Monthly Archives: January 2013

Black Bean Chipotle Soup

image of black bean chipotle soup




You absolutely can’t get more flavour for 100 calories per serving than this soup. I like this soup to have a creamy texture, but not be pureed, so I blend (with a hand blender or potato masher) about half of the soup, judging by eye, until it gets to the consistency I want.
You can find pure chipotle powder at the Bulk Barn in Ontario. You can also substitute canned chipotles. Use about 1/2 of a pepper and some of the adobo sauce it comes in.

Black Bean Chipotle Soup – 10 servings, 100 calories each. Prep. time 10 – 15 minutes, Cook time 40 minutes.


1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 cup red quinoa
1 can black beans
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 to 1 teaspoon pure chipotle powder (available at Bulk Barn in Ontario)
2 chicken or vegetable flavour bouillon cubes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon pure cocoa powder, optional, but adds a great complexity of flavour
1/2 of a 796 ml can of diced tomatoes (or half a bottle of leftover Clamato, if you have it)
5 cups water
Salt and Pepper to taste
garnishes: squeeze of lime juice, chopped cilantro, sour cream if desired


Heat olive oil in a soup pot on medium heat.
Saute onions, celery and carrots for about 5 minutes, until they “sweat”.
Add sweet potatoes and garlic and continue sauteing for a few minutes.
rinse the quinoa and add to the pot.
rinse the black beans and add to the pot.
Add all the spices, the bouillon cubes, tomatoes and water.
Bring to the boil, and then lower the heat to a simmer and continue simmering for 30 minutes.
Remove bay leaf.
Allow to cool for 15 minutes or so, then use an immersion blender or potato masher to mash up roughly half of the bean and vegetable mixture to achieve a creamy texture, but with lots of whole beans and vegetables in it. If a lot of water has evaporated, just add a bit more to get a soup-like consistency.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with lime juice, chopped cilantro and sour cream if you wish.
Serve with love on a cold day and watch the smiles!

Image of ingredients for black bean chipotle soup

gather your ingredients



chop your vegetables



saute the vegetables in a teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat



chop the sweet potatoes and garlic



after about 5 minutes your vegetables will start to “sweat”



then add the sweet potatoes and garlic and continue to saute a few minutes



in the meantime rinse the quinoa



and black beans





add the spices, bouillon cubes, tomatoes and water and simmer for 30 minutes




use an immersion blender or potato masher to make a creamy consistency



but leaving a lot of vegetables and beans whole



make sure you remove the bay leaf before blending!



add cilantro, lime juice and sour cream as garnish if desired





Does Weight Loss Always have to cause wrinkles?


If you’re on a weight loss regimen, what you eat and drink and the types of exercise you do or don’t do can affect your skin’s aging process.
Our skin has large amounts of collagen, which acts like a sort of “grout” between skin cells. As we age, we naturally lose some collagen from our skin, but we never stop making it.
A balanced diet, including adequate amounts of protein and healthy fats is critical to our health, and also to the way our skin appears. We can’t make collagen protein without eating the building blocks of protein – amino acids. This is very easy for most of us living in the western world where we have access to unlimited amounts of high quality protein in the form of meats, fish, eggs, etc. It becomes a little trickier for vegans, as they have to really watch their diet and make sure they eat the right combination of amino acids present in vegetable foods to produce the proteins we need.
Avoiding sugars is also very important. Eating too much sugar has been linked to increased protein glycation, which breaks down your collagen and leads to the aging of your skin. Diabetics, for instance, show more aging of the skin because they run a higher risk of elevated blood glucose.
Surprisingly, self-tanning products containing dihydroxyacetone also increase protein glycation, which can lead to premature aging (As discovered in this study). Make sure you check the ingredients in your self-tanner if you use one.
By far the best way to both prevent protein glycation and help keep your skin healthy is anti-oxidants. There are many, many anti-oxidants that are super for our skin, including Vitamin E and C, so eating our fruits and vegetables and consuming healthy fats – butter, fish oils, seeds such as hemp, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame are all good ways of getting our anti- oxidants, as is drinking tea – either green or black tea. Tea contains EGCG and theaflavins that help prevent skin cancer and the breakdown of collagen.
However, if we’re talking skin-care, by far the best source of anti-oxidants is the Pinot noir grape. Now we’re talking! So, drink a glass of Pinot noir a day (no more than 5 or 6 ounces), and if you want to be really pro-active when it comes to your skin, take grape seed extract as a supplement.

The type of exercise you choose to do is also very important. Weight-training causes your muscles to become firmer and slightly larger and this effect enhances your skin appearance from the neck down. For the skin of your face, yoga is the best exercise for increasing the blood flow to your face (think Downward Dog) and relaxing your facial muscles (shivasana or corpse pose) to soften fine lines.

And of course, nothing beats a good night’s sleep for helping you look better too. Sleep, especially alpha phase sleep, is the time our bodies repair the protein glycation that has been happening all day. Although there is controversy over this, many dermatologists recommend applying night cream with anti-oxidants in it. A very powerful anti-oxidant is Retin-A, but it is also extremely irritating to the skin so should only be used under medical supervision. A much milder one which also works is resveratrol, sourced from – you guessed it – grape seeds. You can find resveratrol in some skin creams, such as Azelique, which is available from (for Canadians – I have been ordering from for about a year and have been very pleased with their prices and customer service. I have not had to pay any duty as long as the package is under $40. Feel free to use this code to get $10 off your first order of $40 JAQ901).

Did your teachers tell you not to fidget? Well, they were probably wrong!

A study of 299 older volunteers done over 13 years at the University of Pittsburgh showed that walking 15 km (9 miles) a week acts as a defense against your brain developing dementia and Alzheimer’s by protecting your brain from shrinking.
OK, I know it’s freezing cold out there, ( -13 C, or 8 degrees fahrenheit in Ontario, brrrrrr!! ) but getting outside, even for a few minutes is really, really good for you, even if you don’t want to. Sometimes with the wind chill factor or iciness on the roads it might not be a good idea to go for a walk – you have to use your common sense – but even standing outside and taking in some deep breaths of the fresh, cold air just feels so good. If it’s a sunny day, then that’s a bonus!
So, in cases of inclement weather, how do you get your daily exercise? Try fidgeting! Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have come up with a theory which might explain why some people just don’t seem to gain weight, even though they may eat more. These people make thousands of very minor movements every day, unconsciously – they take the stairs or bustle about the house doing chores or they just fidget, making lots of movements with their feet, hands, etc. It’s called NEAT or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, which in English means “producing heat whilst not exercising”. This is definitely worth trying, especially if you have a sedentary job where you must sit for many hours a day. Whenever you are sitting rotate your hands and feet in circles. Stand up and sit down at least every 15 minutes. Stretch at your desk. Bend over and touch your toes. Play with your pen. Squeeze a ball in your hands. Throw a beanbag up in the air and catch it. Knit or crochet. Get up and walk about for a few minutes. Stand at your desk if you can raise the height of it. You just have to keep moving, because being sedentary can, apparently, kill you. Yikes! Inertia, or the lack of any muscle movement whatsoever, most often seen in people who sit for 6 hours a day or more, caused immediate effects on the body: insulin effectiveness and fat-burning enzymes dropped after only one day of sitting at a desk. This could lead to Type-2 diabetes and too much HDL cholesterol in your blood, as well as weight gain, as the researchers in the above study concluded. Another study by the American Cancer Society studied the life-spans of sedentary people and showed that men who sit, on average, 6 hours per day in their leisure time, had death rates that were 20% higher than men who sat 3 hours or less. For women it’s a lot worse. Women who sit 6 hours a day or more have death rates 40% higher than those who sit 3 hours or less.
So – fidgeting, or making ANY movements while you sit is so extremely important to staying healthy, and next time you find yourself telling a child to sit still and not fidget – think twice – you’re not doing them a favour.

Spinach Feta Pie

image of spinach feta pieThis is an easy low-cal, low-fat, high protein and fibre recipe that’s perfect for lunch or a light dinner. Served with sweet potato oven fries and red cabbage and beet slaw, the meal will set you back a mere 400 calories. Add a bowl of black bean chipotle soup (recipe next week) and you still come in at under 500 calories. It’s such a colourful meal too, full of anti-oxidants.
It’s also a great way to use up baby spinach that’s maybe not quite fresh enough to eat in a salad, but it’s still full of nutrients. If you bake it in a 9″ square pan and cut it into 25 squares, it can make lovely little 35 calorie appetizer bites too, especially if you put a grape tomato half on each square. I would line it with parchment paper though, as getting them out might be a bit tricky.

Spinach Feta Pie – serves 4. Prep. time: 10-15 min. Cook time: 30min.


8 cups baby spinach, washed
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
1/2 cup parsley, washed well and chopped
1/2 cup Feta cheese, or Asiago cheese (for a stronger flavour)
1/2 cup fat-free cottage cheese
1/4 cup spelt flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste
8 grape tomatoes, halved (optional – I just thought it looked prettier with them)


Drizzle half a teaspoon olive oil into pie plate and spread around and up the sides. Use oil spray if desired.
Put spinach into a large glass measure, cover with a plate and microwave 3 minutes, until wilted.
Meanwhile, chop the green onions and parsley.
Dump cooked spinach (don’t bother draining it) out onto cutting board and chop that up too.
Mash feta and cottage cheeses in the same glass measure.
Add flour and baking powder and mix well.
Add eggs, salt and pepper to taste and pour into the prepared pie dish.
Put into the oven and turn to 400 degrees fahrenheit. You don’t have to pre-heat the oven.
Bake for 30 minutes after it has reached 400 or until golden brown around the edges and a cold knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Let rest 5 – 10 minutes before serving.


gather all your ingredients



Cover the measuring cup with a plate and microwave the spinach for 3 minutes



until it’s wilted and reduced by half



meanwhile drizzle 1/2 a teaspoon of olive oil in the pie dish and spread it around



dump the spinach out onto a cutting board and use the same measuring cup to mash the feta and cottage cheeses together



chop up the spinach, green onions and parsley



beat the two eggs in a small bowl and mix the baking powder into the flour



combine all the chopped greens with the combined cheeses



add the flour mixture to the greens and cheese mixture and combine



then add the eggs, salt, pepper and remaining 1/2 t. olive oil and combine well



spread the mixture evenly in the pie dish and arrange halved grape tomatoes around the circumference, if desired




then bake at 400 degrees fahrenheit, until golden brown around the edges and a cold knife inserted in the centre comes out clean


Napa Salad

Napa Salad – Serves 4, calories per serving: 90

In this recipe I have used Agave syrup, a natural sweetener made from the Agave cactus (the same one that gives us Tequila!). It is much sweeter than sugar and is metabolized differently than sugar in the body, resulting in fewer sugar cravings. If you don’t have any, just substitute with honey, which is also metabolized differently. If possible, avoid white sugar and white sugar containing products like the plague. They will sabotage your attempts at weight loss.


image of ingredients for napa salad

napa makes a filling, crunchy salad

1/2 head of Napa (sometimes called Chinese lettuce or cabbage), finely sliced
1 clementine, segmented and chopped into smaller pieces
3 Tablespoons raw sunflower seeds
3 green onions, sliced

2 teaspoons oil
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons agave syrup
juice from 1/8 of a lime
Salt and Pepper to taste


Whisk dressing ingredients together and pour over the shredded napa, clementines and sunflower seeds. Sprinkle the sliced green onions over the top.

When exercising too much doesn’t help – and might kill!

picture of extreme bootcamp workout

“Bootcamp” type workouts can be harmful!




In a 2012 study at the University of Copenhagen, researchers found that previously sedentary men who exercised for one hour per day actually lost LESS weight than men who exercised for 1/2 an hour per day. (They were not dieting at all, but had to keep a food log). The potential reasons they gave for this conundrum were that one hour of exercise, in these sedentary men, caused so much fatigue, that they ended up not doing much else, exercise-wise, for the rest of the day, because they felt too tired. Their food logs showed that they were snacking more as well, again, perhaps because when we feel tired, we tend to snack to compensate for our feelings of low energy.
The group doing the 1/2 hour of exercise, however, felt more energized, and ended up doing a lot more moving about for the rest of the day such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and just generally moving about more. Their food logs showed that they snacked less, perhaps because they did not experience the same kind of fatigue that the one-hour exercisers did.
On the National, on CBC on Monday, I watched a story of a young woman who was hospitalized and could have died from a condition called Rhabdo (short for Rhabdomyolysis) where a person who has suddenly done a tremendous amount of exercise all at one time after not doing anything for a long time, suffers a breakdown of their muscular protein, overloading the kidneys and even leading to kidney failure and possibly death, in extreme cases.
The moral of the story is:
If you haven’t been exercising for a while – Go and be checked by your Doctor to make sure there are no underlying conditions which exercise might exacerbate.
Start SLOW, and work your way up to more intense workouts.
30 minutes per day of light exercise or walking, as long as it is done every single day, consistently, can provide you with the same, or better, benefits as working out intensively for 2 or 3 times per week, especially if you have been sedentary for a long time, or you are a bit older.

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Chicken (or Tofu)

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Chicken (or Tofu) Serves 4. Prep. time: 10-15 min. Cook time: 12 min.

This is a wonderfully flavourful recipe that’s really fast to make on a weeknight. Combined with a Napa salad and a 5oz. glass of white wine, the calories come in at under 540 – for the whole meal! (according to my LoseIt! App when I entered the recipe ingredients). Flavourful recipes that are chock full of vegetables with the right balance of protein to carbohydrates to fats can make trying to lose weight seem less of a punishment. Try this recipe and see if you don’t feel full longer than after eating other meals with the same calories but fewer vegetables. Also use my trick of slightly over-cooking the pasta to make it look bigger! This works well with spelt or whole wheat, but not white pasta, which just gets mushy.


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about a pound), sliced very thinly into strips
OR 1 pound firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into 1″ cubes
125g (1/4 of a 1 pound box) of spelt or whole wheat spaghettini, spaghetti or linguine
1 teaspoon garlic olive oil (or any oil)
1/2 an onion, very thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 thai red chile, finely sliced
2 Tablespoons chunky natural peanut butter
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon PC Umame paste #5 (or substitute with tomato paste)
1 stalk of broccoli, stem peeled and sliced, head cut into florets
4 ounces sugar snap peas
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
wedge of lime

Method *Note this recipe was made in a 900 Watt microwave oven. Adjust times accordingly.

Put a pot of water to boil, then add the pasta. Salt or not (your preference). Cook about 12 minutes
Put onions, garlic, thai pepper and oil into a 2 quart microwave dish (NOT plastic)
Cook on High for 2 minutes or until onion is translucent, but not browned
Mix in the chicken strips (OR tofu), and arrange in a ring around the outside of the dish
Cover tightly and cook on High for 2 – 3 minutes, or until partially cooked (there should be some pink chicken left)
Add in the peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, umame or tomato paste and mix well
Add in the broccoli and peas, mix well, cover again and cook on High for 4 minutes
Add in the red bell pepper, stir very well and drizzle all over with a squeeze of fresh lime juice
Calories per serving: 340

image of ingredients for spicy peanut noodles with chicken

gather all the ingredients you will need


image of garlic with green sprout in the middle

make sure you remove the green sprout from the garlic – it is bitter!


image of onion, garlic, thai pepper

mix the oil, onion, garlic and thai pepper and microwave 2 min


image of vegetables

in the meantime, chop your vegetables



add salt to the pasta cooking water if you wish



add chicken strips (or tofu) to the onion mixture, cover and microwave 3 min





until chicken is partially cooked but there are still pink bits left



then stir in peanut butter, soy sauce, umame or tomato paste and rice wine vinegar



stir in the vegetables and cook a further 4 min



image of spicy peanut noodles with chicken and napa salad

and in less than 1/2 an hour you have a delicious, filling, spicy noodle dish which, when served with napa salad and a 5oz. glass of white wine, becomes a 540 calorie dinner!