As I approach 50, I’m focused on taking care of myself now more than ever. From lowering stress levels and making sleeping a priority to leading a healthier, more active lifestyle, I aim to feel my best in every way. Incorporating good nutrition and regular exercise into my daily life are essential to a healthy lifestyle so I am embracing both these days and quite enjoying it, surprisingly!

Today I want to share a few healthy eating ideas I learned about by taking the Clean Eating Chef Series at Ramekins Culinary School. I also want to tell you about my new home gym!

Clean Eating Chef Series

The Clean Eating Chef Series included three evening classes, meeting once a week. The series was divided into breakfast, lunch and dinner categories.

The class was taught by Chef Hollie Greene and Mary Sheila Gonnella. Chef Hollie is founder of Joyfoodly. She is a cooking instructor, Wellness in the Schools consultant, and a Professional Expert for the California Healthy Kids Initiative. Chef Hollie’s website is chock full of healthy recipes and lots of food prep and cooking tips, many of which are shown in short videos.

Mary Sheila Gonnella of Occidental Nutrition is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant and Educator who focuses her practice on helping people suffering from problems relating to high blood sugar. She also incorporates Ayurveda into her nutrition consulting and is an expert in fermentation.

The class was designed as part demonstration and part hands-on instruction.

For the demonstration portions of the class, students could easily watch Chef Hollie and Mary Sheila at work on overhead tv screens.

We were each given a packet with all the information and recipes we would be learning about that evening, as well as a work station and apron for the hands-on portion of the series which included prepping, cooking on portable stove tops and eating! It was quite fun!

Healthy Meal Ideas

The three classes were packed full with information and recipes. We made a lot of food each night. For the breakfast class, we focused on dishes that would not raise blood sugar, satiate your appetite, give you energy, nutrition and sustenance and taste great!

The first dish we prepared was Breakfast Pho. Pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) is a Vietnamese broth-based soup. Mary Sheila and Chef Hollie showed us how to make our own Immunity Broth – either in a pressure cooker or a crock pot – using chicken bones, spices, seaweed, and vegetables. Once the broth was cooked in their pressure cookers and drained off, we each had a bowl. We chose what ingredients to add to our Breakfast Pho. Hard-boiled eggs, black rice and Russian kale were just a few of the foods we could add.

The Breakfast Pho was tasty and comforting and full of nutrients.

We also made Avocado Bowls. We started with a halved avocado then picked the foods we wanted to top it with from an array of choices that included walnuts, sauerkraut, roasted Delicata squash, Gomasio (sesame seeds and dried seaweed) and a seed mixture. I now have this dish for breakfast – usually just the avocado, sauerkraut and Gomasio – at least three mornings a week.

One of my favorite segments of the class was learning about Ayurvedic spices from Mary Sheila. She talked to us about our Dosha, the three Ayurvedic body types: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each body type is helped by certain spices. Mary Sheila created spice blends for each Dosha that we could select and take home. Based on the descriptions, I think I am Pitta. I took the Pitta blend home and sprinkle it on my meals from time to time.

Another fun hands-on dish we made is Nori Hand Rolls. The finished dish looked somewhat complicated to me, but they were incredibly easy to make!

We were given a bamboo rolling mat, nori (dried seaweed sheets), a plate of prepared veggies and tofu, some small bowls of aioli and pesto that we made in class earlier, and nutritional yeast. Chef Hollie showed us where to place the food items – as you can see from the photo – then how to roll up the Nori into hand-held rolls. I’ve already made these at home a couple of times. They are fun to make as appetizers for guests or even with your guests.

Chef Hollie also showed us how to properly cook chicken breasts on the stove She then turned the cooked chicken breasts into a delicious chicken salad she loaded into roasted Delicato squash halves. So tasty and satisfying. I was stuffed!

The series included how to make sauerkraut too. Mary Sheila teaches her clients and students about the digestive properties of  fermented foods. It’s fascinating!

I have not made my own sauerkraut at home yet, though it really is so simple. The most important part of preparing sauerkraut for fermentation is mashing it up. It needs to be almost liquified. This takes time, patience and muscle. Maybe I will incorporate it into a future workout!

There were so many other dishes we learned how to make in this series. I wish I could tell you about all of them!

If you’re in the Bay Area, consider taking one or more of the classes Chef Hollie and Mary Sheila will be offering this summer:

“Easy Weeknight Farmer’s Market Dishes” is a hands-on class on June 1st taught by Chef Hollie Greene

“Shopping + Cooking Smart for Back to School Meals” is also with Chef Hollie Greene and hands-on on August 3rd.

“Fermentation 101” is taught by Mary Shiela and is hands-on. This class is on July 6th.

Also visit each of their websites for more information (Joyfoodly and Occidental Nutrition) and the Ramekins class calendar for even more fun and delicious classes.

My New Home Gym

Late last year, my husband asked me almost every day what I wanted for Christmas. I kept telling him I have everything I need and not to worry. But gift-giving is something we all enjoy and I knew he wouldn’t agree to a gift-free holiday season.

I thought about it and one day I told him I wanted a treadmill. And that I wanted to put it in our formal dining room. I thought for sure he wouldn’t want to give up an entire room in our home just so I could have a treadmill, but he surprised me and said it was a great idea. I was elated!

I shopped around online, read reviews, checked measurements, cost-compared and finally found one I liked: the Sole F80 Treadmill. I could not be happier with my Christmas gift!

I have spent countless years trying to implement a consistent exercise routine that I actually enjoy, and now it’s finally happened. The treadmill arrived on December 18th. Since that day, I have used it between 3 and 6 times per week for no less than 30 minutes at a time. I made an agreement with myself when it arrived that I will never spend less than 1/2 hour on it, once I hop on, and I will use it at least three days per week. Right now I am using it three times per week for one hour. I walked/ran 12 miles last week!

I bought a shelf that straps into the treadmill dashboard. It holds an iPad and even my laptop so I can watch Netflix and read blogs.

Since we sacrificed an entire room in our house for the treadmill, I figured we may as well make it a full home gym! I bought a BOSU Pro Balance Trainer that I use for balancing, crunches and lunges. A foam roller for stretching my back and rolling on my IT band. And I brought the old recumbent bike and my free weights in from the garage.

I also bought a weight bench. I knew I needed one when I was doing bicep curls while sitting on our coffee table!

For the last couple of months, my hormonal issues have subsided (yay, no more hot flashes!), I sleep better, have more strength my lower body and I feel clear-headed on most days. I am also less cranky and my emotions are steadier.

Eating well and exercising really do affect your wellbeing and it doesn’t take years to feel and see the results. I am grateful to have these tools and valuable knowledge to help me continue to improve my health and overall wellbeing.


Disclosure: The Clean Eating Chef Series class at Ramekins was complimentary. All opinions expressed here are my own, as always. 


A few people asked for my mom’s delicious chicken and onion recipe that I mentioned in my last post. I’m sharing it with you today along with some healthy eating tips that help me stay on track as I shed these pesky holiday pounds.

I confess that I don’t always stay on that track (like during the holiday season) but when I do, I find my way of eating very effective for improving the way I feel, look and even behave.

Feeling my best in 2012

You can read more about my weight loss method in this post but keep in mind that I am not a medical professional, a weight loss expert or even a healthy eating blogger.

I am simply a 40+ woman with fluctuating weight who wants to be healthy, feel great and find a happy middle somewhere between suffering to be my skinniest and buying a new wardrobe because I’ve gained so much none of my clothes fit anymore.

Since this isn’t a food/diet/cooking blog, I don’t want to devote too many posts to the subject or bore you so much you never come back.

I do have lots to say about this topic but I thought I would just give you the best tips, acquired over the last 10 years of eating this way, and hope that they will help you stay on your own healthy track, whatever that may be.

Here are my Top 12 Healthy Eating Tips:

1. Make Your Own Salad Dressing

One of the smartest things I ever did was learn to make my own salad dressings. I have been doing it for years. It only takes a few minutes, I usually have all the ingredients I need on hand, and I control the ingredients. It’s also pretty cheap.

I use a very good quality olive oil so I know I am getting those health benefits in olive oil, like polyphenols, every time I eat a salad. Many oils are adulterated these days and provide little or no health benefits.

You can get my dressing recipe here. Lately, I have been adding in some stevia drops to give it a little sweetness. A little goes a very long way so test it drop by drop.

2. Eat a Green Salad Everyday

I love salads. I could and do eat them everyday. But salads can get boring after awhile. Try adding new ingredients or using new-to-you greens like frisee, arugula, mȃche, or kale. Or make it colorful by adding red peppers and purple cabbage.

My current favorite salad is a kale Caesar. I have not yet mastered the perfect Caesar salad dressing so I buy it at our local market where they make it in-house. I shred kale with a sharp knife, then marinate it in the dressing for about an hour to soften it up, then top with toasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese shavings. I had my first kale Caesar last summer with Deja and a dear friend in Los Angeles and now I eat them on a regular basis.

3. Boost Your Nutrition

There are so many great products out there to help you get more nutrients and fiber in your diet without adding sugar and other crap in with it. These healthy flaxseed blends from Linwoods taste nutty and add texture. I add a few spoonfuls to yogurt and to smoothies to which I also add vitamin C powder, magnesium, chia seeds, a probiotic and a generous portion of frozen organic spinach or kale.

The savory flaxseed mix can be added to salads, cottage cheese, and soups.

4. Keep Things Moving

This is the best probiotic ever. Get it at Whole Foods or online. You won’t be sorry.

5. Ban the Junk

If a box of Triscuits should find its way into my house, within hours it would be reduced to nothing but a waxy liner bag with traces of Triscuit dust.

I cannot control myself around a Triscuit. Same goes for Cheez-its and Thin Mints. None are allowed in my home, at least not with my knowledge.

Whatever foods leave you helpless, ban them from your home even if it’s also your husband’s favorite food on earth or your kids’. Ask them to either join you in banning it or find a really good hiding place where you’ll never see it. Out of sight, out of mind.

By the way, there is reason these foods are literally irresistible. It’s not just that you have a sweet tooth or a love for salty foods. These foods are carefully designed to be hard to resist. Read more about that scariness here.

6. Welcome in the Healthy Stuff

While banning the junk from your home, be sure to shop for and stock up on the healthy stuff. For years I have shopped around looking for the lowest sugar, highest fiber foods. I can’t tell you how many accumulative hours I have spent reading yogurt labels at the market.

Recently mine started carrying quark, a German-style yogurt and this new Wallaby Greek. Both are very low in sugar, only 5 or 6 grams compared with 20+ for other brands. I buy a whole bunch and love having them for breakfast or an afternoon snack with some Linwoods blends and a little scoop of frozen berries.

For a crunchy cracker I order GG Scandinavian bran crackers online. They have zero sugar and 5 grams of fiber. Tricuits they are not. Far from it. But if you toast them lightly, add a little natural no-sugar peanut butter or cream cheese, they are delicious. Think of them as crunchy vehicles for which to deliver your favorite low sugar spread. Crush them and use as a substitute for bread crumbs in recipes.

While I do eat fruit, I keep it to a minimum, only in the mornings and I choose low sugar fruits like berries. When organic frozen berries are on sale, I stock up on them for smoothies.

7. Don’t Give Up the Spirits if You Don’t Want To

Like to have a cocktail once in a while? Or wine with dinner every night? Most diets say you have to say bye-bye to the booze to lose weight. I think that’s just plain mean to ask a wine lover living in wine country to give up her Sauvingon Blanc and Pinot Noir so I say, imbibe once in a while!

Wine has been shown to have some redeeming qualities and it’s a favorite indulgence for many. Be sure to choose dry – not sweet – wines. And if you like cocktails, select a good quality hard liquor. Have a jigger of vodka with a squeeze of lime or lemon and some soda water if you want.
But just have one and savor it.

8. Get Crackin’

Nuts about nuts? Me too, especially roasted and salted nuts. I could eat big handfuls of them. But I don’t buy those kind of nuts very often for that very reason.

Instead of salty nuts, I eat walnuts, pecans, almonds and Brazils raw and in the shell. That way I have to actually work to eat them. I am only going to sit there, cracking nuts for so long before I get irritated with nut cracking and move on to something else.

9. Have a Pot of Tea First

When I crave something sweet, I try satisfying that craving with tea. Rather than grab some sugar-free candy, which often makes my stomach feel weird, I make a pot of tea.

I choose a really snobby and expensive European tea and serve it up on a tray – all fancy-schmancy like – with cream and stevia. Before I know it, I’ve forgotten all about that lowly candy.

10. Go on a Cooking Spree

Every once in a while I get in the kitchen for a few hours and cook my buns off. I make enough food to get me and the other hungry mouths through the next few days. Cooking things ahead of time saves me hours of cooking in the future and it often prevents food from getting lost in my refrigerator’s black hole and spoiling.

I make soups, casseroles, dishes that taste better as leftovers, vegetables for future meals, grilled chicken breasts, and salads big enough for the three of us for two or three nights.

It’s not as fun as a shopping spree but having healthy foods at the ready to eat at any time really helps keep me on track. This broccoli, sausage, cheddar, onion and mushroom Breakfast Casserole is such a great meal to start the day with.

11. Be Prepared When you Leave the House

If I know I will be out of the house for a few hours, I bring some snacks along. String cheese, a protein bar, some celery sticks, and a few nuts – pre-cracked – will usually be enough to do the trick. In the cooler months, I leave Think Thin protein bars in my car.

12. Buy the Best You Can Afford or Stand to Spend

I try to buy as much organic produce, dairy and meats as is possible and reasonable. But if organic bell peppers are $6.99 a pound, guess what? We aren’t having bell peppers that week. While I can afford $6.99 bell peppers, I just can’t bring myself to pay that much.

On the flip side, if organic cauliflower is on sale, we’ll be having a cauliflower festival! Cauliflower soup, cauliflower crust pizzas, fauxtatoes, caulirice, and roasted cauliflower.

Focus on the best quality at the best prices. That low price likely means it’s in season, a good thing!

There you have it!
My 12 best healthy eating tips.
I’d love to hear your healthiest tips.

Oh, and here is what started the whole discussion in the first place: my mom’s recipe for slow-baked chicken and onions, a childhood favorite of mine.

I must preface this with a couple of things. I like overcooked chicken which I am guessing is a childhood thing or a fear of salmonella or both. To lessen the overdoneness of the dish, I suggest using bone-in chicken. They retain more moisture.

Also, this recipe calls for an entire stick of butter. Butter is okay on the type of diet I eat. If butter scares you, try using less or even using olive oil instead. I haven’t tried that but it might be okay…but really, nothing tastes better than butter.

Betty’s Chicken and Onions (and butter)

“Take chicken breasts (4) and 5 to 6 onions (I used 4 large) sliced and layer with gobs of butter in a large casserole dish. Cover tightly with foil. Bake at 275 – 300 degrees for 4 or 5 hours. Onions turn into an oozy sauce.”

I salt and pepper the chicken breast before adding the last layer of onions. And I only cook it three to four hours at 275 degrees.

Easy! The chicken falls apart and has so much onion-y flavor. It’s delicious served over mashed fauxtatoes (see recipe at the bottom of this post).

For more recipes, check out my giant Pinterest low carb/paleo board.

What are your healthy eating tips? I would love to have more to add to my list.

***My new site should be up soon! Don’t forget that if you are currently following me on Google Friend Connect you will no longer get updates once I make the switch. To stay in touch, follow The Rich Life on Bloglovin’ or subscribe for emailsI can’t wait to show you my new digs!

Edit: A few people have asked for the recipe for fauxtatoes. Here it is!


Use two to three heads of organic cauliflower. Organic cauliflower heads are usually pretty small so I have to use more than one to make enough to feed the three of us and have leftovers.

Clean and trim the cauliflower heads, then break them into florets, cutting the larger ones to make them all as uniform as possible. Steam them until they are slightly overdone but not too overcooked. This makes pureeing them easier and you will have fewer chunks.

Drain the water, return the cauliflower to the hot pot and then add your choice of liquids. I use a tablespoon of butter and 1/3 cup of full-fat sour cream or about 2 ounces of cream cheese.

Next, grab whatever method you like best to puree or mash the cauliflower. A manual masher works but you might not get that creamy texture you desire.

Hand-held blenders are great because you get a nice pureed consistency and you have less to clean up afterwards. But what really makes it the smoothest and most like mashed potatoes is using a blender like a Vitamix.

While you’re pureeing your fauxtatoes, you may find that you need to add more liquid. Use chicken broth, cream or more sour cream to thin it out. But don’t over do it. You’re trying to make fake mashed potatoes, not cauliflower soup!

You can make fauxtatoes ahead of time, then warm them up before your meal in the oven or on the stove – or just microwave them.

For dairy-free fauxtatoes use Earth Balance instead of butter and maybe some plain non-dairy yogurt or sour cream made with almond or coconut milk or tofu.