Kudos to the Cucumber!

Tis the season for cucumbers and other vine vegetables. Living in South Texas, vine vegetables grow in abundance because of the intense heat. This summer I had a bumper crop of vegetables - especially cucumbers. In an attempt to use all of the cucumbers,  I've been experimenting with recipes and adding cucumbers to everything. One of my favorite concoctions is "pepino" pico de gallo.

Traditional pico de gallo made with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and serrano pepper is not only festive and delicious but also very healthy. The tomatoes are full of lycopene, an antioxidant that protects the body from some types of cancer and also a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, potassium, fiber, and iron. The onions can lower the risk for stomach cancer, improve breathing, fight bacteria and improve cholesterol while the cilantro and serrano peppers both contain antioxidants. So by itself, pico de gallo is always a healthy choice.

My twist to the traditional pico de gallo is to add not only cucumbers but also green bell peppers, red bell peppers, and yellow bell peppers.

The cucumbers are full of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and anti-cancer properties. They are cool and refreshing and best of all, have only 16 calories per one cup serving!

So, when you are in the mood for something, different, healthy, and delicious, try the following recipe:

  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber, finely chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 cup cilantro chopped (or more to taste!)
  • 2 -3  serrano peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime
  • salt to taste
  • Mix all ingredients, refrigerate before serving. This can be used as a relish on almost anything, or serve with baked corn chips.

Transforming Traditional Pizza

Let’s not deny it, we all love PIZZA! The cheesier, saucier, meatier the better. However, as expected, pizza is generally high in fat, carbohydrates, and sodium. Not to mention, most sauces are full of sugar.

The good news is there are healthy alternatives to the traditional unhealthy pizza. These alternatives are easily substituted, and the pizza still tastes good. If you are a pizza lover, but you don’t love the guilt that comes with indulging in that triangular decadence, try these tricks for a healthier pizza.

Frozen: Check the nutrition label for sodium, fat, and calories. Pick a pizza with lower numbers.
Restaurant or delivery: Order a thin-crust pizza with light cheese to cut down on calories. Limit meat to one topping to keep sodium in check – no more “meat lovers”. Try a vegetable only pizza. You’ll be surprised at how good the vegetables taste.
Homemade: Make personal pizzas at home on pita bread or whole-wheat English muffins. Top with vegetables, low-sodium sauce, and low-fat cheese.

Or, may I suggest this recipe for a healthy alternative:

1. Lay out several whole-wheat crackers.
2. Place a piece of baby spinach and a slice of tomato on half of the crackers.
3. On the rest of the crackers, place a few small pieces of cooked chunks of skinless chicken or low- sodium ham.
4. Sprinkle all of the crackers with your favorite shredded cheese.
5. Put the “pizzas” in the microwave and heat until the cheese is melted, around 30 seconds.
6. Serve and enjoy!

Eating healthy isn’t about giving up your favorite foods; it’s about finding healthy substitutes that are not only good - but good for you.

vanilla pumpkin protein muffin


1 egg 
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
4 scoops 1st Step Pro-Wellness Vanilla Whey
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 cup applesauce (I used unsweetened) 
1 (15oz) can of pure pumpkin
1/4 cup of pumpkin

Preheat your oven to 350* Line your muffin tins. This recipe made 14 regular size muffins.
Mix together your dry ingredients. Then add your egg, water, and applesauce. next add your pumpkin. The batter will be sort of thick. Add 1/4 cup of the batter to your muffin tin. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until done.

Each muffin is 107 calories, 2g of fat, 18 carbs, and 6 grams of protein!

Protein Pudding

1st Step Pro-Wellness protein pudding

2/3 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1/3 cup low fat cottage cheese (small curd)
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (liquid)
1 scoop 1st Step Pro-Wellness French Vanilla Protein Powder
2-3 tbsp honey 
As many blueberries as you like!

Mix the ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, and whipping cream and mix until smoothly combined. Next, mix in the protein powder. Once mixed add in the honey and blueberries.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Cookie


1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1/2 cup raw brown sugar

2 scoops 1st step chocolate whey protein

preheat your oven 350*

Mix all the ingredients together. It helps to soften the peanut butter a little. Take about 1 tablespoon of the dough and roll into a ball, then flatten on the greased cookie sheet. I used a fork to add the crisscross design of traditional peanut butter cookies. Bake for about 10 minutes and let cool! This batch made 19 cookies and each cookie is 113 calories and 5grams of protein.