Monthly Archives: February 2014

11 Kitchen Hacks … Fast, Easy, Healthy!

I don’t know about you but I’m always looking for ways to cut my time in the kitchen and still maintain a healthy diet. These are some of the things that work for me:

  1. If I want a slice of onion for a sandwich, or if I’m11 Kitchen Hacks Small chopping up a few tablespoons for tuna salad, I go ahead and cut up the whole onion and store it in a glass container in the fridge. I find myself using it up every time because it’s so easy. I’ll put onions with scrambled eggs, brown rice or pasta, or add it to a sandwich, just because it’s already cut up.
  2. I cook once and eat several times. I’ll make a double batch of spaghetti, cook an entire bag of pasta and freeze it individually for easy dinners. I do this with casseroles, soup and side dishes.
  3. Having great knives and glass cutting boards is a must for easy prep. Even if I cut only once, I want it to be fast and efficient. With glass cutting boards I don’t have to Chef-knivesworry about how sanitary it is. When I’m finished, I pop it in the dishwasher.
  4. A Foreman Grill is a big deal in my kitchen. I use it primarily for fish. I love the salmon burgers and mahi burgers from Trader Joe’s. From frozen they take about four minutes. Add in a side salad from the salad bar and a bit of rice pilaf and I’m good to go in under 15 minutes!
  5. I would have a hard time eating healthy if I didn’t have my slow cooker. In the summer it keeps the house cool and in the winter it makes soups so easy to prepare! This is where I cook my Vegan Spaghetti, Split Pea Soup, Sweet Potatoes, Chili … Actually, most things! My favorite is the Hamilton Beach; It’s reasonably priced and works simply.
  6. Sweet Potatoes & Butternut Squash are a big deal for me and I almost always have one of them on hand. I cook them in my slow cookerSweet Potatoes without any added liquid, for 3-4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. They are the best tasting sweet potatoes I’ve ever eaten. When I make Butternut Squash Soup, I don’t bother with cubing or peeling. I throw the whole, washed squash into the slow cooker until cooked, remove it, scrape the meat into the blender, and add the rest of the ingredients, then puree. I put it back in the slow cooker for about an hour to let the ingredients meld together. Delish!
  7. Then there’s my Ninja Professional. It’s a blender, food processor combined. Knowing what to use when took me a bit, but it was worth the investment. I can make GF breadcrumbs with the end pieces of the Udi’s bread I buy. I crush the chickpeas I add to my Vegan Spaghetti. I make my hummus, refried beans and black bean dip.
  8. NutriBullet makes my smoothies a breeze. I have a really small kitchen, so I keep most of my appliances in a closet. The NutriBullet caught my eye because of its small size. It sits on my counter and I whip up my morning smoothie easily. It also comes with three cups and a milling blade which makes grinding the fennel for my Vegan Spaghetti a snap!
  9. A toaster oven is great for reheating things that require crispness. One of my guilty pleasures is a dish called Crispy Tofu from Blue Koi, a restaurant in KC. I bring home leftovers and the next day I put them in the toaster oven, on toast, and they come out crispy and delicious! Toaster ovens are good for when you don’t need the large size of a regular oven. Oh yeah … they make toast!
  10. Salad in a Jar is one way to easily make a healthy lunch. Using large jars (I use Trader Joe’s Organic Spaghetti Sauce jars), fill about half way with your choice of lettuce. I use a mix of romaine and spring greens from the salad bar. Then toss in some premade Cole slaw mix or broccoli slaw mix, and veggies that you like on a salad. I use cucumbers, peppers and a little red onion. You can add beans (I like chickpeas) and dried cranberries. Then top it with a few grape tomatoes. On the day of, I add nuts and seeds. I take along a little container of salad dressing and at lunchtime I add the dressing, re-close the jar, and shake like a bartender to mix. The only caveat: Make sure you’ve got a fork that fits to the bottom of the jar you choose.
    These last three days in my refrigerator. It seems the bagged lettuce lasts longer in the jar than it does in the bag … weird.
  11. Just toss stuff together! You probably have some regular flavor profiles that you depend on. Try something with what you’ve got on hand. I tossed some edamame, onions and pasta together with some tamari, garlic, salt and coconut oil for a fabulous stir fry! Here are the pics:


I hope these make your life a bit healthier and easier. I am all about helping people fit healthy choices into their busy lives. I love for you to ‘like’ my Facebook page. It can be found at

Nancy Oglesby, The Practical Health Coach

Just a quick disclaimer: I make a small amount if you purchase from the links I provide. I do like it that you know exactly what model I’m talking about when I identify brands that I like and use.

7 Ways to Have Happy Dogs

In a word: Kongs. Kongs make dogs happy. They probably don’t care much what you fill them with as long as it’s tasty, but here are some of my favorite ways to add happiness to my pets’ day:


    Mikey the Wonder Dog (left) and his new, baby sister Piper (10 months old).

    SWEET POTATOES Put scrubbed sweet potatoes in your crockpot. Add nothing else. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4 hours. Trust me. They are incredible. (My faves are the small ones at Trader Joe’s.)
    Refrigerate, take one out and smash it into the Kong. You can add bits of green beans, apple and/or carrots, or biscuits. You can also feed it right away or freeze it for a treat that takes them a long time to get through. (Great for a summer treat!)

  2. APPLESAUCE My dogs love, love, love applesauce! Make sure you buy unsweetened so that you’re not feeding your dogs a lot of sugar. I give it to them on a spoon while I’m making their Kongs in the morning, but I also add it to their Kong. It’s an especially nice frozen treat in the summer, but mine love it anytime. I suggest having a jar just for the dogs. That way you won’t have to use a new spoon every time you give them a taste.
  3. CHICKEN BROTH Plug the bottom hole of the Kong with peanut butter or freeze a small amount of applesauce or sweet potato in the bottom, then pour in cold chicken broth and freeze. This is the summer treat of choice at my house!
  4. CHICKEN & RICE This one is a bit of work, but well worth it in the end. Save the scraps from rotisserie chickens, or any chicken that you have for meals, in a bag in the freezer. When you have a sufficient quantity, throw it in the crockpot with several cups of water (you’ll also get a good amount of broth), cook on low for the day or overnight. Once cooked and
    Fast Friends!

    Fast Friends!

    cooled, take the meat off the bones, carefully, and the skin (great for your dog’s coat) and along with some cooked white rice, process in your food processor. Turn into a 9×13 pan and let it set up in the refrigerator. After it’s chilled, use an ice cream scoop and drop on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and freeze. Once frozen, put into a freezer bag to store. I take out one ball each morning, thaw and fill.  (I never measure when I make this. If my blended product isn’t thick enough I add puffed rice cereal to the desired thickness.) This is a great way to have a great filling for free!

  5. OATMEAL Someone didn’t finish their oatmeal? Toss it into the Kong! This is an especially nice treat when some apple is included, and works well for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
  6. EGGS Another treat is eggs. They are a good source of protein and are typically well-tolerated. Don’t think you’re doing your dog’s waistline a favor by not using the yolk. Egg whites alone can cause vitamin deficiencies in dogs.
  7. WALK with your dog. I cannot stress how important this is. Try it for a couple of weeks and you will be surprised at the deepening of your relationship. And, they can eat tasty Kong treats because they’re working hard
  8. APPLESAUCE DROPS Talk about an overachiever! The eighth of the seven ways is another food treat. Little frozen applesauce drops. They’re kind of like Hershey’s kisses, but good for the dog!
  9. BABY FOOD I know … Nine? If you don’t want to go through the steps above, just buy baby food and use that. You can fill Kongs and make tasty frozen drops with good quality baby food.
  10. ALL OF THE ABOVE! What my dogs really love is when I mix up several of the above foods. I take a spoon of sweet potato, one of applesauce and one of chicken & rice.  I tuck pieces of green beans and carrots in and they are in heaven! I got started with the green beans when my garden had some pretty tough beans. Guess what? The dogs didn’t care. They liked them just fine.
Piper's first day home!

Piper’s first day home!

The bottom line here is that there are many human foods that dogs tolerate quite well. When you decide to make a change to your dog’s diet, check with your vet to make sure it’s safe for your particular pet.

It was my goal to feed my dogs healthy treats. It seems to be working. Most people see my almost 12-year-old Standard Schnauzer  and think he’s about 4 years old!

5 Freezer Hacks to Save Money

My freezer isn't always this organized. It's often totally out of control! Here we have some different gluten-free, vegan burgers, homemade broth, chili, pumpkin, green beans and a loaf of gf bread.

My freezer isn’t always this organized. It’s often totally out of control! Here we have some different gluten-free, vegan burgers, homemade broth, chili, pumpkin, green beans and a loaf of gf bread.

This is going to be short and sweet: Freeze Everything!

Okay, maybe not quite everything, but if you’re like me, there’s often a banana that’s about to go bad, oranges that you can’t possible eat in time or you can’t take advantage of the sale on grapes because there’s no way you can use them soon enough. Maybe you bought that bag of kale with good intentions, but the intentions didn’t follow you home from the store.

How many times do you end up throwing away produce? If you’re like I was, it’s a lot. What you buy will have a better chance of staying out of the the landfill when you begin to rely on your freezer. Here are five ways to get started:

  1. Buy a bag of already washed and chopped kale, and if you only use it in cooked dishes and/or smoothies, just toss it right in the freezer when you get home. This works for spinach as well. (It doesn’t work at all if you’re going to eat it in a salad or raw since when defrosted it gets pretty mushy.)
  2. Cookie sheet magic happens with most fruits and veggies that you want to use for smoothies or in cooked dishes. Are your bananas looking a bit beyond their deliciousness? Slice, lay out on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and slide in the freezer. When they’ve frozen, put them in a freezer bag. This works for apples (which don’t turn brown when cut up and frozen), peaches, cherries, orange sections, grapes, strawberries, mango, melon, celery, onion, garlic, ginger, peppers, snow peas, green beans … Well, just about anything! These won’t be good for eating thawed out, but they’re great for purees, smoothies, syrups, stir fries, soups and stews. You can even add frozen fruit to beverages for a pop of color.
  3. If you haven’t already tried it, eat grapes and cherries frozen. It takes you longer to eat them (reduced sugar intake) and they taste great!
  4. A treat with frozen bananas is to dip them in melted, dark chocolate (70% or higher) and refreeze … good for your health and fabulous for that chocolate craving! (Eat frozen)
  5. Can’t possibly go through a loaf of bread in time? Open the bag, fan out the slices, set in the freezer. Once frozen, put the loaf back together and seal the bag. You won’t have to jackhammer the pieces apart ever again!
Bags of kale and spinach, an ice cube tray of chicken broth, jars of soup, and fresh frozen basil ... handy!

Bags of kale and spinach, an ice cube tray of chicken broth, jars of soup, and fresh frozen basil … handy!

There you have it … Tips to help your budget, your health and the landfill!

If you’re in the Kansas City area, check out my upcoming events. They can be found on my website’s Events Page.

Nancy Oglesby, The Practical Health Coach

Pilaf … The Versatile Side Dish

One of the best things you can do to streamline your dinner prep is to always have a batch of already cooked rice on hand.(I cook mine in a big batch then freeze it in single serving sizes.) This will provide you with opportunities galore!

Pilaf … However you want it!
This is something you can make all your own. You don’t need a recipe! Using the salad bar as your prep cook, toss in whatever veggies and/or fruit appeals to you. Some of my favorites are a Mediterranean-flavored pilaf with spinach, garlic, onion, tomato and chickpeas tossed with olive oil, balsamic (lightly), oregano and basil. If you eat dairy, a touch of feta cheese would be lovely.

My favorite sweet pilaf has a drizzle of walnut oil, cinnamon pear balsamic vinegar, diced apples, carrots, celery and walnuts. If the cinnamon flavor isn’t enough for you, sprinkle on a bit of pumpkin pie seasoning.

You can add just about anything to rice to make it a delicious side dish: Onions, carrots, peas, peppers, radishes, edamame, beans, chickpeas, beets, mushrooms, bean sprouts, tomatoes, dried cranberries, nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, peanuts …

You can dress it with whatever you like including, Asian style, Italian, Balsamic, Russian or French dressing. You can create your own dressing by combining oil and vinegar, soy sauce, spices … Bottled dressings often have a ton of additives or sugar so I usually make my own.pilaf nourish network

For pilafs, I just add what I think will work. I use either olive or walnut oil, then add spices to flavor it. For a Southwest feel, I’ll add chili powder, peppers, onions and cumin. If I feel like a trip to Italy I’ll add garlic, onion, parsley, basil, tomatoes, lemon, a touch of fresh parmesan and olive oil.

If you’re looking for specific recipes, just click on the pictures and you’ll be taken to the recipe on another website (not mine).

When creating sweet pilafs, I often blend fresh pineapple (usually from the salad bar) with yellow mustard and honey (in my NutriBullet) to create the dressing. It is DELICIOUS!! Just play with amounts. Start with the pineapple, give it a squirt of mustard and a teaspoon of honey. Blend, taste, adjust, blend, taste, adjust. Be adventurous!

pilaf epicuriousI hope you enjoy creating pilafs of your very own! Let us know the outcome and what flavors really worked for you in the comments below.

Are you wanting to taste an impromptu pilaf? Check out my Cooking … Fast, Easy, Healthy classes being held all over the KC Metro Area. You’ll find the list on my website at Just click on the ‘Events’ tab at the top of the page.

Nancy Oglesby, The Practical Health Coach

Get Yourself a Prep Cook

Get Yourself a Prep Cook!

Get Yourself a Prep Cook!

The number one thing that stops me from preparing a healthy meal at home is the prep work. All that washing, peeling, slicing and dicing is not what I want to be doing when I get home from work.

One solution would be to hire a Prep Cook. Unfortunately, I’m not Oprah. My wallet currently does not support hiring a kitchen goddess. However, I’ve figured out the next best thing: Use the services of someone else’s Prep Cook. The salad bar at your favorite grocery store is the perfect place to find most of the ingredients you’ll need to create a delicious meal.

There are no signs up at the salad bar that say, ‘SALADS ONLY!’ Go ahead and load up on washed, peeled, sliced and diced onions, celery, carrots, beets, cabbage, mushrooms, snow peas, bean sprouts, spinach, kale … whatever you need. Going for a sweet dish instead of savory? They have cranberries, melon, strawberries and nuts as well. You can also get small amounts of cheeses and meats.

Kitchen Prep Made EasyThe per pound price might be higher, but I’ve saved a bundle by not buying the full-sized package or bundle of ingredients that I don’t need and often never use. After all, how many mung bean sprouts can a single person use in a few days? This choice also keeps a lot of food out of the landfill.

Want one more tip? While you’re there, pick up a salad for tomorrow’s lunch!

If you like these ideas, and are in the Kansas City Metro, check out my Class Schedule at HealthWorksKC. Just click on ‘events’ at the top of the page.

Next up? Make mine pilaf!
Nancy Oglesby, The Practical Health Coach

Smoothies Made Easy

As we discussed, Breakfast is For Champions! In my opinion, the best way to start your day is with a nutrient-packed fruit smoothie that’s easy to prepare, tastes great and packs a protein punch.

So, here’s how to create a fabulous smoothie designed just for you!

YUM! Apple, Kale, Strawberry Smoothie

YUM! Apple, Kale, Strawberry Smoothie

GREENS (2 Cups)
spinach, kale,* romaine, escarole, dandelion greens, chard, beet greens
(I buy Trader Joe’s Organic Kale in a bag already clean and ready to go. I freeze it then crush it to really small pieces. That way it doesn’t take up as much room and when you add 1 cup it’s like you’re adding 2+ cups.)

FRUIT (1-2)(preferably frozen)
organic apple*, berries*, grapes*, banana, peach*, plums, pineapple*, mango
To freeze, prepare (quarter apples, cut pineapples, etc.), lay out on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, put in freezer. When frozen, put into freezer bags. (I freeze my grapes and berries whole.)

carrots*, celery, cucumber*, green beans, broccoli
Often I use carrots or cucumber instead of the second fruit.

Plain Greek yogurt (1/2-1c), Protein Powder (I use Sun Warrior Raw Vegan Protein Powder. I’m something of a fanatic about the quality and not a fan of soy- or dairy-based protein powders. Sun Warrior is about $42 a bag, which is 40 servings, so it equals $1/serving. As an Amazon Prime member, I don’t pay shipping so it’s pretty cost-effective. I figure I’m worth the best, and so are you! However, feel free to use what works for you.)

LIQUID (1c+ this depends on your blender and preference)
kombucha*, filtered water, coconut water, coconut milk*, 100% cherry juice*, almond milk. (I mix kombucha, coconut milk and cherry juice)
Kombucha is fermented green tea that adds good bacteria to your digestive system. I buy GT’s, but usually make my own. If you develop a taste for it, I would be happy to show you how to make it. It’s easy and really inexpensive!

Avocado (makes it thick and smooth), parsley, raw honey, bee pollen (if you’re not allergic), wheat grass, ginger, protein powder*, lemon*, chia*, flax*, barley grass powder.

This is an outline for you to use as you learn what you like in your green smoothies. I use a Ninja or a NutriBullet. I used to use a Oster Classic Beehive and my liquid was always good at 1/2-3/4c.

I encourage you to try this and see how much better you feel at the end of the week! If you have any questions, or would like to share your recipe, please comment below. Thanks for spending a few minutes with me,

Nancy Oglesby, The Practical Health Coach

Breakfast is for Champions!

It’s critical that you end your overnight fast, and fuel your body for the coming day, with good, solid nutrition. I’ve heard so many people say they feel hungrier if they eat. I’m going to guess that they begin their day with sugary cereal, donuts or muffins. This is your opportunity to end that!hat the

The key to a great start is protein, so start with an egg, nut butter, lean meat, beans or low-fat dairy. Protein powder is my easy solution. I don’t eat meat or dairy, so I add a scoop of Sun Warrior Raw Vanilla Protein Powder to my smoothie in the morning. Even a healthy fruit smoothie can leave you hungry if you don’t have protein to slow down the release of sugar into your system.

One way to add a healthy breakfast to your daily routine is to decide what you’re going to have and make it consistent. If you love eggs, have them two or three days a week. On the other days have a smoothie, yogurt or nut butter with an all-fruit spread on whole grain toast.

Fast, Easy, Healthy
Hard boiled eggs is one of the easiest, lowest-sugar ways to add protein to your morning and it speaks to our standard of having eggs at breakfast. Cook up several at a time so that they’re handy.

Make the same smoothie for the week. Buy the ingredients, measure and freeze into individual bags, and all you have to do in the morning is toss in the blender with your choice of liquid and you’re good to go.

If you choose the nut butter option, make sure to measure your nut butter so that you don’t kill it on the calories. I enjoy organic sunflower butter, Trader Joe’s Organic Super Fruit Spread (Morello cherry, red grape, blueberry, pomegranate) on a Lundberg Organic Brown Rice Cracker (so much better than any others).

Be careful when you buy yogurt. It’s loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners. To avoid that, buy a large container of plain yogurt and a bag of frozen berries. Thaw the berries and combine with the yogurt. Transfer to single serve containers.

winnerIf you love bananas, add a mashed banana to plain Greek yogurt, sprinkle with a tablespoon of chopped walnuts and you have a powerhouse breakfast!

These breakfasts are all under five minutes in the morning and can even be taken with you on your commute (except for the yogurt).

Start your day with nutritious food as the first step on your journey to better health.

Nancy Oglesby, the practical health coach.

Cooking … Fast, Easy, Healthy

There’s something you should know about me: I hate to cook. It’s true. I cannot believe that I actually teach a cooking class. In order to eat healthy, it’s important to prepare a lot of your meals, and if you don’t have time, or like me, just don’t like spending time in the kitchen, it can be the one thing that derails your success. I’ve learned to trim tasks, make smart use of equipment, choose my supplies carefully and created basics that I can fall back on should time get away from me.

This series (articles below) is designed to help you do the same thing. I will be adding new articles twice a week on Monday and Thursday. Not everything will resonate with you. Take what you like and don’t worry about the rest. If you’d like to share healthy, time-saving tips, or would like to endorse a product that saves you time and/or tastes great? Please comment!

Nancy Oglesby, the practical health coach