Dried Fig, Goat Cheese, and Apple Galette

I attended a meeting last September where I’m sure I ate my weight in fresh and dried California figs. This recipe for Dried Fig, Goat Cheese, and Apple Galette is a result of my fig enthusiasm, and it will be on the table this year at Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season!

Note: I worked with California Figs on this paid post.

fig, apple, and goat cheese galette

Dried Fig, Goat Cheese, and Apple Galette is perfect for any meal.

Fun Facts About Figs

Clearly, I have a thing for figs, mostly because they are delicious. But I have come to appreciate figs for other reasons, too.

• Figs are flowers. Yes, you read that right. The flowers from fig trees are actually found inside the pear-shaped bloom they produce. The flowers develop into the delicious, sweet fruit.

• Figs grow best where it’s warm, dry, and sunny, so it makes sense that, in the U.S., California grows all the dried figs and 98% of the fresh figs for commercial use. The San Joaquin Valley is the perfect place to grow the sweetest, most plump figs. Yay for California!

• Figs are the only fruit to fully ripen and partially dry while they are still hanging on the trees. When they are fully dried, they can last six to eight months in air-tight containers.

• California Dried Golden Figs is the generic term for several lighter-colored varieties that all tend to have a slightly nutty and buttery flavor. Mission Figs, which are grown only in California, have a dark purple skin and a deep, earthy flavor.

Piece of dried fig, goat cheese, and apple galette.

Dried figs pair well with goat cheese, apples, and a buttery crust.

Why Dried Figs are Healthy

Figs are tasty, and they are good for you, too. Figs are naturally sweet and contain no added sugar. They also pack fiber to boost eating satisfaction.

Here’s something you may not know. Figs supply bone-building nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Plus, their negligible sodium levels and their relatively high potassium content help to keep blood pressure in check as part of a balanced eating plan.


Read this for simple ways to cut back on sugar intake.


Dried Fig, Goat Cheese, and Apple Galette

Don’t be put off by the fancy French name. “Galette” translates into “free-form pie that doesn’t have to look perfect.” That’s not entirely accurate, of course, but this is true: galettes are for people like me who hate to fuss in kitchen and want to make a dish that’s slightly out of the box. If you want to know more about the real differences between galettes, tarts, and pies, check out this article.

Dried Fig, Goat Cheese, and Apple Galette is a mixture of sweet and savory, which is a tasty combination for any holiday meal. The crust is to die for, and it’s simple to make.

The galette is a special dish that your friends and family will surely appreciate. You can make it a day ahead and gently heat in the oven at 300˚F just before serving. Here are some other ideas for make-ahead holiday dishes.

I hope you enjoy this galette as much as we do in our house!

Whole dried fig, goat cheese, apple galette topped with fresh rosemary.

Galettes don’t need to look perfect to taste delicious!

Dried Fig, Goat Cheese, and Apple Galette

This sweet and savory fig tart is perfect for your holiday table!
Prep Time35 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr 20 mins
Course: Appetizer, Dessert, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, French
Keyword: apple, California figs, dried figs, galette, goat cheese, holiday food, Thanksgiving
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup ice water mixed with 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 10 California Dried Golden Figs
  • 2 medium baking apples, such as Cortland
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup fig jam
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1 small or medium egg
  • 1 tablespoon ice water

Instructions

  • Add 1 cup flour, cornmeal, 2 tablespoons sugar and salt to a large food processor. Pulse to blend. 
  • Add the butter and pulse until the dough forms small crumbs about the size of peas. 
  • Add the water/vinegar mixture and pulse until it forms larger crumbs, being careful to not overmix. The dough should not come together as a ball. 
  • On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. 
  • Thirty minutes before removing the dough, preheat the oven to 400˚F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  
  • In the meantime, cut the stem off of the figs and slice figs into 1/4-inch pieces.
  • Peel and core the apples, cut into ¼-inch slices and place in a medium mixing bowl with the lemon juice. Coat the fruit completely with the lemon juice.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together ¼ cup sugar and the flour.  Add the sugar mixture to the apples and toss to coat. 
  • When one hour is up, remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to sit on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes. Roll the dough into a 12-inch round, which doesn’t have to be perfectly round! Carefully transfer the dough to the baking sheet. 
  • Spread the fig jam on the dough, leaving a 2-inch border (you will be folding this part of the crust up).  Sprinkle the goat cheese on top of the jam.  Sprinkle the thyme on top of the cheese. Arrange the apple mixture any way you like on top of the jam, and top the apples with the sliced figs. 
  • Pleat the dough every two inches until all sides are folded and the galette has formed. 
  • In a small bowl, whisk the egg and water.  Using a pastry brush, dab the top of the crust with the egg mixture. (Don’t use all of the mixture or the dough will get soggy.)  Sprinkle the crust with 1 tablespoon of sugar. 
  • Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the fruit mixture is bubbling. 
    Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

California Figs Cookbook

If you’re like me and you can’t get enough figs, check out the latest California Figs Cookbook. It contains 62 recipes and gorgeous photos that will make your mouth water. The book makes a wonderful gift, and you can buy it at http://www.CaliforniaFigs.com.

California figs cookbook
dried fig, goat cheese, and apple galette pinterest

 

Why It’s OK to Eat Refined Grains

Chopped tomatoes, basils and herbs on top of sliced baguette.

You love white bread, pasta, and rice, but given the push by nutrition experts to increase whole grain intake, you may feel bad for preferring, and eating, the refined kind. You can stop feeling guilty now! Research has discovered why it’s OK to eat refined grains. 

Refined grains vs. whole grains 

Refined grains undergo milling, a process that removes the bran and germ from the whole grain. As a result of milling, refined grains have a finer texture and a longer shelf life. The downside is that milling removes some of the fiber, iron, and many B vitamins found in whole grains.

Golden wheat in the field on a sunny day.

Refined grains undergo milling, but that’s not the whole story.

Good news about refined grains

Refined grains are often fingered for contributing to chronic health problems, but a 2019 study has found they are not to blame. Research shows that when refined grains are taken as a group, there is no evidence linking them with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, or dying early.

Perhaps the company refined grains keep is the problem. The influence of refined grains on health are often lumped in with the effects of a person’s overall diet, which may not be particularly nutritious. 

Balanced eating patterns matter most when it comes to avoiding chronic health conditions. It’s likely that a steady diet of saturated fat, sodium, added sugar, and inadequate fiber is more likely to blame for common illnesses than a piece or two of white bread and a serving of rice every day. 

 

Bowl of white pasta topped with shrimp and chopped parsley.

If you love white pasta, it’s OK to make it part of a balanced eating plan.

Nutrients found in refined grains

Most refined grains sold in the U.S. are made from enriched flour. That means they supply added iron, and four B vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid.  Americans get much of their iron and B vitamins from enriched grains, such as breakfast cereal, bread, and pasta.

Folic acid, a B vitamin that’s added to refined grains, is very important to help prevent neural tube defects (NTD) that occur early in pregnancy, when a woman may not know she is expecting. Since the US started requiring folic acid fortification in 1998, the prevalence of babies being born with a NTD had decreased by 35%.  

Of course, all refined grains are not created equal; some are more nutritious than others.  Bread, cereal, pasta, and rice provide more nutrients than cookies, cake, and chips, which most people should save for treats. 

Small cupcakes with different colored frosting.

Cupcakes, cake, candy, cookies, and other sweets are treats, and not necessarily everyday foods.

Is starch good for you?

Shunning grain foods is fashionable, but I don’t advise it. In addition to vitamins and minerals, grains contain complex carbohydrates your body needs.

Resistant starch is found in foods such as white rice, white pasta, and potatoes.  Bacteria in the gut feed on resistant starch and produce compounds that support gut health and overall health.

Retrograde starch is a type of resistant starch formed when starchy foods, such as rice and pasta, are cooked and then cooled. Cooked and cooled grains have more resistant starch than when warm.  Reheating cooked and cooled foods does not decrease retrograde starch content. 

Turkey lettuce with avocado and tomato on white bread.

White bread is an important source of iron and B vitamins.

How many servings of grains should you eat every day?

While it’s OK to eat refined grains, people who follow a 2,000-calorie eating plan require at least three servings of whole grains out of a total daily suggested intake of six grain servings

Experts suggest eating half your grains as whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, breakfast cereal, and brown rice.  Whole grains generally contain more fiber and higher levels of certain nutrients than their more refined counterparts, and they may help with weight control. 

Bottom line on grains

There’s room for refined grains, such as white rice, bread, and pasta, in a healthy diet. Save sweets, crackers, and chips for occasional indulgences, however.

Overall, a nutritious, enjoyable eating plan matters most for supporting health. No single food, or food group, is problematic for most people. 

why it's OK to eat white bread, white pasta, and white rice

Easy Baked Fish in Foil Recipe

Cooking in aluminum foil packets is fun! We usually grill foil packets of meat, fish, and vegetables for summer meals, but you can bake fish in foil indoors, too. This easy baked fish in foil recipe makes it simpler to include seafood two times a week, and clean up is a breeze! 

Baked fish cooked in a foil packet topped with tomatoes next to roasted asparagus and two slices of whole wheat bread and butter.

Cooking in a foil packet keeps fish moist.

How to bake fish in foil in the oven

Foil packets, also known as foil parcels, help to keep fish moist when cooking. A foil packet seals in juices from the fish and the tomatoes, infusing this dish with great taste.

Canned tomatoes are a staple in my kitchen. They are convenient, nutritious, and delicious. You can use any type of diced canned tomato you like in this recipe, but I prefer fire-roasted for their intense flavor. I’ve also used two cups of fresh cherry tomatoes sliced in half in place of canned.

You can bake frozen fish in foil! 

Did you forget to take the fish out of the freezer? Not a problem. 

You can prepare this fish dish, and others, with frozen fish that you don’t have to thaw first! That’s good to know so that you can keep frozen fish fillets in the freezer for easy weeknight dinners.


I don’t always have the exact ingredients that recipes call for, and I’ve learned to improvise. Check out my tips for ingredient substitutions and swaps


Uncooked breaded fish fillets in baking pan pictured with canned diced tomatoes.

It’s possible to use frozen fish fillets and make prep even easier!

The health benefits of eating fish

Fish and other seafood contain omega-3 fats, which are associated with heart, eye, and brain health, and are particularly important during pregnancy and early life. Fish is also relatively high in protein for the calories, as long as you don’t fry it or smother it in fatty sauces.  For example, one serving of this fish dish supplies 24 grams of protein – nearly half of what many adults need in a day – for about 200 calories. 

Experts suggest that adults eat at least eight ounces of seafood a week; children need less. Pregnant and breastfeeding women require eight to 12 ounces of seafood weekly.  Most Americans, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, do not consume the suggested amount of seafood


It’s easy to include the suggested amount of seafood with easy fish recipes like this one for tuna burgers.


How to get your kids to eat more fish 

A child’s taste buds, and sense of smell, is much better than an adult’s, and certain foods can be overwhelming at first. Oily fish, such as salmon, may turn kids off because of its strong taste, and mild white fish, such as cod and haddock, are typically better for beginners. Adding vegetables, such as canned tomatoes or mild, yogurt-based sauces to fish dishes may also improve fish acceptance. 

Believe me, it hasn’t always been easy to get my kids to like fish, but all three of them loved this recipe from an early age. Be patient with children who turn their noses up to fish, or any other food.  Include fish on the menu on a regular basis and don’t badger them to eat it. They are more likely to come around to eating seafood when the pressure is off and they see you enjoying fish dishes! 


Read: Tips for getting kids to eat more seafood


Baking dish lined with aluminum foil with uncooked fish fillets topped with canned tomatoes.

Simple, delicious, and nutritious, baked fish in foil is the perfect weeknight dinner. 

Easy Baked Fish in Foil Recipe

Twenty five minutes is all it takes to make this tasty fish dish perfect for weeknight meals! 
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: easydinnerrecipe, fishinfoil, foilpacket
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 202kcal
Author: ewardrd

Ingredients

  • 1 pound breaded cod, haddock or other white fish fillets
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes, not drained
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400˚F. 
  • Line a medium baking dish with a sheet of foil big enough to make a packet, about 12 to 14 inches long. Place fish in the baking dish and top with tomatoes, olive oil, and parsley. 
  • Fold the sides of the foil inwards around the fish, and fold in the top and bottom of the foil. Pinch the foil closed to create a package.
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes or until fish is flaky and opaque. When cooked, open the packet carefully to avoid spilling the juices. Serve immediately. 

Notes

Nutrition Information: Per serving: 202 calories; 8 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat); 54 milligrams cholesterol; 504 milligrams sodium; 7 grams carbohydrate; 0 grams fiber; 24 grams protein.
easy baked fish in foil recipe pinterest

Declutter Your Diet for Better Health

What with the popularity of Marie Kondo’s books and her streaming series about decluttering, purging unwanted objects is on my mind. While I struggle with clutter on a daily basis, Kondos’ simple belief – tidying up helps to calm you down – works for me. In keeping with her approach, it pays to declutter your diet for better health, too.

Cup of tea with slice of lemon.

Reducing stress may help prevent mindless munching, and may reduce your blood pressure, too.

Why getting organized reduces stress-eating 

Does this sound familiar? You’re tired and hungry after a busy day, and you’re faced with a disorderly kitchen. With little energy left to make dinner, or prep food for future meals, you give in to temptation and eat whatever is on hand.

When you’re feeling stressed about the mess, your brain does not want to deal with the dishes in the sink, the mess on the counter, and a disorganized refrigerator. Your brain wants pleasure, and food or alcohol are the quickest ways to satisfy that craving for feeling better. 

You can’t quash every food craving, but you can control your home environment as much as possible to better resist the urge to splurge.

Just thinking about getting organized to improve your eating habits can be stressful, but it’s also rewarding when you take small steps to get more order in your life.

Organize your kitchen to declutter your diet for better health and lose weight 

A tidy refrigerator and orderly cabinets help you find food fast, and it also curbs overspending because you are more aware of what food you have on hand, and what you need to buy.

Tidy kitchen.

For some people, a tidy kitchen encourages healthier food choices.

 


Read: Why clutter causes stress


I’m not perfect at kitchen organization, but I’m getting better. In my defense, I live with three family members who have their own ideas about tidiness.  However, there are some things I do regularly to stay on track with healthy eating:

• Empty the fridge, freezer, and cabinets. Throw away really old food, but also be aware that the dates on packaged foods (not fresh, perishable foods like meat, poultry, and seafood) are about food quality and not food safety. 

• When you restock shelves, organize food in categories. For example, group all canned products in one place and by type. Check the dates on foods and put the newest in the back.

• Avoid stuffing the refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards. You need to see what you have on hand to use it up, and to prevent buying more of the same.

• Invest in sturdy air-tight containers for sugar, flour, and other grains, such as cereal. Transfer foods to these containers and label them clearly. This saves space, improves organization, and keeps food fresher for longer.

• Use under shelf organizers to save space and tiered risers for canned goods and other packaged foods so that you can always see what you have on hand.

• Keep treats out of sight, and healthier foods in the open. The old adage “Out of sight, out of mind” really works. For instance, stash cookies and brownies in the freezer and put open bags of chips in the cupboard, and leave an inviting bowl of fresh whole fruit on the counter.


Read: 12 DIY projects to clean up your eating habits


Make a plan and stop stress-eating 

Yay! Your kitchen is in order, or at least it’s a bit tidier.  It’s time to plan healthier meals and snacks.

Receipt and variety of foods from grocery store.

Shopping on a regular basis is key to organizing your kitchen and meal planning.

 

• Consider meal prep on the weekend for the busy days ahead. However, if you can’t devote a few hours to the week’s meals on a Saturday or Sunday, you can always assemble balanced, simple meals and snacks in very little time. Marie Kondo’s goal is joy. Wasting food makes me sad, so I do my best to use up what would go to waste, which is part of managing your food better.

• Once you have an eating plan in place, make a list of food you need for better meals and snacks in the days ahead. It’s easier to shop for ingredients when working from a list.

• I’m not against treats like chocolate, ice cream, and chips, but if having these foods in the house triggers you to overeat, don’t buy them.


Read: Dozens of tips to reduce food waste and save more money


How to prevent mindless munching

It’s not always possible to avoid eating on the run, but when you’re home, I highly recommend sitting at a table.

Eating at the kitchen or dining room table, and off of a plate or out of a bowl, allows you to eat more mindfully than when standing at the counter or sitting in front of the TV or computer screen. Increasing your awareness of eating may help you to eat more nutritious foods in the right portions for you.

declutter your diet for better health

13 Delicious Mocktails

Basil Lemonade Spritzer

Basil Lemonade Spritzer

Reasons to Enjoy Zero-Proof Drinks 

Mocktails – zero-proof, non-alcoholic beverages – are popular with people who need to avoid alcohol, and they are gaining ground with others, too.

Studies show giving up alcohol improves sleep and energy level and saves money. Moreover, drinking less may also make weight loss and long term weight control easier because alcoholic beverages have calories that you may not need.

Health experts suggest that women limit their alcohol intake, which may help reduce their risk for breast cancer.

Whatever your goals, it never hurts to drink less alcohol.

I asked my friends for their favorite mocktail recipes, and they are amazing. Enjoy!


Why taking a break from alcohol is a good idea


 

Sparkling Pomegranate Apple Cider Cocktail

Sparkling Pomegranate Apple Cider

 

Pomegranate Adds Punch to Mocktails 

Festive Pomegranate Cherry Spritzer from Sara Haas

Sparkling Cherry Spritzer from Jenny Shea Rawn

Ginger Pomegranate Sparkler Mocktail from Tasty Balance Nutrition

Sparkling Pomegranate Apple Cider Mocktail from Nutrition to Fit


Study: It’s easier to go without alcohol when you have more choice


Mocktails Made with Citrus

I love the zing citrus supplies!

Cranberry Lemon and Orange Cider from The Nutrition Reviews

Easy Apple Cider Mocktail with Fresh Citrus Slices from Nourish Nutrition

Cranberry Orange and Lime Cider mocktail

Cranberry, Orange, and Lime Cider

Citrusy Grapefruit Spritzer from Sip Smarter

Basil Lemonade Spritzer from Bite of Health Nutrition

Tropical Lipton Green Tea Virgin Sangria from Amy Gorin

Mango Kombucha Refresher from Spilling the Beans

Strawberry Lime Watermelon Smoothie from Smart Nutrition 

Sweet and Spicy Mocktail Recipes 

I love these combinations because they offer spice and sweetness.

Spicy Kombucha Margaritas mocktail

Spicy Kombucha Margaritas

Spicy Kombucha Margaritas from Leanne Ray

Ginger Beer Pear Punch from The Nutrition Adventure

Citrusy Grapefruit Spritzer mocktail

Citrusy Grapefruit Spritzer

What’s your favorite way to enjoy alcohol-free cocktails or other nonalcoholic beverages?

lemon basil cocktail with a lemon slice

Delicious Mocktails to Make At Home

Should You Try Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss and Better Health? 

Alarm clock and coffee cup with saucer.

Surprise! You fast every day.

Are you tired of restrictive diets that you can’t stick with? Wondering if you should try intermittent fasting for weight loss and better health? Read on to weigh the pros and cons.


Read: Why eating less at night may be good for your heart


What is Intermittent Fasting?

Fasting is going without food. While that may sound drastic, consider that you fast every day while you’re asleep and between meals!

Intermittent fasting (IF) limits when you eat, not what you eat. IF is not a diet. It’s an eating pattern without the calorie-counting. 

There are several types of IF, including:

• Fasting every other day of the week.  

• The 5:2 plan: Eat as usual on five days of the week. Limit calories to 25% of your needs (for example, 500 calories on a 2000-calorie a day eating plan) on two non-consecutive days, such as Monday and Thursday.

• Time-Restricted Eating (TRE) limits food intake for at least 12 hours, and for as long as 20 hours, every day.  For example, you can choose to eat all your food from 10 AM to 6 PM, or during any other time frame that works for you.

Researchs suggests intermittent fasting for weight loss and better health is promising. TRE is the least restrictive and most adaptable form of IF, and it makes the most sense for people with a busy lifestyle. However, no type of IF is suitable for children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, people with eating disorders, and some people with diabetes.


 Read: An RD’s experience with intermittent fasting


Grilled salmon with sauce and steamed vegetables.

Feeling satisfied is key to maintaining a healthy eating plan.

Should You Try Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss?  

While I’m a fan of TRE, evidence suggests that this, or any, form of IF is no better than eating fewer calories in the long term. A recent study showed that following the 5:2 eating pattern for six months helped people lose more weight than those who simply cut 500 calories from their typical eating plan. However, by 12 months, those on the reduced-calorie plan had maintained their weight loss, while the other group had not.

It’s important to choose a type of IF that works for you and that’s sustainable in the long run. TRE can jump-start your intentions to eat better, and may reduce feelings of dietary deprivation.

In one study, overweight people who reduced their eating window from about 15 hours a day to 10 to 11 hours daily for 16 weeks lost weight, and reported higher energy levels and better sleep. Even though they weren’t asked to restrict calories, participants ate less without feeling deprived.


Get the real story about the health effects of eating dinner late at night


 

Woman sleeping under white comforter.

Pro tip: Spend most of your fasting time asleep.

 

In another study, a group of overweight people who ate only from 10 AM to 6 PM consumed an average of 350 fewer calories and lost about 3% of their body weight. They also lowered their blood pressure.  Study subjects were not asked to limit calorie intake.

TRE and other forms of IF may help with modest calorie restriction, but fasting is not a magic bullet for weight control. Whether or not time-restricted eating actually decreases the amount of food consumed varies from person to person.

Intermittent Fasting Helps Prevent Diabetes 

Chances are, you can reap health benefits from IF simply by changing when you eat most of your calories. Here’s why.

IF improves the body’s response to insulin.  Insulin is the hormone produced in the pancreas that is necessary for cells to absorb glucose, which is used for energy. Insulin levels are lower when fasting, an ideal situation to prevent insulin resistance.

In insulin resistance, blood glucose levels are elevated. High insulin levels trigger the pancreas to produce more insulin to try to get glucose into cells. As time goes on, the pancreas’ ability to churn out insulin declines, leading to prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes and contributing to the risk for heart disease and cancer.

 

Breakfast foods

Pay attention to portions and the quality of foods you choose with intermittent fasting.

 

In addition, TRE plans that limit food consumption to daytime coordinate best with our natural body rhythms, which may help foster good health. That’s because insulin production is higher during the day than at night.

Even without weight loss, limiting food intake to eight hours and fasting from 3 PM on every day for five weeks decreased insulin levels, reduced insulin resistance, and improved blood pressure in overweight men with prediabetes.


Read: Eating later in the day can be bad for your waistline and your health


Intermittent Fasting for Women Over 40

Women may notice that it’s not as easy to control their weight after age 40. As we age, we lose muscle tissue that burns more calories than fat. In addition, we may become less active, which also burns fewer calories. At some point after age 40, most women begin the transition to menopause called perimenopause.  Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause, which typically occurs after age 50 in most women. 

During perimenopause, estrogen fluctuates as it begins to decline for good.  Weight gain is one of the side effects of a loss of estrogen and aging in general (men tend to gain weight, too!). Most women accumulate belly fat during the menopause transition, and after menopause occurs, and it’s often a source of consternation. 

Weight control, including IF, is a topic covered in great depth in The Menopause Diet Plan, A Natural Guide to Managing Hormones, Health, and Happiness, that I have co-authored with Hillary Wright, M.Ed, RDN. Depending on the type, intermittent fasting may be a good strategy for healthy eating for women after age 40 and age 50. We favor TRE for women because we think it’s the best way to meet their needs and maintain a busy schedule that may also include eating dinner with family every night, juggling household duties, and holding down demanding jobs. 

How to Try Time Restricted Eating

• Be consistent.  Choose an eating/fasting pattern that works for you and stick to it every day, including on weekends. Start by limiting food intake to 12 hours daily, and try to stop eating by 6 or 7 PM. If you want, gradually decrease your eating window to eight hours with 16 hours of fasting daily.

• Eat a balanced diet. Plan your food intake to include adequate amounts of nutritious foods, and limit added sugar. Eat three satisfying meals daily to avoid excessive snacking, also known as “grazing”.  Grazing is linked to a higher body mass index in women and a poorer quality diet in women and men. 

• Remember that moderation counts. IF doesn’t involve calorie-counting, but if you use your eating window as a free-for-all, you’re missing the point. You can eat whatever you want, but maybe not as much as you want. 

• Focus on calorie-free fluids. Water, black coffee and tea, and other calorie-free beverages are OK at any time.

Pizza with greens on top.

All foods fit on any intermittent fasting program, but moderation counts, too.

should you try intermittent fasting for weight loss and better health?

Simple and Affordable Holiday Gifts and Seasonal Entertainment

Thanks to ALDI for sponsoring this post! 

ALDI food market

With so much food to prepare and so many presents to buy, the holiday season keeps everyone busy! I am always looking for ways to save time and money.  While I shop at ALDI all year long for high-quality food at a lower cost, it’s even better during the holiday season because ALDI simplifies shopping and makes it affordable. By stopping at ALDI first, I cross a lot off my holiday to-do list all at once, and for less money. 

holiday gift wrapped with string, pine branch and pine cone

Get more done at ALDI, and have more time for yourself this holiday season! 

You may know ALDI for its high-quality food at low prices, but are you aware that ALDI also carries presents for everyone, including hostess and Secret Santa gifts, toys for the kids, goodies for the dog, and holiday decorations for the house?  

ALDI Finds: Affordable, Premium Food and Gifts

Every week, ALDI introduces new ALDI Finds, a selection of premium food and household items that are only in stores for a limited time, all at unbeatable prices.  Here are some of the items hitting the stores on December 12:

ALDI dog toy chew set, jumbling tower, dog clothes, present bag

There’s something for everyone, including your favorite pet, at ALDI! 

 

ALDI ninja bread kit and mini and regular muffin tins

Cookie kits and bakeware sets are affordable gifts for the chef in your life.

Simple and Elegant Holiday Foods

When friends and family visit, I love to put out a charcuterie board, but I do not like to pay a lot of money for it.  It takes just a few minutes to assemble high-quality ingredients from ALDI such as these (below) on a festive platter, and I get to “wow” my guests without paying a premium price!

ALDI crackers, olives, prosciutto, gluten-free crackers, jam

You’ll pay less for premium products, include gluten-free foods, at ALDI. 

I always try to include fruits and vegetables in every holiday dish, so I’m thankful ALDI recently announced a 40% increase in fresh foods, including organic produce and convenient ready-to-eat products like sliced fruit. 

holiday party platter with ALDI products

This party platter took minutes to assemble with high-quality, affordable ALDI foods! 

ALDI also carries high-quality gluten-free foods, dairy, and fresh meat and fish. In fact, the ALDI liveGfree gluten-free line and the NeverAny! line of fresh meat products (which have no antibiotics, added hormones or animal by-products) recently earned the Good Housekeeping Seal, which is considered the gold standard for guiding shoppers to high-quality food. 

chocolate from ALDI

Candy is my splurge! I prefer the delicious chocolate from ALDI. 

Give more, and make more of the holidays at ALDI. You’ll save so much money, you can splurge on yourself! 

Visit aldi.us to take advantage of better-for-you recipes so you can make fresh food at home. For more fun information and tips, “Like” ALDI USA on Facebook and follow @ALDIUSA on Instagram and @ALDIUSA Twitter. And, if you’re like me and want to share your own recipes, photos, tips and tricks, tag ALDI using the hashtag #ALDILove.

Happy holidays!

19 Healthy Simple Meals to Make When You Don’t Want to Cook

Just because you’re stuck at home right now doesn’t mean you want to cook, or even know how! Or, maybe you prefer to prepare simple meals on most days, even though you like to spend time in the kitchen.  No worries. Here are 19 healthy, simple meals to make when you don’t want to cook, and most use pantry staples. Double, or quadruple the “recipes” as needed!

Bowl of soup with herb toast

Meals don’t need to be fancy to be delicious and good for you, too!

 

Easy No-Recipe Breakfasts When You Don’t Want to Cook

In addition to being delicious breakfast choices, these meals make good snacks. However, you can eat them for a lunch and dinner, too!

• Top a 2-ounce whole-wheat bagel with 2 tablespoons peanut butter, almond butter, or sunflower seed butter. Serve with 8 ounces 1% low-fat milk or unsweetened fortified soy milk, and fruit.

Make these No-Bake Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Cookies when you don't want to cook.

Five minutes is all it takes to make a batch of No-Bake Oatmeal Raisin Cookies that pair perfectly with a carton of Greek yogurt and fruit.

 

• Spread 2 slices whole grain bread with 2 tablespoons sunflower seed butter, and top with 1 small banana, sliced, or another fruit. For instance, 2 tablespoons raisins, which contain no added sugar.

• Scramble 2 eggs and divide equally between a small whole-wheat pita pocket that’s been cut in half. Add salsa, a handful of spinach, and 1⁄4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheese, if desired. Pair with 8 ounces milk or fortified soy milk.

• Scramble 2 eggs with 1⁄4 cup diced mushrooms or other vegetables, and 1⁄4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese. Serve with 2 slices whole-wheat toast, and fruit.

• Pair a hard-cooked egg with 8 ounces low-fat yogurt in addition to 1 slice whole-grain toast, and fruit.

• Halve a cantaloupe or honeydew melon, remove the seeds, and fill with 1 cup cottage cheese or low-fat yogurt. Serve with a whole wheat roll.

Easy baked fish with canned tomatoes is perfect when you don't want to cook.

My go-to fish meal: breaded haddock topped with a can of undrained chopped canned tomatoes and dried parsley with vegetables and whole grain bread. Cook at 400˚F for 15 minutes or until done.

Lunch and Dinner Meals to Make When You Don’t Want to Cook

These meals require a minimum of cooking, and very little clean up!

• Microwave a medium potato. Scoop out the insides and mix with 1 cup cottage cheese. Return the filling to the potato skins and warm in the microwave. Add a green salad.

• Top 1 whole-wheat pita round or small whole wheat Naan bread with tomato sauce and sliced part-skim mozzarella or cheddar cheese. Broil until cheese melts. Serve with 8 ounces 100% orange juice or enjoy with an orange or 2 clementines.

• Make a quick quesadilla using two whole-wheat 7-inch sandwich wraps, 2 ounces chopped leftover chicken, and 1 ounce Monterey Jack cheese. Grill in a skillet. Enjoy with fruit.

• In a bowl, layer 1 cup cooked whole-grains, for instance, whole-wheat  couscous, 1 cup cooked vegetables, and 4 ounces cooked leftover salmon, or canned or pouched salmon.

• Mix 4 ounces canned or pouched, drained tuna with mayonnaise and pair with 10 whole-grain crackers, and sliced red bell pepper.

Lentil and vegetable soup in a large white soup bowl.

Canned lentil soup is a great start to a simple, balanced meal.

 

• Mix 1 cup canned reduced-sodium lentil soup and 1 cup cooked pasta or other leftover cooked grain such as farro, brown rice, freekeh, or quinoa, and chicken or beef, if desired. Serve with 8 ounces milk or fortified soy beverage in addition to fruit.

• Combine 1 cup canned white beans, drained, with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 4 ounces peeled and raw shrimp in a skillet. Cook until shrimp are pink. Serve with fruit or vegetables.

• Saute 8 ounces 100% ground skinless turkey breast meat or 95% lean ground beef with chopped onions and 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin. Spoon cooked meat equally onto 2 whole-wheat tortillas in addition to chopped tomato, lettuce, and plain yogurt. (This dish serves two.) Serve with Greek yogurt and salsa and fruit or vegetables.

Quesadillas with sour cream and salsa

Use whatever meat, beans, or vegetables you have on hand to make quick quesadillas.

 

• Coat 4 ounces thinly sliced chicken breasts or tenders with flour. Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken for about two minutes on each side. Place chicken on a whole-wheat sandwich bun and garnish with tomato and lettuce, and avocado, if desired. Serve with 8 ounces milk and a piece of fruit or baby carrots and cherry tomatoes.

• Fast fried rice: Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in a medium skillet. Add 1 cup cold cooked white or brown rice, 1⁄4 cup chopped onion, 1⁄4 cup cooked peas or diced carrots or both, and 2 beaten eggs. Toss the entire mixture until the egg is cooked. Season with a dash of low-sodium soy sauce. Serve with fresh fruit.

 

salad with dressing, cooked chicken and pine nuts

For a simple, balanced meat, add protein-rich foods, such as cooked chicken, canned tuna or salmon, or beans.

 

• Place 4 ounces cooked shrimp, canned or pouch tuna, cooked or pouch salmon, cottage cheese, or tofu, on top of 2 cups chopped leafy greens and 1⁄2 cup grape tomatoes. Top with a mixture of 2 teaspoons olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Serve with  whole-grain bread or roll.

What are your go-to simple healthy meals these days?

19 Healthy Simple Meals to Make When You Don't Want to Cook

 

Make-Ahead Holiday Side Dishes

Every year, I host two Thanksgiving dinners, one on the actual day and the other on the Sunday before. I’ve been doing this for a while, but this year, I finally got smart and made nearly all of the sides in advance. I was so inspired by the idea of make-ahead holiday side dishes that I asked my dietitian friends for their favorite recipes.  Enjoy! 

The Best Thanksgiving Mushroom Sausage Stuffing

The Best Thanksgiving Mushroom Sausage Stuffing from Tawnie Kroll. I love using mushrooms in stuffing for their meaty, umami flavor.

Easy Vegan Butternut Squash Soup

Genius Butternut Squash Soup from Katie at Mom’s Kitchen Handbook is brilliant, and a real show stopper.


Make Pumpkin Apple Almond Muffins for breakfast or as a side dish for dinner. 


 

Cauliflower Cranberry Superfood Salad | The Nutrition Adventure

Cauliflower Cranberry Superfood Salad from Karman Meyer can be made up to two days in advance and kept in the refrigerator.

Easy Pumpkin Soup

Easy Pumpkin Soup from Jessica Ivey, MS, RD can be frozen and reheated. It uses canned pumpkin, one of my favorite kitchen staples.

Walnut Stuffed Mushrooms with Walnut, Apple & Sage 

 

Walnut Stuffed Mushrooms with Walnut, Apple & Sage from Mandy Enright uses walnuts in place of meat for a vegetarian appetizer that’s anything but basic.


Make a double batch of gluten-free No Added Sugar Fruit and Nut Quick Bread and freeze a loaf for later. You’ll be happy you did! 


Sweet Potato Casserole with pecans

Liz Weiss’ Pecan Topped Slightly-Sweet Potato Casserole can be frozen and reheated before serving. That’s music to my ears!

Make ahead kale salad.

Make-Ahead Kale Salad from Stephanie McKercher. The name says it all! Super convenient and colorful to boot.

roasted butternut squash salad

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Dates & Feta from Edwina Clark. I love the spinach-date-and-feta combo!

Roasted Butternut Squash with Dates, Figs and Pistachios (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

Roasted Butternut Squash with Dates, Figs, and Pistachios from Sharon Palmer is vegan and gluten-free. And gorgeous!

cranberry relish

Healthy-ish Maple Cranberry Sauce from Sarah Gold. Maple is one of my favorite fall flavors to combine with cranberries!

Cranberry Relish via RDelicious Kitchen @RD_kitchen

This fresh Cranberry Relish from Julie Harrington is a refreshing departure from store-bought canned and it can easily be made ahead of time.

homemade turkey stock

I stink at gravy, so I’m grateful for Michelle Dudash’s Best Turkey Gravy, which you make in two steps, one of them a few days ahead of time.

Roasted onions and carrots on baking sheet.

Roasted Vegetable Stock from Chef Catherine Brown can be made up to five days in advance and refrigerated or frozen for up to six months. Homemade stock is about 1,000 times more flavorful than store-bought, so if you get a chance, make this.

A white platter filled with turkey breast that is topped with crispy skin and gravy with a dish of gravy on the side.

The Best Slow Cooker Turkey Breast + Easy Cider Gravy from Whitney Reist. Yes, this post is about side dishes, but I couldn’t resist including this amazing recipe!

Happy holidays!

easy and delicious make-ahead holiday side dishes

Almond Flour Apple Muffins with Pumpkin

Almond Flour Apple Muffins with Pumpkin

Almond Flour Apple Muffins with Pumpkin are moist and delicious.

 

Farmers grow our food and they are the reason why we are here. Visiting any type of farm is an eye-opening experience that I highly recommend because it’s important to see firsthand all the work it takes to produce the food that feeds us. My trip to an almond orchard, courtesy of the Almond Board of California, inspired this recipe for Almond Flour Apple Muffins with Pumpkin.

 

whole roasted almonds

Almonds make a delicious, nutritious snack and you can turn them into almond flour in minutes. 

All About Almonds: Fun Facts

It was interesting to learn about how almonds are grown and to actually see how they are harvested. Here is some of what I learned about almonds:

• California grows 80% of the world’s almonds

• 90% of California almond farms are family farms

• One ounce of almonds supplies about half of your daily requirement for vitamin E, which protects cells against everyday damage.

 

almond flour

You can use any type of almond to make almond flour for this muffin recipe.

 

What is Almond Flour?

Almond flour is made from peeled almonds. It’s different from almond meal, which is usually made from unpeeled almonds. (Note: While almond meal is gluten-free, the recipe for Almond Flour Apple Muffins is not because it also uses whole wheat flour.)

You can interchange almond flour and almond meal in this muffin recipe, and in other quick breads, and baked goods such as cookies and pancakes.  Almond flour is lighter so you may want to use it in a cake recipe instead of almond meal.


Here’s how to make your own almond flour. For this recipe, I grind up whatever almonds I have on hand. 


Replacing Wheat Flour with Almond Flour

I use ground almonds for most of the flour in this recipe, and swap in whole wheat flour for the all-purpose kind.

Almond flour is lower in carbohydrates and higher in fat than all-purpose flour, which helps make these muffins moist and tender. In baking quick breads, such as muffins and pancakes you can replace wheat flour, such as all-purpose flour, with an equal amount of almond flour. However, baked products will be flatter when you don’t use any wheat flour and more dense because of the lack of gluten, which helps them rise.

I did not use all almond flour because I prefer a lighter muffin. I opted for some whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose because whole wheat flour adds more fiber and other vital nutrients.

Apples on the tree with blue sky.

Shredded apples, and pumpkin puree, provide moisture, flavor, and nutrients.

Good Apples for Baking

Apples supply fiber, fluid, and other nutrients. You can many different types of apples in this recipe and other baked goods, but I would avoid Macintosh because they are too watery to begin with and often get mushy when cooked.

I prefer Cortland or Granny Smith for baking because they hold up better. But, it’s really your choice!

Healthier Almond Flour Apple Muffins with Pumpkin

Muffins from the supermarket and coffee shops can have between 300 and 500 calories (and so can the homemade variety) and are often mostly refined grains and added sugar.

These tasty muffins are a healthier choice because they provide more nutrients, such as fiber, and less sugar and added fat.

I hope you enjoy these muffins as much as we do!

Almond Flour Apple Muffins with Pumpkin

Almond flour, shredded apple, and pumpkin make these muffins moist, tender, and delicious!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time15 mins
5 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Servings: 18
Author: Elizabeth Ward

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups almond flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, optional
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups coarsely grated unpeeled apple (avoid Macintosh apples, if possible)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400˚F. Generously coat 18 standard muffin cups with cooking spray.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the almond flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves, using a whisk.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, pumpkin, honey, oil, and vanilla until well combined.  
  • Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and combine, using a wooden spoon, until thoroughly blended. Gently fold in the apples.
  • Divide the batter evenly among the 18 muffin cups. 
  • Bake for 13 to 16 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove muffins from pan and cool on a wire rack. 

Notes

Grind 1 cup of whole almonds for about 1 1/3 cups almond flour. 
Per muffin: 159 calories, 8 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat), 31 milligrams cholesterol, 168 milligrams sodium, 20 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 8 grams added sugar, 4 grams protein. 

almond flour apple muffins with pumpkin

 

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