Tag Archives: holiday dinner

Better Than Before: Thinner for (Holiday) Dinner

holiday dinnerNext week brings us Passover and Easter. And just these two holidays alone can spell diet disaster. If you’ve ever eaten matzoh, you know that it stays in your system for all eight days, unable to find a way out! And matzoh balls can sometimes weigh as much as a Mack truck. An Easter brunch menu offers similar regimen wreckers as Thanksgiving fare, plus the obligatory chocolate eggs. And we haven’t even gotten to the rest of the barbecues and feasts found on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial weekend, July 4, and at June weddings, to name just a few. So what are we to do if our intent is to still be able to fit into a bathing suit this summer?

Since there doesn’t seem to be any end to opportunities to pile on the pounds, I asked Jacqueline B. Marcus, a Nutrition Consultant and Owner of Jacqueline B. Marcus and Associates Food and Nutrition Consulting in Highland Park, Illinois, if it’s possible to be Better Than Before weight-wise in spite of it all. Happily, Jacqueline devotes an entire chapter to healthy weight management in her new book, Culinary Nutrition: The Science and Practice of Healthy Cooking.

“Yes,” she began, “you can end the nonsense and regain control, if you simply stop, look and listen.” By that she means to stop the negative self-talk about your body and willpower, to take a hard look at yourself in the mirror and the numbers on your scale, and then to listen carefully to her advice to achieve and maintain your “true weight,” no matter what the temptations.

If you are invited to dinner, first up is to call ahead and ask your host: “What’s cooking?” If the answer is a collection of calorically-challenged courses, propose to augment the repast with BYO. Offer to bring a favorite dish to share the cost of a holiday meal. (You don’t have to mention that it is –horrors!—healthy.) If you happen to have a green thumb in cooking rather than gardening, there is no rule against buying something rather than risk poisoning your friends.

Of course, not all (or that many) social occasions will lend themselves to a non-insulting offer to bring your own food to someone else’s dinner party – or even an inoffensive query as to the menu. So Jacqueline suggests that if friendship or propriety trumps your diet concerns, eat a little lean protein or veggies beforehand to lessen your hunger.

Jacqueline also shares some general suggestions for keeping up with your weight management program any time of year. “Think Clean, Lean, Attractive, Simple, Small and Yummy.” In other words C.L.A.S.S.Y! “Choose small servings of simply prepared food without fat or skin and leave sauces on the side. Large, over-dressed portions are always no-no’s.”

Focus on selecting delicious lean proteins, brightly colored vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, wholesome legumes and flavorful fruit. “Healthy food prepared with care can be enormously satisfying. Nix the extra fats and sugars from fried appetizers, snacks and sweetened drinks. If tempted, make do with just a nibble or sip.”

I always like to make half my plate just salad and vegetables. (It helps, of course, that I actually like salads and vegetables.) On the other hand, the Lawyer’s worst nightmares usually start with a dish filled with Swiss chard. He therefore might disagree with Jacqueline’s prescription for delightful dieting. (But don’t go by him for health advice. He likes Cronuts.) “Nothing beats the color, crunch and aroma of garden-fresh vegetables,” Jacqueline continues. “If steamed or lightly dressed, you can pile non-starchy vegetables like D-L-G’s (deep-leafy greens) pretty high on your plate for lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Then add some lean protein and wholesome grains or legumes.” (Check out The Dukan Diet at www.dukandiet.com for great recipes, meals and diet recommendations.)

It is also important to practice what Jacqueline refers to as tradeoffs. “Want that starchy side? Forget the breadbasket. Dreaming of dessert? Skip the appetizer. Love those creamy sauces? Just dribble over protein-rich foods or steamed vegetables. Fried foods your temptation? Save those fat calories for something delicious and nutritious—like velvety nonfat yogurt or ricotta cheese.” (Sounds great to me; but cue the eye rolling by The Lawyer and his ilk.)

Water, not mixed drinks, should be your beverage of choice. “Mixed drinks may add a wallop of calories!” (Boo!) “If you must imbibe, stick with lower calorie and alcohol options, such as light wine or beer. And, of course, always exercise control.”

Speaking of exercise, “try the free track at the mall, park district or gym,” she suggests. “And while you’re there, use the stairs, too. It takes a lot of exercise time to balance any indiscretions. Body fat below the waist is particularly stubborn.” (Sigh!)

Furthermore, it’s important to maintain records. “By doing so, you commit on paper or screen (like on a smartphone) and then confront what you see or do. Record your biggest obstacles and greatest successes. Write positive affirmations and prominently place them where they will motivate you: Your bathroom mirror, the scale, fridge or closet.  Keep a weight loss chart so that you can monitor the way down.”

Practicing positive self-talk is essential. “Ditch the negativism. Dieting is hard, but there are no excuses for “I can’t”, “won’t”, “should have” or “would have.” Also, remove the words “failure”, “cheat” and “loser” from your vocabulary. “No dieter is perfect all of the time. Just focus on your successes one day at a time and get back in charge ASAP.”

It’s also fine to reward yourself along the way or when you reach your “true weight” and maintain it. “Just do it without food. Buy yourself a new pair of all-purpose athletic shoes for your new commitment to walk ‘30 in 30’ –30 minutes of daily walking for 30 days, or a jump rope to burn more calories, or even light weights to tone your muscles. (A new outfit also works, as do Louboutin pumps. Trust me!)

It’s easier if you don’t attempt to do it alone. “Reach out and connect with someone who knows how challenging it is to lose weight and keep it off. They can be your dieting or exercise buddy. “Just make sure that they’re really your pal throughout the ‘thick and thin’ of weight loss and weight maintenance.”

Finally, focus on your intent to be a Better Than Before you. “Downsize! Raid your pantry and part with the oversized packages of foods and beverages high in sugars, refined carbohydrates and sodium. Likewise, raid your closet and discard any too big, old clothes,” Jacqueline concludes. “When you think smaller and take baby steps in the process, you’ll celebrate each little accomplishment along the way.”

And when it comes to seconds on matzoh balls, remember the chorus of that ancient Passover song. Dayenu! (Enough!)

Thanksgiving Recipes: Non-Traditional Additions to Your Holiday Meal

Adding a warm cup of delicious soup to your holiday menu can help to stimulate the appetite without filling you up. Homemade soups are a great way to kick off your holiday meal, and they make great leftovers for a light lunch. And while pies are the norm at the Thanksgiving table, starting your own tradition with a unique dessert can create a memorable finish with annual requests for more. Delight in the flavors of the season with these yummy recipes.

Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Soup

The bright orange color of butternut squash is a seasonal addition to your holiday meal. For families with babies over 8 months old, this soup can be easily made into baby food by thickening it with mashed rice, potato, or baby cereal.


  • 1 Large or 2 small butternut squash (4 lb)
  • 20 garlic cloves ,peeled
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup water
  • 4 cups (32oz.) chicken broth
  • 1 can (12oz.) coconut milk or 1 cup half & half
  • 1 tsp. tarragon
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • Chives or Parsley, chopped as garnish (optional)


Preheat oven to 350° F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds and fibers. Using a vegetable peeler or a paring knife, remove the skin from the squash and cut the flesh into 1-inch thick slices.

In a roasting pan, combine the squash and garlic cloves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and toss with a spoon until well coated. Pour in the water. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the squash and garlic are soft and golden, about 50-60 minutes. Add a bit more water if the squash begins to look dry or scorched. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Combine roasted squash and garlic with 2 cups of the stock in a blender or food processor. Puree until very smooth, about 1 minute. (You may need to work in batches to prevent overflowing the blender). Transfer the puree to a large soup pan. Stir in the remaining soup stock, coconut milk (or Half & Half), tarragon, and lemon zest.

To serve, warm soup thoroughly and ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle with chopped chives or parsley.

Makes 8 servings

Note: Can be made 1-2 days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator or frozen up to 2 months.


Soft Pumpkin Cookies

A nice alternative to pumpkin pie, these soft cookies are a delightful treat. The little ones can help with this easy recipe. Make them in advance and freeze them to seal in freshness. The cookies will thaw in one hour at room temperature. You are sure to create smiles with this dessert.


  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Orange Glaze (recipe follows)


Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease baking sheets.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt in medium bowl. Beat sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until well blended. Beat in pumpkin, egg and vanilla until smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Drizzle Orange Glaze over cookies.


Combine 1-1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 2 to 3 tablespoons orange juice and 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel in medium bowl until smooth.

Makes 20 cookies.

Fall Favorite Potato Hash

As a distant cousin to the potato, sweet potatoes have a flavor all their own plus Vitamin A and beta-carotene for added goodness. Try cooking with a combination of potatoes for a comforting winter meal. Here’s a simple hash recipe using Yukon Gold (Yellow) and Sweet Potatoes.


  • 1 lb (about 10 small or 5 medium) Yukon Gold Potatoes, diced
  • 1 large or 2 medium Sweet Potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, diced
  • 4 oz. package Shitake Mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. cooking oil
  • 1/3 -1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste


Heat cooking oil in a large non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using a wooden spoon, toss the mixture to coat it with the oil.

Add the stock to the mixture and bring to a boil. Cover and cook until potatoes are done, about 7 minutes. Remove the lid and test potatoes with a fork. They are done if the fork slides easily into the potato.

Continue to cook with the lid off over medium-high heat about 7-10 minutes. Toss gently 1-2 times with a wooden spoon. Any liquid in the pan will evaporate and the potatoes will begin to brown and crisp around their edges. Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings.

About the author: Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food and the new book So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at www.FreshBaby.com for more delicious tips.

Originally posted in 2011

Broke…Hungry…Please Help…Peace

It was an interesting and changeable autumn day.  Somehow when you wake up to pounding rain with seemingly little hope of blue skies, for me anyways, sometimes it’s hard to get up and get moving.  The news on the radio was reporting little improvement in unemployment rates and went on non-stop about the looming transit strike.  Expect that traffic was backed up and at a standstill everywhere.  Monday morning gridlock in the city.  I got up, committed to take the forty minute drive to start my week with my Zen Stretch class, grateful that I would be able to leave at a time that would hopefully avoid the bulk of the traffic.  All in all, I was feeling very thankful that I had the freedom to set my own schedule and that the daily news wouldn’t affect me too much.

Looking out the large studio windows I saw the first indication that the weather was surprisingly changing, as I caught a hint of sun peaking out of the grey morning sky.  The winds however were picking up and whipping leaves around the downtown streets.  I was happy I didn’t have to be outside too long today in this unpredictable weather.  Then, large cumulus clouds filled the sky and the sun officially decided it would make a full-blown appearance.  As I was driving home, invigorated from the morning workout, I couldn’t keep my eyes off this exquisite fall sky, feeling that I was witnessing quite a peaceful heavenly landscape.

I was stopped in the left turn lane at a red light at a busy city intersection, and my eyes came back to earth as I caught sight of a youngish woman, standing on the traffic island holding a hand drawn sign.  It said, “Broke….Hungry….Please Help….PEACE”.  With a big peace sign drawn on the bottom, too.  It’s hard to tell these days what age people are and if they really are broke and hungry, but something about her spoke to me.  For those who know me, the idea of peace, both inner and outer, makes me a bit of a pushover for someone who wishes this to me.  Even if it’s a stranger with a sign on a traffic island.  I admit that my license plate has the word peace in it, as peace has become my ongoing personal quest.  I’m always trying to spread the word.

As I sat there a bit intrigued by this woman, I recalled all the stories I’d heard about not so down on their luck young people, panhandling and making quite a sizable amount of cash for a few hours by standing at the perfect busy street corner or traffic light.  In that instant, I saw her as somewhat of an entrepreneur of necessity and frankly any skepticism or doubt about her intentions or integrity didn’t really matter at all.  Jobs are becoming scarcer to find and to keep.  We have huge movements around the world, protesting the inequity in the world’s economy and people are outraged that employment opportunities are not improving.  With unemployment rates holding at 9.0% in the U.S., I understand why many are feeling hopeless. “Hmm” I thought, an entrepreneur of necessity.

Even if this person wasn’t “really” broke or hungry, I recognized that I didn’t know anyone who would choose to spend their time standing outside in sometimes inclement weather, hoping someone would give them money.  As resilient as I am, I know I certainly wouldn’t be able to.

With the light about to change, I reached in my purse and pulled out the first bill I touched.  I rolled down the window, made eye contact and handed her the money,  receiving what seemed to me a very sincere and smiling “Thank-you. Thank-you very much!”.  My turn had come to turn left and I returned the smile, then called out “You are very welcome” as I drove away in my warm car.

Driving home, I thought about how the discrepancy between the haves and have nots continues to create a huge divide in society.  If things continue to get worse, I believe that more and more people will be looking for ways to feed and clothe themselves and their families.  Maybe the small amount of money I gave this one person isn’t significant in the larger scheme of things, but I remember a lovely quote, “To the world you may just be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.”

So, with unemployment rates predicted to rise in the U.S. to 10.4 per cent by May of 2012 up from only 4.9 per cent in January of 2008, I wonder how and when things are going to get better.  I’m hopeful that positive changes are coming as people continue to speak up and out for themselves in all the “occupy” movements around the world.

There are those who may call me a sucker for even taking a second look at this person and then for actually giving her money.  I don’t see it that way.  No matter what she chose to do with the money (which I understand may have little to do with food), I was happy to acknowledge someone who was possibly in need.  I have no reason to believe she was not broke and hungry, and for me, extending a small act of kindness, might have contributed to making her day a little bit brighter.  As I previously wrote in my smile power article, we never know how much a smile or a small act can help to change someone else’s day.

I realized that I do believe that those of us who aren’t broke and hungry can always find a way to help those who might be in need.  Call me a sucker or a pushover but as long as I can find a way to help another, I will.  We can all find our own ways to serve.  May we continue to envision and work towards creating a world where fewer and fewer people experience being broke and hungry.  Until that becomes our reality, please help.  Peace.

How are you called to serve others?

visit me at : beverleygolden.com

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / ep_jhu

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