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I suddenly got the craving for my mom’s chicken and dumplings when I was planning dinner tonight. But Mom’s recipe takes several hours (she makes the stock herself), and I did not have that kind of time. So I looked at probably 20 different recipes online, and compiled a recipe that is a jumble of what I thought would create what I wanted, *plus* it has the best part of mom’s recipe: dumplings made from canned biscuits!!

As always, I use low to no-sodium chicken broth, and I do not add salt or use canned vegetables because I am on a low-sodium diet. You can use whatever you like, but you should at least try it my way to see how good whole foods are!


Susan’s Chicken and Dumplings

Cooking time: approx. 1 hour

Servings: 6

2 lbs chicken (any boneless chicken pieces are fine)

2 qts. Organic, low sodium chicken broth

1 can cream of chicken condensed soup

1 lb. carrots cut into bite-size pieces

2 celery stalks cut into bite-size pieces

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 small package of frozen peas

1 tbs. fresh thyme (about 4 sprigs) / or ½ tsp dried thyme

½ tbs fresh rosemary (about 1 sprig) / or ½ tsp dried rosemary

1 dried bay leaf

1 can refrigerated biscuits

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 tbs fresh ground pepper

Pour chicken broth into a large Dutch oven and bring to a simmer. Add chicken pieces, celery, onion, carrots, thyme, rosemary, and ground pepper. Raise heat to a slow boil, and cook for approximately 20 minutes, or until chick is cooked through.

Remove chicken and cut into small pieces or shred with 2 forks (I recommend shredding) and set aside. Add condensed soup. Stir until the mixture is blended. Add peas. Return the chicken to the pot. Bring mixture to a rolling boil.

Cut or tear the biscuits into smaller pieces (cook’s preference). Coat each piece with flour, and place on top of the boiling liquid. After all of the biscuits have been added, gently submerge the biscuits and then cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cook covered for about 10 minutes, or until the biscuits (now dumplings) are cooked through.

Note: this method will create a “stew-like” mixture that is slightly thick. If you prefer your C&D more broth-like, exclude the condensed soup as well as the flour.

This year has brought me a few extra pounds and the associated health problems. High blood pressure was already a problem, and now my usually uber-fast metabolism has come to a screeching halt. I gained 14 lbs this year (I hadn’t gained 14 lbs in 14 years before that), and the holidays aren’t going to help that number. My parents have also shown an interest in healthier eating, so I spent some time looking for some healthier options to our usual feast. Luckily, turkey is already super healthy (unless you fry it), and then I don’t really eat much dessert…so I’m only covering sides. You’re on your own with dessert!

Broccoli Cheese Casserole

My broccoli cheese casseroleI just tested out this recipe tonight. It’s really good! Although it’s lacking that Cheez-Whiz goodness, you can still add more or less cheese. Just remember that’s where the majority of the salt and calories are in this dish! You can also use fat free evaporated milk, margarine instead of butter, and brown rice to shave off a few more calories. I also roasted the broccoli (just because I can’t stand steamed veggies), but I don’t think it changed the taste at all.

Green Bean Casserole

Cutting out the canned soups in these recipes is the key to cutting out the sodium and fat. This one calls for low-fat milk, but I am going to try the fat free evaporated milk again. The other change I would make would be to ditch the bread crumbs and the onion, and instead mix in those awesome French’s fried onions and toast them on top as well. You’re cutting out so much salt and calories, you can afford this splurge!

Sweet Potatoes

Next to the dressing, the sweet potatoes are my favorite part. I loooove the sugary goodness, with a yummy pecan streusel topping. But I think I can make this happen without my usual recipe’s 1/2 cup of sugar and half a stick of butter.

So I have 2 options. The first option is to lighten up the usual recipe, and the second option is to make the twice-baked sweet potatoes recipe I linked above. I decided to calculate the calories in both (I know, I’m a nerd) and choose that way:

Twice-baked Potatoes = 210 calories (100 from fat)

Sweet Potato Casserole = 420 calories (130 from fat)


The only way to cut calories for the casserole is to use half the sugar and half the butter (no, you will not die without it) and half the topping. It’s still do-able.

So even though it’s the holidays, you don’t have to ruin your diet, or your health just to get your fix.

Remember: don’t use canned anything, and don’t add salt. Let your guests add their own. The broccoli cheese casserole has a ton of salt in the butter and the cheese, and the green bean casserole will get its salt from the fried onions.

Find something for which to be thankful this Thanksgiving Day and every day.


It amazes me how little people know about food and what our bodies use it for.  Most people assume taking a multivitamin is just as good as a well-balanced diet.  I’m no expert, but it is my understanding that there are countless enzymes and other “helpers” in natural foods that assist the body in absorbing vitamins and other nutrients.  In most experts’ opinions, the body absorbs very little from dietary supplements.

I have always been incredibly thin despite growing up on a diet of mostly processed food, tv dinners, and canned vegetables (sorry Mom, it sure was good), and an insatiable love of salt (which has now led to hypertension at a young age).  The one time my mom tried to get me to eat frozen peas, I cried and sat at the table for an hour after everyone else was done with dinner until I finished my one spoonful of peas.  And the “weirdest” thing my mom ever made us eat was hominy.  Needless to say, I have had to develop any love or ability to cook what we now call “whole” food on my own.  Then that post-25 thing hit, and I started getting sick more, gaining weight, etc.  After living 26 years with my ability to eat literally anything without it affecting my body, I developed Irritable Bowel Syndrome, started gaining weight, feeling lethargic, and my immune system suffered.  I had to completely re-learn how to feed myself.  The IBS was mostly affected by red meat and fatty foods (hello, my two favorite food groups), and the blood pressure was affected by foods high in salt (think taquitos and pizza).

So this brings me to my main point: eat more vegetables.  No, not the canned ones.  My apologies to canned vegetable manufacturers, but they’re not good for us.  The high salt content and lack of nutritional content (compared to fresh or frozen vegetables) just isn’t good for us physically or mentally – we can’t continue to allow the population to consider them “healthy.”  Safe and non-perishable, yes.  If you like your vegetables softer, frozen vegetables are great.  They are usually frozen at their peak freshness and are therefore arguably the most healthy; I just don’t like mushy vegetables.  I do, however eat frozen peas.  But that’s just because I’ve never seen fresh peas.

Here’s how I gradually learned to love a wide range of fresh vegetables:

Snap Green BeansStart with green beans.  Snap green beans.  They’re super easy, very low in sodium, full of vitamin C, iron, manganese, fiber, B6 and more.  For full nutritional information, click here.

I start with a quick rinse under the faucet and dry with paper towels, then I line them up in a row and trim the ends off (you can eat them, but they could burn easily). While you are preparing the beans, heat a skillet to medium with about a tablespoon of butter.  Butter will burn, so don’t let it get too hot.  Then finely chop (or use one of those garlic press things) one clove of fresh garlic (no, not the garlic that is kept in oil).  Add the beans first, then the garlic (the garlic will also burn so you want to minimize the time it is in the pan).  Let them cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If you like them crunchy, stay closer to 5 minutes.  If you like them mushy, cook them as long as you like – just know that the longer you cook food, the more nutritional value you lose.  Remove them from heat and serve!  If this turns out to be the only vegetable you will eat, you will be miles ahead of most!


Next, take the next step in your relationship with carrots. We’ve all had the pot roast with carrots and potatoes, right?  They’re alright.  Little mushy, not my favorite.  Then I discovered parsnips.  Really the only notable nutritional content is Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber, but those are very important, especially the potassium.

Parsnips have more sugar (thus more carbs) than carrots, so they develop almost a licorice/caramel flavor when they are roasted.  I’ve never tried them any other way.  They are really good.  I usually roast a mix of parsnips and carrots, just in case my dinner guests aren’t quite ready to take the parsnip plunge.

Trim them just as you would a carrot – the very thin tips will burn so cut those off, cut the tops off (unless they have beautiful greens like on these baby carrots – leave those on for show), and if they are larger in circumference than a nickel, split them lengthwise.  coat with olive oil, salt and pepper (I prefer using a large plastic baggie), and spread in one layer onto a baking sheet lined with foil.  Roast in a 375 degree oven for twenty minutes, turning halfway through (remember parsnips have that extra sugar, so they will stick if you don’t turn them).  You know they are done when they are easily pierced with a fork.


Guess what?  Now that you know how to saute and roast, you can cook all of the vegetables in the cruciferous family.  The new “super food,” cruciferous vegetables are high in cancer-fighting antioxidants, and have shown to minimize inflammatory diseases such as heart disease and cystic fibrosis.  They are also high in vitamins A, B6, and C.

All of the veggies in the cruciferous family (cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower) get soggy and gross when steamed (but of course that is where they are at their most nutritious), but nutty and flavorful when roasted and sauteed.  My favorites are roasted  broccoli and brussels sprouts, and sauteed green cabbage.  You can find some very tasty recipes online for roasted cauliflower.

For green cabbage, I suggest shredding it, and then sauteeing in a skillet with butter, salt, and pepper.  You can also eat it raw in fish tacos (yum).  For broccoli and cauliflower, trim it into florets and then prepare as you did the parsnips: coat in olive oil, season with salt and pepper and then roast for twenty minutes.  The same goes for brussels sprouts, but trim off the ends and remove the loose leaves then cut into halves or quarters until they are all approximately the same size.  Be sure to turn them at least once.  I promise, brussels sprouts are not bad!  The mushy frozen ones are horrible, but roasted they are absolutely heavenly.  I promise, I’m not weird.  Just do it.

My Cooking Resources: Start an account, then enter EVERYTHING you have in your pantry and fridge.  It finds online recipes using when you have on hand, and then recipes where you might need to get only one or two ingredients.  It’s a lifesaver when I don’t want to go to the store! feast for the eyes!  Millions of photos of heavenly food that link to a great recipe – everything from baba ganoush to macaroni and cheese.  If you’re ever looking for inspiration, you will find it here! Seriously.  If you want to know how to cook something, just search for it.  You don’t have an excuse anymore.

iPhone apps for on the go: AllRecipes and Epicurious for thousands of recipes, Fooducate for nutritional information (scan a barcode or look up an item)

Being a “conservative” means a lot of different things to me.  It describes my preference in government, my lifestyle, even the way I dress.  But today I want to bring attention to people who are calling themselves politically conservative, yet not living the lifestyle that they purport to believe in.

Last November, I found myself recovering from reconstructive ankle surgery on my mother’s couch.  I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything for almost a month, so the internet became my very best friend.  After reading everything there was to read, playing all the games I had the energy to play, and chatting with everyone who would listen, I found myself on Twitter.

I’d had a Twitter account for at least a year, but never really “got it.”  But this time, I found a group of youngsters (ranging in age from 20-30) who work in D.C. for various political entities, all seeming to be the frontrunners in the world of conservative political media and the “who’s who” of #TCOT.  What a fun bunch!  I shared their interests and beliefs and truly enjoyed talking to them at length.

Somewhere between then and now, the associations spread to even lesser acquaintances of theirs, and my group of followers turned into a mix of all ages and walks of life.  As in real life, I began to notice a few things that I truly dislike in people: young women throwing themselves at men or exhibiting “attention-seeking behavior” (think making out with another girl at a frat party), rumors or even confirmations of people sleeping around, requests for provocative photos, men completely objectifying women, married men openly flirting, and even married men flirting with me.

I do not associate with these sort of people in everyday life, and I finally had to make the decision to not associate with them online as well.  I have been interested in men who I think are great guys, only to find out that they drunkenly slept with one of my good friends.  It is so very disappointing – the man you thought was virtuous took advantage of the situation, and your friend can’t make a good decision either.  I know that they are both single, and can do as they wish and that’s fine – it’s just disappointing and rules him out of the dating pool for me, as well as lessens my female friend in my eyes.  I don’t form friendships with married men unless their wife is a part of the friendship as well.  I rarely have sex outside of an established relationship, and I don’t unabashedly flirt with men unless I know I’m the only one he’s interested in. I don’t expect everyone to subscribe to my way of life, and Lord knows that I am not perfect and I have slipped up my fair share of times, but I am aware of my flaws and actively try not to repeat my mistakes.  Above all, I know that by having this sort of romantic life, I don’t have to worry about hurting anyone, especially myself.

Back to my initial point – on a very basic level, this is the behavior that Conservative politicians get skewered for.  Infidelity, exchanging photos with women, etc, and you certainly never heard of Condi Rice flirting with a married man.  It’s ten times worse for the conservative party because we are supposed to uphold the virtues of marriage, be good Christians, revere women, and overall just NOT do this type of thing!  These are our future lobbyists, campaign managers, speech writers, journalists, and possibly even leaders.  We cannot hold our leaders to a higher standard than we hold ourselves.  They may believe in small government and fiscal conservatism, but that seems to be where their conservative beliefs end.  Do you really want this type of behavior to be associated with the conservative party?

The local Young Republican branches here are riddled with some questionable morals as well.  The social director of the YR group in my county openly brags to his friends about getting blow jobs in parking lots and taking women home from bars (even if it’s not true, women should not be spoken of in this manner), and another group’s leadership includes women who go home with strangers from bars.  So there is yet another place that I can’t in good conscience associate with like-minded people.  Don’t even get me started on the fact that the majority of young attendees of CPAC see it as an opportunity to get plastered and hook up.

At last, after actually being quite hurt by some of the behavior mentioned above, I have deleted my Twitter account.  I do miss it – I miss getting news updates through the eyes of fellow conservatives.  I miss having someone to talk to when I can’t sleep.  But I don’t miss being constantly disappointed by my peers.  In time, I hope to move past all this disappointment and find some true (trruuuuuuue) conservatives that lead virtuous lives and set a better example for the type of leaders I hope to elect.  Meanwhile, I ask my #tcot readers – are you really living a conservative life?

Be the best you can be, do the NEXT RIGHT thing, and always, with passion, treat others EXACTLY how you want them to treat you! -Lou Holtz