Garlicky White Bean and Kale Soup

Detox dinner: white bean, kale and garlic soup

A few years ago my family went to Italy and ever since then we have tried to adapt a style of Italian cooking.  Our trip was amazing, we even learned how to cook from an old Italian woman.  While this soup isn’t something learned from her, it is from an equally old and experienced Italian cook, Lidia.



Above: My sisters, mom and myself cooking in Italy.

One thing I learned on that trip is how to enjoy the little things.  We had a bad experience with renting a car without GPS and not being able to use our cell phones while driving from Florence to Tuscany, what should have been a 1 1/2 hour drive took us 6 hours.  I remember my younger sister sitting in the back seat of the car holding her rosary, we were so lost and so far out in the country of Italy that not many people spoke English. Getting directions was very difficult.  6 hours later we made it to the most beautiful hotel located just outside of Cortona. During the driving excursion, we drove through the most beautiful parts of Italy, but we were so stressed about being lost (and my dad, with no previous experience, driving a stick shift through the hills of Tuscany) that we didn’t bother to look around and enjoy our surroundings.


HIlls of Tuscany.


The breathtaking hotel, Villa di Piazzano.


Use that lesson when making this soup, it takes a while to cook down, but while it’s cooking, have a glass of wine, relax and enjoy your evening.

I know the recipe looks long, but I promise it’s very simple to make.  The Soffritto in this soup really sets it apart, it’s not your standard plain white bean soup.  This soup tastes like butter and has a smooth creamy texture.  Like most of my recipes, it’s perfect for freezing and reheating later.

Garlicky White Bean Soup

From Lidia’s Italy

Servings: 10, makes 3 quarts


Cooking the Beans
2½ cups dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight or quick-soaked
4 quarts water, cold, plus more if needed
3 bay leaves
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoons salt, plus more if needed

For the Garlicky Soffritto
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, sliced
¼ teaspoon peperoncino


To prepare the beans: Soak beans overnight, or bring them to a boil in water and let sit for one hour, off the fire.

Cooking the Beans

Drain the soaked beans and put them in the pot with the water, bay leaves, and olive oil. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. When the water is at a full boil, set the cover ajar, adjust the heat to maintain a steady gentle boiling and cook for an hour more, until the beans are tender.

Stir in the salt, uncover and continue cooking at a bubbling boil for another hour or more, until the beans and broth have reduced to 3-quarts. Lower the heat as the liquid evaporates and the soup base thickens, stirring now and then to prevent scorching.

Flavoring the Base with the Soffrito

When the soup base is sufficiently reduced, make the soffritto. Heat the olive oil and the sliced garlic in a skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes or so, shaking the pan now and then, until the slices are sizzling. Drop in the peperoncino, stir with the garlic and cook another minute or until the garlic is just starting to color.

From the soup pot, ladle out a cup of the simmering bean broth and pour it into the skillet. Let it sizzle and start to boil, shake and stir up the soffritto, and cook it for a couple of minutes in the broth. Then pour it all back into the bean pot, scraping in every bit of the soffritto or just rinse the skillet out with more broth. Simmer the soup base for another 5 minutes, with the soffritto, then remove from the heat.

The base is ready for a finished soup now or let the whole pot cool; pick out the bay leaves and discard. Keep the soup refrigerated for 3 or 4 days or freeze, in filled and tightly sealed containers, for 4 to 6 months.

Garlicky White Bean and Kale Soup

serves: 4 servings

Make soup with any of the greens (and reds) in the chicory-endive family, including the various kinds of radicchio now in the markets, escarole, curly endive (or frisée) or Belgian endive as well as unrelated leafy vegetables such as Swiss chard, kale, spinach, or arugula. The procedure is the same though cooking times will vary.


6 cups garlicky white beans with broth, (See recipe above for Garlicky White Beans and Broth)
10 cups kale, rinsed and chopped in 3-inch pieces
½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste


Heat the broth to a boil, stir in the chopped greens, the salt, grinds of pepper, and return to a gentle boil. Cook covered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the leaves are tender and wilted. If you want, cook uncovered for some or all the time to produce a thicker consistency. Taste and adjust the seasonings; serve hot in warm bowls, with freshly grated cheese, extra-virgin olive oil and other garnishes.



Amazing Eats in San Francisco

This summer I went on an amazing trip to San Francisco with my family.  The city has amazing food, and that’s saying a lot considering where I live.

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We spent our first night in Carmel, Ca which is about 1 hour from San Francisco.  It’s the cutest little town, I would highly recommend passing through if you are ever in the area.  We had a great dinner at Casanova in downtown Carmel.

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Stuffed mushrooms and gnudi.

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A bakery in Carmel with massive pastries (all I had was coffee).

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From Carmel we took a day trip to Big Sur. Amazing. So worth the drive.

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Lunch at Ventana Inn

Big Sur is so serene and calm and has amazing views.  I definitely want to go back there one day.

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While in San Francisco I made it a Pilates class at this cute studio in Union Square called Maiden Lane Studios.  The class was called bubbly at the barre, a bar class that offers campagne.  Cutest idea.. wouldn’t mind if Romney Pilates offered something similar.

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We had a fabulous time at a SF institution, Boulevard.

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I splurged with the duck entree


The next day we had another great meal at the vegetarian restaurant, Greens.

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Golden Gate Bridge

I sure did walk the Golden Gate Bridge.

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And made it all the way to Sausalito.

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I was looking forward to dinner at flour+water the most and it didn’t disappoint.

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The trip wouldn’t have been complete without dim sum at Yank Sing.

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My sister, myself and my mom in Muir woods.  It was an amazing trip!

High Protein Granola Bars with Bananas, Cranberries & Walnuts

Last week was my birthday and I had a fabulous day that started with an early morning workout at  Barre3.  Next, my mom and I met up for a divine 90 minute massage at Earthsavers and then headed to one of my favorite restaurants for lunch, Lilette.

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Chilled crab and avocado soup from Lilette.

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Ham and cheese sandwich and the best dish of the meal.

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Quenelles of goats cheese creme fraiche with poached pears, pistachios and lavender honey.

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After a long food-induced nap my sister came home with these treats for me from Sucre!

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My best friend’s birthday is the day after mine and her sweet family included me in on her cake :)

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My fabulous birthday week ended with meeting Drew Brees and Scott Fujita.  Amazing.

At some point during the last few crazy weeks  La Health & Fitness Magazine asked me if I would be interested in blogging for their website and I happily obliged.  My plan is to make the recipes on this blog relate to the topics on H&FM blog.

The upcoming post on H&FM is about snacking and these granola bars fit the profile of what I constitute as the perfect snack.


These bars are chewy, dense, nutty and filling and so good!

High Protein Granola Bars with Bananas, Cranberries & Walnuts

3 cups old-fashioned oats

¾ cup walnuts (can substitute with pecans or almonds), roughly chopped

3 large, ripe bananas

¾ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp vanilla

¾ cup dried cranberries

1 ¾ scoop chocolate or vanilla protein powder

¾ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground nutmeg

½ tsp salt


Preheat oven to 350 F.

Line a 9- by 13-inch baking sheet with parchment paper, with about 1 inch of parchment paper overlapping the sides and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Place the oats and chopped walnuts on a baking sheet and bake until they are lightly toasted, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mash the bananas with the back of a fork. Stir in applesauce and vanilla until combined.

Transfer the oats and walnuts to a large bowl and stir in dried cranberries, protein powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

Stir the banana mixture into the oat mixture until well combined and starting to clump together. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and smooth out evenly.

Bake until the bars are golden brown and starting to separate from sides of the pan, about 25-30 minutes.

Use the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan. Let cool to room temperature, then cut into 16 bars.  Serve or store in an airtight container.

Yield: 16 granola bars.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 162 calories; 5 gm fat; 7 mg cholesterol; 86 mg sodium; 24 gm carbohydrate; 3 gm fiber; 6 gm protein


These will keep in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a few months.



Scallion Meatballs with Soy Glaze

IMG_0788With football season around the corner, I thought it’d be fitting to do an amazing recipe that you can bring to your next tailgating party.

These meatballs fit the profile of healthy party snacks.  High protein, lean and tasty makes them irresistible.  The soy glaze it gives them great flavor.  The onions, cheese and oil  make sure the lean meat stays moist.


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I use lean grass-fed ground beef in these.  Instead of filling up on chips and dips, have a little protein!

Scallion Meatballs with Soy Glaze

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Note: This recipe is gluten-free if you use a soy sauce that is labeled gluten free.

Yields: 24

1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup soy sauce, preferably Japanese or reduced sodium
1/2 cup mirin (sweet rice wine), or 1/2 cup sake with 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup peeled, chopped ginger (I used half and it tasted like plenty to me; adjust to your preference)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
4 whole black peppercorns


1 pound lean ground beef

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

4 large or 6 small scallions, finely chopped

Half bunch cilantro, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup) (the cilantro-averse can use flat-leaf parsley)

1 large egg

1 tablespoons sesame oil, toasted if you can find it

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable oil

Make sauce: Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar melts completely. Reduce heat to a medium-low and add soy sauce, mirin, ginger, coriander and peppercorns. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 30 minutes, though this took me a bit longer to reduce it until it was syrupy enough that I thought it would coat, and not just dribble off the meatballs. You can keep it on a back burner, stirring it often, while browning the meatballs in the next step. Once it has reduced to your satisfaction, strain through a sieve.

Make meatballs: Preheat the broiler.  Mix turkey, scallions, cilantro, egg, sesame oil, soy sauce and several grindings of black pepper in a bowl. I like mixing meatballs with a fork; it seems to work the ingredients into each other well. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Roll tablespoon-sized knobs of the mixture into balls. The mixture is pretty soft; I find it easiest to roll — eh, more like toss the meatballs from palm to palm until they’re roundish — meatballs with damp hands.

Broil for 10 minutes or until browned.  Arrange on a platter (a heated one will keep them warm longer), spoon a little sauce over each meatball, and serve with toothpicks.  Alternatively, you can serve the glaze on the side, to dip the meatballs.

Do ahead: The sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated until needed. If needed, you can rewarm or keep the meatballs warm in a 200-degree oven until ready to serve. I’m storing mine in the fridge overnight and crossing my fingers they’ll taste fresh tomorrow.



Cooking with Cancer – Eat with All Your Senses

David Haas, a researcher and writer about nutrition and how it is beneficial for those battling cancer recently contacted me about writing a guest post and I obliged.  Enjoy!

Cooking with Cancer – Eat with All Your Senses

When the diagnosis confirms cancer, there are a lot of changes to expect in your life.  Some courses of treatment and even things like mesothelioma symptoms can diminish the appetite and make eating a chore, particularly when you feel like all you have to look forward to is a bland diet or simple foods.  However, eating for your health doesn’t need to be difficult or even unappealing.  Whether you’ve just been diagnosed, you’re going through treatments or you are finally in remission, a healthy diet will not only improve your chances of survival; it will help give you the boost you need to get motivated to fight.

A healthy diet has long been touted as the cure for many ills.  While your diet won’t cure cancer, it can improve your odds of keeping it at bay.  Different cancers respond to different antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, but with a few tips, you’ll be able to devise a nutrition plan that best suits your needs.  For many people, food is something done for survival or for pleasure, but that just isn’t good enough of an outlook.  The first thing to do is change how you view food.  What you put into your mouth impacts your entire well-being, and you should think of your food as nourishing the person you want to be.

Food isn’t something to be dreaded.  Food is something to be enjoyed and appreciated as the fuel that takes us where we want to go.  For cancer patients, what you eat is even more important, not just to combat the disease itself but the symptoms as well.  Fatigue and nausea are some of the most common symptoms cancer patients face, and with appetite loss, you can experience other symptoms like dehydration.  Particularly when you’re undergoing treatment, the food you eat needs to motivate you to consume it.

Meat can be particularly harmful when you’re living with cancer, so you may be at a loss for how to get the essential protein and iron you need not to mention B vitamins and zinc.  For the average cancer patient, you’ll need about 55 grams of protein a day to maintain energy levels.  Greek yogurt, eggs, almonds, quinoa and tofu are all excellent sources of protein, and vegetable proteins will not utilize enzymes that could be better used fighting cancer.  Keep in mind that any food that is not helping you on your journey should be eliminated from your diet, and since meat does not contribute anything, you will want to avoid it.

For a simple meal, enjoy a roasted vegetable quinoa.  This recipe is big on flavor and contains members of the allium family – currently under research for their cancer-fighting properties – and vegetables bursting with vitamin A and C to support a healthy immune system.  Quinoa is a lot like rice and packs a nice punch of protein.  As an added bonus, quinoa is not a true grain, so it is an excellent alternative for those with gluten-sensitivity.

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa

1/2 c carrots, diced

1 c bell peppers (any colors), diced

1 c zucchini, diced

1/2 c sweet potato, diced

1 onion

2 tomatoes

3 cloves of garlic

1/2 c of Romano cheese, shredded

1 c quinoa

2 c water

Basil, oregano, salt and pepper to taste

2 T olive oil


Place all vegetables into a large roasting pan, and toss with olive oil and seasoning.  Put the pan in a 450° oven for 15 minutes or until softened.

In the meanwhile, bring two cups of water to a boil.

When the vegetables are done, separate the tomatoes, onion and garlic.  Put them into a blender or food processor, and pulse gently until mixed.

Add the quinoa to the water, and season with salt.  Cook for about 20 minutes, and fluff with a fork when done.  You can use a rice cooker to simplify this process.

Mix the quinoa with the sauce and roasted vegetables.  Add the combined mixture back to the pan, and sprinkle the Romano cheese on top.  Place the lid over the top to allow it to steam for five minutes.

Stir and serve


Cheesy Mini Breakfast Quiches

Mini Breakfast Quiche
I have been trying to eat eggs more often for breakfast but I hate cooking in the morning.  I found this recipe for breakfast quiches that you can freeze after cooking and reheat for a few minutes in the microwave when ready to eat.  No dirty pans involved!    
One quiche has only 100 calories, a whopping 11 grams of protein and is filled with nutrients like fiber, vitamin K, iron and calcium.  It’s extremely tasty too!  By adding spinach to the quiche you knock one serving of vegetables before you even walk out the door.
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I paired one of the quiche’s with a whole grain waffle for a balanced breakfast but it would also be a great with fruit or by itself as a snack.

Mini Breakfast Quiche


1 container  (16 oz.) low fat Cottage Cheese or part skim Ricotta cheese
1 pkg.  (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, well drained
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup  shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
4 eggs, beaten or 1 cup egg substitute
1/3 cup  freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp.  Paul Prudhome’s No Salt Added Magic Seasoning Blend
Non-fat cooking spray
1.  Heat oven to 350ºF.  Spray muffin tin with cooking spray.
2.  Spray non-stick skillet with cooking spray, add onions and mushrooms and saute until onions are translucent and mushrooms are soft.
3.  Mix all ingredients until blended.
4.  Spoon mixture evenly into muffin tin.
5.  Bake 20 min. or until centers are set and edges are slightly browned.  Serving size, 1 quiche.

Nutrition Information per quiche: 104 calories, 5 grams fat, 2.3 grams saturated fat, 81 grams cholesterol, 250 mg sodium, 3.5 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 2 grams sugar, 11 grams protein



Sweet Georgia Brown Chili


I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs, PreventionRD.  Nicole, also a registered dietitian, has tons of chili recipes on her blog and even holds chili contests.  This recipe won the most recent contest so I definitely wanted to try it.

The chili came out great!  This chili recipe differs than most because it’s made with dried ancho chilis, whiskey and is topped with dark chocolate.  It throws you a nice sweet and salty combo.  The ancho chilis and the whiskey give the dish a great depthness.  It’s light enough for a girl but also has enough bold flavor for a guy to like.

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Dried ancho chilis


I love chili because it makes a ton, is easy to freeze, and it goes great with cornbread!

Sweet Georgia Brown Chili

recipe by Stacey McSweeney

2 oz dried ancho chiles, seeded and torn into large chunks
2 cups water
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large green bell peppers, chopped
1 large red bell peppers, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
20 oz 99% lean ground turkey breast
2 Tbsp beef base, whisked with ¼ cup of water
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz) petite diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) + 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
6 oz tomato paste
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 Tbsp ancho chile powder
1 1/2 Tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 Tbsp cocoa
1/2 Tbsp cornstarch, whisked with ¼ cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup whiskey
1.5 oz bittersweet chocolate (60% cacoa), grated


Combine ancho chilis and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil
and simmer over medium-low heat for 5-6 minutes or until tender. Cool
slightly and transfer to a blender. Blend until smooth.

In a large stockpot, heat canola oil over medium-high heat; add
onions, bell peppers, and garlic. Sauté until soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the ground turkey; cook until no longer pink, breaking up meat
with a wooden spoon. Add the beef base paste and mix well until
incorporated throughout the meat and vegetables.

Add the pureed ancho chiles, black beans, diced tomatoes, tomato
sauce, and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Add spices, stirring to
combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for approximately 20
minutes to allow flavors to develop.

Add cornstarch mixture and stir to combine. Let cook for 5 minutes to
allow the mixture to thicken. Add brown sugar and whiskey and let
simmer for about 10 more minutes. Serve garnished with grated
bittersweet chocolate.

Yield: 12 cups.

Nutrition Information (per cup): 213 calories; 15 g. fat; 16 mg
cholesterol; 742 mg sodium; 30 g. carbohydrate; 4 g. fiber; 11
g. protein