Kale and Dumbells » A journey of health and fitness.

Masthead header
Kale and Dumbells bio picture

    Thanks for visiting me here at Kale and Dumbbells! Over the last year and a half, I have been on a journey of health and wellness and lost over 40pounds. I also happen to love food. OK, that might be a bit of an understatement. I really really really love food.

    It has become a bit of an obsession of mine to find ways to make food both healthy and tasty for me and my family. Here is where I will share recipes and talk about food, fitness and maybe a few things in between. I'd be thrilled to have you follow along on my journey. You may also want to visit me on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest.

    If there are any recipes that you'd like to see or questions you have, please feel free to leave a comment or email me. I'd love to hear from you!


Eating Healthy Lunches and Snacks on the Go

You probably know the old saying “if you plan to fail, you fail to plan”. My trainer has told me this many times, but it’s only in the last six months or so I’ve really taken her up on this when it comes to eating on the go. In my old life, it was so easy to just pick up something while I was out and about like Starbucks, Subway, etc. Not necessarily totally unhealthy options, but often not what I should be eating, and it costs money that I don’t always want to spend. Now I try to plan ahead when I know I’m going to be out for a few hours by bringing snacks or lunch along and in the process I save myself a few bucks!

Another great way to plan in advance, is if you are tracking your food and are going to be eating out, look on the restaurant’s website before you go out or use your calorie counter (ie My Fitness Pal) to determine ahead of time what your best menu options are. This might save you the surprise of finding out your salad which you thought was healthy is actually 800 calories! This past weekend we went out for lunch, and I checked out the menu and used my phone to determine calorie levels before ordering…the Asian Steak Salad I was going to order was 800 calories, but by removing the crunchy noodles and the pasta noodles, plus having the dressing on the side and only using half, I was able to reduce the calories by about 300-400. Still tasty, but much healthier and I didn’t blow over half of my daily calories in one meal. 🙂


I thought I would share a few of the different things I have brought along with me to give you some ideas of things you can pack in advance. I am always looking to include a variety of protein, veggies and fruits.

1. For this first image, my older two kids and I were going skiing and were going to be gone for most of the day. So we brought lots of pepperoni sticks, some cheese, grapes and strawberries, plus carrots, cherry tomatoes and cucumber. That day we also had some buns with meat and cheese for the kids, plus some popcorn and a little bit of chocolate (for me of course!).

2. This time it was just an afternoon snack for me, so I packed some sliced peppers and cherry tomatoes, plus mixed berries and grapes.


3. This was a post workout lunch, so it was turkey pepperoni, snap peas, carrots, grapes and cherry tomatoes. The small container is some cottage cheese with some low sugar peach jam.

4. Another full day out and about, and I had some left over herbed chicken pieces, cherry tomatoes, radishes and grapes, plus green tea and my usual protein smoothie


Some other ideas for foods that pack well:

– Nuts…almonds, pecans, walnuts and cashews are great choices. I recommend the unsalted or lightly salted. Also keep in mind that nuts are high in calorie, so just a small serving is sufficient. For example, a 1 oz. serving of almonds is about 23 almonds and is 163 calories. This of course will vary by the type of nut.

– Protein bites (I will be posting a recipe for this! These are my favorite for hiking)

– Lettuce/turkey/hummus wraps

– Trail mix (same caution as with the nuts…the calories add up quickly. Just a small amount per person will be necessary)

– Lots of water!

March 20, 2013 - 1:51 pm

Jacoba - Hi Rach – Thanks for all the great suggestions. Wondering where you buy turkey pepperoni? I’m looking for some without nitrates (nitrites?). Can’t wait to try the kale salad from the other day, too – do you buy whole coconuts and cut them up?

Warm Kale Salad with Dijon Basil Salmon

Both of these dishes make a regular appearance in our meal rotation. They win for ease of preparation, reasonably quick cooking time, and the fact that they are difficult to mess up! Plus they kale and salmon both fall into the superfoods category. All important factors in my books of course. Kale has lots of different benefits, including being high in Vitamins A, C & K, iron and calcium. Dark green vegetables are so good for you, and kale just happens to be one of my favorites (if the name of this blog is any indicator). Salmon is a great source of protein, and is also an excellent source of Omega-3 and Vitamin D, among other things. It’s great food for your heart health and should be included in your diet regularly, and it’s a great break from my usual chicken, turkey and steak. My other favorite way to eat salmon is as sashimi!



Warm Kale Salad

1/2 – 1 bunch kale (flat or curly kale works)

10 (or so) halved cherry tomatoes

1-2 tbsp olive oil

dash of sesame oil AND/OR 2 tsp tahini

dash of soy sauce (I use Bragg’s, no sodium)

1/3 cup coconut slices

1. Rinse kale well under water and strip the kale leaves off of the stems (save the stems for green smoothies! A great tip from my sister)

2. Combine olive oil, sesame oil and/or tahini (sesame oil will give a stronger flavor, use it sparingly…I like the creaminess the tahini gives) and soy sauce.

3. Top with cherry tomatoes, coconut and dressing. Toss well (I prefer to do this with my hands so I can massage the dressing into the kale a bit)

4. Bake in 400 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes. Broil for 2 minutes if you want some crispiness. 🙂

Recipe heavily modified from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day cookbook. You can find the original recipe here. I found the dressing to be too much without the grains, hence the much smaller amounts. Also, I like cooking it at a higher temperature to get some more crispiness, but if I cook it at the same time as the salmon, it works just fine at a lower temperature using the convection setting in my oven…I use the Broil setting at the end of needed.

*** I prefer a very light dressing on this, so it doesn’t become too heavy. A little dressing goes a long way!



I have had nothing but rave reviews on this salmon…and I think the key is cooking it in foil, which keeps it from drying out (because really, there is nothing worse than dry overcooked salmon!). I love that you can cook it in the oven or on the BBQ which makes it even more versatile.

Dijon Basil Salmon

1 salmon filet (with or without skin)

2 tbsp dijon mustard

2-3 tbsp fresh basil finely chopped or 1-2 tbsp dried basil. Or in a pinch use this.

1. Place salmon on top of a piece of foil.

2. Spread dijon mustard over the top of the salmon.

3. Generously sprinkle basil on top.

4. Close up foil package securely around salmon and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes (depending on the size of the salmon, you may need a bit longer if you have a thick filet)

March 19, 2013 - 7:19 am

Annie - Both dishes sound great! Tahini, coconut and kale sound yummy together, and I like the idea of baking a salad in the over! We love salmon, too, so I will definitely try both of these recipes out. Thanks, Rachel!

March 19, 2013 - 6:38 pm

Melanie - Definitely trying this one, it sounds delicious!

March 20, 2013 - 6:30 pm

Andrea - You’ve inspired me, we’re trying Warm Kale Salad tonight – i’ll let you know how it goes!

April 5, 2013 - 8:17 am

Cindy - I’m loving this blog 🙂 It’s just what I needed! I’m gonna give this Kale salad a try tonight, looks yum!

Turkey Taco Soup

We are huge soup fans in our house, it’s quite easily one of my favorite things about winter. Nothing like a warm bowl of soup on a cold day to warm you up and help fight the winter blues. I am always trying new soup recipes and looking for healthy tasty ways to keep soup interesting as it’s not uncommon for us to have soup a few days a week. They are a great way to include lots of veggies, and there are so many options and variations you can make! if you’re looking for a quick, easy, healthy and filling soup, then you definitely need to give this one a try.

This soup been my go-to soup this winter, and I have received great reviews from everyone who has tried it, including my kids (who are sometimes my toughest critics!). It’s the perfect meal to bring to someone if they’re sick or just had a baby, as it’s so easy to reheat. I love making a big pot at the beginning of the week to have for a quick lunch or leftovers. I really love that it’s a great base soup recipe that you can adjust based on the ingredients you have in your fridge and the mood you’re in. Don’t have all the vegetables listed? Just add what you have…you can’t really go wrong, especially when it comes to soup! (see below for modifications).

Turkey Taco Soup 

(makes one large pot of soup)

1 – 1.5 lb Ground Turkey

1 onion, diced

2-3 peppers, diced

1 zucchini, diced

1 can (large size) diced tomatoes

1 can (small) black beans, rinsed thoroughly

2 cups corn

4 cups water or low sodium chicken broth

seasonings of choice (garlic, pepper, chile powder, cumin, chipotle, low sodium taco seasoning etc).

coconut oil or olive oil


1. Brown turkey in pan (use coconut oil or olive oil if necessary)

2. Add  onions and peppers and saute until soft.

3. Add zucchini, the can of diced tomatoes, water, black beans as well as your seasonings.

4. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.

5. Add corn (I used frozen) and cook until heated through.

6. Season to taste.

7. See below of add-ins and variations.

8. Enjoy!


Optional Add-ins and notes:

– To make it a heartier soup, add 1 cup uncooked quinoa or brown rice (I love the Wild Roots sprouted brown rice that Costco sells) when you add the tomatoes and water. Cook until quinoa or rice are done.

– You can also add pasta or a can of white beans, and substitute Italian herbs and seasonings.

– Have leftover cooked chicken or turkey? Just add near the end when you add the corn. This way it doesn’t become tough and overcooked.

– For a spicier soup, add some finely chopped chipotle in adobo (I always have some stored in the freezer…be careful, a little goes a long way).

– To up the vegetable ante, add some spinach or finely chopped kale for the last few minutes.

– Serve with some shredded cheese, tortilla chips, avocado and cilantro (this is how we ate it tonight, minus the tortilla chips)

– My favorite spices are from Victorian Epicure. My sister-in-law sells their products, so I use a lot of their spice blends, and for this soup I used their Pueblo Bean Dip mix (which I am not seeing on their website right now).


Hope you enjoy this recipe!




March 16, 2013 - 10:20 pm

lee - I can attest, this soup is to die for..I got to try it first hand from Rachel and it was the one of the best dinners ever!

March 17, 2013 - 5:41 pm

Ali - Im going to make this tommorrow!

May 1, 2013 - 7:39 pm

Jill - Made this soup tonight, thanks for the recipe!! Have had it bookmarked since I knew how good it was from when you brought it over.. 🙂

Flourless Zucchini Brownies – Almost guilt free baking!

Truth be told, I am not much of a baker. I’d much rather cook where I can adjust ingredients to my liking…I’ve learned the hard way that this approach to baking doesn’t work as well as it can with cooking. And between me eating too much of said baking and feeling guilty that it’s not healthy usually makes it not worth it.

BUT, when people come over I sometimes decide to do some baking, and my little ones are thrilled. This recipe is pretty fool-proof and no-one will ever know that it’s mostly healthy! It isn’t super low calorie at 200 calories per serving (and that’s a generous serving, 1/2 of a square is a perfect size actually), but that’s OK in my books. This falls into the 10-20% it’s-ok-to-have-a-treat-occasionally category for me. Because I try to limit my grain intake, I love that this doesn’t have any flour. It also uses honey instead of sugar which is another bonus.

Flourless Zucchini Brownies (makes 16 brownies, about 200 calories each)

1.5 cups shredded zucchini

1 cup almond butter

1 egg

1/3 cup honey

2 tbsp cocoa powder (I used dutch processed)

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 cup semi-sweet/dark chocolate chips **

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together (I added the chocolate chips after mixing the first ingredients)

3. Pour into a 9×9 pan (I lined mine with parchment paper so it wouldn’t stick)

4. Bake for 35-45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean


** You could probably cut the chocolate chips in half, or remove completely. They do have sugar, so next time I am going to make them without and see how it tastes.

Recipe modified slightly from Delighted Momma.


Let me know if you try this recipe, and how you (and your family) like it. 🙂

March 16, 2013 - 7:07 pm

Natalie - I’m so making these. I love that they’re grain free! That means I can eat more if them? 🙂

April 17, 2013 - 11:54 am

Cindy - I am loving these! Do you know if they freeze well?

First things first. Starting your day out with a healthy breakfast.

I am sure you have heard it before, how important it is to eat breakfast in the morning. How it kick starts your metabolism, keeps you from overeating later in the day, yada yada yada. You know the drill I am sure. I did too, but for many years I was one of those people who didn’t eat breakfast .I am not a morning person and for many years I’d rather get an extra 15 minutes of sleep than spend that time making breakfast. Add in kids who need help with getting dressed/breakfast/hair combing and trying to get out the door for school on time, and my breakfast was the last thing of importance in the morning. The only time I did eat breakfast was when I was pregnant, and morning sickness forced me to eat something first thing to help settle my stomach. Even though I usually chose unhealthy breakfasts at that point (can you say Eggo’s with butter and syrup every morning? haha), I do find it interesting that overall I lost weight through each of my pregnancies. Yes there are a lot of other factors involved there I am sure, but nonetheless, I do think there is a connection there.

Once I started going to the gym, I knew I needed to eat something before working out or else I could barely make it through a workout without feeling like I was going to die of hunger. These days I wake up starving and I can’t wait to eat breakfast. I like to have some sort of protein as I find it fills me up and keeps me from getting hungry too quickly. My favorite breakfast is eggs and/or egg whites, and because I am pretty picky about my eggs I only like them scrambled with salsa or fried (plain or with a bit of coconut oil). I’ve also taught Ethan (my oldest who is 10) to make smoothies, and we usually make a chocolate protein smoothie and I have some for breakfast and save the rest for after my workout. My kids love this smoothie and drink it like it’s a milkshake, and I’m always thrilled to get some extra protein into them (see recipe below).

Green smoothies are another favorite around here and we usually use spinach and/or kale along with some fruit. Greek yogurt is another great option for breakfast as it’s high in protein and makes for a nice quick breakfast…I typically top it with fruit and a bit of almond butter when I am running late! For fruit I like to get some Vitamin C in by having grapefruit or oranges, and berries are also a great low sugar way to add some sweetness to your breakfast. Veggies are always a bonus if you can fit them in first thing in the morning, although I find that this tends to happen more on the weekends for me when I have a bit more time to prepare breakfast.

I am really going to recommend staying away from cold cereal for breakfast. Most cereals contain a lot of sugar and little or no protein and you will be hungry in no time! If you like granola, stay away from the store bought versions and try making some at home (I will share how I make mine soon). If I do have granola, it’s just a small portion with my breakfast and will only have 1-2 tbsp on top of greek yogurt with some fruit. I personally don’t love oatmeal (unless it’s steel cut oats or baked oatmeal), but I know many who do and there’s lots of great recipes out there. If you want to increase the protein you can always add egg whites or protein powder.

I thought I would share a few pictures (all iPhone…which you will discover will be the majority of my pictures for this blog. Even though I’m a photographer, I find the phone easy and convenient for this purpose) of some of my favorite breakfasts:

1. Eggs with spinach and mushrooms and half a grapefruit, with a chocolate, cherry and flax protein smoothie.

2. Egg white frittata with turkey sausage, spinach, mushrooms and goat cheese with a Cara Cara orange and green tea.

3. Silver Hills Little Big Bread with an egg and turkey bacon plus some grapes, another piece of toast with peach jam plus green tea. (I don’t eat bread often, but when I do I try to eat sprouted grains that are as natural as possible without chemicals and preservatives. Silver Hills, a bakery that happens to be right up the street from us, has many great products.)



4. Scrambled eggs with salsa, a green smoothie with greek yogurt and green tea.

5. Oatmeal, banana and egg white pancakes topped with greek yogurt and strawberries with a green smoothie.

6. Greek yogurt with berries, almond butter and a little Omega Crunch – Maple Flavor (a tasty shelled flax that’s a great topping for salad, yogurt, etc)


Chocolate Banana (or cherries) Protein Flax Smoothie

(2-3 servings)

1 scoop of whey protein isolate powder (chocolate or vanilla)

1 banana or 1 cup of frozen cherries

2 tbsp flax seeds

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1/2 tbsp vanilla

1/2 cup almond milk

1 1/2 cup water

1 cup ice

optional: hemp hearts

– Blend and enjoy!


Oatmeal, Banana and Egg White Pancakes

(makes about 5 small pancakes)

1 ripe banana

1/3 cup liquid egg white

1/2 cup cooked oats

2 tbsp coconut flour

1 tbsp ground flax seed

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon


1. Mash the banana with a fork, and add all the other ingredients in.

2. Ensure that the texture is like a thick pancake batter.

3. Cook with a bit of coconut oil just like pancakes.

4. Serve topped with plain greek yogurt and some sliced strawberries or banana and some Omega Crunch.


I hope that gives you some ideas for breakfasts…I have a few make ahead breakfast ideas I will share soon! What is your favorite breakfast?

March 14, 2013 - 3:06 pm

Lynette - I LOVE your banana/oatmeal/egg white pancake recipe! I was making similar pancakes but with just mashed banana, a whole egg and some egg whites. The oatmeal just adds some filler-upping, and I love banana in anything so these are awesome! Keep me full forever. Thanks so much!!

March 14, 2013 - 5:15 pm

Jacoba - My favorite breakfast is Greek yogurt with granola – but I do want to start making my own grain-free version with a recipe I recently found. Hey, where do you buy frozen cherries? And which protein powder do you use? I have never found one I could stand.

March 14, 2013 - 5:24 pm

rludwig - Jacoba, I use a whey protein called IsoSport Whey from PVL (a local company). The key is you don’t want to see Whey Protein Concentrate on the label, just Whey Protein Isolate. It’s very neutral tasting. Cherries are from Costco. Hope that helps!

March 14, 2013 - 5:26 pm

Traci - That all looks so yummy! After I got that blender (I kept it) we have green smoothies for breakfast every day. The kids like a greens/chia seed/milk/banana/greek yogurt/peanut butter version and then I usually make a greens/water/greek yogurt/chia seeds/frozen blueberries/1/2 a banana/splash of vanilla version for me but my absolute favorite is greens/chia/water/greek yogurt/pear/cinammon. The pear/cinnamon combo is sooo good. My mom was like “uhhh–yeah that tastes like swiss chard” but I think over time you just don’t taste the greens anymore. (Made the mistake of trying mustard greens a couple of weeks ago though…hahahahahahahaha.)

March 14, 2013 - 5:45 pm

Michelle D. - Love this post. I used to be the same way, never a breakfast eater. Now its my favorite meal of the day 🙂 I gotta try those pancakes, they look great!

March 14, 2013 - 7:33 pm

Nicole - Great ideas. I have cold cereal every morning …and so do my kids. They’re already ticked off at me for changing snack things that I don’t think they’d appreciate me taking away their cereals too. And I love LIFE cereal. :-(. Interestingly enough – I have a bowl of cereal with skim milk…and am never hungry in the morning -whether at work or not. But I do have an issue late afternoon ….even if I have protein at lunch. Maybe I’ll have to re-think my morning routine and see if I can find more time to do something healthier. Thanks for the inspiration!

March 14, 2013 - 9:41 pm

Jen - I have to try these pancakes. I’ve got the ingredients but been staying in bed WAY too late in the morn to find time to do this! I need to change that!!
Is the first smoothie recipe your kids drink like a milkshake?

March 14, 2013 - 9:47 pm

Andrea DV - Rachel, this is super helpful! I’m loving your blog so much already 🙂

March 14, 2013 - 11:49 pm

lee - It all looks so good. I’ve been eating oatmeal with flaxseed blueberries and cinnamon almost every breakast for the last 6 years since it is easy but Im gonna try some of these for a break. Another good protein starter is cottage chesse curds (waaay less sodium) mixed with yogourt and sprinkled with granola and berries:)

March 14, 2013 - 11:51 pm

lee - oh and a cereal I eat once and while (camping) for a break is shredded wheat n bran..no sugar but high in carbs.

March 15, 2013 - 12:12 pm

cindy - yum, will have to try the pancakes. really loved the smoothie today. so so good! added a stevia pack to it b/c my whey protein is unflavored. just a touch of stevia did the trick.

March 16, 2013 - 12:42 pm

Lisa - I actually had cherries in the freezer! This was an amazing shake! Quenched my need for chocolate!!

April 2, 2013 - 5:51 pm

How to plan for healthy meals with a busy schedule » Kale and Dumbells - […] check out my post on breakfast for some quick and easy breakfasts to mix in with the above ones if you want some more […]