Recipe Makeover


As part of my new “Health Coach” certification I am offering recipe makeover services. Basically, this means that I am able to revamp people’s favorite recipes and make them healthier without sacrificing flavor. So far my only client is myself … haha… and I have been enjoying the challenge of turning otherwise sinful snacks into healthy treats. Drawing inspiration from the massive zucchini’s my garden has been producing I decided to take a stab at healthy, breakfast worthy, zucchini muffins. Here is the recipe I came up with:

3 eggs

½ cup canola oil

½ cup prune puree**

¾ cup brown sugar

3 generous cups fresh grated zucchini

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups white whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp sea salt (or any good salt)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 Tbsp + ground cinnamon

Beat eggs then add oil, prune puree, sugar, zucchini, and vanilla… mix. Gently mix in dry ingredients. Makes about 24 muffins.  Bake about 20 mins at 325 degrees. **Prune puree – let half a cup of prunes sit in warm water until they plump (5-10 mins), then puree in a blender and use in place of oil.

THE RESULT: The average, reasonably healthy zucchini muffin recipes I found were about 295 calories, 13 grams fat, 41 carbs, and 4 grams protein. Mine are 139 calories, 5 grams fat, 20 grams carbs, and 3 grams protein. Most importantly mine contain lots of fiber and micronutrients due to the increased amount of wheat, zucchini and prunes.

They are delicious, enjoy!



Our senses tell us what to eat…


I have been reading a fascinating book lately… “In Defense of Food” written by Michael Pollan. I am only halfway thru but it has already enlightened me about many areas of nutrition and eating. In truth this book as affirmed my inclination that food is so much more than nutrition or calories or energy… it is designed to have a symbiotic relationship with us. It is designed to feed us and we it. It is designed to work together with our bodies to fulfill our natural desire for optimal health.

Food is a complex and telling part of intelligent design… Pollan’s book reveals in plain english that science has tried and failed to develop and identify the perfect diet. For example, scientists have only identified some of the nutrients that are inside of each crop and despite our human desire to know exactly how much beta carotene is in a carrot… carrots continue to make as much or as little beta carotene (and countless other micronutrients) as they feel like. Varying factors include soil, climate, pollination, altitude, ripeness when picked and a million other factors that impact how nutrient dense a carrot is or isn’t. All carrots are NOT created equal. This variation holds true across the board for all plant crops and animal farming. For example, cows that are permitted to roam freely (meaning acres not square feet) and feed on natural diets of grasses grown in rich soil produce meat that is low in fat, high in Omega 3 fatty acids, positively effects cholestoral, and many other things. Basically, cows that are allowed to be cows provide meat that is nutritionally opposite from cows that are treated as livestock. Why do you think fish is such a healthy food? Because fish comes from the sea… its natural environment. The examples of how food grown in natural climates and environments and harvested at its peak is different from the “food” we find at the grocery store are endless. Suffice to say we are designed to eat food from the farm and our bodies reject the “food” we feed it by developing health issues.

One of the most fascinating and simple concepts the book talks about (and the inspiration for me to blog about it) was the consideration that our senses tell us exactly when to eat things. Pollan gives the example of how fruit actually communicates to us that it is ready and waiting for us to eat it. Fruit does this by emitting a smell that is delicious and enticing to us… you know the smell of ripe apples hanging on their tree or a fresh peach? The fruit only begins to produce this… odor… once it is ready to be eaten. It is at that time that the fruit has reached its nutritional peak. The fruit notifies us of its readiness and we then eat it, thru our bodies processing and flushing of the fruit we participate in our role of the food cycle. Interesting huh?

The sad part… processed food literally tricks our brain into overriding our senses. We are not designed to eat processed foods and our body treats them as junk, stores them and gets injured by them. BUT processed food tricks the brain into craving it. It is important to tune in to our senses with food… our senses are strong and they are there for the sake our survival. Senses were designed to help us determine poison from safe, healthy from unhealthy, rancid from ok, desirable from undesirable etc. If we tune into these senses we may begin to notice the funny smell coming from a box of cereal or the odd aftertaste from a fudgesicle, these are signs that our body is saying “not that please, I don’t want it!” Our brain is tricked but our body is not.

Final consideration or takeaway (other than read this book!) is to make every effort to always eat food that is in season and traveled minimal distances. Food that “ripens in transit” is not nutritionally dense and in not as good for you as you may think. Eat the food that grows locally… it was designed specifically for your consumption.

🙂 Christina

Babies will eat ANYTHING


When Trevor was about 7 months old I began feeding him chopped up versions of whatever we ate. This was spurred by the advice I had gotten from a few other mama’s whose children (I had noticed) ate very well rounded diets. They all said the same thing, just give them the healthy, full flavor stuff early on and they don’t have a problem with it. Sounded reasonable enough to me… and turns out it works.

Here is my proof…

Yesterday I decided to harvest some of the gorgeous and huge stalks of rainbow chard and purple kale from my garden. I had some cooked spaghetti pasta already in the fridge so figured I would cook the greens and mix them with the pasta. I chopped the greens roughly, sautéed an “unethical” (as we fondly say) amount of garlic, half an onion, red chili pepper flakes and some lemon zest in 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter. After a few minutes I slowly added the greens, seasoning with sea salt as I went, until they were all in the pot. I let them reduce, added lemon juice, mixed in the spaghetti, then added one more tablespoon of butter, some fresh parmesan and topped it all with parsley. Trevor was in my arms for most of the cooking and was anxious to try a bite. I pulled some greens off the top, let them cool and then gave them to him – he started jumping up and down – the I LOVE THIS FOOD happy dance. So I tried them – they were SPICY! He didn’t care; he started crying that I wasn’t giving him more.

His food tray was in the dishwasher at this point and it wasn’t quite time for dinner yet, so I made a little bowl of the pasta for us to share and we sat on the kitchen floor and ate it with our hands. Then he had more for dinner. See pictures below…

The other hilarious discovery I had yesterday was that Trevor likes herbal tea! At his 9 month well baby visit his Doc had mentioned to add iron rich foods to his diet since babies tend to get anemic around this age. One of the foods mentioned on her handout for iron was nettle tea (she is a naturopath so this was not a big shock). I drink nettle tea all the time – for my own iron levels as well as a million other benefits. And yes when I say “nettle” I mean stinging nettles from the woods. They are excellent for you and are totally edible. The stingers die with heat so you have to handle with gloves until you cook them or dry them. I dry the leaves and make tea. It had never occurred to me that Trevor could drink herbal tea… like most people I just assumed all babies would like is water, juice, or milk. Right? WRONG. He loves it!

So not only does Trevor like garlic, chili pepper, onion, kale, lemon, greens, and what not… he drinks stin

ging nettle tea. Go figure. These are all things that I would not have given him with the assumption that ‘babies don’t like that stuff’. So the lesson is never assume anything about their taste buds!



Cutting the fat…


Hey everyone! First, before I dive into the inspiration for blogging this morning might I just say “sorry” for being so absent lately? As many of you may know I began graduate school at the end of April. Adjusting to the demands of studying, researching and paper writing along with taking care of little Trevor has left me MIA in many areas of my life. To top it off I began my training with Dr Sears LEAN at the same time. This is all very exciting and I am enjoying all of it but it has left little time for blogging.

I will post more about the Dr Sears training some other time . I am really excited about it and basically, Dr. Sears has developed a health and wellness program for families, expecting mothers, and senior citizens. The program is taught by Dr Sears certified LEAN (acronym for Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitude, and Nutrition) coaches… a designation I will have by the end of July! I will be offering the workshops and classes for expecting moms, nursing moms, and parents with school age children. One of the projects we have been doing in the training is dissecting nutrition labels and identifying substitutes for some common ingredients. Being an all or nothing kind of girl I of course turned this into my own personal project to take unhealthy recipes and make them healthy! Which leads to my reason for this post….

The other night Ty was frantically looking through the whole house… I asked him what he was doing and he said (a little angrily) “I am looking for some junk!” To this I laughed and watched him… then as the search continued and he ended up coming up with dried fruit and some “suck candy” that resembles cherry flavored cough drops I began to feel bad. By the end of the search he and I were laughing so hard we were crying. It was hysterical because we really have nothing bad in our house… it drives Ty nuts sometimes. Anyway… this inspired me to prove to Ty that I could make “junk” from my healthy pantry and he wouldn’t know the difference. Enter: Oatmeal Craisin cookies. I found a recipe for them online that looked good. It called for 1/2 cup of butter and lots of sugar as well as all the typical ingredients. I replaced all of the butter with unsweetened applesauce, 3/4 of the sugar with agave nectar, and all of the flour with white whole wheat flour. Everything else in it was fine – though very sweet. I baked them this morning with a very skeptical Ty looking on. They came out of the oven and WA LAA awesome cookies. TY APPROVED! I thought they were too sweet but I am not the sweet tooth in the family so my thoughts were irrelevant.

The funnest part of this whole cookie deal for me was to compare the nutrition facts from the original recipe with the nutrition facts for my version. Check this out: the original cookie had 242 calories and 12 grams of fat per cookie. My version had 116 calories and 0.9 grams of fat per cookie – that is a 93% reduction in fat! Plus added fiber and nutrients. So awesome! I will post the recipe here.

If you try them let me know what you think, you will be able to tell they are not the full fat version, but just barely. They don’t taste “healthy” according to Ty… and he is the expert.

Have an awesome day!


Happy Mother’s Day!


The Invisible Woman

© Nicole Johnson, Fresh Brewed Life, Inc. 2006.

It started to happen gradually…

One day I was walking my son Jake to school. I was holding his hand and we were about to cross the street when the crossing guard said to him, “Who is that with you, young fella?”

“Nobody,” he shrugged.

Nobody? The crossing guard and I laughed. My son is only five, but as we crossed the street I thought, oh my goodness, nobody?

I would walk into a room and no one would notice. I would say something to my family, like “Turn the TV down, please.” And nothing would happen. Nobody would get up, or even make a move for the remote. I would stand there for a minute, and then I would say again, a little louder, “Would someone turn the TV down?” Nothing.

Just the other night my husband and I were out to a party. We’d been there for about three hours and I was ready to leave. I noticed he was talking to a friend from work. So I walked over, and when there was a break in the conversation, I whispered, “I’m ready to go when you are.” He just kept right on talking.

That’s when I started putting all the pieces together. I don’t think he can see me. I don’t think anyone can see me.

I’m invisible.

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, “Can’t you see I’m on the phone?” Obviously not. No one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I’m invisible.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more.

Can you fix this?

Can you tie this?

Can you open this?

Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being.

I’m a clock to ask, “What time is it?”

I’m a satellite guide to answer, “What number is the Disney Channel?”

I’m a car to order, “Right around 5:30, please.”

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude – but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again.

She’s going…she’s going…she’s gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others, all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package and said, “I brought you this.”

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription. “To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.”

In the days ahead I would read, no, devour, the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I would pattern my work:

  • No one can say who built the great Cathedrals—we have no record of their names.
  • These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.
  • They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
  • The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, “Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.”

And the workman replied, “Because God sees.”

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece just push into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, “I see you Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one else does. No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.”

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn, pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who will show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, “My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for 3 hours and presses all the linens for the table.” That would mean I’d built a shrine or monument to myself. I just want him to come home. And then if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, “You’re gonna love it here.”

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

An awesome, healthy breakfast that everyone will enjoy!


Hi All,

So I have recently began to explore the awesomeness of crepes. They are healthy, easy, affordable, interesting, versitile, and tasty! I make a simple whole wheat version and stuff either with scrambled eggs and veggies, or cheese and veggies, or greek yogurt and fruit. The combinations of ingredients are endless though! I am going to try pesto, chicken, and spinach today!

Whole wheat crepes: (Makes eight 10 inch crepes – double to make 16 for a bigger family)


2/3 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup milk (or milk substitute)

blend ingredients and use 1/4 cup batter per crepe; heat 10 inch skillet over medium heat and put some oil or butter in pan; drop 1/4 cup batter in middle of pan, remove from heat and swirl batter around pan, put back on heat; once bubbles form atop crepe (about 1-2 minutes) flip, cook about 1 minute (or less!) and remove from pan; fill with ingredients and enjoy!

HINT for quick, healthy filling: 0% fat greek yogurt mixed with frozen (thawed) fruit or even storebought jam makes an excellent breakfast filling that has the kids thinking it is a treat while you know it is healthy!

Please share your favorite fillings in the comments below!