Appetizers/ DipsRecipes

Hearty Roasted Red Pepper Hummus


It’s difficult to find a hummus in the store that isn’t saturated with oil, so I opt to make my own. This recipe is delicious as a sandwich spread or as a dip for veggies, crackers, and pita chips.

“Hearty” Red Pepper Hummus

15 oz. can Garbanzo beans or 2 Cups cooked Garbanzos

1 Red bell pepper, roasted and peeled

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped (1 Tablespoon dried)

Garlic Salt to taste

Puree all ingredients until well blended. Serve immediately, or transfer hummus to air-tight container and chill for up to one week.


The first step towards delicious hummus is roasting the red pepper. Line a pan with tin foil so you don’t have to get the steel brush out to clean it afterwards. Cut the bell pepper in half, lengthwise, and remove all the seeds. Place the bell pepper halves on the lined sheet, open side down. Roast the pepper at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until it starts to blacken and blister.

Red Pepper roasted

While the pepper is roasting, combine the, garbanzo beans, parsley, lemon juice and garlic salt in a mixing bowl. I have lots of dried garbanzo beans (A.K.A. chickpeas) in my food storage, and I always have some cooked up, sitting in a Tupperware in the fridge. Using canned garbanzo beans is just fine as well. It’s just always less expensive to cook your own.

Once the red pepper is roasted , peel the blackened skin off the pepper and cut the pepper in slices.

Red pepper roasted, peeled

Add the pepper to the bean mixture.

Red Pepper Hummus 1

Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture into a thick hummus.  You could also throw all of this into a blender and make it that way.

Red Pepper Hummus 2

You can eat this immediately. However, I suggest you transfer the hummus to an air-tight container and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. This allows the flavors to blend.

hummus and veggie snack

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Hearty Grilled Balsamic Veggie Salad


This is the heartiest of all hearty salads, and a hit at barbecues and potluck dinners! It is a modification of “California Pizza Kitchen’s” Roasted Vegetable Salad.


CPK Grilled Vegetables


Hearty Grilled Balsamic Veggie Salad


1-2 Cups asparagus or green beans (whatever is in season)

1 Red bell pepper, chopped

2 small zucchini squash, chopped

1 Cup frozen corn

1 (15 oz.) can artichokes in brine

1/4 cup green onions, chopped fine

1 avocado, chopped

small handful sundried tomatoes

Romaine lettuce, chopped


Vegetable Marinade:

1/4 Cup olive oil

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon cumin

dash of cayenne pepper


Balsamic Dijon Dressing:

1/2 Cup olive oil

1/3 Cup Balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

salt and pepper to taste



Chop all the veggies except avocadoes. Combine the green beans, bell pepper, zucchini, corn, and artichokes into a large bowl.  Prepare the vegetable marinade in a jar with a lid. Give it a few shakes and pour it over the veggies. Let it marinade while you prepare the Balsamic Dressing.

Grill the veggies until the green beans are crisp-tender. Let them cool for 5 minutes and serve over a bed of romaine lettuce, topped with green onions, avocado chunks, sundried tomatoes, and dressing.


There’s a lot of chopping that goes into this salad, so get your cutting board and French knife out. *Also, check out my “Chopping Tips” here. You will be glad you did.* If the dinner-hour is as crazy for you as it is at my house, do your chopping and marinate the veggies earlier in the day. They taste better the longer they marinate anyways.Dinner pre-prep

The veggies have the best flavor when they are grilled on an electric griddle or inside a cast-iron skillet made for an outdoor grill. I have used a big skillet on my stovetop, and the flavor is still good, but not great.

CPK Grilled Vegetables

When I’m at a potluck, I like to mix everything together with dressing so it is easier to serve a large group. At home, however, we always have leftovers, so I serve the veggies on a bed of lettuce. This allows us to eat it the next day without soggy lettuce. At home, I paired the salad with garlic cheese bread to make it a complete meal. Enjoy!

CPK Grilled Vegetable salad

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Cooking Tips & TricksRecipes

Chopping Tips


Sometimes, eating plant-based food means spending LOTS of time chopping. Most of my recipes start with “chop, chop, chop…”. Meal prep gets too long when there’s so much chopping involved. Who has time for all that?

Two years ago, my sister-in-law brought this beauty up to a family reunion at the cabin. I watched her chop onions, tomatoes, and broccoli so fast that I got a bit jealous. So did all the other family members, and soon every one was using her chopper. As soon as I returned home, I ran to Bed Bath and Beyond and picked up a “Vidalia Chop Wizard.”


This is my favorite kitchen tool. I use it EVERY day.  My cute husband even likes to chop with it! Now I can make salsa, eggs, stir-fry, salads, and more in much less time. This busy Momma’s life is so much easier with my Chop Wizard!

P.S. No one is paying me to say this. I just think you all need to know my not-so-best-kept-secret in the kitchen.

Happy Chopping!

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Hearty Berry Smoothie


Almost no breakfast is ever complete without a smoothie in the Andersen household. This recipe is the most-often requested smoothie.

Hearty Berry Smoothie

3/4 Cup water
1 Cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
1 banana
1 handful spinach
3/4 cup strawberries, fresh
1 cup frozen blueberries

Combine all ingredients in blender in order listed and mix until smooth. Enjoy!

Serves 2.

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Smoothie Pops



Wondering what to do with your left-over smoothie? Freeze it into a smoothie pop! This is a refreshing, healthy treat for kids and adults alike.

Tropical Mango Pops:

3/4 Cup water

1 Cup unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk

1 Cup fresh or 3/4 Cup canned pineapple

1 Banana

1 Cup frozen mango chunks

Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour fruit smoothie into popsicle molds and freeze for 4-8 hours.



Blueberry Mango  Pops:

3/4 Cup water

1 Cup unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk

1 Cup frozen blueberries

1 Banana

1 Cup frozen mango chunks

Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour fruit smoothie into popsicle molds and freeze for 4-8 hours.

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RecipesWhole Food Alternatives

Hearty Cream of Chicken Soup


I always used to cook with canned Cream of Chicken Soup. I never questioned whether it was good for me. Finally, I looked at the label of ingredients and decided I could do better. I substitute this mix in every recipe I make; soups, gravies, casseroles, sauces, and more. It’s simple, and it takes just a few minutes to whip up.


First, let me convince you that this version really is healthier than the can, because, honestly, none of us need an extra step in our cooking unless it is absolutely necessary. So, here is what the ingredient label looks like for canned Cream of Chicken Soup:

photo credit:

There are 29 ingredients in the canned version of this soup. It contains Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and Partially Hydrogenated oils—both of which are controversial ingredients in the food industry. Science is still inconclusive as to what kind of potentially harmful health effects these items have on our bodies.

My Hearty Cream of Chicken soup has just 15 ingredients, (including the 10 ingredients which make up the “Better than Bouillon” base). My homemade soup contains neither MSG nor hydrogenated oils.

Now, let’s look at the nutrition label:

cream of chicken soup can label

photo credit:

The canned version has 8 grams of fat and 120 calories per 1/2 cup serving.

If you choose to use skim milk in my recipe, there are about 6 grams of fat and 99 calories per 1/2 cup serving.

But, honestly, I don’t care much about fat and calories. In my nutrition consulting, my concern is the kinds of food you consume and not so much the calories. Your body will tell you when you have had enough, if you are feeding it whole foods.



Hearty Cream of Chicken Soup

1/4 cup chopped onion (green, yellow, or red are all fine)
2 Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
1 1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoon “Better than Bouillon” chicken base

Sauté onions in butter in a medium saucepan until onions are soft and translucent.  Mix in the flour to form a paste. Pour in half of the milk and whisk until well combined with a wire whisk. Add the rest of the milk and the bouillon, and whisk until mixture thickens and begins to bubble.

Equivalent to 1 Can of Soup.



Sauteed onions

Mince onions into small pieces. Sauté the onions in 2 Tablespoons of butter, stirring occasionally.

flour butter paste

Once the onions are tender and slightly translucent, add the flour. (I always have a steady supply of fresh ground wheat in my fridge, so that is what I use for flour. In fact, I really only ever use all-purpose (white) flour when I am baking dessert items. Whole wheat works fine for everything else I make.) Mix the flour and butter until it forms a paste. This flour+butter “paste” is called a roux (pronounced, “roo”). In my opinion, every great cream sauce or gravy begins with a roux. Smile


Add only half of the milk to the roux, just to make sure it gets fully dissolved and there are no clumps. Once the mixture is smooth, add the remaining milk. Stir continuously! If you get sidetracked and walk away from this mixture, it will scorch and you will have to start all over. Sad smile

homemade cream of chicken soup

Sprinkle some salt and pepper into the soup to taste. You will know the soup is finished when the mixture is thick and begins to bubble. Remove the pan from the heat, and it is done! You just made your very own cream of chicken soup from scratch! Don’t you feel so liberated?!

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RecipesVeggie-Lover Dinners

Hearty Mashed Potatoes with Veggie Gravy


Sometimes, you just need to clean out the veggies in the fridge for dinner, and this dish does just that. This is a healthy twist to potatoes and gravy which can be served as a main dish.


Mashed potatoes:

8-10 medium Russet potatoes

2 Tablespoons butter

1 cup Greek Yogurt

salt and pepper to taste


Veggie Gravy:

Recipe “Hearty Cream of Chicken Soup”, doubled

2-3 small zucchini squash

1 red bell pepper

1/2 cup shredded cooked chicken

salt and pepper to taste


Wash and dice zucchini squash and bell pepper into small pieces. Set aside. Wash, chop and boil potatoes, leaving the skin on. (The skin adds more fiber!) Boil for approximately 15 minutes or until potatoes are very soft.

While potatoes are boiling, prepare the chicken soup recipe, doubled.  Once the soup is thickened, turn heat to simmer and add the squash and red peppers. Continue occasionally stirring until the veggies are soft.   Add shredded chicken.

Drain potatoes and return to pot. Add butter and Greek yogurt and mash the potatoes. I like to use an electric mixer.

Serve gravy atop the potatoes and enjoy!

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Lifestyle EatingNutrition Education

Eating Healthy in College: Part 1


Whether you live in a dorm on campus or an apartment off-campus, learning to cook and feed yourself nutritious meals can be one of the hardest parts of the college experience. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. These are my tips for saving time, space, and money without sacrificing nutrition.

Dinner Groups

I encourage college students to team up with their roommates to form a dinner group. If you eat at the cafeteria for every meal, eat together. This prevents overeating out of loneliness or simply because no one seems to be watching, and it makes for a more enjoyable dining experience. If you live in an apartment with a kitchen, take turns making meals several nights of the week. This will force you to learn how to cook, and you will be more likely to eat at least one balanced meal each day.

Saving Time

There are two keys to saving time when cooking for yourself:

1. Make a meal plan.

Even if you eat the same seven meals each week, make a plan for what those will be. Knowing what tomorrow’s meal is going to be will enable you to do simple food preparation the night before such as getting frozen foods out to defrost or doing a little chopping. This will save you time when you are rushing home after class to make a meal.

2. Create a shopping list.

Using your meal plan, make a list for your grocery shopping trips. Now, all the ingredients will be readily available when its time to assemble your meals. You won’t waste time rummaging around the kitchen or knocking on your neighbor’s door to ask for a teaspoon of parsley. Keep reading to learn more about choosing products at the grocery store.

Saving Space

Let’s talk about the challenge of limited space in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Back when I was in college, stocking my food meant: fit as much food into the one cupboard and one shelf of the fridge and freezer assigned to me without crossing the imaginary line where my roommate’s food was assigned to sit.

Here is a stocked cupboard, with food items reasonable for a busy college student:

Stocked cupboard for college student

Here are all the items I fit onto two shelves and a door cubby (for the purpose of the photo), but you could probably squeeze this on one shelf of the fridge:

Stocked fridge for college student

Condiment essentials for the college student

It would be wise to have more fruit and veggie mixes on hand, but there is limited space in the freezer when sharing with roommates.

Stocked freezer for college student

Some produce like apples, bananas, citrus, tomatoes, and avocados don’t require immediate refrigeration and can stay out on the counter for up to a week.

Produce on countertop

Saving Money

Following  is how I weigh the costs and quality of various foods at the grocery store:

Store Brands- Almost always, the store brand is less expensive and has the same quality.

Spices- The five most basic seasonings for simple meals are salt, pepper, parsley, garlic powder, and cumin.

Marinara Sauce- (Revised) Instead of purchasing prepared marinara sauce, add a teaspoon of parsley and a dash of garlic powder to a plain can of tomato sauce. You will save up to $1 per can, and eat less additives while you are at it.

Pasta- It’s cheap and filling. Whole grain pasta contains more nutrition than regular pasta, but it is a little coarse for the palate. Try mixing them together.

Cold Cereal- Generic cereals are a fraction of the cost of name brands. Choose a cereal with less than 6 grams of added sugar  and has more than 2 grams dietary fiber per serving. It will keep you full until your next meal.

store vs. name brand wheat cereal

Energy Bars- Get more nutrition for your dollars by choosing energy bars instead of granola bars. Cliff Bars contain whole ingredients, and they taste pretty good.

Breads/Muffins- Unless you are cooking for a larger group, it costs less money per meal to buy a mix rather than all the ingredients to make muffins or breads.

Whole Wheat Pancake Mix- Kodiak Cakes are slightly more expensive than the typical white flour mixes, but they provide much more nutrition for your dollar. They are loaded with nourishing ingredients to fuel you until the next meal, and all you have to add is water!

Potatoes- Potatoes are an inexpensive whole food which provide potassium and fiber to your diet. They stay fresh in your cupboard for up to a month.

Honey- Use it instead of syrup and white sugar for a slightly more nutritious sweetener.

Oatmeal- Oatmeal is the least expensive and most nutritious breakfast you can make for yourself. It is full of fiber and “sticks to your ribs” much longer than plain cold cereal.

Brown rice- Rice is an inexpensive filler food. Brown rice has two more grams of dietary fiber per serving than white rice. Read more about brown vs. white rice.

Nuts- Nuts are cheap, nutritious, and simple sources of healthy fat and protein. Often, it’s most cost-effective to shop the bulk bins instead of individual packages.

bulk vs. packaged nuts

Canned Beans- Canned beans are more expensive than cooking your own dry beans. However, the time factor outweighs the money factor with this one, because no college student I know has time to watch beans soften on the stove.

Stir-fry sauce- The healthiest stir fry sauces are homemade. However, they require several ingredients that just get tossed at the end of the semester when you leave for the summer. Reduce food and money waste by using pre-made sauces.

Salad mix- Rather than kits, save a few bucks and buy a bag of spring mix. Add your own vegetables and dressing to it, day by day.

Shredded cheese- While shredded cheese is a time-saver buying a block is usually less expensive. Also, use the sharp version because less cheese is needed for the same flavor. I bought feta cheese for the same reason.

Yogurt- You will save up to $2 when you buy a 32 oz. container of plain yogurt rather than five 6 oz. containers.

Salsa- I chose the name brand this time because the store brand had a bunch of added sugar in it.

Bread- Local brands are usually less expensive. Look for a bread with just 5 or 6 ingredients in it, and make sure it is made of 100% whole wheat.

Strawberry Fruit Spread- The natural version of jam is often the same price for less added sugar and preservatives. Score,

Fruit SpreadOriginal sweetened jam

Natural Peanut Butter- Many brands of peanut butter add sugar, oils, and other preservatives. The disadvantage of natural peanut butter is that it requires mixing. But, for a food that you consume almost daily, it should be as whole and chemical-free as possible. Here’s a tip for mixing nut butters faster.

Frozen veggie mixes- Vegetables retain their nutrition when frozen, so when you want to eat smart veggie mixes are a quick fix.

Frozen chicken breasts- If you have a George Foreman grill, it is so easy grill a single chicken breast in less than 10 minutes, and they are less expensive than pre-cooked chicken.

Now, you might be saying to yourself: “That’s all good and nice, but what am I supposed to make with all these ingredients?” Read Eating Healthy in College: Part 2 for meal ideas and recipes.

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About Me

The Stage Diet-My Story


By the end of my senior year of high school, I had a spot waiting for me at Brigham Young University (BYU), but I needed a scholarship in order to pay the tuition. Unfortunately, my grades weren’t high enough for an academic scholarship, my vocal abilities were shy of a music scholarship, and my mad volleyball skills (*ahem*) were certainly not good enough for an athletic scholarship. Thus, in a random series of events, I found myself applying for the Miss Wyoming Scholarship Program. I had hopes of entering the state pageant and earning enough money to get through my first year of school. SHOCKINGLY, I won the whole shebang! *And, just for the record: the night before the state pageant I ate a one-third pound Beefalo Burger at a real buffalo ranch. And it was delicious. *  In June 2004, I embraced a world I knew nothing about as I prepared for the Miss America competition.

Luckily, I was assigned to a fantastic physical trainer. For most of the summer, we focused on lots of treadmill work-outs and resistance training. The nutritional advice she initially gave me was to eat as healthy as I could and avoid treats. Two weeks before I left for the competition, she introduced “The Stage Diet” to me. (It was quite similar to the Atkins Diet.) I was instructed to continue avoiding sweets and treats, but now I was allowed just 6 servings of grains per WEEK. Acceptable grains included brown rice, whole wheat tortillas, and oatmeal. Bread was a no-no. It was difficult to stick to, but being the people-pleasing, elder-respecting, competitive girl I was, I followed the diet religiously. I ate all the time, because I never felt full. Then it was time to take off for the East Coast. By the time I left, I had lost only 5 pounds, but I had lost SEVERAL inches. My body fat percentage was around 11%.

For some reason, I thought I was supposed to continue the diet through the two-week competition. That was a misunderstanding on my part, because I was actually supposed to stop the diet before leaving. Continuing the diet was no problem, though. I was so zoned in on this low-carb diet that I couldn’t think outside of it. I was a walking nutrition database! I could tell you how much protein and carbohydrate was in every food item on my plate. The lunches served at Boardwalk Hall between rehearsals were intense. Dessert was always included–usually in large quantities, but I overcame every temptation to eat bread and sweets. I was so focused on my diet that I once had a dream where I accidentally ate a peppermint, and I panicked! Without realizing it, I was becoming obsessed with what I was and was not eating.


Dinners were always special events. Sometimes I had to go back to my hotel room and order room service afterwards, though, because there weren’t enough “Stage-diet” food options available at dinner, and I was STILL HUNGRY!

I had a great experience in Atlantic City, but I came home to Wyoming with an unhealthy relationship with food. I had a hard time easing back into normal eating. Because I was so determined to “be good” with my diet, I resisted the foods I loved. However, I unconsciously obsessed over them, wishing for a bite. Sometimes I would eat around the food I wanted—choosing a piece of fruit here, and munching on a slice of cheese there, but avoiding the homemade bread on the counter. On occasion, I would come home for the weekend and binge on anything I could find in my parent’s pantry. Guilty feelings immediately ensued, so I would take off on a long run to try to cure the very uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. I gained a bit of weight again as I struggled to avoid carbohydrates.   My body began to compensate for the lack of sugar available in my bloodstream by releasing glucose from the  glycogen stores in my liver. Basically, my body went into “starvation mode”.  Learn more about “starvation mode” at my post on “Low-Carb Diets.”

Not surprisingly, with the low body-fat percentage I had maintained for too long, my menses completely stopped. I ignored that until my mother insisted I see a Gynecologist before heading to college. The Gynecologist was very nice but quite blunt with me. She said, “It’s fine if you never have a cycle again…that is, of course, if you never want to have children someday.” Marriage and family were a long way off for me, but it was certainly a dream of mine to have children. She prescribed me some progesterone, and away I went to BYU to study Dietetics.


After earning my first A+ in Nutrition 100 (OK, it was actually a B+, but it was a ‘weed-out’ class and I was a Freshman), I gained an amazing sense of freedom with food. I learned that grains are the very staff of life and should never be eliminated from your diet. We studied the book, Intuitive Eating. The idea was that there is room for every food in a balanced diet, and restricting foods only makes us want them more. The day I re-learned that it was okay to have a scoop of ice cream when I occasionally craved some, my world of food became broadened once again. I also learned the hard way on several late-night brownie binges with my roommates that it was miserable to overindulge. Once I started eating balanced again, my regular cycles returned. The best thing my studies did for me was teach me that there is a place for every food in my diet. No food should be “off-limits,” and the key to healthy eating was all about balance.

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Fad Diet Myth BustingNutrition Education

Atkins, South Beach, and other Low-Carb Diets



Carbohydrates are found in foods like breads and grains, starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn, and sugary foods like candy.  Fruits also contain carbohydrate in the form of fructose. Dairy products contain carbohydrate in the form of lactose. (*Ahem* You can find quite a few delicious and nutritious carbohydrates in my “Hearty” Whole Grain Pancakes, too!) 😉 God blessed our Earth with many wonderful plants and animals which provide essential carbohydrates for our health, and He wants us to eat them. However, in the last 10 years or so, there has been a wave of diets promising weight loss through limiting carbohydrates. Society has started to view the consumption of carbohydrate as a sinful indulgence. Why all the fuss about carbohydrates?

Hearty Whole Wheat Pancakes

The basis behind a low-carbohydrate diet is this:

When we burn energy throughout the day and during exercise, it is done in a specific order. First, the bulk of carbohydrates or sugars in our cells are used for energy. Once depleted, the body depends on fat stores to supply energy. Only in extreme cases such as very long periods of exercise or starvation does the body start burning into protein stores. Protein is largely stored in muscle tissues, so when broken down for energy, it causes atrophy (wasting) of the muscles. Bye, Bye biceps… When there is little to no carbohydrate in the cells to be burned, the body goes straight to the fat-burning phase. The low-carb diet limits carbohydrates yet provides TONS of protein in the form of meat and animal products in order to ensure no carbohydrate or protein is used for energy. Sounds like a quick way to burn lots of body fat, right? Well, sort of. Initially.


Image from Krause’s Food, Nutrition. & Diet Therapy, 2004

But what happens over time with a low-carb diet?

The most efficient and preferred source of energy for our bodies is glucose. Glucose comes from Carbohydrate. The only source of energy which can fuel the brain happens to be glucose, and the majority of the 200 grams of carbohydrate required to properly fuel our bodies is used by the brain. The body has an amazing mechanism which recognizes when there is not enough glucose to feed our brain and muscles. It triggers the “starvation mode” and starts to break down glycogen stores from the liver and pump glucose into our cells. Our metabolism then begins to slow down. The body adjusts to having less glucose available for energy, so it slows down the energy-making factory! That’s when the weight loss begins to taper and plateau.

Below is a diagram of the what the “energy-making factory” looks like in our bodies. It’s not important to understand all the chemical jibberish. Just focus on the words in red and notice that protein, fat, AND carbohydrate are all necessary and crucial components to creating and sustaining energy in our bodies… that’s all.

Pathways of energy production

Image from Krause’s Food, Nutrition. & Diet Therapy, 2004

Have you ever met someone who is on a low-carb diet? Have you been on one yourself? Did you notice the decline in energy? Or, worse yet, did you notice how cranky they were?! Now you know why! No carbs=no energy.

Now, the aggravated dieter decides to stop the no-carb diet since it seems to have stopped working. That, or they finally succumb to the overwhelming cravings and eat a day’s worth of carbs in one sitting. Upon returning to eating carbohydrates again, guess what happens? The energy-making factory which has been slowed down continues to slowly use the influx of carbohydrates now fed into the system. It uses very little and then stores the rest for future use in the case of “starvation mode” hitting again. After more and more carbohydrate is eaten, the stores turn into fat and the poor dieter has now gained all, if not more, of the weight back that was lost on the low-carb diet.

So, ask yourself: Is this a diet I can stick to for the rest of my life? If not, what is your motivation for starting it? Knowing you will most likely gain the weight back (and then some) does it really seem feasible to deprive yourself, only to have no lasting success?

Here’s my advice in a nutshell: don’t diet. Evaluate how much processed food you are eating, and make adjustments if necessary. Enjoy a wide variety of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and dairy products.

Keep reading, and I will teach you how.

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