Monday, October 20, 2014

Kale Orange Almond Salad with Orange Marmalade Dressing


"Use what you have, use what the world gives you. Use the first day of fall: bright flame before winter's deadness; harvest; orange, gold, amber; cool nights and the smell of fire. Our tree-lined streets are set ablaze, our kitchens filled with the smells of nostalgia: apples bubbling into sauce, roasting squash, cinnamon, nutmeg, cider, warmth itself. The leaves as they spark into wild color just before they die are the world's oldest performance art, and everything we see is celebrating one last violently hued hurrah before the black and white silence of winter."
-Shauna Niequist
Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace,
and Learning the Hard Way



I give you permission to play with your food with this recipe: We’re massaging kale today. Massaging breaks down the cellulose structure of kale, turning it from a tough, fibrous, bitter green to a sweeter, silkier, darker green that is infinitely tastier than it’s pre-massaged state. Raw kale haters might even become raw kale lovers after tasting this salad. You can use your favorite brand of marmalade here; I opted for sugar-free. 
Author: Anita L. Arambula
Yield: 4 serving


1 bunch curly kale (about 5 cups)
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 green onion, white and green, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sugar-free orange marmalade
pinch each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large orange, peeled, segmented and cubed
¼ cup roasted almonds, chopped


1. Remove and discard large center stem from kale leaves. Chop or tear leaves into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Fill bowl with water, covering kale and swooshing leaves to remove any dirt. Set aside to allow dirt to settle to bottom of bowl.

2. Fill a mason jar with the vinegar, oil, garlic, ginger, green onion, marmalade, salt and pepper. Screw lid on tightly and shake jar well until ingredients are mixed thoroughly and dressing has emulsified, about two minutes. 

3. Carefully lift out the kale leaves from the water bath and place into a salad spinner or use a towel to dry kale. Transfer kale to a serving bowl. Drizzle the dressing over the kale and using both hands, massage the dressing into the kale by picking up handfuls of the leaves and rubbing them together. As you rub, you’ll notice the leaves getting softer, shrinking in size and becoming darker in color. Massage leaves for a full 3 minutes, then taste. If the kale is still bitter, continue massaging for another minute or two, adjusting seasoning if needed. 

4. Toss in the orange cubes and the almonds until coated well with dressing. Divide salad between four bowls and serve.

Note: Add diced chicken to up the protein and make this an entrée. 

Calories 221; Total Fat 16.6g; Saturated Fat 3.2g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 148mg; Potassium 488mg; Total Carbohydrates 17.2g; Dietary Fiber 3.1g; Sugars 4.7g; Protein 3.9g; Vitamin A 209%; Vitamin C176%; Calcium 13%; Iron 9%

Happy fall, everyone. 
XO, Ani

Monday, October 13, 2014

Meatless Monday: Parmesan and Panko-Crusted Eggplant with Arugula Salad

Though available year-round, heart-heatlhy eggplant is at its best when in season which is now through October. Standing in for meat, these satisfying eggplant 'steaks' are packed with flavor and antioxidants making them a healthy and delicious Meatless Monday meal in under 45 minutes. 

As I stood at the kitchen sink washing the eggplant, listening to the dueling TV shows playing in the background — one my Auntie had on in the living room and the other my grandmother had on in her bedroom just off of the kitchen — I distinctly remember thinking, “There’s absolutely no way my father would ever consider this meal that I’m about to make ‘dinner.’ ”

With that passing thought, I was lost in memories of my childhood. Examining it now through the filter of adulthood, it’s easier to understand the force that is my father. Growing up, I was both in awe and in fear of him. But with like most people, once you start to peel back the protective layers, you are able to see so much more.

Dad worked very hard doing physically taxing jobs in order to support his ever-growing family. For most of my childhood, he was a carpet layer, then later a machinist. A work ethic like I’ve never seen since, I hardly ever remember him calling in sick no matter how ill he might have been. Mental health days? Unheard of. Most of the jobs he had didn't have sick leave. So whether it was waking up at 4am to go to work or coming home at 4am from work, he bore his responsibilities better than I could have at his age. By the time he was 25 years old, he had a wife, a mortgage and three daughters 5 and under to take care of (with two more daughters to come while in his 30s).

My childhood is a study in contrasts. Dad had a child-like zest for pranks: there were summer days he would come home from work, walk through the door, hands in pockets waiting for us girls to run up and greet him and before the first of us reached him, out would come his hands holding two fully filled water guns and we’d get squirted all the while laughing and squealing in delight while running away from him as he chased us around the living and dinning rooms, through the kitchen, down the hall and back again. My mother, as we ran past her, would in turn, hand us plastic tumblers half-filled with water for us to get Daddy back, never mind that the water left puddles everywhere, which she would be left to mop up.

Other days, he would come home so tired and incredibly cranky, wanting nothing but to be left alone to watch the news while waiting for dinner. We knew on those days that we had to remain as quiet as possible, tip-toeing around, using only our “inside” voices.

As for dinner, 75 percent of the time, meat was the centerpiece, just as Dad liked it. A meal wasn't really a meal if it didn't have meat. Red meat, usually. Considering how expensive meat is now and how expensive it had to have been back then, especially buying enough to feed a family of five, and later, seven, I’m in awe of how my parent’s managed. Most manual labor jobs don’t pay nearly as well as desk jobs tend to pay. But they managed. Better than I could have. Pepper steak. Hamburgers with huge steak fries. Corned beef hash with tons of potatoes and eggs. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Carne asada with freshly made tortillas. Hamburger Helper with Rice-a-roni, These were the midweek meals of my childhood. And during the leaner times, it was sometimes breakfast for dinner or freshly made frijoles de olla (a big pot of pinto beans), rice and homemade flour tortillas.

No matter how lean work was for my father, we never missed a meal. We never knew that there was a financial reason behind breakfast for dinner. We only knew that dad was home from work and dinner was at 5. There would be time enough to learn how hard providing for a family really was. Back then, it was simply more important for my parents to let us have a childhood of full bellies and great memories of surprise water gun attacks.

Until next time, friends. Happy Meatless Monday.
xo, Ani


Inspired by a video I saw on Martha Stewart’s website, this eggplant is cooked to just golden brown and just barely fork tender so that they retain their firmness, giving them a more “meaty” quality. For this reason, don’t skip the sweating step. The salt will draw out any bitterness, leaving you with a better tasting steak. Sweating also helps to keep the eggplant from absorbing some of the oil. As for the skin, leave it on; it's filled with nutrients including fiber. I’ve tweaked the ingredients ever so slightly, first leaving out the flouring stage to keep the carb count down (be sure to pat the steaks dry VERY well before dipping in egg), then including Trader Joe's Parmesan/Romano blend in my breading (to help slow down the absorption of carbohydrates from the breading while also adding a big punch of flavor) and switching from regular panko bread crumbs to a whole wheat panko which has a slower glycemic load. Feel free to skip the pan frying and instead, spray the steaks with a little olive oil and roast them in a 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until desired doneness, flipping them halfway through cooking. Since my low carb eating plan allows for heart healthy fats in moderation, I have no problem with the occasional shallow pan frying. Added bonus: This is an inexpensive dinner for a party of eight paired with the addition of grilled asparagus and finished with a low carb dessert, like my Skinny Brownies. This recipe can easily be halved.

Makes 8 servings


2 large eggplants
sea salt, as needed
1 cup whole wheat Panko
½ cup grated Parmesan/Romano blend
1 whole egg
1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for dressing
1 packed cup of arugula, or more, per person
¼ lemon per person
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste


1. Wash and dry eggplant. Cut the top, stem part, off. Cut a an ⅛ to a ¼ off the bottom. Stand the eggplant up, newly sliced bottom down. Thinly slice off some skin on one side of the eggplant, exposing some flesh; repeat on the opposite side (this will allow the egg and breading to have something to adhere to). Starting at the top, diagonal to the exposed flesh, slice the eggplant into for equal "steaks" (about an inch thick). Lay eggplant on cutting board and generously salt both sides of every steak. Stand the steaks upright in a colander an allow to drain for 30 minutes. Repeat with second eggplant.

2. Measure out the cheese blend and Panko into a shallow dish large enough to accommodate an eggplant steak; set aside.

3. Crack an egg into a shallow dish large enough to accommodate an eggplant steak. Whisk in the yogurt until well incorporated; set aside.

4. Rinse the eggplant steaks well, then dry completely, applying a little pressure to soak up any excess water in each slice. Dip a steak into the egg mixture, then hold it vertically over the bowl to allow excess egg to drip off; place the steak on the bread crumb mixture. Using a tablespoon, cover the eggplant with bread crumbs then use the palm of your hand to press the eggplant into the bread crumbs. Flip steak and press the second side. Place dredged eggplant onto a large plate or sheet pan. Repeat with remaining steaks. 

5. Line a sheet pan or large platter with paper towels; set aside.

6. Pour ¼ cup of olive oil into a 10 inch wide frying pan and place on medium heat. Test the oil by submerging the handle of a wooden spoon or the thick part of a wooden chopstick into the oil. If it bubbles rapidly around the edges, oil is ready. Carefully slip in one steak, then a second steak. Fry until golder brown, approximately 5 minutes then use a spatula to carefully flip the steaks over and fry for additional 5 minutes or until golden. Remove to the towel lined pan to drain. Repeat with remaining eggplant, frying no more than two steaks at a time to keep the oil temperature from dropping. Add additional oil as needed. 

6. Place a steak on a plate, add a cup of arugula partially covering the eggplant. Squeeze a lemon quarter over the arugula and eggplant. Drizzle the greens with about ½ teaspoon of extra virgin olive and finish with a pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste. Serve.

• High in fiber
• High in vitamin C

Note: Nutritional analysis is an approximation calculated using a free online tool. This was calculated for a single serving of one steak and 1 cup of salad.

Monday, October 6, 2014

"The Great Pepper Cookbook" is both informative and lusciously photographed {Cookbook Review}

The Great Pepper Cookbook: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing and Cooking with Peppers by Melissa's Produce. Published by Oxmoor House. Hardback, 257 pages, 140 recipes. List price: $29.95 (Amazon $24.07)

My dad used to joke that I must’ve been switched at the hospital. How could a daughter of his NOT like spicy food? To this day, when entertaining the family, he always makes a salsa just for me sans jalapeños – salsa for wimps, he’s teased.

It’s not that I don’t like a little kick in my salsa. It’s just that I don’t like feeling like there’s three alarm fire going off in my mouth. Heat so hot that it makes you cry? No thank you.

My auntie teased the other day when I said that I didn’t like a lot of heat in my food that that statement was, in fact, a joke. My experiments with Harissa, my addition of New Mexico or California chile powder to a lot of my Mexican-centric recipes, contradicted my insistence that heat is not my friend. She even claims that my homemade taco seasoning is much hotter in spice than hers has ever been.

So, OK, maybe I’m slowly coming around to chile peppers after all.

“The Great Pepper Cookbook: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing and Cooking with Peppers” from Melissa’s Produce is not only filled with tons of recipes to get me started, it’s also an excellent reference book filled with pictures and descriptions of every fresh and dried chile used in the book. There are a lot of chiles in this book that I’ve never heard of; there are a lot that I would never try; and there are several in the "not hot" to "a bit of a kick" that I am willing to give a taste.

The design of the book is well thought out, going hand in hand with the content. A high percentage of the recipes have a beautiful color photograph of what the finished dish should look like with little to no additions in the food styling of items not mentioned in the recipe or headnote.

At the start of the book, we have the Scoville scale. The scale measures the concentration of capsaicin in any given pepper from 0 equaling sweet peppers to millions for the hottest peppers. This scale serves as a very visual and fast way to quickly look up the heat level of the peppers used in the included recipes.

Following the scale is a thorough visual glossary of the peppers used in the book’s recipes divided into two sections: one for fresh and one for dried. This feature is particularly helpful if you’re sourcing out a pepper you’ve never bought before and have no clue what it looks like. Each section is capped by a helpful visual step-by-step on how to prep the peppers.

The typography is clean, appropriately sized with the recipes having a clear hierarchy of type allowing for quick scanning while using the book in the kitchen. Little chile icons follow the recipe titles indicating heat level with one meaning sweet to little heat, two meaning moderate heat, and three meaning watch out! In addition, each recipe is accompanied by little photos of the peppers used in the recipe which is super helpful and keeps you from having to flip back to the front of the book to see what a recipe’s pepper looks like.

Nearly every recipe has a sidebar with either shopping tips, suggestions on swapping peppers, or prep tips. The recipes themselves are straight-forward, written with clear and concise instructions that most novices should find easy to follow. Most of the recipes also include at least a one-line headnote with serving suggestions, garnish recommendations or alternate ingredients. Recipes are accompanied by the most common nutritional data analysis per serving making it easy for those of us watching our carb, calorie or sodium intakes.

The book is divided thusly (I also call out some of the recipes that caught my attention):
  • Appetizers, snacks, and drinks (Mini Crispy Fish Tacos, Spicy Stuffed Mushrooms, Chile-Berry Aqua Fresca)
  • Breakfast and brunch (Roasted Poblano Chile Frittata, Quinoa Patties with Sunnyside-Up Eggs, Farro, Chile and Mushroom Patties)
  • Soups and salads (Beef Tortilla Soup)
  • Sandwiches (Several sounded quite delicious but I'm not currently eating white bread so I did not single any out.)
  • Main dishes (Stuffed Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Pollo en Crema, Lettuce-Wrapped Tacos, Beef Barbacoa, Slow-cooked Stove-top Pork Roast)
  • Side dishes (There are a lot of potato offerings which, although tasty sounding, I can’t eat. But two grain dishes jumped out: Vegetable Quinoa, Couscous with Chiles and Grilled Vegetables)
  • Desserts (I can’t make most of these but some I can tweak and make sugar-free like Raspberry Ice Cream Sundaes which use store-bought ice cream and is accented with a dark chocolate chile pepita bark or the Devil’s Favorite Devil’s Food Cake which I think I could make diabetic-friendly.)
  • Index (Cross-referenced by pepper type and meal type, i.e. main dish or dessert, etc.)
I try to test a few recipes for most of my cookbook reviews. I singled out two to try: Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Anaheim Chiles and Raspberry-Chile Chicken Thighs.

First up: the Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Anaheim Chiles

I had really high hopes for this recipe but it turned out to not be such a success. The instructions have you par-cook the bacon. The problem is, by doing so, they shrink quite a bit. There was no photo of this dish which is unfortunate. I sure would like to see how they were able to make one strip of bacon “wrap" around a chile. The recipe calls for 16 strips of bacon and 16 chiles but I needed at least two to just partially cover a pepper. Also, I grew up eating Anaheims and know how delicious they can be when roasted. This recipe did not call for pre-roasting and removing the skins from the chiles. I made these with the par-cooked bacon and then tried it with wrapping one raw piece of bacon around the chile (which did indeed wrap the chile). Problem was, baking the chiles long enough for either the par-cooked bacon, or worse, the raw bacon, to properly crisp up made the chile skin very papery and inedible. Also, on paper, it sounded like an intriguing list of ingredients for the stuffing: pepper-Jack cheese, pepperoncini peppers, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced black olives. But in reality, the flavors were all competing with each other - spicy, vinegary, sweet, salty. There was just too much going on making this dish a fail. However, with tweaks, this idea could really produce an interesting meal and I plan on playing with the general idea in the near future.

So I moved onto my next recipe: Raspberry-Chile Chicken Thighs

Winner! Winner! Chicken dinner!

This Raspberry-Chile Chicken Thigh dish was simply delicious. Even my grandmother, who isn’t a big meat-eater, enjoyed it. I did make an itty-bitty tweak at the get go to make the recipe more diabetic-friendly: I subbed no sugar-added raspberry preserves in place of the regular raspberry preserves called for in the dish. It was more than sweet enough (or maybe it’s just that my tastebuds are adjusting for real, naturally-occuring sugar?).

Hatch Chiles

I roasted and had every intention of using the Hatch chiles called for in the dish (lucky for me, my CSA box had a half dozen and the recipe called for four). However, while peeling the skins off, I gagged from the capsicum in the chiles and my eyes wouldn't stop watering. I knew there was no way I would be able to eat them. Not wanting to completely abandon the recipe mid-stride, I roasted some of the leftover Anaheim chiles and subbed them in. It turned out to have the perfect balance between sweet and spicy.

This recipe is going into rotation. That is, once I get through some of those aforementioned recipes that caught my eye.

The failed recipe aside, overall, I found this book to be a keeper. It’s filled with great information that will serve as a reference for future cooking adventures, contains some really inventive recipes, most of which are adaptable for various diets and filled with beautiful photographs that entice you to get into the kitchen and cook.

Take a closer look inside on Amazon. Scroll past the photos to see the recipe and make this yummy dish yourself.

Until next time,
XO, Ani

If Hatch chiles are not in season, substitute banana wax chile peppers.

Prep time: 20 min / Total time: 1 hr. 50 min. / Serves 6 (2 thighs)

12 chicken thighs (about 5 pounds
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgen olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups seedless raspberry preserves
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 fresh Hatch chile peppers, roasted, peeled, stems and seeds removed, and diced)
2 lemons, juiced (about 6 tablespoons juice)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt. Heat oil and butter in a large flameproof roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add 6 pieces chicken; sear, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from pan and add remaining 6 pieces of chicken; repeat procedure. Return all chicken to roasting pan.
2. Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine preserves, vinegar, chile, and juice; cook just until boiling, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; simmer until slightly thickened, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly.
3. Place preserves mixture in a blender*; process until slightly smooth (I skipped this step because I wanted to be able see the chile pieces in the final photograph). Pour preserves mixture over chicken; sprinkle evenly with paprika and cayenne pepper. Cover with foil; bake at 350ºF for 45 minutes. Uncover; bake until chicken is complexity cooked through and a meat thermometer inserted into theickes part reads 165ºF, about 15 minutes. Serve.

*Note: Be cautious when blending hot foods; the contents expand rapidly, causing a risk of scalding. To be safe, before blending, remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape), secure lid on blender, and place a towel over opening in lid (to avoid splatters).

Calories 740; fat calories 240; total fat 26g; sat fat 8 g; cholesterol 300mg; sodium 390mg; total carbohydrates 73g; fiber 1g; sugars 65g**; protein 53g; vitamin A IUs 25%; vitamin C 90%; calcium 2%; iron 15%

Recipe reprinted by permission of Melissa's Produce.

**Use preserves that are labeled no sugar added or sugar free or simply puree a pound of fresh raspberries to drastically reduce the sugar content and make this diabetic-friendly.

Disclosure: I received a copy of "The Great Pepper Cookbook" from Melissa's Produce for editorial consideration. I was not otherwise compensated. All statements made in this review are my own.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Everyday Eats: Cilantro and Tomato Braised Collard Greens with Sunny-Side-Up Egg

A medical diagnosis proves to be a blessing in disguise as it forced me to make healthier choices

When I found life becoming overwhelming, I used to feed it, literally, with comfort food. My spirit craved that fleeting high that came from carbohydrate laden breads and sweets. It “calmed” me. It made me forget, just for a little while, the stress of the day. It was easier to temporarily numb myself with fast food, with diet soda after diet soda, with potato tacos and pasta heavy meals than to find the strength within me to change – either my circumstances or my choices.

I knew I was unhappy both emotionally and physically. I spent most of the first half of 2014 feeling sick with headaches, chest pains, upset stomach and unbelievable fatigue. All. The. Time. I felt myself drowning. And the noise in my head that berated my choices – or lack thereof – was drowning out God, making me feel all the more alone in my struggles.

Of course, it’s human nature to dwell on the things we fail at, on the things we don’t have, on the things we can’t have, on the empty spaces left behind by people that used to fill them. I fall victim to it, rattling off a litany of complaints more often than I suspect is ultimately healthy for me.

But I know there is a different way to be, and I daresay, a better way to be: living with gratitude for what is. Recognizing the blessings amongst the hardship might not always be easy but there is peace and grace that comes in the ability to do so. Changing a mind set on seeing the negative to seeing the positive can be difficult, especially when you feel overwhelmed. It takes work and it can test faith. I know this because I’ve been living it.

I’m succeeding more than failing these days at being grateful for the blessings in my life. I’m learning that just like a photograph, empty spaces provide a counterbalance to the rest of the composition. So I am practicing seeing the empty spaces as opportunities to breathe, to re-access, to nurture a part of me that I’ve been neglecting and, most importantly, to let myself feel that emptiness and to be okay with it. Not filling the emptiness with bad choices has been a real test but it’s been an important part of my journey over the summer.

Up until late June, I would experience pains in my chest so severe that they would keep me up at night praying that I would be okay. My mind jumped from thought to thought: heart attack? Panic attack? Tumor? I fell asleep nearly every night in fear that I might not wake up. It had been going on for months and the stress of fitful sleep coupled with fatigue that was beyond mere sleep deprivation made it more and more difficult to go to work. Despite limbs that felt ten times heavier than they were and headaches that made me want to curl up in a fetal position and not move, I would drag my battered body out of bed and head to work never having called in sick because I was too tired to move. I willed myself to move.

The sheer amount of fatigue kept me from cooking healthful meals during the week when time was at it’s most precious. I would gravitate towards the closest burger or taco shop drive-thru on the way to work or on the way home from work. Sometimes both. Blogging projects on the weekends were hit and miss on the health-o-meter but at least I was making and eating real food and not eating processed, convenient food.

Still, the aches and pains were growing in numbers. I have, for as long as I can remember, suffered from severe iron-deficiency anemia. My body doesn’t produce the enzyme needed to properly utilize iron ingested either by pill or by food. So the anemia gets worse and worse until finally, it is so debilitating that I find myself at the doctor’s office.

In my early 30’s, my doctor sent me to a hematologist who determined that the best course of treatment would be iron infusions. At the time, the treatment course would be 6 hours at a time, sitting or laying in a recliner, with rust colored liquid hanging off an I.V. pole, a needle that had taken a minimum of two attempts to insert piercing my hand or arm, three days a week for up to three weeks every 12- 14 months. It was brutal. Once I hit my 40s, medicine had improved and I found myself going three times total per treatment course and the time between courses was increasing to 18-24 months.

The last time I had an infusion was 2011. Blood tests in 2012 and early 2013 showed a lowering of ferritin in my blood but still within normal range. All but my thyroid and a severe vitamins D and B12 deficiencies, were normal.

My fatigue and chest pains grew so all-consuming that they finally got me to the doctor early this past summer - June 19, to be exact. On June 20, my doctor called me to tell me that blood test results were in. My thyroid was completely out of whack, my vitamin D so low that she had never seen someone with a number as low as mine, my B12 was nearly depleted and my anemia so bad she was surprised that I was still able to work. These numbers weren’t a surprise. No, the devastating news she saved for last: I had developed diabetes. I sat in silence for a few minutes. “Pre-diabetes, right?” I asked. No. My A1C was 6.6. Pre-diabetes was 5.7 to 6.4 with 6.5 and above being diabetes.

There was a part of me that knew I’d been playing Russian roulette with how my eating choices where affecting my health. Nonetheless, I was in shock, then anger, then depression. Depression that lasted the entire weekend. That weekend, I was making my final churro recipe to shoot for this blog. How ironic that I would be making such a treat this very weekend of my diagnosis. I’d been teasing to it for weeks on my social media sites. It was a good recipe. I didn’t want to not post it. There are people out there with a normal working pancreas who could still partake of my creation and enjoy it, I rationalized. So I pushed forward. I ate one and sent most of the batch over to a relatives house to remove the temptation that my depression might not be able to withstand.

By Sunday evening, my depression turned to determination. When my doctor asked me if I were okay and if I had any questions she could answer immediately, I asked only one thing: “Is it reversible?”

“Where you are, yes,” she said. "But it will take hard work.”

So that evening I got onto the internet and Googled understanding A1C and new diabetes diagnosis. I reached several sites that spoke to living with the disease and managing the disease. I spent some time on those sites and grew increasingly frustrated. Finally, I typed in ‘reversing diabetes’ and I got a ton of hits for paleo bloggers and a few ‘miracle’ supplements, etc. But one site caught my attention, “The Blood Sugar Solution” and as I read through the site, I grew hopeful that yes, indeed, I would have a chance to correct some of the damage I’d put my body through.

First change to happen in my diet? On June 23 I gave up white food: everything made with all purpose flour, no potatoes, no white rice, no white sugar. If you read this blog regularly, you know I love to bake sweets with granulated sugar. You know I love potatoes and Mexican rice. And that morning, I decided to say goodbye to them. By end of day on that Monday, I’d added an 'eat only occasionally' list that included more of what had been my go-to veggies: peas, corn, carrots. I also decided no more, albeit diet and artificially sweetened, sugary drinks. Only water, decaf coffee, the occasional nonfat milk in my latte, and tea. And no more boxed and highly processed foods that contained more than five ingredients or ingredients that I can't pronounce.

So what am eating now? Well, I’ve been posting more and more of my new eating choices already, some more involved than others, but this braised collard greens dish I’m sharing today is typical of the new food I’m eating daily. That’s why I’m launching this new feature, Everyday Eats, to share with you my more nutritious eating choices that you, too, can adopt. They’re going to be relatively quick meals that you can have on the table in anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour.

Shortly after my diagnosis, I was over at my parent’s house to celebrate my sister’s birthday. I joyfully chimed in the chorus of happy birthday as she prepared to blow out her candles but passed on cake and ice cream. The shame I felt having the disease, had prompted me to keep it a secret. Only a small handful of people knew of my illness. So when my father, who also has the disease, asked why I wasn't having cake, I said I was on a diet and that I had already lost 15 pounds. He asked how I lost the weight and I rattled off what I wasn’t eating. “Then what’s left to eat?” he asked. Plenty, I remember saying. I told him 70 percent of my diet now is cruciferous veggies like collard greens, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, arugula, chard, cauliflower and broccoli. The rest is lean meat, tofu, healthy fats, healthy whole grains. He made a face and said, “Don’t you get bored eating that stuff?”

I suppose I might have thought that same thing just six months ago. But I don’t now. I find it challenging to come up with ideas and recipes that support my new outlook on eating. I am not bored. I don’t dwell on what I can’t have. Instead, I see the blessings: I live in a part of the country that has access to fresh, affordable produce year-round. In truth, there is still so much I can have. It’s a matter of how you look at it and I choose to not see the empty spaces left by my old favorite foods and instead see the abundance of healthful choices before me.

As I write this, I’m down 40 pounds in just over three months time. I was "forced" to go clothes shopping this past weekend and wound up with pants three sizes smaller than what has been hanging off of me all summer. I'm scheduled for my last infusion in this round of treatment this Saturday. I'm feeling more energized. I don’t feel deprived. On the contrary, I’m excited about dreaming up new dishes that reflect my new journey and sharing them here with you. Plus, I’m slowly working on converting my favorite foods and baked treats into healthier versions of themselves. Last week, I also added an exercise component to this new lifestyle as I and a good friend have started spending our lunch hour supporting each other in treadmill workouts in our company’s onsite gym. That’s been a much needed stress reliever right smack in the middle of the day.

It hasn’t been easy, but I’m working hard at trying to forgive myself for my failures and instead to celebrate my successes. When you are used to being your own toughest critic, it takes real effort to be kind to yourself. This journey is mostly about that.

Why did I decide to share my experience and situation here, so publicly? Because being a food blogger and NOT sharing has felt so disingenuous. Food, as detrimental as it can sometimes be, it can also heal. Coming clean here is helping me to more fully face this disease and in doing so, perhaps my story will encourage you to take a healthier path sooner rather than later.

So, here’s to a better, longer, healthier, life!

Until next time, my friends, be kind to yourselves.
XO, Ani

This is a great basic recipe that I eat as an entree. Feel free to swap in kale (leave out the fibrous stem) or chard (mmm, good, tender stem) for the collard greens. This makes a fantastic Meatless Monday meal. You can, however, leave out the beans and add leftover chicken. The egg is optional but I have to say, the yolk makes for a lovely, rich ‘sauce.’ 

Makes 4 servings as a main dish 


1 bunch collard greens (about 5-6 cups chopped) 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
½ large onion, sliced with the grain in half moons 
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 
⅓ cup diced mild green chiles (I like Ortega brand) 
15 ounce can stewed or diced tomatoes 
1 tablespoon tomato paste (I prefer the tube concentrate) 
15 ounce can cannellini beans, or your favorite white bean, drained and rinsed well 
1 bunch cilantro, thicker stems removed, roughly chopped 
½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste 
¼ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste 

2 tablespoons olive oil 
4 large eggs (organic free-range, if possible) 


1. Cut bottom ⅓ of the collard green stem off. Finely chop remaining stem. Slice collard green leaf into thirds lengthwise, stack, then chop into 1-inch pieces. Place in a large bowl. Continue with remaining leaves. Fill bowl with water to cover. Swoosh water to rinse greens. Set aside to soak and allow dirt to settle to the bottom of the bowl. 
2. Drizzle the olive oil into a large sauté pan and place on medium-low heat. When oil is shimmering but not smoking, add onions and sauté until translucent and just starting to color. Add garlic, stirring frequently to keep from burning. Cook for 1 minute then add the green chiles. Cook 1 minute longer, stirring often. 
3. Carefully remove collard green leaves to a strainer using tongs or your hands. The heavier stems will have sunk to the bottom of the bowl. Without disturbing the water, fish out the stems and add them to the onion mixture in the pan. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes then add the rest of the greens. Stir to wilt by half in volume. Add the tomatoes (and the juices from the can), breaking up the stewed tomatoes with your hands if using. Add the tomato paste; stir well to combine. Add the beans, cilantro, salt and pepper. Stir well. Adjust seasoning to taste. Cover, reduce heat to low and allow to braise while you make the eggs.
4. Place a small frying pan on medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and heat until shimmering. Carefully break an egg into a small cup or bowl, then slide the egg into the pan. Allow egg to cook, undisturbed, for at least two full minutes. This allows for the whites to run off the yolks, thus preventing a white film to cover the gorgeous yellow. After two minutes, carefully spoon the hot oil over the whites to until they set up to desired doneness (I like mine just set). You can also spoon some over the yolks if you like though I often skip it. Carefully remove egg to a plate and repeat with remaining eggs. Season eggs with salt and pepper to taste. 
5. To serve, divide the greens between four bowls and top each serving with an egg.