Our City Online


Resolutions & Recipes for a Healthier 2014

Erin Johnson Erin Johnson
Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

The New Year brings a fresh start, a chance to set goals, make resolutions, and try new foods. Just like last year, here are three common New Year’s Resolutions and three recipes for the New Year!

Columbus Underground wants to help you make New Year’s Resolutions that last with a week of articles focused on health and wellness, brought to you by our friends at YMCA of Central Ohio.


Cleaning out the unnecessary clutter in our lives and getting organized always feels so good. The closet and basement are always obvious places to start, but rarely do we think of the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry as important places to overhaul and start fresh. Doing so can reduce waste, encourage healthier eating, and save money. Rather than think of this task as an annual or seasonal undertaking like the closet or basement, try taking inventory of your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry once a month, or before a major grocery trip. Not only will you be making more space, but you’ll likely find forgotten items before they are lost in the depths of your fridge, ruined by freezer burn, or buried in the pantry, only to spoil and go to waste.

Once you’ve pulled out all of the odds and ends, see what can be put together into a well-rounded meal. Here is just one example of a “Clean-Out-The-Fridge” meal at our house. Keep in mind that there are dozens of variations here – sub out ingredients, change the seasoning, and the meal can take a completely different turn!

The resulting meal is filling and packed with protein and vegetables (this recipe has six different veggies!) containing a wide variety of nutrients. This could easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock or water to cook the polenta, and vegan by omitting the cheese or using a non-dairy substitute. The best part: I cleaned out the fridge, and put meal leftovers back in!

Pumpkin Polenta With Beans, Tomatoes, and Greens


  • ~ 1 cup roasted red pepper and tomato soup
  • ~ 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup corn grits/polenta
  • ~ 1.5 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 – 15 oz. cans of black beans, rinsed
  • 2 – 15 oz. cans of kidney beans, rinsed
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 avocado
  • ~ 1 cup of roasted sweet corn and black beans (leftover from burritos)
  • sour cream
  • large bunch of rainbow Swiss chard, chopped
  • medium bunch of beet tops, chopped
  • your choice of seasonings – e.g. Penzey’s Rojo Taco Seasoning, garlic, cumin, chipotle peppers, chili powder, left over salsa, etc. (not shown)


  1. In one pot, I heated up the liquid for the polenta – a ratio of 3 cups liquid to 1 cup polenta. I prefer to use chicken broth and then water to make up the difference.
  2. In another pot, I combined two cans each of black beans and kidney beans (rinsed) plus some leftover black bean and roasted corn mix from burritos.
  3. I added a large can of chopped tomatoes to the beans. I would have liked to have two large cans, but I didn’t have a second in the pantry. So I added some leftover roasted red pepper and tomato soup that I found in the fridge.
  4. For seasoning, I put in about a half jar of Penzey’s Rojo Taco seasoning. But you could also do sautéed garlic before adding the beans, taco seasoning, chopped adobo peppers, leftover salsa, cumin, chili powder, etc.
  5. Once the chicken broth was simmering, I added the polenta, and a few minutes later, 2 cups of thawed pumpkin puree from my freezer stash.
  6. Once the bean mixture was simmering, I added chopped Swiss chard and beet tops.
  7. Once the polenta was thick and cooked, I stirred in some shredded cheddar that I also had left over in the fridge.
  8. Serve it with store-bought fresh salsa, avocados, and sour cream on top.

Kitchen Organization Tips

  • Eliminate redundant items – you know, the three, partially-used bottles of the same mustard!
  • Toss the bad-for-you stuff – anything with artificial sweeteners, partially-hydrogenated oils, preservatives, etc.
  • Use similar, clear containers that are easy to stack and see the contents.
  • After grocery shopping, prep fruits and veggies for quick, convenient use – rinse, chop, organize!


As a mother to two growing boys, ages three and one, I’m constantly looking for ways to expose them to new, healthy foods. I’d like to think my attempts are the reason that we have two hearty and adventurous eaters! Even as adults, it’s easy for us to fall into a rut and prepare the same, familiar foods over and over again. A client throwing a party wanted the always-crowd-pleasing meatball hors d’oeuvres, but the rest of their menu was Latin-inspired, so I made meatballs with a Mexican twist. With my family as my guinea pigs, I needed something to pair the meatballs with for dinner, preferably some vegetables. This recipe includes spaghetti squash, a vegetable that confuses many, and variation on the overly relied upon spaghetti and meatballs. Kids and adults will eat this up!

Mexican “Spaghetti” and Meatballs


  • medium to large spaghetti squash
  • 2 lbs. meatballs (any kind – pre-cooked, frozen)
  • 10-14 oz. jar of salsa (any kind)
  • 14 oz. can of tomatoes
  • choice of seasonings – e.g. taco seasoning, garlic, cumin, chipotle peppers, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, etc.
  • toppings – cheddar cheese, avocado, roasted corn, diced tomatoes, sour cream or plain yogurt, cilantro, etc.


  • Halve a spaghetti squash, drizzle with olive oil, and season lightly with taco seasoning.
  • Roast cut side down in a 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes.
  • In a deep saucepan on medium heat, warm the precooked frozen meatballs.
  • Add a jar of salsa, a can of diced tomatoes, and season to taste.
  • Cover and heat through.
  • Scoop spaghetti squash into shallow bowls and top with warm meatballs.
  • Garnish with diced avocado and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese.

The meatballs would also be great served over a baked sweet potato or rice, or by themselves as a party hors d’oeuvres. Diced tomatoes, roasted corn, cilantro, cheese, avocado, and sour cream/plain yogurt would all make great toppings!


Saving money makes the list of common goals and resolutions year after year. One of the most inexpensive and time efficient meals is soup. The cost of the ingredients in this soup is minimal, and it’s easy to freeze for a quick meal later. Having soup on hand at home can help you overcome the urge to eat out when busy evenings leave you short on time, and soup is perfect for packing in workday lunches, keeping you out of the fast food line and money in your pocket. I adapted the flavors from this Martha Stewart recipe, but substituted fresh, grated ginger for dried, ground ginger and made it creamier by replacing half of the liquid with cream. (Adapt the cream/milk ratio to meet your caloric desires!) This soup is perfect with a hunk of crusty bread, a chunk of good cheese (perhaps not so inexpensive), and a salad lightly tossed in balsamic vinaigrette.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup


  • 1 medium to large butternut squash
  • 4 apples, any type
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups milk or half and half
  • ginger, fresh ground/grated
  • cumin
  • coriander
  • cayenne

Erin Johnson


  • Halve the butternut squash and roast in a 350° oven for 45-50 minutes, until fork tender.
  • Roughly chop the apples and onion and sauté in butter in a deep saucepan or stockpot until softened.
  • Scoop the roasted butternut squash from its skin and add to the apples and onion.
  • Add ginger and warm it gently until fragrant and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add chicken broth and milk or half and half.
  • Transfer to blender or use immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth.
  • Continue to warm the soup over low to medium heat and season to taste with cumin, coriander, cayenne.

From January 6 – 12, Columbus Underground is featuring our Health & Wellness Week series, brought to you by the YMCA of Central Ohio. Join the Y in January and pay $0 enrollment. At the Y, we’re not a health club, we’re a health movement – committed to youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Follow us on Facebook at ymcacolumbusohio and on Twitter @YMCAColumbus. 12 locations, unlimited possibilities! The YMCA. Fit for All.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


entertainment categories

The Columbus Coffee Festival Returns!

The 6th Annual Columbus Coffee Festival returns on Saturday September 25th and Sunday September 26th!