So, my friend and client, former Extra TV Host, Dayna Devon recently posted a recipe for Paella on her blog and it looked amazing.  I got to wondering how I can make a healthier version for those days when carbs are a necessity and here’s what I came up with.  If you try it, please let me know how you like it and if you made any modifications.  This tasty, skinny Paella cooks in half the time but tastes just as authentic.  Don’t overdo it…only one serving of this a day and save the rest for leftovers!

Michele’s Skinny Paella

Recipe inspired by Dayna Devon and Tyler Florence’s Ultimate PaellaMichele's Skinny Paella

1.5lb chicken breast (cut into 1/2 inch chunks)

3 Links hot chicken or turkey sausage (casings removed)

2 cups yellow onion (diced)

1 cup red bell pepper (diced)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1/2 cup flat leaf parsley (chopped, plus extra for garnish)

14oz can whole tomatoes (drained)

2 cups short-grain brown minute rice

2.5 cups fat-free low sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup dry white cooking wine

1 large pinch Spanish saffron

4oz shrimp (peeled, deveined)

1 cup sweet peas (defrosted)

S&P (to taste)

Chicken rub

1 tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes


Step 1:  Combine chicken rub ingredients in a medium size bowl or large zip top bag. Add chicken breast, and toss or shake to coat evenly. Cover and marinate in the fridge for one hour.

Step 2:  Heat a large pot coated with cooking spray over medium high heat. Once hot, add the sausage. Break apart sausage with your spatula, and cook until no longer pink. Remove sausage from pot and set aside. Add additional cooking spray to pot, if needed, and then add chicken pieces. Sear chicken on all sides then remove from pot and set aside.

Step 3:  Add onions, red pepper, garlic, and parsley to the pot, season with S&P, to taste, reduce heat to medium. Cook for 3 minutes, using your spatula to scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes and crush with your spatula. Season with S&P. Add uncooked rice to the pot and stir to combine. Once the liquid is absorbed, add chicken broth and cooking wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Step 4:  Add the sausage, chicken, and saffron to the pot and stir to combine. Add the shrimp, pushing them down into the rice. Simmer for 15 minutes then add the peas. Garnish with remaining parsley.

Per serving: Serving size ½ cup 274 calories, 27g carbs, 4g fat, 31g protein, 3g fiber

Sweet Potato Fries

Prep: 15 Minutes Bake: 20 Minutes


  • 3-4 small to medium-sized peeled sweet potatoes
  • Olive Oil cooking spray
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425°.  Grease baking/cookie sheet with a quick spray of olive oil.  Cut potatoes into 3” long and ¼-½” wide strips.  Place potato strips on prepared baking/cookie sheet.  Spray lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle with pepper and dash of salt to taste.  Bake 20 minutes or until ends of sweet potatoes start to brown.  For crispier wedges, bake longer.  Remove from oven, cool…enjoy

Serves 6

sweet potato fries

Quinoa has not only become a staple food in my diet, it is my absolute favorite go-to food!

Quinoa is extremely high in protein, fiber, magnesium, & iron, & is filled with essential amino acids making it the most unique & complete protein source among all plant foods. Although it closely resembles wheat or rice, this grain-like seed is actually more related to beets, spinach, & tumbleweed!

Besides the nutritional value & superb delicious taste, it turns out that cooking with quinoa is just as fulfilling & adds character to any every meal. From sweet dishes to more hearty & savory meals, in my opinion, the versatility of quinoa is unmatched by any other food.

A lesson in Quinoa Variety:

1. If you’ve never tried quinoa, don’t start with the “flakes”. I made the mistake of eating the flakes which sort of resemble grits or potato flakes that come out of a box (I remember eating mashed potatoes this way as a kid- trust me, those flakes are way tastier than quinoa flakes!). I found that the flakes are much better utilized in cooking/baking rather than as a morning cereal alternative to oatmeal or cream of rice. Perhaps if I wasn’t such a hardcore dieter adding brown sugar, cinnamon, & milk might spruce up the flakes a bit. To each his own, but I’ll pass & just stick with my many varieties of quinoa seed in a bowl!  *recipes below*

2. Quinoa Flour is enlightening! When I discovered the flour version I was thrilled & needed to go home and bake immediately to test out the goods. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked for baking all sorts of goodies but at the same time a bit disappointed at the “raw” taste of the batter when I used it. If you know anything about me it is that I L-O-V-E batter! Half the time I cook or bake, it is so that I can taste the process…I’m constantly craving dough-ish sort of sweets even more so than the finished product like cookies, cakes, etc. The batter is what I get excited about- licking the spoon & the bowl is pure pleasure to me. Once it’s baked I feel like it doesn’t taste as good!LOL! Soooo my point is, quinoa flour has a nutty flavor. It tastes nice but not for my “raw batter binging”! 🙂 But like I said, it bakes great & can be combined with a variety of flours or almond meal/peanut flours, etc. for a low carb & gluten free alternative to regular white flour!

3. The quinoa seed comes in many different shades of ivories, pinks, brown, & reds! Grind it up & you’ve made your own quinoa flour- great for baking, breading foods, or adding protein to any meal!


1 cup dry quinoa
2 tablespoons fruity extra virgin olive oil
Juice from 2 limes
2-3 fresh mint sprigs, leaves removed and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves or parsley
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup sweet and ripe cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons diced red onion- or use 2 chopped scallions
1 garlic clove, minced
1. Rinse your quinoa.
2. Cook the quinoa as you would raw rice: in 2 and 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups fresh salted water, covered, until all of the water is absorbed. I personally cook mine in the microwave for a quick & perfectly fluffy batch of quinoa!
3. Scoop the cooked quinoa into a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, tossing lightly with a fork until combined.
4. Taste test and adjust seasonings. Cover and chill- the longer, the better. In fact, I think this salad tastes better the second day- so plan ahead and make it the day before.
(Makes 4-6 servings.)


1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 ribs celery, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1 Tbs. ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
3 cups of Spinach or 1 10-oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups chopped Hot House Tomatoes or 2 15-oz. cans diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
1 cup cooked black beans or 1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup quinoa
OPTIONAL: 1 1/2 cups grated fat free or reduced-fat pepper mozorello, divided
4 large red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs removed
1. Rinse your quinoa.
2. Cook the quinoa as you would raw rice: in 2 and 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups fresh salted water, covered, until all of the water is absorbed. I personally cook mine in the microwave for a quick & perfectly fluffy batch of quinoa!
3. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery, and cook 5 minutes, or until soft. Add cumin and garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in spinach and drained tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.
4. Stir in black beans, quinoa, and 2 cups water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Stir in 1 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour liquid from tomatoes in bottom of baking dish.
6. Fill each bell pepper half with heaping 3/4-cup quinoa mixture, and place in baking dish. Cover with foil, and bake 1 hour. Uncover, and sprinkle each pepper with 1 Tbs. remaining cheese. Bake 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates, and drizzle each with pan juices before serving.

Quinoa & Chicken Fried Rice- HIGH PROTEIN FOR ANY MEAL!

(Tastes just like fried rice minus the rice & sodium & fat! LOL!)

1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c. onion chopped
1/3 c. chopped mushrooms
1-2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce (low sodium) or Hot Sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
6 egg whites (1-2 whole & 4-5 whites or just 6 whites)
1. Heat Olive oil in a frying pan & add onion & mushroom. Cook till they begin to soften & brown slightly.
2. Add cooked quinoa, mix up in pan on medium heat.
3. Add eggs/whites & continue to cook & fry up. Flatten the mixture & spread out into the pan then let it cook for a few minutes.
4. Add the Worcestershire sauce & use spatula to chop up & flip over mixture to combine.
5. Let cool & enjoy! Serves 1-3 (depending on appetite! )

Quinoa Breaded Chicken Nuggets- Eat your heart out McD’s!

3-4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
2 Egg Whites
1/2 cup quinoa flour (or 1/4c. whole raw quinoa ground in a coffee grinder)
1 T. Mrs.Dash “Garlic & Herb” Flavor
2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
Dash of Salt & Pepper to taste; optional
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees & prepare a baking sheet covered in foil & sprayed with olive oil. (Optionally you can fry the battered chicken nuggets in a pan on the stove- use 2-4T. of extra olive oil)
2. In a bowl add egg whites & whisk lightly, set aside.
3. In a large ziplock bag add the quinoa flour & seasonings, shake up to combine mixture.
4. Cut the raw chicken up into 2″ pieces- nugget size.
5. Dip/soak the raw chicken breast first into the egg whites then place them into the ziplock bag of seasonings. Once in the bag shake up the mixture to coat the chicken pieces with the seasoning. Follow & repeat these steps until all the chicken pieces have been breaded.
6. Place coated chicken breast pieces on a prepared baking sheet & into the oven for approximately 25 minutes or cooked through, flipping the chicken over once. (If cooking in a frying pan, add breaded chicken into the preheated heated olive oil & fry in pan about 6 minutes each side- watch carefully so they don’t burn)
7. Makes 4-6 servings depending on chicken breast sizes. Enjoy your chicken nuggets with low sugar ketchup or mustard! YUM!

Healthy Thanksgiving, Holiday, & Year-Round Dishes!

I always look forward to the holiday season but at the same time fear the feast! But thanks to these recipes Thanksgiving & other holiday dinners don’t have to be a nightmare. You can actually eat guilt-free in moderation of course. These dishes are low/no sodium, low/no fat, low/no sugar, & low carb choices, safe for all!

Here are some basic tips to eat your way to health around the holidays & those special occasion meals:

  1. Choose Fat-Free, reduced/low-sodium chicken broth as a great flavorful way to cook many foods. Use this broth for making mashed potatoes, making gravy, as a base for boiling rice, or for the liquid when cooking stuffing instead of butter!
  2. Veggies should be roasted or steamed & you can add tons of flavors by topping them with toasted almonds or walnuts, herbs, & vinaigrette dressings!
  3. Turkey is an excellent choice over ham or even chicken! The white meat of the turkey is the leanest part & is a great source of vitamin B. Always remove the skin & keep your serving portion size around 3 or 4 oz. Again, many herbs, spices, & salt-free seasonings can be used when cooking your turkey to perfection!
  4. Desserts & Sweets can get tricky but there are many things you can do to keep those foods low fat & low carb- no need to deprive yourself of the treats. For sugar-free choices try sugar substitutes such as Splenda or Stevia. Choose egg-white over whole eggs, fat-free milk or evaporated milk over whole & gluten/wheat-free breads & crusts as a better choice for desserts.

Tips for eating on Thanksgiving Day:

  • Still eat small meals leading up to your Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t skip meals because you’ll be hungry & more likely to overeat on Thanksgiving.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day-this will keep you hydrated & keep you feeling fuller longer. A light, low sodium soup is a great choice as a lunch meal before dinner, asparagus, romaine, & zucchini are also good choices of veggies to munch on throughout the day as they will act as a diuretic!
  • If you’re not in competition mode or strict dieting you can enjoy a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage… While everyone is socializing & sipping on cocktails choose to drink water or soda water in the beginning so you can control your drinks at dinnertime or after….all in moderation.
  • Use a Teaspoon or Tablespoon to serve yourself rather than the large serving spoons that we usually use to dish out food. You will have better control & be more aware of your portion serving size.
  • Wait about two hours if you can before going up for seconds on dinner. Or have you dessert at that point. Avoid the crust of pies, choose cool whip “free”, or my recipes as an alternative to high carb & high sugar foods.


  4. GRAVY


12 oz. fresh cranberries, rinsed
1 cup Splenda or Sugar Substitute of choice
1 cup water
1 teaspoon each orange zest

Uncover and stir. Turn heat to low for another 10 minutes. The cranberries will burst open releasing pectin. Pectin is a natural gelatin contained in the berries. This will allow the mixture to thicken. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

Bring water to boil, add Splenda and spices & add cranberries and bring to boil again, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the water has reduced somewhat.

It won’t be as thick as if it was made with sugar, but it’s a very small price to pay for fresh, healthy, & delicious cranberry sauce.

Grilled Zucchini with Quinoa Stuffing

1 huge zucchini
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped grape tomatoes
16 almonds, chopped and toasted
1/2 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons Parmesan, plus more for sprinkling (Optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and most of the flesh, leaving about 1/4-inch of the zucchini husk.

Combine quinoa, beans, tomatoes, almonds, garlic, Parmesan, oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon mixture into zucchini. Sprinkle with parmesan. Grill 5 to 10 minutes over medium-high heat, or until zucchini is cooked through, but not falling apart.

Gluten-Free Stuffing With Autumn Fruit

Stuffing is a Thanksgiving favorite, and you should not have to go without just because you can’t have gluten. Packed with fruit and nuts, this simple recipe makes for a great balance of sweet and savory flavors. I recommend using heavier gluten-free bread, such as brown rice bread, because it will stand up against toasting, mixing and soaking without falling apart. You can find brown rice bread in many health food stores and major supermarkets.

Makes 8 servings

1 loaf of heavy gluten-free bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes to equal 5 to 6 cups

1 1/2 cups walnuts cut into pieces

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 medium onion, diced

2 teaspoons dried sage, or 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh sage

1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme, or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups stock (vegetable, chicken or turkey)

2 persimmons, chopped coarsely (optional)

2 pears, such as Bartlett or Asian pears, cored and chopped coarsely (optional)

Additional salt and pepper for seasoning (optional)

3 tablespoons butter (optional)

Place rack in middle of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread gluten-free bread cubes evenly on a baking sheet. Toast in oven for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remove from oven and set aside. Raise oven heat to 375 degrees.

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat and add walnut pieces. Toast for 4 minutes, agitating every 15 seconds to allow for even toasting and to prevent burning. Walnuts are done when they are fragrant and have turned a few shades darker. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

In the same skillet over medium flame, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil until it shimmers. Add onions and sauté until they are translucent and slightly brown, about 5 minutes. Add sage and thyme, sautéing for 30 seconds, then celery, sautéing for 2 minutes. Add salt, pepper and bread cubes and mix well. Drizzle in stock and remaining olive oil, mixing until bread cubes are coated. Remove from heat and allow to soak for 5 minutes, mixing once halfway through.

Gently stir in persimmons, pears and toasted walnuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then pour the whole thing into a lightly greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Dot the top with butter and bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Simple & Healthy Gravy

To make delicious gravy for your stuffing, whisk some cooking stock and the drippings from your turkey with a spoonful of brown rice flour, salt and pepper and slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Boil for about a minute, until the gravy begins to thicken.  Season it with some fresh herbs if you like.

Now you can have your gravy and eat your stuffing too!

Cauliflower Mashed “Potatoes”

1 head cauliflower

1 clove garlic (optional)
1/8 cup skim milk, plain yogurt, or good butter
Salt & pepper

This is a great, low-carb alternate to mashed potatoes, & it tastes surprisingly good.

Steam cauliflower (optionally with a clove of garlic) until tender. Cut the cauliflower into pieces and place in a blender with the milk, yogurt or butter. Season with salt and pepper and then whip until smooth. Pour cauliflower into small baking dish. Sprinkle with paprika and bake in hot oven until bubbly.

“Candied” Yam Casserole

5 medium sweet potatoes rinsed & peeled
¼ cup olive oil or 10-20 sprays of I can’t believe it’s not butter
3 T cinnamon

2 T Vanilla
7 packets of Splenda/Sugar free sweetener or 2/3 cup Brown Sugar Blend

Chop sweet potatoes in large chunks. Microwave for 3-6min. or until tender (not too mushy).  In a bowl combine cinnamon, olive oil or spray with I can’t believe it’s not butter, vanilla, & “sugar, “mixing extremely well until consistency of mashed potatoes is achieved.  Add mixture to Pam sprayed baking dish.  Bake for 40 minutes at 325º. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts completely with marshmallows & place in oven until melted & ever-so-slightly toasted.

Holiday Turkey Basics

1 tablespoon brown rice flour

  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced

    Oven Bag

  • 12 to 24 pound turkey, thawed

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prepare your oven bag: Shake flour in Oven Bag; place in large roasting pan at least 2 inches deep. Spray inside of bag with nonstick spray to reduce sticking, if desired. You can also add mixed Vegetables to the bag such as onion & celery for additional flavor. (Tips for stuffing are below)

Prepare Turkey: Remove neck and giblets from turkey. Rinse turkey; pat dry. Brush turkey with olive oil. This is the time you will want to add your herbs or seasoning of choice. I have listed a few options below!

Place the turkey in oven bag & close with a nylon tie, cut a few small slits in the top of the bag & insert a meat thermometer through slit in bag into thickest part of inner thigh. Tuck ends of bag in pan.

Bake 2 to 2 1/2 hours for a 12 to 16 lb. turkey, 2 1/2 to 3 hours for a 16 to 20 lb. turkey, and 3 to 3 1/2 hours for a 20 to 24 lb. turkey, or until meat thermometer reads 180°F.For easy slicing, let stand in oven bag 15 minutes before opening.

These turkey roasting oven bag instructions come from the: REYNOLDS KITCHENS TIPS

– For stuffed turkey: Lightly stuff turkey with your favorite stuffing recipe before brushing with oil. Add 1/2 hour to bake time.
– If turkey sticks to oven bag, gently loosen bag from turkey before opening bag.

Turkey Seasoning & Spices

After rinsing turkey; pat dry. Brush skin of turkey with oil. Gently lift skin & rub oil between skin & turkey meat as well. Choose one of the following combinations of herbs & spices to use. Combine Seasonings/herbs, sprinkle & rub beneath skin & all over turkey, & inside cavity, turning evenly to coat.

Fresh Herb Turkey:
1 tablespoon each chopped fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme. Coarse salt and ground pepper

Moroccan Style Turkey:
1 tablespoon garlic powder or 1 fresh garlic clove minced, 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, & ¼ teaspoon salt

Traditional Turkey with a Tangy Twist:
Squeeze 1 orange over turkey. Season outside of turkey generously with salt, and sprinkle with pepper.

Butternut Squash Pie

2 medium butternut squash, cut in half, seeded
3 tablespoons butter or grape seed oil
3 egg whites
1/3 cup splenda or sugar substitute

1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of pumpkin spice

1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Bake squash in the oven at 350° for 40 minutes, until soft. Scoop squash out of skin, discarding skin. Place squash in food processor with butter (or oil), eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Puree until smooth and creamy. Place in a Pam sprayed, 9 inch tart pan or a casserole dish- you can make this pie crestless or use the oatmeal crust recipe below. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes. Serve!

Sweet Oatmeal Pie Crust

2 cups oats (ground to flour)

½ cup Splenda or sugar substitute

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg white (optional)

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 to 4 ½ tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and oil a 9-inch pie plate. Stir together all ingredients with a fork except water. Slowly add water one tablespoon at a time to get a thick semi dry paste. Transfer to pie plate and gently press into bottom and sides. Use a fork and poke a few holes in the bottom crust & place in oven for 10 minutes. Remove & ad pie filling & bake according to pie directions. If baking pie crust alone, bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden.

One of the biggest delemas I had to face when getting serious about cleaning up my diet was taking out the condiments & snacks that seemed to add spice to everything I ate. Really, cleaning up your diet is all about forming a new habit. Right now maybe your habit is salting everything, soda’s n’ sweets, & ranch dressing. There are many alternatives and NEW healthier habits you can develop that would change your body in no time!

Food had never been such an issue for me until I was deprived of it. Yes, I liked to eat even before my first competition & the dieting. And my gosh, if you know me know, you know that I am in love with food…my new nickname is lil’ piggy! HAHA!

I guess I’m a masochist & enjoy the torture because when I first started dieting, even now when I’m preparing for competition, I kept everything plain & boring…or as I prefered to call it, simple! I mean the way I prepared my food was so clean and bland that I would literally be able to pick it up & eat it with my bare hands- no utensils required! Now that I’m in my off-season and won’t be competing until March 2010, I’ve decided I need to liven things up. With no boyfriend in sight, my Friday & Saturday night’s are spent experimenting with recipes that are salt-free, gluten-free, & sugar-free.

Simple changes can make all the difference. We have all developed habits, both good & bad, that are ingrained in our heads as “our way” of doing things. Sometimes all it takes is learning something new & being open to change for us to build better habits. I grew up with an Italian/Mexican chef, caterer, & restraunt owner for a father & lets just say although delicious, his food was far fom healthy. I learned at a very young age how to cook & what tasted good with no reference to cooking healthy. If you know me now, you know that I am in love with food…my nickname is lil’ piggy! HAHA! (If I’m going to be called a piggy at least haveing the “lil” in there doesn’t make it so bad! LOL!)