Delivering caring, personalized, quality healthcare to women in an environment that is supportive, education-focused and compassionate.

Recipes & Nutrition

Quinoa Cabbage Rolls – Mary’s Promise

Mary Kmak has turned her life around and found a path to health through the Tucson Medical Center Wellness program. In Mary’s Promise she shares tips, recipes, challenges that she has learned along the way.

Hello Readers,

How about trying something different this year for St. Patrick’s Day? This cabbage roll recipe is a keeper and also great to have on Meatless Monday.

Quinoa Cabbage Rolls

Makes approximately 12 cabbage rolls, about 6 servings

quiona cabbage rolls #NoMeatMonday #Vegan #GlutenFree Ingredients:

1 large green cabbage head

1 cup quinoa

1-1/2 cups of water (To enhance the flavor use vegetable broth)

1 small Granny Smith apple, cored & chopped

1 TBSP fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup chopped tomatoes

3 green onions, thinly sliced

(OPTIONAL: 6 chopped pecans and/or 2 TBSP raisins)


1 TBSP olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

28 oz can of crushed tomatoes



  • To a large skillet add one tablespoon of oil and place on medium heat.
  • Add onion, garlic and pepper, stir until soft about 4 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and bring to simmer and cook until slightly thickened about 10 minutes.
  • Place half of the sauce on bottom of large casserole pan and save the other half to put on top of the cabbage rolls.

Cabbage rolls:

  • Cut core out of cabbage and bring to boil for about 10 minutes. Remove and pat down the leaves and place on dry cloth after cutting out the center vein from the leaves so they will be easier to roll up.
  • Bring the quinoa and water (or vegetable broth)  to a boil in saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to low-medium, cover and simmer until the quinoa is tender about 25 minutes.
  • Toss the chopped apples with the lime juice, olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and green onions. Fold in the quinoa. (Add optional choices here if you choose)
  •  Taking one leaf at a time place 1/4-1/2 cup of filling (depending on leaf size) in center of the cabbage, fold the sides in and roll up to enclose the filling. Place seam size down in casserole pan side by side until all your rolls are made and top with the balance of your sauce. Makes approximately 12 cabbage rolls.
  • Preheat oven to 350° and bake for 30 minutes.

This is a great dinner change that you will enjoy. I tried adding raisins and pecans together and it tastes great! The apples blended together gives the roll a unique taste.

I experiment with different choices throughout my journey to keep my food tastes exciting.  Each time I surprise myself with new ones I like that in the past I would never have tried. Be open-minded, think and try healthy different foods and you may find yourself being surprised too!


Just how much fiber is enough? – Savor the Flavor

It’s National Nutrition Month and our TMC registered dietitians love the Savor the Flavor theme! Throughout the month Laurie and Mary are sharing tips to help you make healthier, tastier choices.

Dietary fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet. Fiber is classified as soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and helps to lower blood sugar and cholesterol. Insoluble fiber promotes the movement of materials through the intestines. The Institute of Medicine makes the following recommendations regarding intake:

Adults under 50 Adults over 51
Men 38 grams 30 grams
Women 25 grams 21 grams

Best choices for getting fiber into your diets include:

  • Whole grains (whole grain bread, brown rice, whole grain pasta, quinoa, oatmeal, ets.)
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes – Beans
  • Nuts and Seeds

Increasing your daily fiber closely mimics our suggestions for increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, since they are such a good source of fiber. Try adding fruit to your cereals and make sure you are choosing whole grain/high fiber cereals such as oats, bran, etc. Add fresh vegetables to your sandwiches or wraps and be sure to use whole grain bread or tortillas (the 1st ingredient must be a whole grain not an enriched flour). Legumes and/or seeds not only add fiber to salads, but also add different textures. Bring raw veggies with you to snack on at work.

High fiber foods are a healthy part of every diet, however if you haven’t been eating a high fiber diet, add it in gradually. Too much fiber too quickly can cause stomach cramping and bloating. Also be sure you are drinking plenty of water.



Do you get 5 servings of fruit and vegetables every day? – Savor the Flavor

It’s National Nutrition Month and our TMC registered dietitians love the Savor the Flavor theme! Throughout the month Laurie and Mary are sharing tips to help you make healthier, tastier choices.

Experts suggest that you eat five to nine servings of vegetables and fruits. Packed full of vitamins, minerals and fiber, we know that consuming fruits and vegetables daily can reduce your risk for many diseases.

We all know that vegetables and fruits are good for us, so why is it so hard for all of us to get the recommended servings? The most common thing we hear is that people just don’t know how to fit them into their daily food plan and/or they don’t know what to do with them. That’s where we can help!

What is a serving of fruit and vegetables?

The good news is that an average serving size for vegetables and fruits is about ½ cup. The major exceptions are leafy greens (salad) is 1 cup and dried fruit is only ¼ cup. With that in mind, maybe it isn’t such overwhelming task to getting in the recommended servings. We will add a few caveats:

  1. Eat more servings of vegetables than fruit
  2. Fruit juice isn’t the best source for a fruit serving because the fiber and potentially some of the nutrients are lost during the juicing process.

My fruit and vegetables  are often ready for the compost bin before I use them

Buy frozen! While fresh is always best, we do understand that may not always be an option. Frozen vegetables and fruits are a good choice as long as they don’t come pre-sauced or seasoned. Read the ingredient label to make sure you are getting a “naked veggie”. If you are going to use canned vegetables, try for the low sodium options, and rinse them under running water for 10 seconds and let drain for 2 minutes. And if you must use canned fruit, make sure you are looking for “in their own juice”.

How do you get five servings in every day?

  1. Add fruit to your cereal (hot or cold)
  2. Pair raw veggies (carrots, cucumbers, jicama, celery, broccoli)  with cottage cheese or string cheese for a mid-morning pick up
  3. Add veggies (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers) to your sandwich, wrap, soup or burrito
  4. Pair nuts with dried fruit for a energizing afternoon snack
  5. Serve salad with different types of lettuce and veggies to make a colorful dinner
  6. Add veggies (zucchini, mushrooms, carrots, peppers) to your tomato sauce for any pasta dish

Do you have additional ways to get your five servings a day? We’d love to hear them!

If you’d like more information about crafting a healthy diet that meets your specific needs or a private consultation with our nutrition experts make a nutritional assessment appointment today. 

Eat Well – Laurie’s Broccoli Salad

Whether it’s broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage or brussels sprouts most of us have memories of avoiding vegetables as children if not adults. As it turns out, they are, of course, also some of the best veggies to fight against disease, along with other members of the cruciferous vegetables, more formally known as brassicas.

Like all veggies, cruciferous vegetables are low in calories, fat, and sodium and are a great source of fibre, and contain a variety of other essential vitamins and minerals. One of the best-known of these benefits in brassica is their apparent cancer-fighting properties found in the glucosinolates and sulfur-containing phytochemicals present.  Boiling these vegetables can reduce the compounds that give this healthy effect, but steaming, microwaving, and stir frying don’t appear to harm them.

During the month of March we’re going to highlight some fabulous brassica recipes starting with TMC’s Nutritionista Laurie Ledford’s favorite broccoli salad.

Remember when a certain president got into a whole load of trouble for saying he didn’t like broccoli? Well, George H. W. Bush obviously hadn’t tried Laurie’s Broccoli Salad. It swayed those of us who have previously seen eating broccoli as a chore, and even the children who refer to broccoli as trees.

Broccoli Salad

Broccoli Salad


2 large broccoli crowns

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tsp apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup raisins (or dried cranberries)

2 Tbsp roasted sunflower seeds

Pepper and salt to taste


1. Cut broccoli into small florets of more or less equal size. If any have long stalks, you can slice those into little coins.

2. Prepare a large bowl of ice water and have it standing by.

3. Place broccoli in a separate, microwave-safe bowl. Sprinkle broccoli with water and cook in microwave on high for 1-2 minutes or until just barely tender. (You still want a little crispness to it.)

4. Immediately dunk the broccoli into the ice water to stop the cooking.

5. Drain the broccoli thoroughly.

6. Whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar and mustard.

7. Combine broccoli, onion and raisins in a large bowl; toss with mayonnaise mixture. Sprinkle on the sunflower seeds and toss again lightly.

8. Taste and add pepper and/or salt as needed.

9. Chill until ready to serve.

A broccoli salad that could sway even George H W Bush to this cruciferous vegetable #food #eatwell Click To Tweet

Savor the Flavor – National Nutrition Month

savor the flavor, national nutrition month

From Mary Atkinson RD & Laurie Ledford RD
March is National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is “Savor the Flavor”. We love this phrase because it can lead us to so many different questions and discussions.

With all the new food fads that challenge our palates, when was the last time we truly enjoyed the flavor of real food? For example, when was the last time you tasted a potato, stalk of broccoli, or a persimmon? We sauce, sauté, and blend our foods to the point that they lose their identity. Poor broccoli doesn’t know what to do with itself without its trusty cheese or ranch dipping sauce! One of our challenges to you is to find out what food tastes like “naked”.

Our challenge to you is to find out what food tastes like 'naked'. Click To Tweet

Savor the Flavor

Savor the flavor can also refer to enjoying your food.

You probably have heart the phrase ‘eat mindfully’. We would like to introduce you to a slightly different perspective….’eat with purpose’.

Eating with purpose  incorporates being mindful about what you are eating, but takes it a step further. Beyond thinking about what you are eating, eating with purpose makes us think about WHY we are eating what we are eating. Are you eating that salad for lunch because it tastes good or because it is packed full of nutrition, or….because “I’m on a diet”? I would hope that it is one of the first two answers, but unfortunately more often than not it is the last answer.

Eat with Purpose

The sad truth is that by the time you add all the extras to your salad (croutons, seeds, dressing, etc.) it can have more calories than a sandwich. Soooooo, EAT WITH PURPOSE. Eat to live (and to be able to do what you enjoy) don’t live to eat (and regret choices). Regret is such a wasted emotion that only serves to make us feel bad about ourselves. Own your food choices, and again, eat with a purpose. Good or bad, own it and move on.

Our second challenge to you is to create a food plan that helps you to eat purposefully. What do we mean by a food plan? Say you often feel too tired by mid-afternoon to for the walk as you have planned? Then perhaps make a food plan that purposefully incorporates a healthy snack around 3 – 4 will give you the energy boost you need to stick to your plan. Or, if you are craving ice cream (as we all do from time to time) then be intentional and pair it with a health lower calorie meal and use measuring cups to assure a healthy serving size…and don’t forget to me mindful while enjoying your indulgence.

Because there is so much nutrition information and misinformation out there, we are going to spend this month answering some of the most common nutrition questions. Let’s start with a trick question….

What is the best diet?

Stop the sugar addiction – Mary’s Promise

stop sugar craving addiction

Mary Kmak has turned her life around and found a path to health through the Tucson Medical Center Wellness program. In Mary’s Promise she shares tips, recipes, challenges that she has learned along the way.

Hello Readers,

How many times have you opened a box of chocolates and say to yourself “I’m ONLY going to have one piece.”? Then, after that first taste you have three or four more pieces until eventually the whole box is gone?  There may be a reason for that. Scientists say studies suggest that your sugar craving could be an addiction.

Addiction is a strong word, but the amount of sugar we ingest should not be taken lightly. Sugar has the power to tempt us again and again and rob us of our health. In fact, some researchers believe sugar addiction is a harder habit to break than cocaine.

For many of us sugar has always been thought of as a ‘treat’, but what kind of ‘treat’ causes the following withdrawal symptoms: headaches, restlessness, irritability, and more. That’s addiction!

I believe sugar was addicting to me. Looking back now once I started tasting any sugar whether it be candy, ice cream, cake, cookies, etc I would continue eating it until it was all gone.

When I first started my weight loss journey my thought process was not to bring any sugar home where I would be tempted. I honestly knew I would never be able to eat only one piece. Now, after losing 106 pounds, if I should have a craving I will buy one piece not one box or bag and be completely satisfied and enjoy that one piece. I worked too hard to get to this point to sabotage myself.

Sugar is not worth the calories or health risks and will NOT stand in my way to goal weight! So, from someone who “used” to love sugar more than real food itself take the following from me because I ‘been there and done that’.

How to overcome that sugar addiction

We evolved to crave sweets, because they are a source of quick energy. However, since sugar is no longer a rare treat, it’s everywhere and in everything now we have become accustomed to greater and greater amounts of it which means we need more and more to be satisfied.

If you eat a healthy diet your brain and muscles will be fueled and you will begin to lose the craving for sugar. Or at least crave it as often. I learned this about 3 months into my weight loss journey that when I ate approximately the same times with nutritious meals and snacks my sugar cravings stopped. At first, when I had them I would eat a piece of fresh fruit. That helped a lot.

Here are nine tips for beating the sugar addiction:

  1. Wait the craving out!

    Wait for 20 minutes. Food cravings are typically short-lived, and the desire for something sweet will wane, especially if you can find a healthier food substitute or distract yourself.

  2. Take a walk, do some stretches, read a book or call a friend.

    While you’re waiting the craving out, distract yourself. You may find that what you’re actually craving is physical activity, companionship or mental stimulation.

  3. Find alternatives for cravings.

    Want something sweet? Bake an apple without adding the sugar on top, a few raisins will do. See Mary’s Baked Apple suggestion here.

  4. Drink a glass of water.

    Often we misinterpret the signals our bodies are sending us confusing hunger and thirst.

  5. Schedule your meals.

    Plan for nutritious snacks (a homemade trail mix, or even a few apple slices with no-sugar added peanut butter) that can ward off hunger between meals. Keep portable, healthy snacks in your desk, backpack or car.

  6. Buy single servings of foods you crave.

    And support local while you’re at it, go to a local baker and buy a single serving.

  7. Keep a journal.

    Note the time of day your craving appeared, how long it lasted, the food you craved, and how you handled the situation. If you notice a pattern you can find ways to change things up.

  8. Don’t follow a very restrictive diet.

    Your cravings will likely become more intense and indulgence, overeating and guilt become a cycle.

  9. Is chocolate your nemesis? Try dark chocolate instead

    Do you find yourself digging through the Halloween/ Valentine candy in search of the cheap chocolaty stuff? Or making late night runs to the corner store for cheap chocolate. Try some dark chocolate instead. When purchasing dark chocolate, read the label to make sure that cacao is the first ingredient on the list rather than sugar. Once home portion off the bar into bite sizes to be enjoyed now and again. Dark chocolate contains phytochemicals that may aid in the prevention of heart disease. But enjoy it in moderation. Calories do add up.

If this Lent you’re attempting to reduce your reliance on sugar try these simple ideas to bring the cravings to an end! Do you have another tip? I’d love to hear it in the comments.

Blessings fellow health warriors,
Mary Kmak
Health Warrior

Check out this post from The Nutritionista Laurie Ledford for more support. 

Eat Well – Roasted Beet and Berry Salad

Roasted Beet SaladThis Valentine’s Day how about a rich, sweet, hearty healthy salad for two?

Our harvest of the month is beets, their rich red color, sweet and woody taste in sharp contrast to the clean sweet taste of the berries in this dish. The goat cheese adds a creamy taste and the almonds a heart healthy crunch.

Beets provide many vitamins and minerals as well as being a good source of fiber. They have high levels of folate, vitamin C, potassium, and phytosterols, which are thought to help lower cholesterol levels. Beets also are a source of phytonutrient betalain, the pigment that gives beets their deep red color and is also thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Beets are also rich source of natural nitrates, (distinct from those nitrates or nitrates added to processed meats, which are definitely NOT a healthy addition to the diet) and studies utilizing beet juice focused on it’s nitrate component have shown a positive impact on lowering blood pressure. 

Roasted Beet and Berry Salad

Serving: Two
Time: Approximately one hour (includes 45 minutes roasting beets, we roasted more than we needed to use in other dishes too)


4-5 medium beets
2 servings of arugula
3 ounces of plain goat cheese
1 ounce of raw almonds
2 handfuls of frozen berry mix
Raspberry vinegar
1 tsp dried thyme
salt & pepper
olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 410 degrees Farenheit
  2. Top and tail beets and peel skin with vegetable peeler. (Place beet greens to side for using elsewhere)
  3. Cube beets into 1/2 inch diameter chunks.
  4. Toss cubed beets in 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, thyme, a pinch of salt and pepper
  5. Place coated beets on baking tray and roast for about 40 minutes or until tender. Shake occasionally through roasting.
  6. Remove berries from freezer and allow to thaw while beets roast.
  7. Mix one tablespoon of olive oil to two tablespoons of raspberry vinegar and set aside for dressing.
  8. Rinse 2 servings of arugula.
  9. Toss dressing in arugula, almonds, and crumbled goat cheese.
  10. Add berries.
  11. When beets roasted, toss in raspberry vinegar, and top salad with roasted beets.


While the oven is on is a great time to bake sweet potatoes and whole beets for a sweets and beets dish. We use frozen berries in this dish to reduce the cost of the dish.

Eat Well – Laurie’s Beet-Walnut Dip

While you’ll have to wait in other states for good local grown beets, now is the time in Arizona with our year round gardening. And while beets seem to be a love ’em or hate ’em vegetable this month we’re taking a dive into this beautiful deep red root vegetable and checking out some different as well more traditional ways to enjoy them.Perhaps one will take your fancy!

Beet Benefits

Beets provide many vitamins and minerals as well as being a good source of fiber. They have high levels of folate, vitamin C, potassium, and phytosterols, which are thought to help lower cholesterol levels. Beets also are a source of phytonutrient betalain, the pigment that gives beets their deep red color and is also thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Beets are also rich source of natural nitrates, (distinct from those nitrates or nitrates added to processed meats, which are definitely NOT a healthy addition to the diet) and studies utilizing beet juice focused on it’s nitrate component have shown a positive impact on lowering blood pressure. 

In this first beet recipe Nutritionista Laurie Ledford combines beets with walnuts for extra punch as a great source of healthy fats! Perfect for diving into as the pressure mounts this Sunday during the Superbowl

Laurie’s Beet and Walnut Dip

Beet Walnut DipMakes 3 cups


1 lb beets, trimmed and scrubbed

1 cup walnut pieces

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1/3 tsp dried thyme)

1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp olive oil

6 oz low-fat plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream, but NOT regular yogurt)



1. Place beets in a small pot and cover with water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce

heat to simmer and cook until beets can be pierced by a fork or small knife without

resistance. (20-40- minutes, depending upon size.)

2. Drain and cover with cold water to cool. When beets are cool enough to handle,

peel away skins.

3. Meanwhile, in a dry sauté pan, toast walnuts over low heat, stirring occasionally,

until fragrant, about 5-7 minutes. (Or toast in toaster oven.) Allow to cool.

4. In a food processor, chop walnuts with the garlic until fine.

5. Add beets, lemon juice, thyme, and salt. Puree.

6. With motor running, drizzle in olive oil.

7. Add yogurt and process to combine.

8. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt, if necessary

9. Transfer to a serving bowl. Chill up to 24 hrs.

10. Serve with pita chips or crackers.
beet walnut dip

Chicken Chili – Mary’s Promise

Hello Readers,

Who doesn’t love a good chili? With the Super Bowl just around the corner this Chicken Chili is a favorite for my family! It’s a comfort food that packs a healthy punch. Better still, not only is this recipe is not only great tasting, but it’s so easy to make.  I’m sure once you try it you will agree.

chicken chili ingredientsChicken Chili

Preparation Time
20 minutes preparation time
4-6 hours cooking

Serves 6

6 cups cooked Great Northern beans ( about  3 cans, rinsed and drained

4 Cups chopped cooked chicken breasts

1 T Olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 4oz cans of chopped green chilis

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon black pepper

6 Cups chicken stock (use the low sodium variety)

No-salt seasoning to taste (the original recipe calls for 4 chicken bouillon cubes, we substituted no-salt seasoning and 2 cubes)

1 Cup low-fat Monterey Jack cheese


  1. Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat
  2. Add onions and sauté unit soft (approximately 5 minutes)
  3. Stir in garlic, green chili, red pepper flakes and black pepper.
  4. Add beans, low-sodium chicken stock,  seasoning and bring to boil.
  5. Put everything in crock pot and cook on low 4 – 6 hours
  6. Add cheese 30 before serving and stir until it melts.

This a great winter recipe, but I make it during the football season.  You will not be disappointed.

Mary Kmak

Health Warrior

Eat Well – Salmon, Dill, Lemon and Capers

This salmon, dill, lemon and capers recipe is a suggestion from Monica, one of the women’s voices we highlighted in our gluten-free/celiac series. It’s become a favorite on fish Fridays in our home. Monica says the following about the way she cooks due to celiac disease, “All meals I prepare are gluten-free and as simple as any cooking. I eat a lot of greens, veggies and meat, which are all naturally gluten-free and agree heartily with my body and well-being.”


Salmon, Dill, Lemon and Capers


Fresh salmon
A bunch of fresh dill (dried will do, but fresh is better)
A couple of lemons
Small jar of capers (be sure that they are gluten-free. Some capers are packed in vinegar which, dependent on the type of vinegar, may contain gluten.)

  1.  Place salmon on foil, skin down. Foil should be sufficient that it can wrap the salmon completely.
  2. Soak the fish with the juice of one lemon for 20 minutes of so. Turn the grill on to a medium-high heat.
  3. After the lemon has had chance to soak in, slather the fish with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and dump the jar of capers over the fish including a little of the caper juice.
  4. Chop dill into fine pieces and slather over fish.
  5. Wrap foil around the fish and place on the grill. Grilling time will depend on the thickness of the fish. For every inch estimate 10 minutes at a medium-hot grill setting. We start testing for flakiness of the fish at about 8 minutes with a fish an inch in thickness.

Serve with roast potatoes or rice, and grilled vegetables. We’re partial to grilled asparagus with lemon juice.

Yummy, salmon, dill & capers for dinner tonight. #healthy #glutenfree #food #fish #recipe Click To Tweet

salmon recipe gluten free