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We all have familiar foods that we look forward to eating on special days of the year, such as on Thanksgiving. Your father may fry the turkey or your aunt may make a special green bean casserole. Many people balk at changing up tradition on these special days, but for the many of us that are now celebrating the holidays either away from our loved ones or with new families and friends, it can be worth looking for new ideas to mix up the line-up, especially if you are accommodating friends or relatives that have special dietary considerations such as a food allergy or are vegetarian.

I love suggesting adding flavorful vegetable side dishes to the table. They add key nutrition and can be easily made to fit different diet preferences. This dish is a nice, warm alternative to a salad, adds in a touch of sweet and is a little heartier than your average steamed vegetable side with the fruit and the nuts.  It is gluten free and vegan. You can make it with any leafy green, but I used swiss chard. If figs are not available, you could use raisins or currants.

Swiss Chard with Figs and Pine Nuts

Serves 4-6

2 pounds of swiss chard

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup of chopped, dried figs

¼ cup of pine nuts

Pinch of nutmeg

Pinch of salt

Black pepper, to taste

Wash the greens and cut off any tough stalks. Boil the greens in a saucepan of water until just tender. Drain thoroughly.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the figs and the pine nuts over moderate heat until the nuts are toasted and golden. Add the swiss chard and stir well. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Cook over low heat for another 3-4 minutes. Serve warm.

I hope you enjoy the kick off to the holiday season.

In health, Angela




I am always looking to mix up my side dish offerings all the while keeping it simple, fresh, and needless to say, healthy. When you are looking for something refreshing in the summer months, it is hard not to revert to some sort of salad. You can just slice and toss together ingredients and serve. It got me to thinking, what else can I do to add variety to a grilled fish or chicken meal? Chilled soup! Many chilled soups are super easy, you simply blend and serve. They are easy to keep cool if you are going to be outside for a while; all you have to do is set them on ice. In doing some searching online, I found a lot of great ideas, but this one from Martha Stewart’s website looked particularly good to me.

Photo Credit: The Cook's Atelier

Yellow Gazpacho

Serves 4


2 pounds of yellow heirloom tomatoes , quartered and cored

1 small onion, diced

1 medium yellow squash, sliced

1 medium yellow pepper, cored, seeded and diced

1 garlic clove

½ cup carrot juice (I recommend using fresh if you can)

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt, to taste

Avocado and red tomato, sliced for garnish (optional)


  1. Working in small batches, combine the ingredients in a blender or food processor until finely pureed. Salt to taste. Chill for at least 2 hours in refrigerator before serving.

  2. Option: garnish with slices of avocado and tomatoes or a fresh herb such as basil to serve

  3. Another option: blend an avocado with the rest of the ingredients to make the soup creamy and add healthy fats

 This soup is rich in vitamins and fiber while being low in calories and fat. It is perfect to add a healthy option to cookouts or summer dinner parties.

In health, Angela  

Banana-Ice-Cream-JuneFew things sound better on a hot, south texas evening than ice cream. Unfortunately, adding a scoop of this delectable, refreshing treat on a regular basis can add up to extra pounds on the scale. On the flip side, most people can afford to add some equally refreshing (depending on whom you ask) cool, fresh fruit to their daily diets. What if it were possible to somehow merge the two so you could have the satisfaction of ice cream while simultaneously adding healthy fruit to the mix? It can be possible. While there are several fancy kitchen tools on the market that can help you turn frozen bananas into soft serve, but all you really need is a good blender or food processor. The added bonus is that it is seriously easy!

Banana Soft Serve
Serves 2

1 large or 2 small banana(s)
*mix-ins of choice

  1. Make sure the bananas are soft and ripe so they are at the sweet stage
  2. Peel the bananas and slice into coins, about the same size
  3. Place the pieces in an airtight container for 4 hours to overnight
  4. Place the pieces in a blender or small food processor until the oatmeal morphs into what looks like creamy oatmeal and continue to blend until it looks like soft serve ice cream.
  5. You can consume right away or re-freeze for a bit to get it to be more like traditional ice cre

Note: Freezing leftovers will result in the “ice cream” hardening a bit. Let it sit out for a few minutes before scooping

While keeping it still simple, you can throw in other ingredients before it hits the done stage in the blender to add variety. I have seen so many good ideas online, here are some of my favorites:

  • peanut or almond butter or a handful of nuts (extra protein)
  • chocolate chips, cocoa powder or a spoon of nutella for a taste of chocolate
  • additional fruit such as blueberries or strawberries
  • spices such as pumpkin pie or cinnamon

I hope you enjoy your first official month to summer!

In health, Angela


trail mix


When school time rolls back around, parents start to search for ways to bring some fun to the lunchbox for their kids. Opening a packed lunch is one way to let a child know they are thought of, even if you aren’t there with them. Some may think it is important to come up with fancy or elaborate meals, but few have time for creating a work of art in a box. Parents also have issue with items coming home or going to waste because the child doesn’t like something. So how can you increase the health of a lunch and the probability that it will get consumed?


Instead of thinking big, think simple. One of the key tips I give to parents is that children like to have some involvement in their menu.  They also love to help make their food and customize it to their liking. For a side or an after school snack few things can pack in a bunch of nutrients and appeal as a trail mix. The possibilities are really endless for combinations. You can make a sweet or savory blend. Pick ingredients such as cereal to add fiber, nuts for protein, and fruit for vitamins, minerals, and a touch of sweet. As a bonus, it is super easy to throw together!

 You will need:

A big bowl

Measuring cups


Labels (come up with fun names for different blends)

Ingredient options:

Toasted Oatmeal O cereal


Puffed grain cereal

Unsweetened rice square cereal



Unsweetened banana chips

Sunflower seeds

Peanuts or almonds (if allowed nuts at school)

Pumpkin seeds

Mini chocolate chips

In a bowl, combine ingredients as you choose. Try to make a grain the base of the mix. Use a 2:1 ratio of cereal or popcorn to nuts and dried fruit. Once the ingredients are combined, portion out into baggies or ½ cup containers and place a label on the package. Children will take pride in their self-created snack and enjoy spending the extra time with you.

In health, Angela


bigstock-Food-Nutrition-Facts-69428542Spring has sprung in South Texas! I have loved the warm weather the past few months. It has been nice to get outside and see the sunshine daily, although some days it feels a little more like summer. With all of this warmth, turning the oven on becomes less desirable. Entree salads are an easy throw together meal on warm days or evenings. I get a lot of questions about salad dressing and whether or not they can fit into a healthy diet. A little healthy fat can be beneficial paired with some fresh veggies and/or fruit. The bad news is that you have to really scan the ingredients of store-bought dressings to make sure you aren’t soaking your salad with trans fats, salt, or sugars. The good news is that making a simple dressing can be easy and you are free to mix in extra flavors as you like. Here are some simple guidelines to follow.

-For a large salad (about 4 cups of salad greens), start with a base of 2 tablespoons of olive oil to 2 teaspoons of vinegar (balsamic, red, or champagne) or citrus juice.
-Salt and pepper to taste
-For flavor, try adding in fresh herbs such as oregano, thyme, or parsley
-Dijon mustard is another good flavor addition, start with a half to one teaspoon
-½ clove of minced garlic or 1 tablespoon of minced onion

With the flavor additions, start small, because once spices are added in, you can’t undo overdoing it. You can always add more if the taste needs to be kicked up a notch. Whisk or shake the dressing lightly and serve within a day of preparing it. Homemade dressings don’t keep well because they don’t have all the preservatives the shelf-stable ones contain (which is a plus). Enjoy getting creative with something that won’t take up too much time but taste fresh and flavorful. 

In Health, Angela


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