Rona Lewis is an LA-based fitness and lifestyle coach, cookbook author and motivational speaker.
The kitchen has always been an integral part of my life. Growing up, it was the warm, cozy place where my mother was always cooking something. She was a great cook. Still is, as a matter of fact.
Her dishes were straightforward, well seasoned and, for the most part, pretty healthy. Personally, I think she was ahead of her time! As I got older, I started paying attention to how she made many of her dishes and appreciated how she gave food lots of taste without heavy sauces or oil. She gave me a good base of standards that I still cook to this day.
When I first began my career as a fitness and lifestyle coach, I wanted to be a true resource for my clients -- sort of “one-stop shopping” for a healthier way of life. To me, that meant being not only an expert on fitness and nutrition, but healthy cooking, too. After all, 80% of what you look like is because of what you eat. Really! Would I make that up?
I wanted those who worked with me to be aware of what went into their bodies, and those of their families. In addition to training them, I gave them meal plans and recipes that were low-carb, low-fat, easy and flavorful. My clients loved them!
So, I started creating more recipes and re-engineering some that my pupils supplied, requesting healthier and equally delicious versions. I also learned a great deal about the healing and nutritional value of herbs and spices and incorporated this knowledge, and these spices, into my easy-to-prepare and undeniably delectable recipes.
The majority of my clients are over 35 with kids, jobs and not a lot of time. Their lives are busy and over-scheduled. My recipes, most made in an hour or less, allow them to feel good about what they serve their families -- and still give them time to drive their kids to basketball practice or violin lessons.
My funny, healthy cookbook series, Does This Cookbook Make Me Look Fat?, was actually their idea. More than one client suggested I gather all my recipes in one place and write a cookbook so people could use them. So, to get them to stop nagging me, I did!
Of course, I had to add my slightly wacky sense of humor to it. It’s so much more pleasant to cook with a smile on your face, don’t you think? The beauty of my recipes is that new cooks can make and enjoy them as is, while more experienced cooks can have fun being a little more imaginative and make them their own. Have at it, I say!
Because it's now winter, I’d like to share with you one of my most popular soup recipes from the first book. It contains kale, one of the most nutritious vegetables on the planet, but you don’t have to tell your family that. We’ll keep it just between us.
I hope you enjoy my column and my recipes. I invite readers to ask questions in the comments, send me feedback, or even e-mail recipes they’d like me have a go re-engineering for them. You can go to my website www.ronalewis.com to see more recipes and e-mail me from there. Enjoy and eat well!
Spicy Kale Chowder with Turkey or Chicken Sausage
Many sausages are high in sodium, hence the breakdown here. I use the organic kind with no nitrites. If you can find one that’s lower in sodium, try it and let me know how it is! Many canned plum tomatoes now come in a low-sodium version, too. This has a good amount of protein and kale isn’t bitter at all when cooked with the tomatoes. The ginger is a nice twist. You can also leave it out and substitute a ½ jalapeno pepper for some real spice (sometimes I use both!).
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Can be made ahead and frozen
Calories: 176 Sodium: 577 mg
Total fat: 7g Total carbohydrates: 15g
Saturated fat: 2g Trans fat: 0g
Dietary fiber: 1g Protein: 14g
Sugars: 6g Cholesterol: 35mg
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 tbsps minced fresh ginger
1 pound low-fat spicy turkey or chicken sausage, in ¼-inch thick slices
1 28-oz can low-sodium Italian plum tomatoes, chopped, with juice (or 2 14-oz cans)
3 quarts low-sodium turkey or chicken broth
¾ lb kale, large stems and ribs discarded, leaves coarsely chopped, about 8 cups
lots of pepper, to taste
Spray cooking spray in bottom of large soup pot. Add garlic and onions and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until softened for about 12 minutes. Add ginger and sausage and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes and juices, bring to a boil. Add the stock and kale and return to a boil. Reduce heat to moderate and simmer the soup until kale is tender, about 10 minutes. Season with pepper and serve.
The first in Rona Lewis' cookbook series, Does This Cookbook Make Me Look Fat? Healthy Recipes Even HE Will Eat! is available at www.ronalewis.com. Her second book, Does This Cookbook Make Me Look Fat? Vol. 2 Healthy Recipes For Entertaining, will be out this spring.