Healthy Habits: Swap Refined for Whole


You are probably thinking, I already know this. I hear it all the time! And, you probably have. Ads, commercials, pamphlets, doctors, etc. I’m sure they have all told you. However, did they give any reasons other than “It’s healthier.” I wanted to know exactly why it’s better for you. Why shouldn’t someone continue to only eat white bread, white rice, regular pasta? While I personally like the flavor of whole grains better than that of refined, I know a lot of people who don’t. So, here are the facts. This is why you should make the switch:

Whole grain, just by the name, indicates that no part of the grain is removed. This means that their bran and germ are still intact giving it more fiber, protein, magnesium, selenium, potassium, etc.

Refined grain, you got it, has the bran and germ removed and thus is lacking in the above mentioned nutrients. This makes consuming refined grains a way of depriving your body of essential nutrients.

Here’s a couple of charts that shows the nutrients in just some of the different grains:

*These amounts are based on FDA standard serving sizes, 45g.

Okay, I think we all understand that there are a lot of nutrients that can be had by consuming whole grains. But why is this important, how do the added nutrients help you on a daily basis? Well, the nutrients provide energy giving you strength to get through your day, the fiber makes you feel full causing you to consume less and helps with your digestive system. If you have problems with your blood sugar, eating whole grains will help with spikes due to your body taking longer to digest the grains. Regular whole grain consumption is also known to lower triglyceride levels which your heart will thank you for, oh, and it helps with your blood pressure too. Another thank you from your heart!

So we have:

  • Energy
  • Essential vitamins and minerals
  • Healthy Digestive System
  • Weight Management
  • Level Blood Sugar
  • Lower Triglycerides
  • Lower Blood Pressure
  • Happier Heart

That is just a non-technical list. However, I think that is enough to show the importance of making the switch.

Just a few examples of where you can easily find whole grains:

  • Brown Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Barley
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Wild Rice
  • 100% Whole Wheat/Grain Pastas, Breads, Crackers

 You may not like your first experience with whole grain pasta or bread, but don’t give up after your first experience. Different brands taste differently. And remember, just because it is brown or says wheat on the package does not mean that the product is “whole,” in fact, if it doesn’t say whole grain or whole wheat, it most likely contains mainly refined grains. Be sure to read labels!

All information complied for this post came from the following resources:

American Diabetes Association – Whole Grain Foods

Mayo Clinic – Whole Grains: Hearty Options for a Healthy Diet (This site cool has interactive pictures! Well, cool if you like “science-y” things like me. . .)

Whole Grains Council – What are the Health Benefits? (If you are interested in more in-depth explanations, this site contains many statistics of national studies proving the benefits.)

Wikipedia – Whole Grain

Oven Roasted Cauliflower


Not a veggie fan? You’ll rethink that decision after trying this recipe for roasted cauliflower! There is nothing bland or mushy about these. The cauliflower’s natural sweetness comes out and it’s texture turns crisp as it roasts!


  • 1 head of cauliflower, washed and broken into florets
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 C olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Place florets in a bowl that can be topped with a lid. Add the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and garlic. Toss until cauliflower is completely coated.
  3. Place florets in a single layer on jelly roll pan or baking dish. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Place pan/dish into oven and bake uncovered for 20-30, or until top is lightly brown. Stir every ten minutes. At 15 minutes, sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the cauliflower. Use a fork to test for desired tenderness.
  6. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Cornbread Chili Bake


What if you could find a comfort food that was packed with protein and fiber and was low in sodium, sugar, and fat?? That would be great, right?! Well, here is one to start off your collection! This cornbread chili bake has all of the nutrients of a “health food” and all of the taste of “comfort food!”

Plus, you can put a Healthy Habit to good use by ridding the ground beef of the excess fat that isn’t needed or wanted!

Draining the Ground Beef

Make Sure Beef Mixture Simmers to Allow all the Flavors to Blend!

If using all canned vegetables, try and get the “no salt added” varieties to keep the amount of sodium lower!

Shredded Cheese to Top It Off🙂


  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 C salsa
  • 1 – 8oz can no salt added tomato sauce
  • 1 – 16oz can no salt added whole kernel corn or 2 C frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 C  no salt added black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 C chili beans
  • 1/2 C reduced fat cheddar or part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 – 8oz package corn muffin mix, plus ingredients called for on box


  1. Brown ground beef and onion in a medium skillet until beef is completely cooked. Drain fat from skillet and pat beef with paper towel.
  2. Transfer beef to a strain and pour hot water of the beef allowing the excess fat to drain off. Let drain for a couple of minutes. While beef is draining, wipe down pan with paper towels. For a more detailed description of this process please refer to this post; Healthy Habits: Blotting and Straining Ground Beef.
  3. Return beef back to skillet and stir in oregano, garlic, and chili powder.
  4. Add salsa, tomato sauce, corn, black beans, and chili beans. Cook until mixture is hot and bubbly. Stir in the cheese.
  5. Make corn muffin mix according to directions on box.
  6. Pour beef mixture into a grease 2 1/2 quart casserole dish.
  7. Spread the corn muffin mixture of the top. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until cornbread is golden brown.
  8. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Parmesan Oregano Focaccia


*Sorry that this post didn’t make it up yesterday like it was supposed to. We had some internet issues that have finally been resolved!!

I hope all of you had a wonderful relaxing weekend! Now back to the work week. Do you ever feel like all you can throw together on a Monday evening is a simple pasta meal?? Well, I certainly do. That is how this recipe came into existence. All I had planned for dinner was a simple pasta meal because of time and available ingredients. I wanted to make it more “upscale.” With the use of a bread machine, (which I love and highly recommend you get if you do not own one,) you can throw all of the ingredients together and let it do the work. As soon as the dough is done, you just have to complete a few simple steps and it’s in the oven creating amazing aromas and hearty appetites!

All Pressed, Poked and Ready to Rise!

Out of the Oven and Ready to Eat!

Ingredients for Bread:

  • 1 C warm water (about 80 degrees F)
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 C bread flour
  • 1 tsp dry Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp instant dry yeast
Ingredients for Topping:
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • garlic powder
  • 1/3 C grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  1. Place ingredients in bread pan according to directions of bread machine.
  2. Select Pizza Dough cycle.
  3. When dough is done, preheat oven to 400, then use oiled hands and press dough evenly into a greased 9×13 pan.
  4. Make indentations in the dough using your fingertips.
  5. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes or until doubled in size.
  6. In a skillet, warm oil over low heat and stir in oregano and garlic. Remove from heat.
  7. Spoon the topping mixture evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  8. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until bread starts to turn light golden brown.

Baked Gingerbread Donuts


Saturdays seem to be the only days that I have any time to make “fun” breakfast food. The rest of the week it’s cereal, oatmeal, bagels, etc. So, I like to take every opportunity I get to try new breakfast foods. I came across this recipe in my search for just that. I know that Christmas is over and gingerbread is “out of season,” but I love the flavor! And I finally have a donut pan, how could I not give these a try! Actually, to be quite honest with you, I don’t like donuts, at least I didn’t think I liked them. Well, I still don’t like the fried kind. There’s just something about them that turns me off to even the idea of eating them. However, I have discovered a new “like.” I like baked donuts and these gingerbread donuts are addicting! Made with wheat flour, applesauce, and very little sugar (minus the frosting!), these donuts could actually be called healthy. The non-stick pan was super easy to use. The donuts just popped right out and it washed up great. All the more reason to try them!🙂

Piping in the Batter

All Ready to Go in the Oven!

Choices, choices. . .powdered sugar or . . .

. . .glazed! YUM!

Baked Gingerbread Donuts

Adapted from Pinch of Yum


  • 1 C white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp reduced-sugar maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp skim milk
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
Optional Glaze:
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 C confectioner’s sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 35o.
  2. Mix together all dry ingredients.
  3. Whisk in wet ingredients.
  4. Pour batter into a gallon-sized bag and cut the corner off or use a pastry bag. Fill cavities about 2/3 full. It’s kind of hard to measure since they’re mini!
  5. Bake for 5-9 minutes, or until they just start to turn a light golden brown.
  6. **Cool for a couple of minutes and then sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.
  7. Find a nice hot cup of coffee or a cold glass of milk and enjoy!!

**If you are making the glaze as well, for these instructions:

  1. Let donuts cool completely. This will allow the glaze to harden quickly when applied.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter and brown sugar together over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Let boil for 2 minutes.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon milk, stir, and bring back to a boil.
  4. Add powdered sugar, stir, and if the glaze is too thick, add the second tablespoon of milk to thin it.
  5. Turn the heat to low and keep it the pan on the heat while glazing. The glaze will begin to crystallize if removed from the heat.
  6. Glaze donuts and follow step seven above!🙂

Cranberry Wheat Bran Muffins


These muffins are a perfect way to start off this week’s Healthy Habit. They contain 1/4 C of ground flax as is, but you can adjust the amount to fit your tastes. The subtle nutty flavor of the flax pairs well with the wheat bran and makes for a nice, hearty breakfast muffin washed down with a cold glass of milk. At least it sure tasted good with milk this morning for breakfast!🙂

Cranberry Wheat Bran Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins


  • 1 1/2 C wheat bran
  • 1 1/4 C low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/3 C unsweetened applesauce or canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/3 C sugar substitute such as Stevia
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 C whole wheat or all purpose flour
  • 1/4 C ground flax seed
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 C dried cranberries or raisins


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin tin or line with paper muffin liners.
  2. Mix together the buttermilk and wheat bran a small bowl and let stand for 15 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together the applesauce/pumpkin, egg, brown sugar, sugar substitute, and vanilla. Add the buttermilk/wheat bran mixture in and stir together.
  4. Sift together flour, powder, soda, and salt. Add in the flax seed. Stir flour mixture into buttermilk mixture until just blended.
  5. Fold in cranberries/raisins and divide batter evenly into muffin tins.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

Healthy Habits: Learn to Love Flaxseed


This week’s Healthy Habit impacts my own daily living. I suffer from joint pain on a regular basis and have noticed a significant change in both the frequency and the intensity of the pain once I started incorporating flax seed into my diet. Because of this, I have been interested in learning more about the benefits of flax and the different ways in which it helps our bodies. It is such a simple step that can be taken to increase our overall health. Here are some of the things that I have learned. (I will try not to get too technical!)

Here are just a few of the ways flax seed (especially ground) can benefit your body:

  • Improve digestive health – high in fiber, omega-3’s, and omega-6’s
  • Helps reduce total blood cholesterol – omega-3’s and omega-6’s
  • Promotes weight loss and cardiovascular health – fiber makes you feel full, the flax emulsifies fats before the body absorbs them
  • Boost immune system and relieve inflammation (pain in joints) – because it strengthens the immune system, it seems to suppress auto immune diseases
  • Contains lignans, which are thought to have antioxidant properties that may reduce the activity of cell-damaging free radicals, thus having anti-cancer properties
  • For a longer, more technical list, please visit this page.
Whole Seed or Ground?
– Though both types offer benefits to your body, your body digests the ground seeds easier. This ensures that your body is able to reap every benefit of the seed instead of ridding itself of the seed before taking in all of the nutritional value.
How much should you have a day?
– Though the serving size varies depending on the source of information, most doctors agree that you should try to get 2-3 tablespoons into your diet on a daily basis.

Simple ways to incorporate it into your daily diet:

  • Mix a tablespoon of it into your oatmeal or other hot cereal
  • Mix a tablespoon of it into your yogurt
  • Sprinkle on salads and soups
  • Add a tablespoon to your smoothie
  • Try mixing in a teaspoon to sauces
I hope you have found this brief overview to be helpful. If you have any questions or would like to be pointed in the direction of more articles, please e-mail me! I would be glad to give you more information regarding the flaxseed.

All information for this post was compiled from the following:

Livestrong – The Benefits of Flaxseed

Mayo Clinic – Ground Flaxseed: Better than Whole?

UC Berkeley Wellness Guide – Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil

Webmd – The Benefits of Flaxseed

Do you have any experience with using flaxseed in your diet? What have you discovered?

Chewy Peanut Butter Granola Bars


I hope you all had a good Valentine’s Day filled with making fun memories with friends and family! How many of you were feeling a little sluggish this morning due to the sugar overload yesterday?? Well, here is a snack that will  keep  you going strong throughout the day. Packed with protein, fiber, and complex carbs, they are  just right to grab for a quick breakfast, the perfect pick-me-up in the afternoon, a great post run refuel. . .I think you get the point! Because we go through so many granola bars at our house, we have tried out many different recipes. This one, however, is still one of my husband’s favorites. They are quick to throw together and only take about 25 minutes to bake. That makes them one of my favorites, too!🙂

Chewy Peanut Butter Granola Bars


  • 2 C rolled oats
  • 1/2 C wheat germ
  • 1/4 C flax seed
  • 1 C whole wheat or all purpose flour
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C honey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2/3 C all natural peanut butter (we prefer chunky!)
  • 1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
  • milk or water, if needed to moisten


  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9×13 baking pan
  2. Mix together the oats, wheat germ, flax seed, flour, brown sugar, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
  3. Add in the honey, egg, and peanut butter. Stir together until thoroughly combined.
  4. If the batter is still very dry and it is hard to incorporate all of the ingredients together, add milk or water, a tablespoon at a time until ingredients are completely mixed together. (The dryness of the batter has a lot to do with the moisture content of the peanut butter you are using.)
  5. Stir in chocolate chips, optional.
  6. Bake in 350 oven for 20-30 minutes or until edges begin to turn golden brown.
  7. Let cool 5-10 minutes and then cut bars.
  8. Let bars cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Fudgy Brownies with Raspberry Swirled Cream Cheese


Valentine’s Day! A time for flowers and indulging in chocolate. . .and oftentimes feeling guilty over the chocolate indulgence! What if you could indulge in chocolate without feeling any guilt? That would make the day perfect wouldn’t it?! Try these brownies and you can have that perfect day.😉

These brownies are both low in fat and sugar and they are quick to make using a boxed brownie mix.

Fudgy Brownies with Raspberry Swirled Cream Cheese


  • 1 box of reduced-fat brownie mix (20.5 oz)
  • 1/2 C canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 egg


  • 1 8oz reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 80z container reduced-fat whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 TBS vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C raspberry or strawberry preserves, warmed
  • 1/4 C fat-free hot fudge ice cream topping, optional
  • confectioner’s sugar for dusting, optional


  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9×13 pan.
  2. Mix together brownie mix, water, pumpkin, and egg.
  3. Spread batter into pan.
  4. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Make sure to not over bake!
  5. Let cool on rack until completely cooled.
  6. Meanwhile, beat together cream cheese and whipped topping in stand mixer until smooth. Blend in vanilla.
  7. Once the cake has cooled, spread frosting onto bars. Warm preserves in microwave for 15-30 seconds.
  8. Spoon the preserves randomly over the frosting. Take a knife and gently swirl the preserves through the frosting.
  9. Cut the bars into squares or use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to make them more festive.
  10. Drizzle the fudge topping over the top of each brownie and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

What are some of your favorite Valentine’s Day treats?