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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Nicci's Healthy Holiday Dinner

Me and my family wanted to put together a healthier Thanksgiving dinner with less fat, salt and calories...and it had to be flavorful. Below is our holiday dinner menu we'll be making and serving in the coming weeks.

If you're going meatless... you may still like some of recipes.

The meal is a combination of recipes we found and just tweaked a bit to our tasting.

Lets make some turkey shall we!

If you're having turkey you can make it lower in fat by seasoning the bird with your favorite fresh herbs and spices ( I love thyme and rosemary...just don't over do it!) and skipping the butter and unhealthy oils on top. I will be using olive oil...again don't over do it. I will be preparing my turkey in a brine prior to the spicing stage.

So, before tossing any spices on your turkey it should be fully thawed (about 24 hours for an average size.. if you are buying a large turkey it may take a tad instructions!) - after thawing I'll be making Sunny Andersons (from the Foodnetwork!) brine to make sure its moist and tender.

Brine the thawed out turkey prior to cooking: This is for a 10 pound turkey (more or less)

In a large enough bowl or bag, whisk together 3-4 cups apple cider, salt, 5-6 sprigs of thyme and 4 sprigs of rosemary. Add turkey and enough water to cover the bird. Cover and let brine in the refrigerator 2-4 hours. I'll be pre-measuring my oil as to not use too much, I figure 1/2 - 1 cup of olive oil...remember, the brine will help keep it moist and the oil will give it a nice browning.

Work out the timing so the oven is preheated nicely at 325 degrees. Each turkey should come with cooking directions and times. If yours does not contain them, use this site HERE.

Remove turkey from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Brush with olive oil and season. Place turkey in a roasting pan. Cook required time until done and skin begins to turn golden. After cooked, let the turkey rest at least 10 minutes. Eating the skin isn't exactly healthy, so take the skin off of the turkey after you roast it and stick to eating the lower fat white meat if you the will. Also, don't cover your turkey in high-fat gravy--you can make lower fat gravy with a small amount of turkey drippings, fat fee chicken broth and sautéed veggies.

Here's a good recipe I found for a lighter turkey gravy with all the flavor:

Once you've take out your turkey try to scoop out the juices that are not fatty and put them into a small sauce pan. Once the less fatty juices have been collected and placed into a sauce pan you can put the sauce pan on the stove and put the burner on high heat. For every cup of less fat turkey juice that you have been able to scoop up you need to mix up a cup of water with three tablespoons of corn starch.

Once the low fat turkey juice is boiling quickly pour in the mixture of corn starch and water. As you pour in the corn starch and water mixture make sure you mix the pan of turkey juice. Keep stirring until the mixture is the consistency of gravy and then take the mixture off the burner and turn the burner off. Once the mixture is cooked you can add spices like salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, white pepper or garlic powder. The choice of spices depends on what you like your gravy to taste like.

Pour the low fat gravy into a serving bowl and serve.

Stuffing. Stuffing does not have to be all about butter or sausage. Instead, use whole grain bread cubes and sautéed onions, celery and apples. To give it some extra flavor, add some fat free chicken broth instead of using water. Cut the butter in your stuffing recipe in half--you won't miss that extra butter at all!

More of a Cornbread Stuffing kinda lover?

Healthier Cornbread Stuffing

Make the cornbread first. Use a corn meal mix and follow the instructions for cooking the cornbread and substitute a few ingredients it calls for to make it heart healthy. Use egg whites instead of the whole egg. Use skim milk or 1% milk. Instead of using shortening or other oils, use canola or olive oil. Add a 1/4 cup of plain yogurt.

While the cornbread is cooking, dice half of a medium onion and 4 celery stalks and put them in a small sauce pan and heat on low heat with just enough water to cover them. Cook just until they begin to be soft. Set aside.

Toast 4 pieces of whole wheat bread. Once the toast and the cornbread have cooled to room temperature, start crumbling the breads into a large mixing bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of sage and mix into bread well. Next, add the onions and celery. Add a 1/2 tsp of salt and a pinch of pepper for flavoring and mix well. Add the chicken broth and mix well. The dressing will hold together and you spread it into a large casserole dish. You can either cover it to cook later or cook it immediately. Cook on 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Instead of using gravy with your turkey and dressing, substitute Lipton's cream of chicken "cup of soup".

Everyone loves mashed potatoes at the dinner table, but if you're not careful it can be heavy on the fat and calories.

Try this cauliflower and mashed "potato" recipe on your guest...they'll never know the difference!

Ingredients (serves about 4)

1 head cauliflower
1 clove garlic
1 leek, white only, split in 4 pieces
1 tablespoon soft-tub margarine, non-hydrogenated (or another healthy choice!)
Pepper to taste


Break cauliflower into small pieces. In a good-sized saucepan, steam cauliflower, garlic and leeks in water until completely tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. While cauliflower is hot, puree until the vegetables resemble mashed potatoes. (Use a food processor, of if you prefer a smoother texture, use a blender. Process only a small portion at a time, holding the blender lid on firmly with a tea towel.) Add a little hot water if vegetables seem dry. Stir in margarine and pepper to taste.

Make the vegetables the focus of your meal by grilling them and adding seasonings. Skip the fattening green bean casserole and instead make green beans with sautéed mushrooms and garlic.

Low-fat desserts. Instead of making a fattening pie crust for your apple pie, make an oatmeal crumble topping for apples. Spray a casserole dish with fat free cooking spray. Pour one can of apple pie filling into the dish. Mix 2 tablespoons butter, ½ cup quick cooking oatmeal, ¼ cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup sugar and 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts until crumbly. Sprinkle the mixture over apple pie filling. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes....a healthy apple cobbler!

Not digging the cobbler?

How's a healthier version of good ol' pumpkin pie with a twist. Whole wheat crust!

For the full recipe with step by step instructions...and pictures. Click HERE!

Nicci's holiday tips: Don't just sit around filling up on heavy appetizers and fattening drinks before dinner is even served. Instead try serving up some wine spritzers and a vegetable platter with low-fat onion or spinach dip.

To make the onion dip, mix one 16-ounce container of fat free sour cream with a packet of onion soup mix (you can use ranch dressing mix if you prefer). I'd have a little bowl out of individually wrapped mints for Serve with a spread of broccoli florets, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks and sliced cucumbers.

For the low fat spinach dip (which I found on makes a terrific appetizer. Serve with a platter of fresh vegetables or with some baked chips or breadsticks. Use frozen chopped spinach if you prefer. You can spice it up a little by adding a dash of hot sauce.

* 10 ounces fresh baby spinach, steamed until wilted
* 1 cup plain fat-free yogurt, drained of excess water
* 4 ounces fat-free cream cheese, softened
* 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

I also like Silk soy nog (with a little cinnamon stick)as opposed to the fattening version...tastes amazing and a lot healthier!

Hope you enjoyed this post...and if you like my writings and helpful information subscribe to my blog and never be left out of the loop!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Grants for Minority Business Women - Tips

If you are a minority woman looking to open your own business, you’re in luck. There are many organizations including government out there that are ready to help you out. As everyone knows, getting the capital needed to start a business is the first and foremost. Without capital, there is no business. Most women get start up capital by getting a loan from banks or borrowing money from friends and family. While this is not a bad idea, the problem is you still have to repay the loans eventually. So you’d have to be certain your business is profitable if you plan on repaying loans.

One way to get your business or even fund your established business is to get business grants for minority women. These grants are specifically for businesswomen usually given by the government and other organizations. Minority women may include Asian, African American, and Hispanic women. The business grants for minority women are great because there is no expectation for it to be repaid and plus there is no credit check like loans.

Before you apply for business grants for minority women, you might want to work out a business plan. A detailed business plan not only gets you off on the right foot in your business, but you also need to show this to your grantors who have the final decision as to whether or not you get a grant. If you can’t provide a good reason for them to give you money, then they most likely won’t be giving any money. You can find sample business plans online to get you started. You can also hire a business consultant to help you plan.

Start off your search for small business grants for women by going to the government grants database. This is a government website which has list of hundreds of small business grants for minority women. Search for the grants that suit you. In this case it would be grants for minority women business owners.

Next stop contact non-profit and other charitable organizations and find out if they give minority business grants for women. You can also contact businesses that may also give grants. Find out this information from your chamber of commerce.

Your state or county government may also have separate small business grants for minority women from that of the federal government. Give them a call and see what they have to offer.

When you are applying for grants for minority women starting a business, you’ll face a lot of rejections since there are many other women applying as well. Just keep on applying and write convincing business plans so that you get a higher chance of getting the money.


Are you a small business seeking marketing and SEO help with low investment?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What is the 'HAPPY Act' ?

Will pet owners get a tax break?

I hope so, and its about time.

I myself am a huge dog lover, have 3 of my own. Read on to learn more about the 'HAPPT Act'.

A bill making the rounds on Capitol Hill marries two feel-good propositions -- tax cuts and pet ownership -- to generate a novel idea: A tax break of up to $3,500 per person for pet care expenses. How's that for a nice break.

The bill is cleverly called the 'HAPPY Act', for Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years.

Representative Thaddeus McCotter, a fourth-term Republican from Livonia MI, has introduced the HAPPY Act; HR 3501, and it was originally introduced on July 31.

The HAPPY Act would allow taxpayers to deduct up to $3,500-a-year in pet care expenses, including vet care.

"We think this is as much a health care bill as any," said Nancy Perry, vice president of government affairs at the Humane Society of the United States. "It's a human health issue to ensure that pets are provided with better care because of the role they play in our families."

Read the bill here:

Intuit’s small Business software QuickBooks 2010 gets an application store

Financial software maker Intuit released the latest version of QuickBooks, its bookkeeping tool for small businesses. The company showed me a bunch of new features, but the most interesting from a technology perspective is an App Center where customers can buy applications that make QuickBooks more powerful.

I have used Intuit for years, and have recommended their products to friends and family.

Intuit actually launched the Intuit Partner Platform, its platform for applications built by outside developers, last year, and it says it has already signed up 90,000 developers. But this is the first version of QuickBooks to include the App Center — users can click on a button in QuickBooks and are taken to a website where they can purchase apps that plug into the software and use the financial data entered there. The apps are broken up into four categories — running your business (employee management and expense tracking), managing your productivity, managing your customers, and reducing costs. The last category even includes apps that make your business more environmentally friendly.

Even though QuickBooks 2010 is desktop software (Intuit offers a separate online version), the company has added some other web-enabled features. Users can scan and upload all of their documents, and they’re stored online as a backup. Users can also scan their checks and send the image to the bank, where the money is deposited. QuickBooks 2010 also includes a Marketing Center, where business owners can launch email marketing campaigns — it’s a bit of a stretch from QuickBooks bookkeeping purpose, but the connection has its advantages, since businesses can use the customer and sales data in QuickBooks to plan their campaign, and later to judge its success.

Other new features include:

* Faster installation, with the number of set-up screens cut from 15 to 6
* The ability to enter multiple lists of data at once, and to copy that data directly from Microsoft Excel
* An easier interface for customizing forms
* An improved dashboard providing a summary of the company’s finances

QuickBooks Pro and Premier are available at Intuit’s website today,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Saving time and cost on postage!

Has this happened to you? ... you're gathering all your mailings for send out and you open the drawer and there's no stamps! You could have sworn there were at least enough for this mailing.

Getting postage is just a click away at!

I mail several items a week, and a few letters a month. To help me save I use, where you can buy and print USPS-approved postage online that works like regular postage stamps for letters, packages & Priority Mail. It just doesn't get any easier than that!

Now that the Holiday season is among us... you can rest assure that all your postage needs will be taken care of at - fast, easy and for less!

Save even more with their instant coupon!

... now if I can only find my box with all my holiday cards!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Words to live by....

Words are powerful.

Often the difference between a successful (wo)man and a failure is not one's better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on his ideas, to take a calculated risk-and to act.
- Maxwell Maltz

To succeed in life you need to be three main things - original, innovative and creative.
- John Mamo

My days of whining and complaining about others have come to an end. Nothing is easier than fault finding. All it will do is discolor my personality so that none will want to associate with me. That was my old life. No more.
- Og Mandino

Listening is a form of accepting.
- Stella Terill Mann

Women are repeatedly accused of taking things personally. I cannot see any other honest way of taking things.- Marya Mannes

Trust that still, small voice that says, "This might work and I'll try it."
- Diane Mariechild

Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful. - Joshua J. Marine

Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but give us the determination to make the right things happen.- Peter Marshall

One can go back toward safety or forward toward growth.- Abraham Maslow

Few are they who have never had the chance to achieve happiness - and fewer those who have never taken that chance. - André Maurois

One of the finest virtues is generosity - a quality characteristic of the person who thinks more highly of others than he does of himself.- D. Malcolm Maxwell

The tragedy of life doesn't lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.- Benjamin Mays

You wouldn't worry so much about what someone else is thinking about you if you knew how seldom they do.- Dr. Phil McGraw's Father

Yes, risk-taking is inherently failure-prone. Otherwise it would be called sure-thing-taking.- Tim McMahon

One common mistake is to think that one reality is THE reality. You must always be prepared to leave one reality for a greater one.- Mother Meera

You must govern the clock, not be governed by it.- Golda Meir

If you have learned how to disagree without being disagreeable, then you have discovered the secrete of getting along -- whether it be business, family relations, or life itself.- Bernard Meltzer

We cannot be happy if we expect to live all the time at the highest peak of intensity. Happiness is not a matter of intensity, but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.- Thomas Merton

Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I accomplish.- Michelangelo

God always provides what we need, but we must be ready to open our eyes and see it.
- The Midrash

It is not what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.
- Molière

Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.- Alfred A. Montapert

Friday, October 9, 2009

Suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

For many it can put the brakes on your life. While I am not a doctor, I chose to seek out natural remedies to the symptoms that I experienced. But I do recommend that you see a doctor if you feel that you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or starting a new exercise program.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is different for everyone, but I'll share what worked for me. I was also diagnosed with ADHD... lucky me!

I had it all, from pain in my legs and joints to sleepless nights. Headaches that made me want to cry..and sometimes I did. To depression, mood swings, anxiety, panic attacks and that's just the half of it. While I'm not 100% free of all symptoms I have been able to alleviate most of them, and rid myself of the others.

My journey started several years ago, overweight and highly depressed. I wanted a change, and it had to begin with a commitment to myself.

Losing weight was my first priority (some of you may not be overweight...but keep reading as I discuss the other challenges I faced), and boy did I have a lot of pounds to lose. Over 145 pounds, which took 2 years to lose.

My obesity kicked my hormones out of whack, and everything from my mood to how I felt physically was affected by it.

I began with books. Seems simple enough, but the best avenue to seeking out solutions to your problems is your nearest bookstore, library and yes. The web.

Losing weight was only one part of the problem, but as the pounds came off it was like a light bulb had went off in me. I began to see me for the first time. While my weight contributed to a lot, I had other symptoms that I needed to fix.

Below is what I changed/added in my life to help deal with CFS. I hope you can take away from this, and benefit as well.

Everything from my obesity, mood swings and headaches:

Foods - Removed unhealthy junk foods that made my hormones go nuts. I started eating whole grains, soy, wheat germ (this really helped with my energy), fruits and nuts. Including foods rich in calcium, fiber and Omega 3 oils. I did start taking vitamins such as B Complex which has several benefits including helping with energy. I knew that if my body was healthy and given the right nutrients that I would start to feel better.

Watch out for food products with high fructose syrup, corn syrup and so forth. Processed foods, foods high in fat and sodium. I know, you're probably shaking your head thinking .."then what can I eat?". Believe me, once you get the knowledge picking the right foods will become second nature. I happen to eat organic foods, and despite what people think about Wholefoods, its not impossible to shop there and find deals. Wholefoods sells its own store brand organic foods called 365, and are quite affordable.

My typical day of meals/snacks: Use for weight loss/meal ideas.

Breakfast - 1 cup Irish steel cut oatmeal with 2-4 tbs wheat germ, 1 tbs natural honey, 1 cup soy or almond milk. Topped with 1/2 cup blueberries and/or 1tbs chopped nuts.

Snack - low carb yogurt, 4 oz of a homemade fruit/vegetable smoothie, low fat string cheese, or 1/4 cup nuts.

Lunch - Fish/Chicken (size of your palm, cup of green beans, 1/4 cup wild rice. Or Boca burgers with a whole wheat bun and baked sweet potato fries.

Snack - low carb yogurt, 4 oz of a homemade fruit/vegetable smoothie, low fat string cheese, or 1/4 cup nuts.

Dinner - Salad with grilled chicken, hearty low sodium/fat soup, or hummus and pita chips

Again, you can see more ideas at

I started learning yoga to help with the aches and pains. This also helped with my focus.

Listening to relaxing instrumental music like the sounds of waves, rain, etc. Meditating daily. Putting myself in a relaxed state so my mind and body was given a chance to relax helped with anxiety and depression. Depression was further helped with regular exercise, or walks outdoors. Keeping a journal helped track when the depression would come on, and what I was doing at the time.

When feeling a panic or anxiety attack is about to come on I would sit down in a quiet place (if no place to go I'd listen to my nature tapes in my desk) and concentrate on my breathing. I would place my hands down by my side and simply focus on my breathing. Sometimes counting to 100.

For headaches I started doing this: Take Clove Oil - I use Now Foods CLOVE OIL (make sure you are not allergic!). I take a medium bowl of very warm water, not scolding hot, and add 3-4 drops of the clove oil. I take a clean bathroom towel rag and submerge in the bowl for 1 minute. I ring it out and place on the back of my neck for a few minutes, then repeat the bowl process..ring and place on my temples.

Sleep was a huge challenge, but preparing for a good nights sleep really helps. I also made sure that I didn't eat right before I went to bed. I went out and purchased a new pillow, eye-mask and even one of those machines that play soft music or sounds. It's important to be as relaxed as you can to help with the process, so having these things helped. Meditating, doing 15 minutes of yoga or simply laying in bed with your eyes closed and visualizing yourself sleeping and focus in your breathing becoming more and more relaxed. Sounds crazy but it helps.

It took a little time, but it helped a great deal.

Today I am virtually pain free, the headaches rarely come around, I no longer crash from fatigue, I have less bouts with my depression, and those pesky anxiety attacks are more controlled.

Have a question, feel free to ask!

May peace and harmony find you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Nothing better than warm and delicious pumpkin and apple soup

1 red onion, chopped
2 apples, peeled and chopped
1/2 pumpkin, peeled and chopped
1 cup of stock + hot water
1/2 tsp of nutmeg

1. Brown the red onion in some oil in a pot.
2. Boil the kettle for your stock. Make up stock and add to the pot.
3. Add the pumpkin, apples and nutmeg. Add more hot water to cover all the ingredients.
4. Gently simmer until the pumpkin and apples are soft, about 30 minutes.
5. Remove from the heat and blitz well with a hand blender or food processor. Add more stock until you have the consistency you want.
6. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 4.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Do you want fries with that?

If you want to sell more of your products every year, you need to get better at selling every year. Business owners who think they're done learning how to sell are usually just DONE. And that's OK if you have no problem closing down your dreams and having to say "Do you want fries with that?"