Recipe: Chicken Soup with wild rice, quinoa and lentils

Learning how to make a soup is one of the building blocks of cooking for yourself. Soup is the original one-pot meal!  

 This easy recipe takes about 10-minutes of prep time, and very few-minutes of actual hands-on time, and it’s ready to eat in under an hour. My hubby and 5-1/2yo can’t get enough. Enjoy! (BTW, I buy all my herbs in bulk. Check links at the bottom for more info.)

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1-tbl ghee (clarified butter oil)
1-medium onion
6-carrots (save tops if you have them)
1-tsp sea salt
5-chicken drumsticks
2-tbl each dried parsley, thyme, oregano, basil
1-tsp dried rosemary, cumin
1-bunch celery
12-cups water
1-cup lentils
1/2-cup wild rice
1/2-cup quinoa
2-bay leaves
2-4-tbl of Organic Chicken Better than Bullion to taste

-Add ghee to large pot on medium-high heat. Saute onions a couple of minutes (cover them for at least 1-minute)

-Add carrots and salt and cook covered for 2-minutes

-Turn flame down to medium-low. Put in drumsticks on the base of the pot to sear them and get the skin crispy. Cook covered for 3-minutes.

-Pour in all herbs except bay leaves and turn over chicken, cook covered for 3-minutes.

-Add celery, toss for a minute, then add water, lentils, wild rice, quinoa and bay leaves, put flame on high and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover for 30-minutes.

-After 30-minutes turn off pot, stir in 2-tbl of Better than Bullion and add more if you’d like. If you have carrot tops, chop them and toss into soup now.

Enjoy and be a spark!

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I like to purchase herbs in bulk because I use a lot of them!!!  I will literally put in 1/2-cup of parsley AND basil into my pasta sauce. Bulk buying makes it easy to use a lot of herbs in my cooking, and you save a TON of money. An ounce of herbs can cost $3-$5, you can get a pound of herbs (16 ounces) for $15-$25 (a savings of as much as 70%!)

Lentils, Green, 5 lbs, (five pounds), USDA Certified Organic, Non-GMO

Frontier Parsley Leaf Flakes Certified Organic, 16 Ounce Bag

Frontier Bulk Basil Leaf, Sweet-Imported, Cut & Sifted CERTIFIED ORGANIC, 16 oz Foil Bag

Frontier Mediterranean Oregano Leaf C/s Certified Organic, 16 Ounce Bag

Frontier Cumin Seed Whole Organic, 1 Pound I prefer the flavor of cumin seed to ground cumin, but it’s up to you! Organic Ground Cumin Seed 16 oz Pkg

Frontier Thyme Leaf Certified Organic, 16 Ounce Bag

Frontier Bay Leaf Whole Certified Organic, 16 Ounce Bag

Frontier Bulk Rosemary Leaf Whole, ORGANIC, 1 lb. package

I grow my own rosemary and sage, you can probably find some locally if you live somewhere hot! I also know a lot of people with bay trees, so that is another herb you can scavenge easily.





Health and Fitness: 21-Day Fix and Easy Food Portioning

Hey y’ll…in my quest for optimum health that is also optimally easy (so I can be mom, wife, friend, entrepreneur and have time for myself too!) I came across a new tool that I absolutely can’t do without. It’s these cool color-coded food portioning containers. Back when I was younger, I developed a bad habit of never paying attention to portions, because I always had more than enough time to exercise off whatever I ate. But now that time is my most precious resource, I’ve struggled with how to maintain my calorie intake/expenditure equation. I’ve tried food journaling (that is just cruel and unusual punishment!!!), I’ve tried counting calories (who has the time for that??) and I’ve tried being totally ignorant and pretending that as long as I eat healthy whole foods the quantity doesn’t matter (that DEFINITELY doesn’t work, it IS possible to overeat sweet potato!)

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I was introduced to these cool containers about 6-weeks ago and it has proven to be the missing piece in my fitness equation! I learned about them via an exercise program called 21-Day Fix which was conceived by a trainer that I had the pleasure of working with about a decade ago. Even 10-years ago, Autumn Calabrese stood out to me as an amazing trainer. I met her through a boot camp that I organized for my neighborhood, and she was one of 3-trainers we worked with. I still remembered her after all these years because her workouts were always the ones that left you the sorest the next day, even though you might not have thought you were working that hard DURING the workouts. I also liked that she incorporated a lot of different types of exercise (plyo, pilates, traditional boot camp stuff) into her routines. The color-coded containers were also a new twist on portioned eating that I hadn’t seen before which also caught my attention.

After doing some research I decided that Autumn’s program might be just the thing to take my health/time management/portion control quest to the next level. I read a ton of reviews and decided to purchase her 21-Day Fix EXTREME program instead of her 21-Day Fix Essential because I’ve been an athlete my whole life and I wanted a

21-Day ESSENTIAL package

physical challenge. From the reviews I read, the Essential program is good for all levels of fitness, but people with an athletic background said that the Essential routines lost their challenge. However, most reviewers said the Extreme program was a bootie-kicking good time for even the most advanced. I’ve really enjoyed the full body workout Autumn put together in under 34-minutes (includes warm-up and cool-down) a day, perfect for a busy parent squeezing in an early AM workout! And the fact that Autumn is a parent herself is proof positive that a bikini-bod and child-bearing are not mutually exclusive. Be sure to “FOLLOW” my blog with the links at the bottom of the page (mobile) or on the right-hand side (desktop).

21-Day Fix EXTREME package 

Here is what I really like about her program:

  1. No thinking required: there are 7-workouts and each is given a designated day which means I don’t have to make any decisions. I just pop in the DVD and do the video I’m commanded to do. Easy peasy.
  2.  Variety: each day is different with a combination of plyo, pilates, yoga and boot camp. Wednesday and Sunday are the “easiest” workouts and they are nicely spaced because you are DEFINITELY ready for the mini-vacation by the time those days roll around.
  3. Short workouts: All workouts are under 34-minutes (including warm-up and cool-down.)
  4. Autumn herself: I love her spunky form of tough love (“I don’t care if it hurts, this is extreme!”), it’s just what I need to keep me pushing myself from the comfort of my own home.
  5. Sore but not incapacitated: Even though it’s been over a month, my muscles still haven’t adapted to her workouts. If anything I’m getting sorer as I get stronger and my form gets better. But I’m never incapacitated the next day like the workout videos from the 90’s that left me unable to sit-down the next day.
  6. Built-in ab work: There is a bonus 10-minute ab workout that is optional, but I’ve only done it once because ever since having a baby I have this “floating rib syndrome” issue which makes concentrated ab work painful. However, I’ve never had a single ab spasm doing her workouts (I did have a spasm doing the 10-minute ab workout though which is why I’ve avoided it.) However, I feel like my abs are getting a good workout with the total body movements included in every other workout.

The 21-Day Extreme program is designed for people who are trying to get super-ripped, in shape for a competition or special event. Because that wasn’t my goal, I wasn’t as strict with the nutrition portion of the plan although I did follow it about 80%. However, after doing my first “round” of the program (the full 21-days) I still shaved off 7-inches and 3-lbs. I’m not going to post any before/afters because that’s just not me. But the bottom line is that I feel stronger and more “in control” of my nutrition than I ever have before, and that’s been an awesome take-away.

My three points of feedback  on how the program could be improved are 1) 10-second countdown: I love it when an instructor counts down the last 10-seconds. Knowing when the pain will be over always motivates me to push through the end. 2) I’d love an optional 20-minute cardio workout for days when I want to double-up and burn more calories. 3) Maintenance program: what am I supposed to do on days when I don’t want to do 21-Day Extreme and avoid adaptation? I guess that will be my next learning hurdle. For now I can still tell that I have a long way to go before I master her program. Especially the Thursday/Friday/Saturday bit…those 3-workouts 3-days in a row are an accomplishment, let me tell you!!! All-in-all, it’s a solid program and definitely my favorite workout videos ever (and I’ve purchased probably about 50+ over the last 20-years as my athletic interests and theories on fitness have changed.)

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A final note on those color-coded containers…I’ve never found it easier to keep my eating within healthy limits than with these little guys. They are so easy to use, and have given me a great way to “eyeball” portions even when I don’t have them around. I use them in conjunction with the 21-Day Fix app (which is free) that allows me to “game-ify” my portioned eating experience by checking off how many containers each meal or snack used up. By the way, you just use the containers for measuring, I don’t actually eat out of them (because even though they are BPA-free, in my opinion, food and plastic never mix!)

Yay cardio day done!

Be your best and Be a Spark!


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Recipe: Fall Harvest Salad

Every November my child’s school has a Thanksgiving feast and I always make a giant kale-based (I don’t like lettuce…too wilty) salad. The first picture shows the salad before I dressed it, the second image is a few ours later after I tossed it. Note that the chunks of Granny Smith Apple are still nice and white. When apples become brown it’s because they’ve begun to oxidize, but you can avoid this simply by tossing them with a little lemon juice. And if you’ve never had kabocha squash, check out last year’s post where I talk a little more about it.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Be sure to add the dressing no more than 20-minutes before you will serve the salad or the kale gets too wilty (for my taste at least!!!) Enjoy and be a spark in the world.

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Fall Harvest Salad
3-Bunches of Lacinato Kale
4-small Granny Smith apples (or 2 large)
3-cups of cooked and refrigerated Kabocha squash cubed
1-1/2 cups of walnut pieces
1-cup of dried goji berries
2-large avocadoes
3-large lemons
olive oil and sea salt (I always dress with an olive oil that has a buttery taste, many olive oils have a peppery finish that I don’t care for so I avoid those)

Cut a Kobocha squash, remove its seeds and cook at 300-degrees for one-hour or until soft when poked with a fork. Allow to cool and then refrigerate until you are going to make the salad. This can be done up to 2-days before.

Remove the kale leaves from their center stalk and chop or rip. Cube Granny Smith apples and squeeze half a lemon over them and toss until fully coated. Cut the Kabocha squash from its skin and cube it. Cube avocado. Toss the rest of the ingredients in with the kale. Squeeze the rest of the lemons and then add olive oil and salt to taste.  Enjoy!

If you like this recipe check out last year’s salad too.

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