wonders for me.

So here is my recipe for basic chicken soup. I like to make up a large batch (you can easily double it) and freeze some for later. You can certainly add your preferred starch (cooked noodles, rice or whatever you like) to the pot after the chicken is cooked; but if you wait and add the starch when you serve it, you can have a different soup every time you defrost a batch.

Basic Chicken Soup

1 small onion (or ½ large onion), finely chopped
3 celery stalks, sliced into ½ inch pieces
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 chicken breasts (with bone and skin on – this is what flavors the soup)
4 cups chicken stock or chicken broth
4 cups water
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried parsley
¼ tsp pepper
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into ½ inch pieces
Salt
Cooked rice, noodles, orzo or couscous

Place onions, celery, garlic, chicken breasts, stock, water, oregano, thyme, parsley and pepper in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes. Add carrots and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked and the carrots are slightly cooked. Add salt to taste (about ½ to 1 tsp). Remove the chicken from the pot, place in a large bowl, cover and let it sit until cool enough to handle. Pull the chicken from the bone and shred or dice. Return the chicken to the soup mixture.

To serve, place ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta, orzo or couscous in a bowl. Top with soup and enjoy!

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Simple

Being a grown-up is highly overrated.  Sure, you get to make your own decisions and do what you want to do.  However, all the responsibilities often leave little time to do what we want. 

I remember the days when I was about 14 or 15 years old.  I wasn’t old enough to get the typical mall job, but I had ways to make money…babysitting, tutoring, and helping out at the animal hospital where my grandfather worked.  And I had a lot of free time to watch soap operas, go to the beach, eat, and just be generally lazy.  I miss those carefree days.  Now, life is filled with work, errands, work, trying to fit in exercise, work, physical therapy appointments when the bones start to hurt, work…OMG, there’s a pattern here!  And with the increased workload, are we making any more money?  Is our quality of life getting better?  Or are we just trying to stay gainfully employed?  No, no and yes. 

The stress we are all feel today is huge.  Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to visit those simple days every now and then?  When the most stressful thing in your life was how to tell your parents you just couldn’t understand calculus, or whether or not that cute boy suspects that you like him…and does he like you back? 

I have made a commitment to incorporate at least one simple pleasure into my day, every day.  Many of my simple pleasures remind me of those childhood days in the 70s.  I share these with you and invite you to share your methods for enjoying one simple thing each day. 

  1. Go barefoot
  2. Watch an 80’s movie, like The Breakfast Club
  3. Watch reruns of The Andy Griffith Show or M*A*S*H
  4. Bake some chocolate chip cookies
  5. Have breakfast for dinner
  6. Eat a grilled cheese sandwich
  7. Turn my cell phone completely off, even if only for an hour when I get home
  8. Eat an ice cream cone
  9. Take a walk or a hike without my iPod and with only my thoughts.
  10. Be grateful for the beautiful view of the Hollywood Hills on a clear day after the rain
  11. Take a warm bath
  12. Pet a dog
  13. Go to bed as soon as I start to feel sleepy
  14. Sing as loudly as I can in the car with the windows rolled up
  15. Call someone I haven’t talked to in a long time 
  16. Close my eyes and just breathe

What do you do when you want to experience a simpler time in your life?

Broccoli Slaw

I am in love with broccoli slaw.  The first time I had it was at a Team in Training potluck after a practice run.  Someone brought this marvelously crunchy and slightly sweet mixture of shredded broccoli stalks, mayo, nuts, raisins, onions and bacon. 

 

Hate is such a strong word.  So I’ll say that I “severely dislike” cooked broccoli.  As a matter of fact, I “severely dislike” most cooked veggies.  My mother, being from Louisiana, can cook a vegetable to death!  Even though it has already stopped growing and is technically “dead” once you cut it from its roots in the ground, I guess Mom figured that she needed to finish the job.  Or maybe she’s afraid of getting sick from undercooked veggies like she is afraid of eating undercooked meat.  Yes, I know I am in big trouble.  Or at least I would be if my mom was on the Internet!

 

So this thing called broccoli slaw was a true find.  I could eat this crunchy mix of savory and sweet every day!  After scouring the Internet for recipes, I found that a lot of recipes call for mayo and bacon, two foods that I love, but that don’t love my scale. So, I fooled around in my 1940’s kitchen until I came up with a recipe that cut out my two high calorie friends. 

 

 “I Hate Cooked Broccoli” Slaw

10 or 12 oz bag of broccoli slaw (available in the refrigerated section of the grocery store)

½ cup broccoli florets, roughly chopped

Dried cranberries

Slivered almonds

¼ red onion, finely chopped

Dressing:

3 TBS salad oil

3 TBS white vinegar

1 TBS sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

 In a large bowl, combine broccoli slaw, cranberries, almonds and onion.  In a separate bowl, combine the ingredients for the dressing: oil, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.  Whisk together.  Taste the dressing before pouring it on the slaw.  That way, you can adjust the oil and vinegar accordingly.  Toss well.  Best if refrigerated for 1-2 hours before eating; this allows the flavors to blend and the cranberries to plump up a bit.

Optional additions:

If you are serving this at a party, top it with extra chopped broccoli florets and slivered almonds to make a nice presentation.

You can substitute any type of dried fruit and nuts…I also like to use currants and walnuts.

 Tip #1:

Use a large bowl so that you have enough room to easily toss the broccoli slaw without it flipping out of the bowl.  It’s a pain to have to pick up all those little slivers of broccoli off the floor!

 Tip #2:

To save on dishwashing time, blend the items for the dressing in a large bowl and whisk thoroughly.  Then add about 1/3 of the broccoli slaw and other items and toss.  Repeat until you have added all the contents of the bagged slaw. 

 Tip #3:

If you are making a large amount for a potluck or party, you can double or triple the recipe.  However, I have found it easiest to make a single recipe, toss well, pour into a large serving bowl, and then repeat the process.  I already made the mistake of trying to quadruple the recipe in one bowl.  That’s how I ended up picking up broccoli slivers off the floor (see Tip #1).

I don’t know about you, but I am always at odds with myself when I try to eat healthy.  In my opinion, too many foods that are good for our waistlines have very little flavor.  I am just not a plain-broiled-chicken-breast-and-plain-steamed-broccoli kind of girl.  Eating is not just for sustenance; it is a pleasurable experience, almost a hobby for me (go ahead, all you armchair therapists…have a field day with that remark!).  But I do continually strive to eat healthier as I grow older (and better!), in order to ward off diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

So here is a list of some of my favorite healthy foods, snacks, condiments and sauces.  What are yours?  I would love to hear from you!

  1. Broccoli slaw
  2. Hummus and veggies
    • Be adventurous with your veggies..try grape tomatoes, jicama, baby green beans and cauliflower
  3. Fresh blueberries
  4. Apricots
  5. Figs
  6. Scallops
    • Sauté them in a little olive oil or grill them.  Then squeeze a little fresh lemon or lime juice on top.
    • Note: Be sure to remove the little muscle on the side of the scallop before cooking. 
  7. Yams
    • These tubers are a great source of beta-carotene, vitamin A (a powerful anti-oxidant) and manganese (needed for bone health).  Just scrub the dirt off and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.  Don’t know if it’s done?  Just press gently on the yam.  If it is still hard, let it bake for about 10 more minutes and check again.  I buy the organic yams from Trader Joes; they are so naturally sweet and creamy, no butter or brown sugar is needed.  And that says a lot, coming from a sugar lover!
  8. V8 juice with a squeeze of lime
  9. Grilled or roasted asparagus with lemon juice and a hint of butter
  10. Smoked salmon on whole wheat toast
  11. Vinaigrette – olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and Dijon mustard
  12. Trader Joe’s Mango Salsa – heavenly over chicken or salmon
  13. Black beans topped with salsa
  14. Trader Joe’s Organic Baked Beans
    • This is a delicious way to get your fiber!  Each ½ cup serving has only 140 calories and 7 grams of fiber
  15. Parmesan cheese
    • A little goes a long way.  Try it on vegetables or in scrambled egg whites.  1 tablespoon is just about 23 calories – yay!
  16. Whole wheat pasta
    • Whole wheat pastas are not created equal.  Ask your friends. Check www.chowhound.com  Try out different brands.  My favorite is Ronzoni Healthy Harvest.
  17. Spinach
    • Spinach is a good source of vitamins A and C, iron and manganese, which is essential for bone health.  Add a little raw spinach to your Caesar salad or use in a sandwich in place of lettuce.  Or sauté 1 pound of ground turkey with some diced onions and bell peppers.  When the meat is fully cooked, add in a package of baby spinach and cook down.  Top with worcestershire sauce.  A quick, easy and delicious one-skillet meal!