Quick Beef, Pasta, and Vegetable Soup

This is a great soup to make on a night when you are pressed for time.  It was a hit with my kids because it tastes a lot like spaghetti and meatballs!  Pantry basics are the base: pasta sauce, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and small pasta.  Add some fresh ingredients(or even frozen!) like ground beef, carrots, broccoli, spinach, and garlic and you have a quick, healthy, satisfying meal!  You can mix up whatever veggies will go over well with your family.  Play around with it!

This makes a lot, and it reheats very well.  It thickens in the fridge, so becomes a little more like a pasta dish, so I add a little water to it before I warm it up.  If you don’t like the way that pasta softens in the leftover soup, cook it in a separate pot and add it right before you warm up your bowl of yummy soup!

Beef, Pasta, and Veggie Soup

2 lbs ground beef

2 T olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 c chopped carrots

4 c chicken broth

1 25 oz jar pasta sauce

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, drained

1 t salt

1 T dried oregano

Parmesan rinds(you will take them out of the soup…they add a fabulous layer of flavor.  Never throw them away!)

1 c chopped broccoli

1-2 c(to taste) small pasta(shells, elbow macaroni, or broken up spaghetti)

4 oz cream cheese, cubed

4 big handfuls fresh spinach

1/4 chopped fresh basil or 1 T dried basil

Such pretty colors!

Brown the ground beef over medium heat in a large pot.  As it is browning, chop your vegetables to save time!  When there is no pink left, drain the beef and put it in a bowl while you saute the vegetables.  Don’t worry about scraping out the pot…the little bits of beef will brown deeper and add a lot of flavor.  Just keep the heat to medium while you cook the vegetables

See the lovely little brown bits on the bottom of the pan!  They will add a nice savory flavor.

Add the olive oil to the pan and toss in the onion, peppers, carrots, and garlic. Saute until the onion is transparent.  I like to salt the veggies a little at this point.

It smells so good at this point!

When the veggies are done, put the ground beef back into the pot.  Add the broth, pasta sauce, diced tomatoes, salt, dried oregano, and if using dried basil and Parmesan rinds, add them in.  Let simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the broccoli and pasta and simmer for the cooking time on the pasta box. When pasta is cooked through, adjust the thickness of the broth by adding water until it is the way you like it!  My kids like it a little thicker, so I added just a bit.

Your kids won’t even notice all the healthiness in this soup!

Add cubed cream cheese and spinach.  The spinach will look like a lot, but will cook down to just the right amount!  Stir this in until the spinach is cooked and the cream cheese is melted into the broth.  Find the Parmesan pieces and throw them away.  Taste for salt and add a little more if it needs it.

I am not a gardener, but hate paying the high price for fresh basil, so I grow some in pots on my deck.  Pretty easy to grow!

If using fresh basil, sprinkle some on top of each bowl as you serve, and if you are feeling decadent, top with some fresh Parmesan too!  This is great the next day for lunch, and if you cook the pasta separately, you can freeze the soup without the pasta to pull out for dinner anytime!  Just boil a little pasta and add it in!



Double-duty Pork Part 2: Slow Cooker White Pork Chili

So I promised you a convenient meal made from the leftover pork…and here it is!  I like this just as much as yesterday’s meal, maybe more, because I love soup!

You can make this as complicated or easy as you like.  If you have the time to brown the onions and garlic then it is worth it.  If you need a dump-and-go just throw this all in a slow cooker and you are off to tackle the day.

Slow Cooker White Pork Chili

2 T Olive Oil( if sauteing the onions and garlic)

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 T cumin

2 t oregano

1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed into 1/2 inch pieces

1 4 oz can chopped green chilis

4 c chicken broth

1 t salt(may add more to taste at the end)

3 15 oz cans of beans (I used garbanzo, cannellini, and Great Northern)

1  15 oz can corn

3 c cubed cooked pork

1 c dry white wine(or another cup of broth) with 2 T cornstarch mixed in

1 zucchini, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

Quick method: Throw everything from the onion through the white wine into a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6 (5 hours was perfect for mine).  Ten minutes before you are ready to eat, toss the zucchini in the chili and turn slow cooker on high for 10 minutes.

Browning Method: Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium-sized pot until shimmering. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes.  Toss in the garlic, cumin, and oregano and stir for about a minute.  Pour a couple of cups of the broth in to scrape up the bits and pieces, then add all of it to the slow cooker. Place everything else through the wine, including the last 2 cups of broth, into the slow cooker and set for 6-8 hours on low or 4-6 hours on high.  Toss in the zucchini about 10 minutes before dinnertime.

To serve: Set out salsa, sour cream, lime slices, and chopped cilantro.  A few tortilla chips are good too!  I have a sneaky suspicion that this is going to be great for lunch this week!



Double-duty Pork Tenderloin with Pear, Walnut, & Goat Cheese Salad…did I mention warm Bacon Dressing!

Happy Labor Day!  For some folks that means camping, boating, relaxing outside for the last official weekend of summer.  For me it meant having a third day in my weekend to get stuff done.  We had some remodeling done and my storage room in the basement was a huge mess, which meant I couldn’t find any of my kitchen things that aren’t quite important enough to warrant upstairs cabinet space.  Today gave me the chance to get down there and reorganize!  Some of the results can be seen up above…time for a trip to Goodwill!

Knowing that I was going to be occupied through the day I took this chance to try a new recipe…pork tenderloin with a side salad made with the simmered marinade from the pork as a dressing.  The best part about this recipe?  You can grill twice the amount of tenderloin you need and use it for the recipe I will share tomorrow!

I put the tenderloin in the marinade when I took a break for lunch.  You could put it in to absorb the yummy goodness in the morning before work/school/running the kids around.  You could even make the marinade the night before and just plop the pork in the container in the morning.  It’s pretty forgiving as long as you give it at least an hour to sit.

The marinade and dressing are not very photogenic…just a warning!  But look at the end result:

Maple-Mustard Pork Tenderloin and Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing


4 cloves garlic, minced

1 T dried Thyme

1/4 c maple syrup(Grade B is great!)

1/4 c honey

1/4 c apple cider vinegar

3 T Dijon Mustard

1/2 t salt

1/4 t black pepper

2 pork tenderloins (about 3-4 lbs total)


6 c greens(I used spinach and arugula)

5 slices bacon

1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil

2 pears, sliced or chopped

1/4 c chopped walnuts

2 oz goat cheese(or more to taste!)

Using a whisk, mix the marinade ingredients in a container.  I like to use the same container I am going to let the meat rest in, but if you want to use a baggie to simplify post-dinner clean up, mix it in a bowl then pour it over the pork in the baggie.  Let marinate for 1-8 hours, whatever works best!

Get the grill nice and hot.  Take the pork out of the marinade(save it!). Place the tenderloins on the grill and turn until you have grill marks on all sides, then reduce heat to medium and let cook until at least 140 degrees or until firm to the touch, about 15 minutes.  Keep an eye on it towards the end…you don’t want it over-cooked!

 Not done yet!Just right!  Lovely mahogany color!

While the pork is grilling, cook the bacon in a frying pan until nice and crisp. Pull it out to rest on some paper towels, then dump out most of the bacon fat(but not all…).  Pour the saved marinade into the frying pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat for around 10 minutes, until it thickens.  When it is super fragrant and thick enough to coat a spoon when you dip it in the dressing, remove it from heat.  Carefully pour the warm marinade into a medium bowl, then add the olive oil in a steady drizzle while whisking.  It should mix together thoroughly.  Add in the bacon,which you crumbled into tasty little pieces, and set aside.  When it cools a little, taste to see if it needs more salt.

Bring the pork in when grilled to perfection so it can rest before you slice it. The juices will settle back into the tenderloin so it is tender.  You can use this time to slice your pears, crumble the goat cheese, and chop the walnuts to get the salad ready.  If you have picky eaters, set the individual parts of the salad on their plates separately…nutritionally speaking, it doesn’t matter if they are all mixed together!  For the more advanced eaters, arrange the salads, re-whisk the dressing if needed, and drizzle a little on your salad.  It is a pretty strong flavor(so good!), so don’t go hog-wild with it.  You can always add more later.

Slice the pork and serve alongside the salad.  I added some cannellini beans that I sautéed with garlic and rosemary.  That’s optional, but is a good way to get some healthy carbs in!

*4 cloves minced garlic and 2 t dried rosemary warmed in olive oil for a minute then 2 drained cans of cannellini beans thrown in while I got the salad ready!*

Serve the extra dressing on the side for the pork.  It may need an occasional stirring, but it is worth it!

From the time you take the pork out of the marinade to sitting down to eat, probably less than a half hour!  Healthy, tasty, and quick!

Let me know if you try it!

P.S.  The extra pork tenderloin will be put to good use tomorrow when I have to spend the evening at a cross country meet and want to have dinner ready when we get home!  Stay tuned!

Last Day to Join my Fall Nutrition Group!

If you have been debating whether you are ready to sign up to change your relationship with food for the better, let me give a personal testimony!  I am super-active, and have been for years.  I teach 7 exercise classes a week, train 20 clients, and workout on my own.  I would have said that I ate healthy food and made good choices most of the time, but I couldn’t keep off ten pounds that I would lose and gain and lose and gain(sound familiar?).

I started ProCoach as a client of the program along with my first group of clients.  I have lost 8 1/2 pounds…And it has been pretty painless.  I am more aware of my choices and how much and how quickly I eat.  I am thinking about the balance of nutrients in my meals.  But right now, as I write this, I have Snickerdoodles in the oven.  I have learned to not eat one unless I am hungry!  If I am hungry(and sometimes I save room for dessert!) I enjoy the treat by being more aware and slowing down.

If you are thinking about this, commit to three months of improving your lifestyle.  Check out the nutrition and workout pages and see what fits your goals!

Questions? Contact me tonight!

Are you ready to enroll?  Contact me tonight!

Do you know someone who might be interested?  Let them know about my program!

I hope to hear from you!


Bacon, Avocado, Chicken Salad with Dijon Rosemary Vinagrette

This is another summer recipe…the summer tomatoes add a sweetness that is a nice contrast to the salty bacon, tangy rosemary vinagrette, and creamy avocado.  And for my ProCoach clients, this is a perfect way to get your veggies, protein, and healthy fat!

You start by cooking the bacon until crisp(I don’t believe bacon should be cooked any other way!).  Then, sinfully, you brown the rosemary-dusted chicken breast in the bacon fat…it turns out so crispy and golden, just like the bacon!

While the chicken is browning, you mix the vinagrette ingredients.  I like to use my immersion blender, but a whisk will do just fine!

A quick note about extra virgin olive oil: I recently read an article about olive oil sold in USA being questionable.  At best, some of what we buy is rancid.  At worst, it doesn’t even qualify as true EVOO.  Check it out here: Olive Oil Info. This olive oil from California Olive Ranch was available at Target, and is on the approved list.  It tastes great!

Ideally, you will use tomatoes from the farmer’s market or your garden.  I do not enjoy gardening, but I plant tomatoes on our deck in containers because they are totally worth the effort!  Of course, you have to fight the squirrels and chipmunks to get to them before they take a big bite out of them. It took me a few days to figure out what was happening, but I saw the little squirrel thief running away with a cherry tomato in his mouth!  I swear he was laughing at me.  If grocery-store tomatoes are your best option, I would get cherry or grape tomatoes.  They are usually better than the big tomatoes.

Getting to the recipe: the amount of rosemary you sprinkle on the chicken is up to you.  I love the taste, so I went pretty heavy.  If the pine-y taste is too much for you, go easy or skip it altogether and just count on the dressing to add the flavor.

I salted the chicken the night before and let it season overnight.  You could also brine it for an hour before you start the salad.  I like the seasoned, juicy chicken that comes from the brining. To brine chicken: In a container large enough to hold the chicken, mix 1/4 c salt and 1/4 c sugar into 4 c water and stir until dissolved.  Immerse chicken and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, up to 2 hours.

Bacon, Avocado, Chicken Salad with Dijon Rosemary Vinagrette

Salad ingredients:

8 slices bacon

1 lb chicken breasts, cut in half horizontally if super thick

Chopped rosemary, either fresh or dried

3 large tomatoes, sliced or 1 c cherry tomatoes

1 avocado, diced

1/4 c chopped red onion

8 cups mixed greens(I like spinach and arugula)


1/3 c extra virgin olive oil

1/3 c red wine vinegar

1 T Dijon mustard

1 T maple syrup

1 t chopped rosemary

salt and pepper to taste

Sprinkle the chicken with rosemary, and if you didn’t brine it, salt and pepper. Cook the bacon until crisp over medium heat and set aside on paper towels to drain.  If there is more than a couple tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan, drain the extra off,  and place chicken in the pan(be careful of hot grease spitting up at you!).  Let it brown before you turn it…resist the urge to flip it and flip it and flip it!

While you are resisting the urge to flip the chicken, mix up the dressing ingredients with an immersion blender or whisk until creamy.

When the chicken is cooked through(I like to use an instant read thermometer), set it aside to rest for a few minutes as you assemble the rest of the salad.  Crumble the bacon and arrange the tomatoes, avacado, bacon, and onion on top of the greens.  Make it pretty!  Then slice the chicken and add it to your gorgeous salad.  Drizzle the dressing over your creation and enjoy!



Fall Nutrition Group!

Has summer slipped away and you didn’t have a chance to lose the weight you had planned on losing?  Then this is the perfect opportunity for you!  I am a certified nutrition coach and personal trainer, and use the Precision Nutrition-tested ProCoach Online Nutrition program to help you meet your goals.  Through small habit changes you will make healthier choices and be aware of how, when, why, and what you eat.  There’s no eliminating food groups or buying supplements or shakes…just eating real food in a new way.  To jump start your weight loss there is also an option for an online workout program, set up to start wherever your level of fitness is right now.  My first fall group starts August 21st.  You can find out more by checking out my Nutrition and Workouts tabs!  Please contact me if you are interested in joining my fall group!

Quick workout idea!

Hi guys!  I want to throw this idea out there…you can use it as a stand-alone workout when you don’t have much time or as a “finisher” at the end of your usual routine. If you push yourself it has a cardio feeling to it, while you are working those muscles!

Set a timer for 10 minutes.  Do five squats.  Quickly come down to the floor for five push-ups.  Jump back up for 5 squats…and then back down for push-ups.  You get the idea!  A quick break for a drink is ok, but try to keep moving!


Starting, middle, and finish position for squats and push-ups.  Photos courtesy of ACEFitness.com

To modify it down a notch: do sit-to-stands instead of squats.  Sit on a chair that isn’t too low, then stand up.  Sit back down as easily as you can, like there is an egg on the chair you don’t want to break.  If push-ups are a challenge you can do them on your knees or do wall push-ups, just make sure your hands are chest-height on the wall.

To modify it up a notch: do jump squats or pulse all 5 at the bottom of the move.  For push-ups, you can come all the way to the floor and then back up to plank position before you come all the way back down!

Give it a try and let me know what you think!


Bloomington Farmer’s Market, Grandma Skromme, and Applesauce


I am lucky enough to live in a town with a thriving farmer’s market.  It is open every Saturday from spring through late fall.

There is everything from truckloads of fruits and vegetables:

To lovely flowers:


To rows of coffee shops and bakeries:

But my favorite thing to buy at our farmer’s market is applesauce apples.  If I get there during the right  weekends(late June/early July), I buy as many Lodi apples as my arms can carry!

Grandma Skromme, 101 years old!

I learned to make applesauce from my Grandma Skromme.  For most of my childhood she and my grandpa had an apple orchard on the other side of their swimming pool. Maybe someday I will tell you about the skinny-dipping we did after dark, no lights,  with Grandma sitting in her lawn chair making me, my sisters, and my cousins call out our assigned numbers to make sure we were all still ok!

Grandma swears by Lodi apples.  They are tart, but have more flavor than Granny Smiths.  The problem is finding them…grocery stores don’t carry them and if you miss the harvest at market or the orchards you are out of luck!  This year I did not make it to the market until this last weekend.  When I asked the family who grows my apples for me if I was too late for Lodi they confirmed I had missed the harvest.  BUT….they had Earligold apples, which the oldest son assured me would be similar to Lodi.  I took him at his word, and I am glad I did!


I started using my Instant Pot last year for applesauce.  It is quick and less of a mess.  If you don’t have an Instant Pot you can do this on the stovetop easily enough.

I also use a cone-shaped strainer that I inherited from my stapdad’s mom. It works like a food mill   This means that I don’t have to peel or core the apples…all the yucky stuff gets left behind.  If you don’t have a food mill you can core and peel the apples and the sauce will still taste great!

Did you notice my daughter in the food mill picture and the iPod in this picture?  Applesauce is a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen and off their electronics!  If they are old enough to use a sharp knife, they can help quarter the apples.  If they aren’t ready for that, let the apples cool a little after cooking and have them help with the mashing!

Now to reveal the secret ingredient…my girls would insist that all men close their eyes during this paragraph…it is supposed to be a girls-only secret!  My grandma always added butter to her applesauce, similar to French applesauce, which is made with butter and vanilla.  It smooths out the applesauce and adds a subtle richness to the applesauce that makes a huge difference!

After the applesauce is done I put it in freezer bags to keep in my freezer.  It’s easier than canning it, and if you lay it flat to freeze you can set it on end in a freezer bin so it doesn’t take up much room!

Here is the first batch of applesauce, about fifteen cups!  I made two more batches after this…we should be set for the winter.  From a nutrition standpoint, this applesauce is closer to a healthy dessert than a serving of fruit.  Or you can use it as a condiment as my Grandma did, toasting freezer waffles for us and putting cottage cheese and applesauce on top…don’t knock it until you try it!  Feel free to cut this recipe in half if you don’t have a lot of freezer space.

Instant Pot Applesauce:

14 c quartered tart apples, peeled and cored if you do not have a food mill.

1/2 c water

1- 1  1/2 c granulated sugar

1 t salt

1/2-1 t cinnamon, to taste

3 T butter, cut into 3 pieces(shhhhh…it’s a secret!)

If using an Instant Pot, put apples and water in the Pot, making sure they don’t go above the max line.  Lock the lid on and set the Pot for 10 minutes at high pressure.  When the timer beeps, use the quick release to let the pressure out(be careful, it may spit a little bit).

If using the stovetop, get a BIG pot that will hold the apples easily or two sort-of big pots and split the apples in two.  Put the apples and water into the pot and simmer on medium, stirring frequently so the bottom doesn’t burn.  As soon as the apples get mushy you are ready to go!

With a food mill, place the mushy apples in the mill and process into a big bowl. If using a potato masher, let the apples cool a little and mash them in the big bowl.  Homemade applesauce is a little thinner than store-bought, so don’t be surprised if it looks a little runny.  Stir in the teaspoon of salt and the sugar, a half cup at a time, tasting to make sure that you need to add more.  Mix in the cinnamon and the butter until the butter melts.  Try not to eat it all while you are “tasting!”

I used quart-sized bags and put 3 cups of applesauce in each one, using a heavy glass to hold the bags for me.  Seal carefully and place flat in the freezer.

Enjoy this treat at the holidays, or just for breakfast.  Just remember your portion control…a half cup is plenty for dessert!


Chicken Caprese Sandwiches

Hi! My CSA delivery today inspired tonight’s dinner.  A CSA is a program where community members pay a fee to a local farm at the beginning of the growing season and get a portion of the farm’s produce as the season progresses. Today’s share had awesome cherry tomatoes and fresh basil that inspired caprese thoughts!

Fabulous tomatoes are key to this salad…this won’t work with bland winter tomatoes!  You can use large tomatoes if you like, just chop them into big chunks and drain them just a bit.  I used regular everyday mozzarella(Confession time-I used mozzarella cheese sticks that I keep around for my kids!), but if you love fresh mozzarella, that would be good too.

You can play with the salad: add bell peppers, cucumbers, onions…whatever looks good at the market, but I liked it just like this!  For two of my girls, who claim to not like tomatoes, I served the three parts separately so they could just eat the required couple of bites of the tomato salad.

For my ProCoach clients, this is a great meal that follows the general meal guidelines in your Quick Start Guide!  Adjust the portions according to the recommenations and you are set!


Grilled Chicken Caprese Sandwich


1 lb. chicken breasts, sliced or pounded to ¼-1/2 inch thick

2 c cherry tomatoes, halved

4 oz. cubed mozzarella

2 T fresh basil, chopped

2 T olive oil, divided

1 T balsamic vinegar


4 slices crusty bread, preferably whole grain

2 garlic cloves, halved


Optional for Brine:

1 qt cold water

¼ c salt

2 T sugar


To brine chicken: In a container large enough to hold the chicken, mix salt and sugar into water and stir until dissolved.  Immerse chicken and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, up to 2 hours.

For Caprese Salad:

Mix cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil in a medium bowl.  Whisk 1 tablespoon of the olive oil with balsamic vinegar until blended, then drizzle over tomato mixture.  Sprinkle a little salt over the tomatoes and mix gently.  Set aside.

To grill chicken and bread:

Remove chicken from brine and grill over medium-high heat until temperature reads 170 degrees or when you cut into the chicken it doesn’t show any pink.  Place chicken on a plate to rest while you grill the bread slices, watching carefully to keep from burning.

To serve:

Brush toast with the leftover olive oil and rub with the cut sides of the garlic cloves.  Place chicken on the toast, then top with a generous spoonful of tomato salad.  Enjoy!

Workout Nutrition for your Body Type!

Here is a handy infographic from Precision Nutrition to tell  you how to feed yourself before, during, and after your workout!  I am definitely an endomorph, so I eat breakfast a couple hours before my workouts, BCAA’s during, then either a protein drink( if lunch is going to be delayed) or an endomorph meal for lunch.  Need ideas? Contact me!

Workout Nutrition Infographic

Does this information interest you?  Are you interested in hearing more about Precision Nutrition’s ProCoach program and what I can do for you?  Contact me and let’s talk about what ProCoach can do for you!