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Savory Soup for Dinner

Caulif Soup

Several clients have asked for recipe suggestions this month. As the resident meal planner, grocery shopper and family cook, I am happy to oblige. Below is a delicious soup recipe I often use to ensure my family enjoys nutrient rich vegetables. Pair soup with grilled cheese sandwiches (National Grilled Cheese Day yesterday) or homemade paninis for an easy, delicious Friday night dinner.

The skinny:

  • Chocked full of powerful nutrients, these soups can be an excellent accompaniment for an otherwise average meal.
  • Make a double batch and freeze to save on cooking/clean up time later.
  • Excellent starter food for baby (they like flavor too)
  • Great way to feed picky eaters quality vegetables
  • Nutrients otherwise lost in steamed vegetable water are pureed right into these soups – win-win-win
  • Measure butter or olive oil for all the sandwiches into small ramekin. Then, brush evenly onto the bread. This will evenly coat the bread for crunch and flavor with out losing healthfulness by not monitoring the fat content.

Asparagus Soup ingredients in pot

Savory Soup

4 to 6 stalks of celery

2 medium size onions

About 1 1/2 pounds of broccoli

OR one large head of cauliflower

OR one large bunch of asparagus

6 cups of chicken broth

(use low sodium if needed or 4 cups broth and 2 cups water)

Wash veggies under cool running water

Cut veggies into 2″ chunks

Add all ingredients to large pot

Bring to a boil

Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes

Transfer to blender and blend

 Asparagus soup in belnder

Creamy, delicious, and packed with nutrients. Perfect compliment to a simple tomato grill cheese sandwich or turkey, dijon mustard panini.

I hope you and your family enjoy it as much as we do!

Cauliflower soup and sandwich compressed

Bon appetit!

Money Mojo

Clients and friends know that I have an affinity for personal finance. It appeals to my love of numbers and predilection for planning. As customary, I was watching The Suze Orman Show last week and stumbled upon an enlightening bit of advice.

A 30 year software design veteran had been out of work for a year. After hundreds of resumes and dozens of interviews, she wanted help getting her  “money mojo” back. Suze’s advice? Exercise. I’m not kidding. The guru of accessible and common sense financial advice to millions of Americans is touting exercise as a key ingredient in reclaiming your “money mojo.” Suze’s reasoning was simple: “Employers are attracted to energy” and exercise will help you feel energized. She also cited that this woman in particular spent too much of her energy putting others first (uh-uhm.) She took her dogs for 6 mile walks (admirable) but never exercised just for herself (unfortunate.) Suze consistently advises her audience to place the financial oxygen mask on themselves first – this is just another variation of such advice.

As someone in the fitness journey trenches, none of this is surprising. I have watched many individuals achieve professional success in conjunction with their commitment to physical health. Research is constantly passing my desk in support of financial/professional achievement and healthy living. Walking five times a week, completing your yoga DVD every morning or joining a running club (beginner level) could all mean the difference between being an energized person or seeming depleted. As we search for sources of motivation to continue to live healthfully – this is a great reminder that exercise in fact offers many benefits beyond the physical implications.


Honor Your Body

My girlfriend and I have been doing our best to make periodic yoga dates since the birth of our babies. Our lives are demanding and busy, but by hook or by crook, we have both been able to make it to class and are always happier for it. Recently, our teacher made a comment mid-class that stopped me dead in my tracks: “Honor your body.”


Webster’s defines honor: “to regard or treat (someone) with admiration and respect.” In my estimation, most of us tend to fall into two camps when caring for our bodies. We get wrapped up in the minutiae of caring for our bodies OR we tend to stay lost in the current priority (work/family/stress) and keep healthy living low on the priority list. For all of us in either of these camps, this phrase answers quandaries – large AND small.  Here are a few examples:

  • When you have goon too long with out eating? Honor your body.
  • When you have been debating for months regarding when to start your new exercise program? Honor your body.
  • When you have not taken time to move fully? Honor your body.
  • When you are considering what to have for dinner? Honor your body.
  • When another person is asking too much of you? Honor your body.
  • When your low back (insert chronic pain) is bothering you? Honor your body.
  • When your mental script is saying hurtful things about your appearance? Honor your body.
  • When you are considering cancelling your work out? Honor your body.

This phrase does not encourage indulgent behaviors or neglect of other obligations. You are not fragile or too precious to be pushed. Nor should you break the bank on a gourmet meal every day. “Honor your body” places your health on the agenda and adds a new framework for decision making. Emotion and excuses are removed. Treating your body with admiration and respect is always a good thing. I hope this facilitates easier and healthier decisions this week – you deserve it.


Be the passenger…

I’d like you to recall a time you were NOT the driver (metaphorically speaking). Maybe you attended a professional development course or maybe you enjoyed a guided excursion on vacation. I’m guessing you were able to better focus on your experience while someone else took the reins. An expert’s guidance can allow room for learning and enjoying. When we unburden ourselves with the job of navigating and planning – we free up our energy to benefit.

I encourage you to allow someone or something else to be the driver in some of your healthy living. Part of the joy my clients’ experience is in NOT being the driver. They have other responsibilities in our effort to improve their lives but having a plan during workouts is not one of them.

Below are a few suggestions:

  • Have a big picture calendar plan (writing tasks out for the next two months helps with eliminating decision making later)
  • Take a class – there are several outstanding fitness classes available in Chicagoland. Find one you like, show up and enjoy someone else being in charge.
  • TV or Tablet – when you know you should exercise but can’t bring yourself to get on your cardio equipment, throw in a DVD or search your DVR, Tablet or Streaming Netflix for a quick fitness class led by someone else
  • Hire Blakely FIT

Constipation Cure


Unfortunately, you are not alone. Take a glance at these high fiber foods and enjoy them in your meals this week. Many are delicious and easy to incorporate. Adding fiber rich foods to your diet, increasing your water intake and adding movement to your day can really help your digestive system function optimally. These changes may also aid in the prevention of heart disease and diabetes – win-win-win.

List below courtesy of the Mayo Clinic staff 

(aim for 21-25 grams a day for women and 30 – 38 grams for men) 


                                                                      Serving size    Total fiber (grams)* 

Raspberries    1 cup    8.0 
Pear, with skin    1 medium    5.5 
Apple, with skin    1 medium    4.4 
Strawberries (halves)    1 1/4 cup    3.8 
Banana    1 medium    3.1 
Orange    1 medium    3.1 
Figs, dried    2 medium    1.6 
Raisins    2 tablespoons    1.0 

Grains, Cereal & Pasta

                                                                       Serving size    Total fiber (grams)* 

Spaghetti, whole-wheat, cooked    1 cup    6.2 
Barley, pearled, cooked    1 cup    6.0 
Bran flakes    3/4 cup    5.3 
Oat bran muffin    1 medium    5.2 
Oatmeal, quick, regular or instant, cooked    1 cup    4.0 
Popcorn, air-popped    3 cups    3.5 
Brown rice, cooked    1 cup    3.5 
Bread, rye    1 slice    1.9 
Bread, whole-wheat or multigrain    1 slice    1.9


Legumes, nuts & seeds     

                                                                       Serving size    Total fiber (grams)* 

Split peas, cooked    1 cup    16.3 
Lentils, cooked    1 cup    15.6 
Black beans, cooked    1 cup    15.0 
Lima beans, cooked    1 cup    13.2 
Baked beans, vegetarian, canned, cooked    1 cup    10.4 
Sunflower seed kernels    1/4 cup    3.9 
Almonds    1 ounce (23 nuts)    3.5 
Pistachio nuts    1 ounce (49 nuts)    2.9 
Pecans    1 ounce (19 halves)    2.7


                                                                       Serving size    Total fiber (grams)* 

Artichoke, cooked    1 medium    10.3 
Peas, cooked    1 cup    8.8 
Broccoli, boiled    1 cup    5.1 
Turnip greens, boiled    1 cup    5.0 
Sweet corn, cooked    1 cup    4.2 
Brussels sprouts, cooked    1 cup    4.1 
Potato, with skin, baked    1 medium    2.9 
Tomato paste    1/4 cup    2.7 
Carrot, raw    1 medium    1.7 

*Fiber content can vary between brands.


Hope you have a wonderful week!

Dealing with Myself

As much as I provide support and expertise to my clients, they also help me. Sharing what strategies are effective for each of them helps me compile an arsenal of options for success. Recently, a client made SIGNIFICANT improvements to her healthy living habits. Giddy with pride and joy for the implications to her life, I pressed her with the question: “What is making making the difference between completing your habit and not?” Her answer was honest and endearing. She stated, “Just completing the task is easier than ‘dealing with myself’.” I know exactly what she means and I suspect you do too.  

Instead of making excuses, procrastinating or enduring a self induced guilt trip, she realized that if she just did it – it was easier. This new plan of attack is simple and brilliant. We are often our own greatest obstacle. What a fabulous revelation – “get out of the way and just get it done.” You didn’t need to read this post to understand this concept but you may have needed to read this client’s experience to be inspired to try it for your self.  

These next seven days, whatever the healthy goal, I invite you to just “get ‘er done.” Don’t think, don’t debate, don’t bargain, don’t avoid – just do it. I’m incredibly optimistic you will be quite happy with the results.

Photos of My Fridge

What is so special about my refridgerator that I needed to send you pictures? Nothing, except for one detail – placement. I am always on the look out for painless, simple tricks with powerful results. Here is one of my favorite. Next time you return home from the grocery store, place all of you fresh fruits and vegetables front and center on refrigerator shelves (not in the crisper drawers.) Unlike blueberries and greens, I have never forgotten about cheese or bread simply because it was out of sight in the drawer. Place room temperature fruits and veggies in a bowl on the counter. Seeing your nutrient rich foods is a huge help in ensuring that you actually eat them. Hope this money saving, healthy living tip appeals to you too!


Rest if you must…

Rest if you must, but don’t you quit…
Grandma and Dad Fishing 
During post holiday blues and overzealous fitness routine soreness, I have a few words for you: “Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.” This message has always been very close to my heart as it was first delivered to me by my paternal grandmother (above with my father), a remarkable woman in her own right – authentic farm girl, RN, survivor of the Depression, mother of 5 (before nannies and formula), pleasant, happy, engaging and unequivocally one of the kindest and most resilient women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Over the years my grandmother taught me a lot by how she lived her life and one that has always stuck with me was: “rest if you must, but don’t you quit.” 

Changing your life for the better is hard – rewarding and worth every drop of sweat in the end – but, still hard. So, during what might be a precarious week for New Year’s Resolution commitment, I implore you NOT to quit. I’ve attached a version of the poem below. I do hope that “rest if you must, but don’t you quit” will help you in a challenging moment. This being “healthy and happy” journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Taking a break here and there, or reevaluating your plan to find better support or more realistic timelines are good decisions. Think of individuals that inspire you when the going gets tough, keep your chin up and keep on with the good fight. You can do this.

And in the vein of my grandmother, THANK YOU. Thank you so much for reading. It is an honor to have your attention and feedback. All my best on those resolutions! ~Michelle

I’d love to see you at the open house: 

Open House Sunday, January 22nd from 10:30am to noon. 

Email to reserve your space

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit-Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,

As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many a fellow turns about

When he might have won had he stuck it out.

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow -You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than

It seems to a faint and faltering man;

Often the struggler has given up

Whe he might have captured the victor’s cup;

And he learned too late when the night came down,

How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out –

The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,

It might be near when it seems afar;

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit -It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

What the Today Show and New York Times Missed

During my warm-up at the gym, the Today Show caught my attention. Dr. Nancy Snyderman and Joy Bauer, RD were discussing the results of a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine that addresses the hormonal implications to dieting. They gave some good suggestions and validated the incredible challenge that overweight people experience in the efforts to lose weight. After my work out, I went to my computer and read through the New York Times article referenced. Columnist, Tara Parker-Pope discussed the topic in detail in her article The Fat Trap. The overwhelming data states that we are more challenged after losing weight via intense dieting. Our hormones change and cravings alter. When you cut back on your calorie intake significantly your body tries to save you from the famine (because why else would you reduce your food intake so drastically). It alters protocol and holds on to body fat. This coverage COULD be demoralizing to another reader, but my hope is that you know better. What the well intentioned authors missed was strength training. Not only does strength training have significant positive implications for your bones, brain, hormones, pregnancy, physique and weight maintenance it is the only method that I know of to increase the number of calories you burn while at rest. And that is a message that needs to be delivered.


Call it what you like, resistance training, lifting weights, toning, strengthening, adding muscle. Whatever the term, the idea is to add muscle mass to your body to increase your metabolism (calorie expenditure).  This is still being overlooked in the mainstream media as an important part of the weight loss / being healthy solution- I want you to know better. Whether it’s joining me for personal training or push ups and resista-band squats in your living room, we can enjoy the tremendous benefits of strength training. Hopefully, success will spread the word, one person at a time.

(Well, maybe a few at a time, I did email NYT author – will keep you posted if I receive a reply)

Resolution Solution

I have given this a lot of thought. What single gem will really make a difference in your 2012 resolution? My advice…

Get Help

Whatever your health goal for 2012, the best suggestion I can give you is to enlist help in your endeavors. Maybe, the initial reaction is “Thanks, but I can do it on my own.” Forgive my direct reply but “Why haven’t you?” The truth is, healthy living is simple. Simple, not easy. We know what we should be doing and yet we don’t. The missing link is acknowledging that your goal is important and that you need help to get there. What do we do in other areas of our lives? We get quality help and our lives are better for it. You might trim your bangs on occasion but you probably don’t give yourself a full haircut. Below are a few examples to get your juices flowing.


  • Limit my risks for heart disease/diabetes
  • Finally lose 5/20/50 pounds
  • Help my overweight husband/partner/children
  • Feel as fit as I used to
  • Have my body be my best fashion asset (even with Prada in the closet)

Decide your weakness:

  • I’m scared to go to the doctor to find out my risks/blood work
  • I’m tired of failing
  • Nagging ends in no one being happy
  • I’m too tired to work out
  • I’m intimidated at the gym

Enlist help:

  • Have a friend or relative go with you to the doctor appointment with questions written down and notes taken during appointment(s)including follow up care
  • Sign up for class or personal training with a very optimistic, positive leader with substantial success record
  • Find family/couple activities that take you out of the driver seat (bowling, parent/tot/couple dance classes, open gym at park district, couples tennis lessons)
  • list your activity and eating differences between then and now and sign up for help in those areas
  • Sign up for shorter duration and ultra beginner activities to start
  • Hire a trainer (I’m never intimidated at the gym and it rubs off on my clients)

Then, what?

1. Start working with in your new system. Remember, I said simple, not easy.

2. Evaluate. Is your help helping? If not, find another helper.

I wish you all the best in identifying your needs and accomplishing your goals. Need help with your help? I’m just a phone call or email away.Happy Happy New Year to you and yours!