7 Tips for a Healthy Book Club -- Juggling With Julia

Is Book Club making you fat?  Of course not. Books have no calories :)

Really, though, is your book club often an evening of excess? A calorie calamity? Do you leave feeling like you’ve overdone it – again? Then read on, because we’re talking about 7 Tips for a Healthy Book Club. While it’s unlikely that your once-a-month meet-up with pals, noshing on savory delights while discussing a book’s unsavory elements, is derailing your otherwise healthy lifestyle, a few quick adjustments could lighten it up so you feel just as good that evening as you did when you finished the book :)

I’ve been lucky to be a part of a wonderful group of ‘friends who read’ for the past several years. We unanimously adored The Help, bawled after Me Before You, and swooned over our hero, Conor McBride, of Deceptive Cadence, (whose author, Kathryn Guare, is a New Englander and friend to our group). We’ve also had spirited exchanges over the beautiful-yet-boring The Remains of the Day, crowed over the exquisite storytelling in Caleb’s Crossing, and complained bitterly about the unlikable protagonist in P.S.: A Novel, a slutty doormat incapable of standing up for herself.

This month we’re tackling one of our first non-fiction works, Unbroken, the story of Olympian and war hero Louis Zamperini. So far, so great!

Janet, our unofficial leader and book maven, often hosts. She is the real culinary wiz and always manages to serve up an array of appetizers with something for everyone. She has wowed us with both light snacks and decadent delights over the years. Asparagus and red pepper roll-ups. Shrimp and garlic bites. An onion/swiss cheese dip to die for. Last month, she whipped up a lemony edamame and avocado salad. I loved it so much I re-created it at home a few days later (recipe coming soon!)

I get plenty of inspiration from my book club ladies, both culinary and otherwise. Hopefully my 7 Tips for a Healthy Book Club will inspire you!

1) Add Pedal Power. When it makes sense (and is safe), walk or bike to your host’s house. Even better, suggest the group start off the evening with a vigorous walk through the neighborhood! I can totally picture my gaggle of gals zipping around the walking path at our local park passionately debating who would play the handsome protagonist in the movie version.

2) Arrive Hungry, but not Starving. Just getting to Janet’s is a feat sometimes, what with carting my kids to and fro all afternoon. Often I’ve forgone dinner. By the time I arrive breathless at her gate, I’m hungry! If this sounds familiar, be sure to curb your appetite a few hours before with a balanced snack that is going to hold you over. A combination that includes fiber,  carbohydrates, and protein can keep away the hungry horrors and make you a much more amenable guest :)  My go-to’s are often apples and peanut butter, nuts and raisins, or whole grain crackers and hummus.

3) Keep the Buffet and Books Separate. While it’s great to have every dish within easy reach, it does make it more challenging to pace yourself and easier to overindulge. Consider locating the food off to the side, or in the next room, to create some space and allow for mindful (versus mindless) eating.

4) Go Big with Veggies. Naturally low-calorie and packed with fiber and antioxidants, you can’t go wrong with salads, crudite, or a roasted veggie platter. Who needs a centerpiece when you serve up a gorgeous plate of Roasted Mini Sweet Peppers and Chives?

Roasted Mini Sweet Peppers with Chive -- Juggling With Julia5) Party with Protein.  Having some protein in the mix helps to satisfy your hunger, keep blood glucose levels from spiking too high, and provide all important nutrients for the constant muscle-building and repair that’s going on inside. Super simple ideas? Shrimp cocktail, deviled eggs, and chicken kabobs would all be great to nibble on. Or how about some of this luscious Rosemary and Garlic White Bean Dip?

Rosemary and Garlic White Bean Dip -- Juggling With Julia6) Offer Low-Calorie Drink Options. I’m not here to denounce the fermented grape beverage that makes book club possible. Wine makes us more clever, our companions more beautiful, and our literary opinions more frank. Books and wine (and friends!) belong together. Low-cal hydrating options like lemon water, herbal tea, and club soda spritzers are easy and inexpensive alternatives that can help moderate our intake and prevent ‘book club hangover’ (embarrassing to ‘fess up to).

7) Keep Decadent Treats Bite-Sized. Cheesecake? Yes, please! Godiva brownies? Tough to pass that one up. Creamy havarti? My weakness. I would love to try every single thing being offered. Mini-portions make that possible and allow me to sample away without over-doing it.

I’d love to hear from you about YOUR book club! How long have you been getting together? What have you read? More importantly, what do you eat?? Please take a minute to leave a comment with your book AND recipe recommendations. THANK YOU :)





Chocolate Snickerdoodles on the Lighter Side

by Julia Robarts on November 2, 2014

in Dessert

Chocolate Snickerdoodles -- Juggling With JuliaThese chocolate snickerdoodles will make your day. They’re chewy and rich in chocolate, and completely covered in cinnamon sugar. Eating one reminds me of hot cocoa with a cinnamon stick inside!

Chocolate Snickerdoodles -- Juggling With JuliaNow that these drool-worthy photos have piqued your interest, I’m going to say something that will have you cursing my existence.

They’d make a great addition to your Christmas cookie plate.

I know! I’m sorry! The Halloween decorations are still up and I’m sure you’re trying to find creative ways to diminish the enormous Kit Kat supply (try these Candy Bar Cookies!). Yet, here I am fast-forwarding to December 25th. It’s the food blogger’s curse. Planning ahead for food holidays? That’s our thang.

This easy recipe was morphed from my original Lightened Up Snickerdoodles, a sweet, chewy cinnamon sugar cookie. They’re lower in fat than the traditional kind, using much less butter. For today’s recipe, I added a little cocoa powder and -BOOM!- chocolate heaven.

If you’d rather not think about December yet, I don’t blame you! Just make these for an after-school snack, or to pop in packed lunches, or for your book club pals. They’re a crowd pleaser, however you serve them :)

Chocolate Snickerdoodles -- Juggling With Julia Chocolate Snickerdoodles -- Juggling With JuliaChocolate Snickerdoodles on the Lighter Side
Makes 3 dozen

Prep time:  20 minutes     Bake time: 5-7 minutes

1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375°. Coat two baking pans with cooking spray.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and cream of tartar, stirring with a fork. In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup of sugar and butter in a large bowl, and stir vigorously until well blended. Add the corn syrup, vanilla, and egg; beat well.

Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, mix just until combined. The dough will be stiff. Cover and chill for 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. With moist hands (keep a wet paper towel nearby) shape dough into about 36 (1-inch) balls. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place them 2 inches apart on prepared baking pans.  Bake at 375° for 5-7 minutes. Cookies will be slightly soft.

Chocolate Snickerdoodles -- Juggling With Julia

Cool for a few minutes on the pans, then move to wire cooling racks until completely cool. Store in an airtight container for up to a week. ENJOY!

If you L.O.V.E. chocolate, check out these other JWJ favorites!

Chewy Double Chocolate CookiesChewy Double Chocolate Cookies for RD Day -- Juggling With Julia

Salted Caramel Frosting on the Best Chocolate Cupcakes EverChocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting -- Juggling With Julia
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini MuffinsChocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins -- Juggling With Julia



Local Dairy Farms: My Tour of Hornstra Farms

October 16, 2014 Healthy Lifestyle
Hornstra Farms - Juggling With Julia

Have you ever petted a cow? Looked into her eyes? Marveled at her sheer size? Called her by name? Heyyy, Juanita! Yo, Crackle! Pop! Looking good, Autumn! I have! Thanks to the New England Dairy and Food Council I got to muck around at the Hornstra Farms with registered dietitians Kara Lydon, aka The Foodie […]

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The Simplest Nutrition Philosophy: Don’t Stress

October 14, 2014 Healthy Lifestyle
Nutrition Philosophy Don

What’s  your nutrition philosophy? Making decisions about what to eat can be hard, right? It is no wonder. Nutrition information is coming at us from every directions – TV commercials, magazine ads, food packaging, infomercials, best-selling books, and a score of nutrition enthusiasts who share their stories on social media and blogs, encouraging everyone to […]

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Best Ever Low Fat Pumpkin Bread

October 5, 2014 Breads/Quick Breads
Best Ever Low Fat Pumpkin Bread - Juggling With Julia

Low fat never tasted so amazalicious. Today, with great effort, I’m stopping just long enough to wipe the crumbs from my mouth so I can share with you the best ever, moistest, yummiest low fat pumpkin bread you’ll ever have. It is SO MOIST and SO PUMPKIN-Y that the wax paper I wrapped it in […]

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Quinoa Kale Salad with Edamame

October 1, 2014 Salads/Sides
Quinoa Kale Salad with Edamame -- Juggling With Julia

Quinoa Kale Salad with Edamame and an easy lemony dressing. Yep, I’m back again with another fast, delicious, super-charged healthy salad. If you hadn’t heard, that’s kind of my thing now. What? You hadn’t heard? Let’s review. First there was Massaged Kale Salad, which I’ve made so many times I’ve lost count. I even ate […]

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Opening Day of Lunch-Packing Season

September 9, 2014 Healthy Lifestyle
Opening Day of Lunch Packing Season -- Juggling With Julia

Yesterday was Opening Day for the lunch-packing season (aka the first day of school), and did it ever catch me by surprise. For the past week, in our soccer- and volleyball-filled life, we had been eating take-out pizza, burgers, cold cereal, and lots of bagels. The occasional Caesar salad. Maybe one really yummy truly home-cooked […]

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Purple Cabbage Cranberry Apple Slaw

August 24, 2014 Salads/Sides
Purple Cabbage Cranberry Apple Slaw -- Juggling With Julia

Purple Cabbage Cranberry Apple Slaw. Look at that gorgeous array of colors. That’s my kind of rainbow. Beautiful AND edible Eat the rainbow! Eat the rainbow! Why is it we dietitians are always saying that? I’ll tell you. It’s all about the phytochemicals – those tiny ninja butt-kickers that protect your insides. Colorful fruits and […]

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Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal with Chocolate Chips

July 28, 2014 Breads/Quick Breads
Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal with Chocolate Chips --  Juggling With Julia

Yesterday was a trying day. I was feeling low. To cure my foul mood, I came home and baked. Out came this amazing peanut butter baked oatmeal with chocolate chips. All better now Baking definitely soothes my soul. There is just something about mixing and measuring and scooping and stirring that works for me. Creating […]

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Lemon Garlic Green Beans

July 23, 2014 Salads/Sides
Lemon Garlic Green Beans -- Juggling With Julia

Simple, zesty, and fresh – that’s the best way to describe these amazing Lemon Garlic Green Beans. Straight off the farm these beans came, and a bit o’ pizzazz is all they needed to make them pop!They were the perfect addition to a simple meal of corn on the cob and steak. We had big […]

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