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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Here's to a Happy and Healthy New Year's Eve!

It is hard for me to wrap my arms around celebrating New Year's Eve in a healthy way...old habits die hard. So I looked to YouTube for inspiration. I may not have found the total solution but I was amused in the process and thought I would share my amusement with you.



The main message I would like to share is that we can change things up, we can make even a New Year's Eve healthier and have fun in the process!

Here's to You, to Us and a Happy and Healthier New Year ahead!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Ringing in the New Year with Black-eyed Peas


One of my favorite traditions is ringing in the New Year with a crockpot full of Black-eyed peas (also known as Hoppin' Johns). It is a Southern Tradition. The lore goes that if you start the New Year by eating a bowl of black-eyed peas, it will bring you luck in the year ahead. If you add collard greens with the black-eyed peas you might also get rich.

The problem with my tradition is that I learned it the unhealthy way, packed full of grease and fatty ham hocks. Now I am in search of a healthier version that is still flavorful and satisfying of our long standing tradition. I think I have found two great new recipes. One uses bacon for the rich flavor and the other uses pork loin meat in place of the ham hock. They both include greens as part of the recipe so we are covered on the "might get rich" part of the ingredient. Here are links to the two recipes: Black-eyed Peas with Smoked Bacon and Greens from Cooking Light and Black-eyed Peas with Pork and Greens from Eating Well. Let me know which one you tried and whether you liked it or not!

We spend New Year's day lounging in our PJs, playing games we got for Christmas or that are our time honored favorites. We usually get out a puzzle to work on too. We have a few friends over to join in the causal fun. And then mid-afternoon we all partake of the Black-eyed Peas and Greens. It is a great way to ring in the New Year. Happy New Year to You!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What to do with that holiday cash?

I am already thinking about how I want to spend that holiday cash! I want to ring in the New Year focused on a happy and healthy year ahead. Spending a little of my cash on items that will support me in this important endeavor is part of the plot and plan.

Since I will be starting my spinning classes in January, I want to complete my gear in anticipation. First, I want to find a reasonably priced pair of cycling shoes. Since I have a big foot, finding this item may be easier said than done. I did find a pair on Amazon for a mere $44- Lake Women's CX211 Cycling Shoe.
 The other thing I need is a heart monitor. I hate the ones with straps. They have never designed one big enough or comfortable for big chested women. So I am looking for a watch that is simple and wireless. I also don't want to make a very big investment before I see how committed I become to spinning! So I found a heart monitor for $29.95- Isokinetics Inc. Strapless Heart Rate Monitor Watch.
 With a goal to do a 30 mile bike ride this next summer, regardless these will be good tools for me and can be used outside of spinning. 


My Christmas gifts to me and my health...yes!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Fitting in Exerise Over the Holidays

As the pressure of the holidays increases it seems the pressure to decrease exercise intensifies. I have been thinking how I will continue to move and exercise once we are traveling and in another city for Christmas up to the New Year.

I came across a neat example of how to fit in even a 10 minute Cardio workout. It seemed simple and doable so I thought I would share it-

0:00 to 1:00 - Warm up with a brisk walk (outside or around the house)
1:00 to 2:00 - Jumping jacks
2:00 to 3:00 - Jump rope (pretend if you don't have a rope)
3:00 to 4:00 - Run as fast as you can for 1 minute (in place or outside)
4:00 to 5:00 - Ski hops: Stand with feet together, bend knees and jump a few feet to the right and then left, landing with bent knees.
5:00 to 6:00 - Jumping jacks
6:00 to 7:00 - Walk as fast as you can
7:00 to 8:00 - Jump rope
8:00 to 9:00 - Jumping jacks
9:00 to 10:00 - Cool down and catch your breath

Somehow just seeing this makes me feel like it is possible! I want to believe I can be in control even when I am not at home. I can fit in exercise even when there is no gym nearby. And with the craziness of running from one event to another I can still find 10 minutes, a couple of times a day to burn some calories and feel healthy!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Healthy Christmas!

In honor of the holiday and our health I wanted to share this Christmas Exercise video with everyone. Hope this brings a smile to your face as it did mine and helps to remind us all to take some time to take care of our selves even in the midst of Christmas.


May your day be filled with Peace, Love and Laughter!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Great Healthy Living Quote #12

A mindful quote to help us all be more present when making choices about what we are eating and how much of it we will eat over the next few days!


"...America's top killer isn't cancer or heart disease, nor is it smoking or obesity. It's our inability to make smart choices and overcome our own self-destructive behaviors."

From Predictably Irrational, page 166, by Dan Ariely

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ordering wine online for parties and gifts


A couple of years ago I was looking for a way to order wine and have it delivered to a friends house in New York City. We were giving a dinner party together and I had agreed to provide the wine. When I started looking into wine shops in New York I was shocked at how expensive the wine would be as well as getting it to be delivered. I thought there had to be a better way. I wanted to be able to buy a case of nice wine.

As I continued to search on the internet I came across the website Wine.com. For a stewardship fee of just under $50 annually you can have any order, big or small shipped across the United States for free. Just sending one heavy case of wine would cost about half that amount. I thought it was worth trying it out. It worked out well!  The wines arrived on time, in good condition and when served they tasted great!

That order included:        

Decoy Zinfandel 2008

Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling 2008

King Estate Vin Glace Pinot Gris (375ML half-bottle) 2007

They were all delicious wines and well paired with the meal. It was a great find.

I now order regularly for my home. I can't beat the convenience of having it delivered right to my home. And I can always find attractive wines at a great price. I also often send just a bottle of nice wine to friends and family in celebration of a birthday or other big event in someone's life. I am able to do this at a price well below any other gift I could send. And it seems it is also really appreciated! 

A great way to give a healthy gift of wine for yourself or another, wine.com! Ho! Ho! Ho!

 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hunter's Bread- aka Beer Bread


There are so many types of breads to bake. This time of year we tend to think more about the holiday sweet breads. But when you are ready to come down from that sugar high and bake a hearty, healthy bread there is nothing like a beer bread. Beer breads are an easy way to make a yeast rising bread. The beer serves as the rising agent. They are great to serve with chunky soups and hearty stews.

One of my favorites to fix is one I have dubbed "Hunter's Bread". It is more romantic to say than "Beer Bread" and sounds more fitting to say when serving it with a stew, don't you think? The recipe I use has almost equal parts of whole wheat flour to unbleached flour which makes it healthier right off the bat. It also has caraway seeds and golden raisins. The key is to have your light beer and egg substitute at room temperature. In fact, I have learned when baking, all ingredients should be at room temperature for the best results. Whenever I serve it it is a big winner. Here is the recipe:

Hunter's Bread (a.k.a. Beer Bread)

Ingredients-
2 cups unbleached flour
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons golden raisins, chopped
1 (12-ounce) can light beer, at room temperature
¼ cup egg substitute
Cooking Spray

Directions-
1. Combine first 7 ingredients; make a well in the center of the mixture.
2. Add beer and egg substitute, stirring until just moist.
3.Spoon batter into regular size loaf pan coated with cooking spray.
4. Bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
5. Let cool completely on wire rack.

Yield: 16 servings. Calories per slice: 116.

Serve up your bread on right-sized, beautifully designed dishware. Livliga and Kidliga make great holiday gifts! Check out my blog and Facebook for special holiday savings starting November 29th, 2013! 









Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tips on Effortless Carving

I have always wondered the best way to carve a turkey. It was nothing I learned growing up because it was a "man's job". More and more, I find I share these sorts of duties with my husband. When asked to carve, I want to be ready. So here is what I learned-

Step-by step carving guide:

1. Remove the Legs. Slice through the skin between the leg and body using a large carving knife. Pull leg outward with a serving fork and cut through the hip joint, removing the entire leg from the body.
2. Remove the Breast. Slice down one side of the breast bone until your knife meets the base of the turkey. Cut horizontally into the turkey near the base and remove the entire breast.
3. Slice the Breast. Place breast meat on a cutting surface. Hold the meat firmly with the carving fork, then slice thinly across the grain for a tender cut.
4. Separate the Drumstick from the Thigh. Cut through the joint that connects the drumstick and thigh. Thinly slice the thigh meat and remove the meat from the bone, Small drumsticks can be served whole, or to remove meat, hold the drumstick upright by the bone and slice meat off, parallel to the bone.
5. Remove Wings. Cut through the joints connecting the wing bones to the backbone. Serve wings whole.

These tips came from the November 2011, Taste of Home magazine.


There is also a quick video I found on YouTube that demontrates the process, making it even easier to understand how to carve the turkey. Now for the hands on practice at Christmas! Good luck!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Another Great Gift to Give- Tabletop Mister


Dear friends of mine, who have been well aware of the healthy lifestyle journey I am on, gave me a great gift recently. They gave me a Tabletop Mister by Prepara. I have tried a number of misters over the years but all of them failed shortly after their first use. They would always get clogged or break. Now the science has finally come into its own. The Prepara Tabletop Mister is simply designed and uses pump action to create the pressure for misting.

You can pick what variety of oil you want to use, I chose olive oil. You can even add your own flavoring from fresh garlic to your own herbs, like rosemary, from your garden or local grocery store. And it comes in different colors so you can match it to your kitchen. I am inclined to get more than one, all in differnt colors, so I can have differently flavored oils at the ready for all the variety of cooking I do.

Ultimately this is a very healthy way to cook with oil. It is also way more environmentally friendly since you don't have to throw away all those empty canisters of cooking spray. And it is infinitely able to be personalized. If you go online you can find ones available for only $16 so it is also very affordable.

A great gift for a friend...and you!

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Stress Reliever Personality Test

I was roaming around the internet looking for some stress relieving amusements when I found this "stress test". It just takes a few minutes. It is a nice brain reliever during that time...no need to think about anything else you are supposed to be doing, which already makes it helpful. Take it and see how you score!

The Stress Reliever Personality Test

I basically wanted to find out about all possible stress relievers. The test basically leads you to simple steps you can take to relieve the various stresses in your life. No magic pill just good quick tips and reminders of helpful tactics. I always need reminders so I found this helpful. Hope you do too!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fitbit as a great Holiday Gift


My sons gave me a great gift I think would make a great holiday gift for others. It is a Fitbit.  It is fundamentally an elegantly designed pedometer. However, through its online component, you can track many more things that are important for living and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. You can track your overall exercise, the amount of calories you consume per day, your weight, how much you sleep and also in put your blood pressure, glucose and heart rate. It is so convenient and eye-opening to track all these aspects of your health in one place. You can even make your information public to the Fitbit community if that is a motivator for you.



There are great historical graphs so you can see how you are doing over time in managing your health and achieving your goals. You can compare yourself to others online with the Fitbit which can help you gain a perspective on where you are and where you want to be with your activities and health.



It is actually an online community so you can tap into groups and participate in conversations, train for events with others, get your own questions answered or just follow what others are up to. As a personal way to keep track of your thoughts, there is also a journal component of the Fitbit which allows you to make daily entries about your thoughts, goals and feelings about your health, activities, eating habits....you name it, your choice! 

It has a wireless tracker so there is no need to upload your information from the Fitbit you wear. It will automatically upload to your computer.

For $99.95 you get the tracker and access to the online software. There is also a premium package that provides even more information if you really get into the program and want more from the Fitbit. I stuck with the basic package and have found I have more than enough information and access to keep me engaged and informed about my health.

The only caveat I have about the product is that it is small and can be easily lost. I have forgotten to remove it from a piece of clothing I had it clipped to more than once. It is black which makes it subtle on your clothing but therefore also easy to over look. I hope they come out with some "hot" colors so they are more personalized and easier to see.

It is amazing to me how many people have the tracker. Once you are a member of the community you become aware of others who are part of it too. That makes it a lot of fun to discover who is out  there you know.

This is definitely a useful product and one you can enjoy over time with just an initial investment. I recommend it!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Living At Higher Altitude Can Be Healthier

I came across an interesting article that talks about the health benefits of living at a higher altitude. I always thought a higher altitude was harder on your health. People get dehydrated more quickly, breathing can be more difficult and you get sun-burned more easily. It may be for just these reasons, and more, that our bodies become healthier...they have to work a little harder.

The Altitude Research Center in Aurora, Colorado has done studies to show that any place with mountains has definite health benefits. For one, at really high altitudes you will lose weight due to hypoxia or lack of oxygen. Without as much oxygen not as much gets absorbed. This is great for decreasing obesity. And becasue obesity directly influences diabetes, lung issues and heart diseases, high altitude can also improve your overall health.

The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation came out with a study this past summer which sited Colorado as having the lowest obesity rate as well as lower heart diseases, diabetes and some cancers in the United States. What is it about Colorado that the other active lifestyle states don't have? Altitude. With an average altitude of 6,800 feet above sea level, Colorado is the highest state in the U.S.A. Who knew?

Interesting, right?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Green Tea or How to keep Healthy Over the Holidays...and Beyond!

My Favorite Green Teas

I have mentioned before that Green Tea is considered a Super Food. Much recent research has been done on the health benefits of Green Tea. A study from the Harvard Medical sited-

Although tea drinking has been associated with health benefits for centuries, only in recent years have its medicinal properties been investigated scientifically. The October issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch recognizes the healthy power of tea while helping readers get the most out of their cups. Tea's health benefits are largely due to its high content of flavonoids — plant-derived compounds that are antioxidants. Green tea is the best food source of a group called catechins. In test tubes, catechins are more powerful than vitamins C and E in halting oxidative damage to cells and appear to have other disease-fighting properties. Studies have found an association between consuming green tea and a reduced risk for several cancers, including, skin, breast, lung, colon, esophageal, and bladder. Additional benefits for regular consumers of green and black teas include a reduced risk for heart disease. The antioxidants in green, black, and oolong teas can help block the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, increase HDL (good) cholesterol and improve artery function. A Chinese study published recently in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed a 46%-65% reduction in hypertension risk in regular consumers of oolong or green tea, compared to non-consumers of tea.

At this time of year when we are more vulnerable and most stressed, it is nice to know there is a soothing remedy for our nerves which also buoys our health, Green Tea. So how much should we drink and how should it be prepared? The Harvard Women's Health watch recommends-


Drinking a cup of tea a few times a day to absorb antioxidants and other healthful plant compounds. In green-tea drinking cultures, the usual amount is three cups per day. Allow tea to steep for three to five minutes to bring out its catechins. The best way to get the catechins and other flavonoids in tea is to drink it freshly brewed. Decaffeinated, bottled ready-to-drink tea preparations, and instant teas have less of these compounds. Tea can impede the absorption of iron from fruits and vegetables. Adding lemon or milk or drinking tea between meals will counteract this problem. 

A simple gift we can give to ourselves now and in the New Year. Better yet, give the gift of health by taking the time to share in a cup of tea with a friend over the holidays!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Healthful Benefits of Drinking Alcohol

Red Wine for the Holidays
This time of year, when we are out and about at holiday parties and having the tendency to over indulge, it is nice to know that some of what we eat and drink is actually good for us! The challenge is to enjoy but not over indulge to the point of miser, gaining excessive amounts of weight or harming rather than helping our bodies.

More and more research is validating the benefits of drinking some alcohol each day. One or two glasses of wine a day (5 oz each), for instance, can decrease the average person's risk of dying during any given year by as much as 25 percent. It has been determined that people who drink one or two drinks daily have a 25 to 50 percent lower risk of heart attack, a 40 percent lower risk of stroke, and about a 33 percent reduction in the risk of developing diabetes.

Red wine, and now dark beer, appear to have the most benefits. Not only do they contain elements which reduce inflammation that helps with heart disease but they also contain anti-aging ingredients. Additionally, the alcohol helps with stress relief and has anti-anxiety benefits. As The O'Keefes explain in their book- The Forever Young Diet & Lifestyle - "Happy and healthy usually go hand in hand. Sitting down at happy hour to unwind and emotionally connect with important people in your life can help to make you more relaxed and improve your overall health."

During the holidays, connecting with friends and family in a positive way, without getting caught up in the frenzy of the season, is one of the challenges we face. It sure sounds appealing however!

Finally, a tip I have read in numerous places to help us pace our alcoholic consumptions is to drink a glass of water prior to sipping your alcoholic beverage. Another trick is to take alternating sips of water and alcohol. It will slow your pace of consumption and allow it to last longer, keeping you in control and less likely to drink more than the prescribed 2 glasses of wine or 1 dark beer.

Cheers!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holiday Bread

Banana-Date Flaxseed Bread
I am a baker. I love the smell of bread baking in the oven. I love sharing what I have baked with others. At Christmas time I have the tradition of making Poppy Seed bread and giving it to friends, family and neighbors as a gift. When the kids were little the list of people for whom we made bread was long since it included teachers, coaches and those who shared in our active children's lives. I secretly delighted in baking all that bread and in providing the loaves for my kid's list. They loved giving it to others. It made my heart glad.

It is that time of year again! This year, though, I am looking for a healthier bread. Never fear, I will still make my Poppy Seed bread but I also want to add a healthier bread to my stable. I am even planning on sending these breads to friends and family by mail. This will also be a new adventure. So I have been looking for a healthier bread that I think will mail well. I think I have found it- Banana-Date Flaxseed Bread.

I baked a test loaf this past weekend to try it out. It looked great coming out of the oven; it makes an attractive loaf. It smells heavenly and is packed full of healthy ingredients. It has both flaxseed meal and flaxseeds in it along with banana and dates. My husband, my daughter and I tried it out. It was tasty and had a nice "nutty" flavor to it. Not only will this be good with butter, but I can also see making cream cheese sandwiches with it. The best is that it is a dense bread so I think it will travel well. It will also be a nice complement to the Poppy Seed bread.

Combine this bread with a green tea and it is guaranteed we will stay healthy through the holidays!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Holiday Happenings and the Big Benefits of Crockpots


We had so much fun last night. We went to the annual holiday concert at our local university. We got hooked when we first moved here and a friend introduced us to this special occasion. The best is that the audience gets to sing! All the favorites are sung as a montage and then at the end, for the hearty, there is the Hallelujah Chorus. Heavenly. It always gets us in the spirit of the Season.

The challenge with concerts, though, is that you have to get there early and by the time you get out, it is on the late side for dinner. I have found with a little planning, and a crockpot, you can have a delicious meal ready on time, enjoyed, and still have time to get to the concert. This time of year stews, soups and ragouts are hearty, cozy meals for a cold night.

Last night I tried out a spicy (yet not too spicy) curry. It had the added benefit of being vegetarian. To find yummy, filling and easy vegetarian I have found to be a bit of a challenge for this dedicated omnivore. I hit a home run last night! I found the recipe on line- Vegetable & Chickpea Curry - so you can try it out if you so desire.

I truly thought this was a wonderful recipe. As you will see with the recipe, it has an array of delectable ingredients from fresh ginger, Serrano pepper and chickpeas to light coconut milk and spinach.  I served it with grilled flatbread and a cucumber-yogurt sauce to mellow the heat in the curry. Add a light beer and it amounts to a memorable meal. My new favorite.

A delicious meal, easy to make, delicious to eat and a holiday sing-a-long...what more could a person want?!? Indeed, I am now "in the spirit" of goodwill and goodmeals. Happy Beginning of December!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Working Out on Horseback Over Thanksgiving

Horseback Riding in Arizona
As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I have made it a goal to work out when I travel. This Thanksgiving we all had the opportunity to go to a dude ranch thanks to my generous parents. Once there we were able to gather with 25 of our family. It was a great time to take advantage of the activities at the ranch.

My daughter lives to ride. She has been riding in a therapeutic riding program since before she was two.  The difference between riding in a program and riding at a dude ranch is that she gets to be off lead. This is HUGE. So, thanks to the understanding and support of the ranch, she got to go on two "walking" trail rides, each about two hours long. I rode behind her on both rides. My husband and two sons also rode at various times.

Horseback Riding with My Daughter at Thanksgiving

I grew up riding thanks to my dad who had/has a passion for horses. It was great fun getting back on a horse. I got to ride three times-- two times with my daughter and the third on a "loping" ride with my husband, and others.  Each time I rode I got on the back of a different horse. It was a great work out for various muscles I don't often use. The knees also felt the ride!

In addition to riding, I used the work out facilities a couple of times and also played tennis with my daughter. It made for a fun holiday, spending active time with my family. Who says you need to be comatose on a couch in order to enjoy Thanksgiving? I still ate too much, but at least I balanced it with some exercise, shared with family.

I am beginning to really see it is possible to be active wherever I go and with others around me. And perhaps most important of all, it is fun!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How to Give Temptation the Slip

As we are approaching the holidays it gets harder and harder to give Temptation "the slip". With all the visual temptation surrounding us at work, on the TV, on the radio and everywhere we shop....much less the treats we create ostensibly to give to our friends and family, we are suffering a cacophony of visual "feed me"s at every turn. How can we help keep ourselves distracted so we don't let Temptation win?

A friend recently forwarded me (thanks Cindy!) an online article from Realage.com that provides some good activities and distractions to help us through the holiday food crazies.

  • Practice mindful meditation. Spend just 7 minutes a day focusing on recognizing, accepting, and experiencing your cravings rather than trying to ignore or suppress them. Dieters who do have far fewer food cravings, and resist them better. Here's the trick to eating mindfully so you'll eat less.
  • Get on your feet. Especially if you're craving chocolate. A quick walk will curb even major chocoholic cravings in just 15 minutes. It works by stimulating feel-good brain chemicals and feeding your spirit.
  • Hit the mute button and do sit-ups -- or this -- when commercials come on. You'll switch off cravings, too. Adults (and kids) eat more snack foods after watching TV shows loaded with food ads.
  • Try yoga. Aside from making you stronger, suppler, and calmer, yoga helps you tune in to your appetite and recognize whether you're actually hungry or just bored. Do this simple sun salutation series for a nice workout.
  • Have that little cookie you can't stop thinking about. Sometimes, trying to stifle a craving makes it grow so intense that, when you finally cave, you eat the whole bag. Yep, having one little banana-oatmeal-walnut cookie now may save you from having 30 later. Don't beat yourself up. Relish it. Take a small bite, savor the taste, have another bite. Thoroughly enjoy it. Then move on.
Hope this helps. I plan on being an active user of these proactive tips to thwart Temptation this holiday season!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Ease and Many Flavors of Frittatas and Egg Casseroles


I first had frittatas when I was in the Peace Corps. There were Spanish nuns who lived across the way from me who taught me many things. One thing they taught me was that frittatas are a great portable food. You can put just about anything in them so they can be a compete food source. Once cooked, they can be cut in wedges, wrapped and packed for picnics. Back in those days, the base of the frittata was thin slices of potato. Although yummy, I have since found it it an unnecessary addition. Instead I have now find many recipes that include low fat cheeses and lots of different kinds of vegetables.

The most recent frittata recipe I tried out was called a Layered Mediterranean Egg Bake. What I found very appealing about it was the use of dried tomato paired with feta & ricotta cheese. That combination provides a wonderful rich flavor. My husband really liked it too.

Frittatas are an easy meal to fix. A health one dish meal so the clean up is pretty easy too. They can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner...and as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, they can also be packed for picnics! And when you are tired out from a holiday it can even serve as a simple, healthier, comfort food.

For a meal, you can add a tossed green salad or fresh berries along with a fresh baked muffin. They are a good option when you have friends over to eat, too. Can't beat this protein rich meal!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Great Healthy Living Quote #11

...not only does exercise reduce your risk of getting the most deadly diseases, it also improves the outcome if you do develop disease.

From- Longevity Made Simple by Richard J. Flanigan, MD and Kate Flanigan Sawyer, MD, MPH

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks!


Thanksgiving is a moment in time to remind us to think and act on the many reasons for which we can be thankful.

One of my favorite quotes of the importance of living gratitude is by Johannes A. Gaertner-

To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven. 

I found this quote in a great book, Thanks!, by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. This is such an amazing book illustrating the power of gratitude in our own lives and the lives of those around us from our family and friends to those we work with or merely interact with. I started a journal of gratitude four years ago. Once I started thinking about it, it was stunning to me how many things I am truly grateful for from the very simple to the much more complex.

On this day of Thanksgiving. I want to thank all of you who have chosen to read my blog, encouraging me to continue by journey and share it with you. Because of you, I am a healthier, happier person today!



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Easy Way to Peel Butternut Squash



Since this is the time of year we can enjoy all the many squashes that are available I thought sharing a tip on how to easily peel a butternut squash might come in handy. Some squash, like zucchini and yellow crookneck do not need peeling. Acorn and spaghetti squash we prepare by baking and then scooping out the insides. In thinking about it, butternut squash seems to be the only one we routinely peel when using in a recipe. The challenge is it's thick skin.

To make quick work of peeling a butternut squash-

-prick it with a fork
-put it in the microwave for 45 seconds
-then trim an inch from the base of the squash, cutting the bottom straight across
-stand the cut squash upright and then run your peeler from top to bottom, all the way around it

This process will make quick work of peeling your butternut squash, making it easier to do and more desirable to use in recipes on a regular basis.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Healthy Gluten-Free Cookies


I have a friend that needs to eat gluten-free. This makes cooking treats a little more challenging. This is partly due to not automatically having the right ingredients on hand when the moment seizes you to bake. There is also the challenge of finding recipes that are tasty and reasonably doable. For those watching portions and calories, inevitably the recipes do not have those included.

We went to our friend's house on Saturday night so I thought this was a great time to research a cookie I could bake, with my daughter's help, that would be tasty, easy and one I could figure out calories for per cookie. What I found was Nikki's Healthy Cookie Recipe on 101cookbooks.com.  This is actually a vegan recipe too because it uses no egg. Instead you use 3 ripe bananas. It has other yummy ingredients like shredded coconut, rolled oats, dark chocolate chips and a little almond meal. It calls for coconut oil but I used the olive oil alternative which worked just fine.

They were easy to assemble and as luck would have it I had all ingredients on hand. Once baked, my husband, daughter and I all had a cookie and each of us thought they were delicious. Definitely a repeat. They are not a good cookie to hike with or mail as they are a little on the delicate side.

We were able to make 44 cookies from the batter. With that amount of cookies we figured each cookie was 64 calories. Not bad for all the delicious ingredients included in the recipe. Now instead of the standard wine we take to their house, we are taking fresh baked cookies!

Monday, November 21, 2011

5 Unusual Weight Loss Tricks That Work

Thanks to my friend, Stephanie, I was made aware of these nifty, yet bizarre, tricks you can use to curb your appetite. You can find them on yahoo.com. As we head into the holidays I think I am game to try them all in hopes of curbing my holiday excess!


1. Sniff a banana, apple, or peppermint
You might feel silly, but it works. When Dr Alan R. Hirsch of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago tried this with 3,000 volunteers, he found that the more frequently people sniffed, the less hungry they were and the more weight they lost - an average of 30 lb each. One theory is that sniffing the food tricks the brain into thinking you're actually eating it. 2. Hang a mirror opposite your seat at the table. One study found that eating in front of mirrors slashed the amount people ate by nearly one-third. Seems having to look yourself in the eye reflects back some of your own inner standards and goals, and reminds you of why you're trying to lose weight in the first place.

2. Hang a mirror opposite your seat at the table.

One study found that eating in front of mirrors slashed the amount people ate by nearly one-third. Seems having to look yourself in the eye reflects back some of your own inner standards and goals, and reminds you of why you're trying to lose weight in the first place.

3. Surround yourself with blue
There's a good reason you won't see many fast-food restaurants decorated in blue: Believe it or not, the color blue functions as an appetite suppressant. So serve up dinner on blue plates, dress in blue while you eat, and cover your table with a blue tablecloth. Conversely, avoid red, yellow, and orange in your dining areas. Studies find they encourage eating.

4. Shoot your food
Rather than writing down every morsel, take a picture of it, and file the photos on your phone or computer by date. A visual account of your consumption may help you curb your intake. "Snapping photos and then looking back at them can make people stop and think before indulging," nutritionist Joan Salge Blake says. It needn't be a big production: your cell phone will do. Think about it: there you are at the salad bar, making a plate of vegetables. Don't pat yourself on the back quite yet, though. A simple snapshot of your heaping dish may "show your extra helping of cheese or deep-fried croutons," Joan cautions. A visual reminder might be just enough to give you pause next time before you ladle on the blue cheese dressing. -- Joan is a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Find other healthy eating tips in her book, Nutrition & You.

5. Tie yourself up
You could try fitness guru Valerie Orsoni's "Le Petit Secret": "A number of French women wear a ribbon around their waist and underneath their clothes when they go out for dinner. It keeps them conscious of the tummy-particularly if the ribbon starts to feel tighter as the evening goes on!"

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Weekly Check In #2 for my Personal Weight Loss Challenge

Okay, so it seems when I first start concentrating on something it backfires. That old knee jerk reaction of setting myself up for failure comes charging back into my life. Little voices in my head start saying a phrase I have heard many times before- "You don't really think you can do this, do you?" The good news is, I do feel I can do this, this time around....just not with out some fits and starts.

This past week I was way too over indulgent. Birthdays do that to me. My daughter's 24th birthday was on Monday. We celebrated with a dinner party for her on Saturday. That is when the eating began. Her menu is always- Fried Chicken (the real homemade kind), mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans with ham hocks, with the ultimate prize being a from scratch German Chocolate Cake with french vanilla ice cream. Holly smokes! It was all delicious mind you, even if I do say so myself. I have gotten better about fixing less of everything so there are not too many leftovers. I also only make this meal once a year, for my daughter's birthday.

I gained 3 pounds. Yipes! Then the excuses kept piling up as I ate a little more than I should have each day...and drank red wine. I am so good at that! Fortunately, my good-to-me voice started getting louder and louder saying- "you don't really need this extra food and you really do want to succeed!" So I am slowly getting back on track.

The only way I really know how to get back on track, with complete honesty and knowledge of what I am doing, is to track what I am eating, counting portions and calories. Yes, it is a bit of a nuisance, but I don't have the kind of eyes or mind that automatically knows what are the "right" amounts to eat. So I have started logging my food again. I started yesterday...went way over 1800 calories, but at least I counted and had to recognize what I was doing.  Counting does shock you back to reality.

In order to control what I am eating through the holidays, I am going to have to log everything this year. I may even be able to lose a net couple of pounds from my low last week before Christmas. What would be really cool is not to gain any weight through New Year's. That would be a first! That way, when the New Year begins and I am ready to really work on losing weight, I could start in a better place, bringing my weight down a net 10 lbs which is my goal as I look to next summer and doing my first 30 mile ride!

If anyone has some good insight or advise to share, I would love to hear it! I know I am not alone in this journey!

This week my goals are-
To log all my food, even on Thanksgiving
To exercise each day, even on the weekends
Consciously drink more water
Substitute hot tea for my red wine in the evenings (cold beer isn't working now because of the cold weather outside)--this will be my hardest challenge!

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Worked with my trainer on Spinning

I met with my trainer yesterday. I wrote this summer that I wanted to have my final two training sessions for the year before the holidays. I just love having sessions with her. She is so motivating and keeps introducing me to new routines which keeps me interested in working out.

My goal for these next two sessions was to learn how to spin. I want to work on my endurance as well as focus on figuring out how to burn more calories as I work on losing more weight. Why, you ask, might I want to learn how to spin? Ultimately, I have as a goal doing a 30 mile bike ride next summer. In order to do this I need to lose a little more weight (at least 10 lbs.) and continue to build up my endurance.

Here is what I learned:
    Bring a water bottle & towel
    Wear your biking shorts and your biking/cycling shoes (if you have them/I don't have the shoes)
    Adjust your bike both in the seat and the handle
        -The seat has two adjustments- up and down; forward and back. The seat should be adjusted so    
        the left leg is at 3 o'clock and the right at 6 o'clock without being hyper extended
        -The handle adjusts up and down as well and should be adjusted so you can balance off it but not
        so you really lean on it. The problem for me on this one is that the handles only extends so
        far...but I do need to avoid leaning so far forward that my sweat drips onto the wheel. That would
        be bad becasue it involuntarily breaks the wheel due to friction.
    You need to also test your resistance knob so you know where that resistence point is for you when
    peddling so you can adjust the tension up or down depending on the instructor is requesting you do.
    KEY THING TO KNOW: The resistance knob is also the brake.

I tried it out and liked it. The most exciting thing for me was seeing that I could stand and peddle without any difficulty. When I try to do this on my outdoor bike I am not successful. My trainer said that by doing the standing and peddling in class I should be able to translate this new ability to my biking outdoors. I am encouraged by this possibility.

My trainer said I should probably have as an initial goal completing only 30 minutes of the hour class t and then work up from there. Since I figure the folks in the class are undoubtedly already slimmer and trimmer than I am, I know this will be a challenge for me not to feel too self conscious. Most exercising I have ever done has be a lone. I don't tend to be a group participator. This will be a good new challenge for me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

In Support of Leftovers


There are two camps regarding leftovers....those that love them and those that hate them. I am one that loves them...if they are my leftovers! So why is it that I love leftovers?

Well, leftovers are first and foremost very convenient. In our busy, hectic lives it is nice to have something to eat that is ready to go. Mine are pre-packaged and measured so all I have to do is plop it on a plate and, if desired, heat it for a couple of minutes in a microwave.

I also like the fact that I control how my food is prepared. Going out to eat or grabbing something prepackaged to eat means that there are ingredients in your meal that don't need to be there and may be harmful to your health like salt, corn syrup, coloring with dyes, added fats, and various preservatives. When you cook it none of those ingredients need to be included.

What is appealing to me too is that I am leveraging the effort of preparing home cooked meals for multiple people and multiple meals. The time spent in the kitchen counts for many meals. For those who don't like spending more time in the kitchen than they need to, this is a real plus.

Another reason I like eating leftovers is that they can really save you money. Your meal costs a fraction of what it would if you went out to a restaurant, even a fast food one.  These days as we are counting our pennies and prioritizing what we need or want to spend our money on, eating leftovers is a no brainer.

Finally, leftovers taste that much better when you realize the time you are saving not preparing another meal or going out to eat one. The time saved can be used to check in with a friend or for taking a midday walk. Both options being an added plus to our hearts and health.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Healthy Pumpkin Recipes-- muffins and cupcakes

 Oatmeal, Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Muffin
I am having so much fun baking with pumpkin. I was never a great lover of pumpkin pie. Don't get me wrong, I always enjoyed my piece at Thanksgiving but it was not something I looked forward to or found the means to have it more than once over the holidays. Now I am discovering that I love the flavor! I especially love it with Pumpkin Pie Spice. It is also heavenly to smell as the latest recipe is baking in the oven!

I tried out a Pumpkin Cupcake recipe from SkinnyTaste.com which were fun to fix for by Fall Chili Supper. They looked good and smelled heavenly but there were mixed opinions about the taste. I thought they were a little gummy. I intend to keep looking for a better cupcake recipe.

Next I tried out an Oatmeal, Dark Chocolate Pumpkin muffin recipe from fitsugar.com. I made this recipe with a friend in mind. She loves things with chocolate in them. These have dark chocolate chips which makes them healthier, especially since the recipe is also made with whole wheat flour, old fashioned oats and walnuts. These are tasty but, as you might imagine with the listed ingredients, fairly dense. They definitely "stick to you ribs" but good for cold weather.

This week I tried out a lighter looking muffin recipe. It also has the least calories of 145 per muffin. This simple Pumpkin muffin can be found in myrecipes.com. These were light and airy, even though it does have a 1/2 cup whole wheat flour in it. These were a big hit and I plan on baking them again.A similar recipe which looks good but not as healthy for a simple Pumpkin muffin I also found in myrecipes.com.

Next I plan on trying out a Pumpkin-Cranberry muffin recipe--myrecipes.com. This one I expect to be a hit while still being pretty healthy and under 200 calories. I will let you know what I think!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Weekly Check In #1 for my Personal Weight Loss Challenge

It has been a good week. I lost 2.2lbs from my low in July. Means I have 6 more pounds to go by Thanksgiving. It feels so much better to be on the downward swing.

The actions I did this week that I think helped me work on my weight loss were:
    -Being more consistent in my work outs--getting back in the groove
    -Wore my fitbit for a few days; want to work on doing it daily, though
    -Drank a cup of green tea each day--I think this helps with mood & hunger & health
    -Did not deprive myself of wine and midday treats....just really tried to avoid grazing 

I am going to continue to work on these action items, trying to be particularly mindful during the weekend. This will be especially hard since my daughter's birthday dinner is tomorrow night. A good challenge to see how well I can do!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Our Hunter-Gatherer Genetics Are Working Against Us!

My major in college was Social Anthropology and African Studies. I was always fascinated by the rituals surrounding the Hunter. Any time a big kill occurred, no matter whether it was an historical account or one occurring in modern times, there was a gorging on the meat harvested from the kill. There are also those times of year when there are the big harvests of food, provided by the Gatherer, which created a reason to celebrate and enjoy the bounty culminating in annual celebrations. Our bodies are built to gorge. Since we never knew when the next meal might come, we gorge on what was in front of us so our bodies could stock up and sustain themselves through the leaner times. Nothing went to waste.

Since we now live in a world of plenty (most of us in the developed world, that is) our capacity and genetics for gorging are now working against us. What comes naturally is now not what is healthy for us. We have to consciously and mindfully make choices and not let our instincts drive our decisions. As the O'Keefes state in their book The Forever Young Diet & Lifestyle, "As adults we are 'hard-wired' to move only when we have to, to rest when we can, and to eat as much as possible whenever food is available. Those instincts served us well in an untamed world where we had to save our energy in order to secure food, water, and shelter and withstand frequent periods of scarcity." Today those instincts doom us to "a sub-optimal life that includes obesity and illness". So, not only is it the super-sized world around us we have to keep at bay, but also our own genetics!

There is no free pass. The only way to combat the desire to "live for today" and to be a member of the "clean plate" team is to live an intentional and mindful life. There is actually a whole movement out there called "mindful eating". It seems like a drag to always have to be planning what we eat and being mindful about what we put in our mouths. Sometimes I am just not in the mood! But I have a thought I am wanting to test out. What if we were mindful the majority of the time but still allowed ourselves the occasional blow-out? Could we maintain our weight that way, not let go of the overall control of our lives and also satisfy our instincts? I am thinking this could be a good solution. The trick is to find balance and not get into the cycle of overindulgence.

I know I have not yet struck the perfect balance between living in the present and acknowledging my hunter-gatherer genetics. It is a challenge I am enjoying taking on, however. It appeals to me--acknowledging all of me. As I am watching Christmas ads on TV and it is only November 9, I am humbled by the task of not giving into a season of gorging but instead making it just one or two days- Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is going to take a lot of mindfulness!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Maple Mustard Pork with Caramelized Apples

We had a great dinner last night. The menu consisted of Maple Mustard Pork Tenderloin with Caramelized Apples, Sauteed Kale in garlic, onion and chicken broth and Soft Polenta. This time of year I love adding roasts to my menus. Pork is a lean meat and easy to prepare. This is a delicious recipe.

This was a good meal for Super Foods. Apples are plentiful this time of year and in so many varieties. This recipe calls for Granny Smith apples. Apples are low in calories, high in soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and protects us from a whole host of diseases. Kale is a cruciferous vegetable packed full of vitamins and cancer fighting benefits. It is considered the "Queen of the Greens". We prepare it the same way we do sauteed spinach. This is a super easy way to cook a vegetable.

The polenta was made from cornmeal. Very economical and easy to do. We discovered, however, that it is pretty tasteless on its own. Next time we plan to sauteed some onion and garlic with some mushrooms to add to the polenta as it cooks. Without adding many calories, I think we will add more taste and a more attractive look.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tasty Soup for Last Night's Dinner


As I think I mentioned in a previous blog, my middle son has challenged us to eat vegetarian at least two times a week. It is better for our health and also better for our environment. Last night we kept to the pledge and I made a delicious soup. It was one I had not done before. It was out of the 1998 Cooking Light Cookbook.  It is called Tortellini, White Bean and Spinach Soup (tortellini-white-bean-spinach-soup). It is packed full of ingredients from the cheese-filled tortellini, beans and spinach to onion and artichoke hearts. It is more like an Italian stew than a soup. Consequently, it is very satisfying.

We paired the soup with a Marinated Orange and Strawberry salad (Marinated Orange & Strawberry Salad recipe). I found this recipe in the Complete Cooking Light Cookbook.  It went quite well with the soup. As you can see by the photo, it was a visually appealing meal. The soup and salad combined was 388 calories. A piece of hearty bread could have been added and still been within the range of a 500 calorie meal. I plan to do that next time. I have added the links I found on line to the recipes so you can try this combo out as well and let me know what you think! Bon Appétit!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Update on my Weight Status

I have come to realize that with managing my weight I really have two challenges going on simultaneously. There is the desire to lose weight and there is the desire to keep weight off. These are, obviously, not mutually exclusive objectives....but they seem that way at times.

The reality is that since the end of July I have not lost any net weight. In fact, the struggle has been to keep the weight off I have lost. As of November 1 I was up .4 lbs from July 31. Today I am down .4 from July 31st. Overall this means I am 50 lbs down from my absolute high a year ago and 25.2 lbs. down from this January. I seem to go up and down about 4 to 5 lbs. A good thing but not the best thing. With my goal to lose 2 lbs. a month, I should be down another 8 lbs. from July by the end of November.

There is a lot in my world I still don't deal with very well. When I am at home, managing my own meals I am much more in control. When I travel, which I have done a lot of since July, I am not so good. When I get sick, which I did recently, I go for comfort food and inactivity. Let's be real, I love any excuse to pamper myself. And, unfortunately, pampering to me often means an extra glass of wine, comfort food from my childhood, stopping off at that favorite bakery when I am visiting back in my hometown or having an appetizer or dessert when I am out to dinner with friends or family.

I am a firm believer there is a balance between denying myself the pleasures I enjoy and over indulging with the consequence of gaining weight and feeling bad both mentally and physically. And I also have the additional need to lose more weight. So what is stopping me? Why am I stuck and not able to lose more weight? Am I basking too long in my 50 lbs. loss? Am I truly lazy? Where is the motivation I need? And why am I ignoring the goals I set out for myself...especially since I thought they were reasonable...and, after all, they were goals I set, not goals somebody else gave me.

In the book Predictably Irrational the author, Dan Ariely, discusses this very conundrum we all struggle with. He states, "Resisting temptation and instilling self-control are general human goals, and repeatedly failing to achieve them is a source of much of our misery." He believes our only means to combat this predicament of repetitive failure is to make "pre-commitments" to ourselves. He says "...the best course might be to give people an opportunity to commit up front to their preferred path of action." But our preferred path may not be very easy or pleasant so how do we get ourselves to do the right things? Ariely suggests "By pairing something that we love with something that we dislike but that is good for us, we might be able to harness desire with outcome-- and thus overcome some of the problem with self-control we face everyday." In other words, it is not just enough that we want something, we have to help ourselves through planning and positive reinforcement. Sounds to me like I need to act as a parent to myself! My internal "truth gauge" is telling me he is right.

So I made the "pre-commitment" and even put it in print for the world to read. That seems like a first "right step". Then what about the pairing of what I love with what is the more difficult task of losing weight? I think I want the carrot of an IPad...

My current strategy is to lose 8 lbs by the end of November. This means no giving into over indulgence, including at Thanksgiving. For every 2 lbs I lose I am going to put $20 into my piggy bank for buying an IPad. I really plan on putting money in an jar. And I know it it going to take a while, but that is the point!

How am I going to keep myself honest? By exercising at least 1/2 hour each day, preferably at the "Y" and with weights. I am also going to set up time with my trainer to learn the "art of Spinning" to help with the calorie burn. I am going to go back to logging everything I eat as well as my exercise. And I am going to give weekly updates to the blog on my progress. Let's hope this is the ticket to changing habits and achieving success!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Life with Candy


Now that we are thoroughly depressed and coming down from our sugar high from last night, I thought I would share my insights on my "Life with Candy". As I mentioned to you in a previous blog, My mom was notorious for hiding sweets...well she also always had Butterfingers in the freezer, her favorite candy. Needless to say, I depleted her supply of Butterfingers regularly and over many years. It was a great game. I also loved the "candy holidays" like Christmas, Valentine's Day and Halloween...especially Halloween. I loved all the chocolate candies, particularly the Pumpkin shaped Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. When the kids were little and still Trick or Treated I would relish the moment of going through their leftover candy to find my favorite candies before throwing the rest away.  I also had the horrible habit of buying the candies I loved most for the Trick or Treaters that came to our door. I would always sneak a few for myself, of course!

Some how over the years I got in the habit of having seasonal candies, like Reese's miniature cups in Fall colored foils, in bowls about the house. My excuse was that it was festive, welcoming, and something to offer the guests we would have over during those seasons. The reality was that I was the one who ate most of them. Fortunately, my children never developed the need for these candies.  Then overtime one season melded into another and I seemed to have candies out all the time, refilling the bowls regularly.

It wasn't until a friend mentioned to me that she noticed how I always had candy around and she wondered how I could do that and still be focused on watching my weight. Well, my loving friend really knew the answer-- I couldn't! That next week I got rid of the candy and filled the bowls with shelled pistachio nuts! Not surprisingly, those nuts are still sitting in the same bowls, about at the same level. It has made a world of difference in my candy grazing.

This year I wondered a lot about what I should do about getting candy for Halloween. We haven't had Trick or Treaters once since we moved to our condo. There really was no need for me to buy any. I had to wrestle with my weak desires a couple of times. How to not have candies around and yet avoid my feeling deprived. I really wanted to avoid an excuse to binge. Well I went to the grocery store yesterday and spent a few minutes in the candy isle thinking about it; touching, holding and looking at a variety of bags of candy. Even put a couple in my grocery cart. Ultimately I decided I wanted "one" of something not a bag of something....a good step, I thought, so I put the bags of candy back. There were no single candies at the grocery store....but I didn't really want to go to another store to look for candy. So I landed in the ice cream isle. I got pretzel and caramel flavored Klondike bars. I figured my daughter and husband could also enjoy one after dinner, there would only be a couple bars leftover and they would be in the freezer, frozen and out of sight! Really glad to not have any leftover candy to eat or hide!

It was a fun treat. I enjoyed it. The good news is-- I didn't gain weight, I didn't binge, nor suffer from a sugar high. I also didn't feel sick or get depressed because I had failed myself again. Most importantly, I didn't deprive myself and yet I managed to morph a bad, debilitating, unhealthy tradition into something memorable and satisfying.  Only 270 calories compared to the thousands I know I have eaten in the past! Phew!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Book Review- Eat This Not That Supermarket Survival Guide



I recently picked up a copy of Eat This Not That Supermarket Survival Guide by David Zinczenko. It is one among many Zinczenko has written. I was interested to see what insight he could offer to the weekly grocery shopping I do. There are a number of interesting tidbits.

For instance, did you know that the healthiest food in the supermarket is found along the walls? This includes the dairy case, produce,  meats and seafood. The nutritional "dead zone" is in the middle where all the highly processed foods can be found.

If you find yourself in the "dead zone" isles looking for the healthiest options, Zinczenko points out that they tend to be on the top and bottom shelves. The reason for that being that the big companies like Kraft and Kellogg pay the "slotting fees" to be placed in the middle shelves that are easy to reach and see.

Another helpful tip is that the more packaging a product has, the more likely it is to be less nutritious. Check it out...Also, did you know that "multi-grain" is VERY different from "whole grain"? "Multi-grain" sounds healthy but all it means is that more than one kind of grain is used in making the product. It DOES NOT mean that it is healthier. In fact, it can be easily as processed as a product made with only bleached flour!

An eye opener for me was that products promoting "reduced fat" may, in fact, be worse for us!  Often when fat is reduced the sugar and salt is increased! It is important to ALWAYS read the label to see what each product contains and in what percentages.

Should you buy this book? This book is a great educator. For some it might act as a reference prior to going to the grocery store. For others, it may make sense to get it from the library, brush up on the "does and don'ts" of grocery shopping and then drop it back by the library for someone else to read. It is worth the review, regardless.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Great Healthy Living Quote #10

Life changing advice about being creative-

About twelve years ago, I was running a lot and feeling the wear and tear on my knees, so I decided to try yoga. It was the answer. I do Ashtanga yoga for an hour every day now. It tones my whole body, soothes my stress, and gives me energy. My creativity and focus came back and it changed my whole spirit.

Quote by Tommy Hillfiger, designer
Men's Health magazine

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Apple N'Spice Muffin

The thrill  of exploring different muffin recipes continues! There is a section in the Complete Cooking Light Cookbook with a variety of different muffin recipes that I am trying out one by one. The latest is this Apple N'Spice Muffin. Instead of chunks of apple it instead uses shredded apple. The flavor of the apple is infused throughout the muffin. Another interesting dimension is that cornmeal is used. I am looking more and more for recipes that limit the amount of white flour used. Cornmeal adds fiber and protein refined flour lacks.

These muffins are flavorful, hearty and attractive. If you like toppings on your muffins, these are great with their dash of cinnamon sugar on top.  We paired these muffins with a Layered Mediterranean Breakfast Bake to make a meal. It was a yummy flavor combination. I also found this muffin recipe on line at My Recipes.Com . They were a hit with the family and a definite repeat.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nothing Like the Challenge of a 100 Year Old Man

There is nothing like the challenge given when you read about a 100 year old man who is now the oldest marathoner in the world. And to rub it in a little more...he got started running at the mere age of 89! I am humbled and in awe of him...guess I really do have to start training... Here is the article and link -

A 100-year-old Briton has become the world's oldest marathon runner after finishing a race in Canada.
Fauja Singh, from Ilford, east London, ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in eight hours, 25 minutes and 16 seconds.
The record-holder "hit the wall" at 22 miles but soldiered on for another two hours and finished in 3,850th place, ahead of five other competitors.
Mr Singh, who took up running 11 years ago after his wife and son died, trains every day by running 10 miles.
Curry and tea His coach and interpreter Harmander Singh said Mr Singh was "overjoyed".
"Earlier, just before we came around the (final) corner, he said, 'achieving this will be like getting married again'.
"He's absolutely overjoyed, he's achieved his lifelong wish."
Born in India in 1911, Mr Singh was a farmer in the Punjab but moved to Britain in the 1960s.
He puts his stamina down to ginger curry, tea and "being happy".
He holds the world record for the over-90 category after running the 2003 Toronto marathon in five hours and 40 minutes. His latest feat earns him another spot in Guinness World Records.
On Thursday he broke another eight records for 100-year-old men by completing all eight distances ranging from 100m to 5,000m.
Mr Singh said: "The secret to a long and healthy life is to be stress-free. Be grateful for everything you have, stay away from people who are negative, stay smiling and keep running."

Here is the link- Oldest Marathoner

Monday, October 24, 2011

Enjoying Fall Super Foods


There are so many wonderful Fall Foods to take advantage of now in preparing our meals. Many of then are considered Super Foods. With the cold and flu season revving up it is especially good to incorporate these foods into our diets. A recent article I read on Aol Healthy Living gave a great list of Autumnal Super Foods: Pumpkin, Pumpkin Seeds, Apples, Persimmons, Pomegranates, Beets, and Brussel Sprouts.

I love the idea of using my pumpkins not only for decoration but for eating. It suits our desire to reuse, repurpose and recycle! Pumpkins are good for us because they are a great source of fiber and vitamin A, which according to the Harvard School of Public Health, stimulates white blood cell activity and regulates cell growth and division. I haven't cooked with pumpkin yet but I went on the Eating Well Website and found a whole host of yummy looking recipes I plan to try. First on my list is Pueblo Pumpkin Stew which is a vegetarian recipe which will be perfect for one of my vegetarian meals I want to incorporate into my menu planning each week.

Pumpkin Seeds are rich in healthy fats and oils says Judy Caplan, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Pumpkin seeds are healthy for us but for those of us also watching our calories they are similar to nuts in calories. Here is a link for more information on Pumpkin Seed Nutrition. One Tablespoon is 57 calories. I found a recipe for Pumpkin Seed and Cilantro Pesto I plan on trying. They can also be a great afternoon snack and can be easily added to granola or used as a garnish for soups and stews. It has been a long standing tradition in our family to simply soak and roast our pumpkin seeds as part of our Halloween /Thanksgiving activities.

Apples have long been a mainstay in our family. I grew up with the saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away". They are one of the best fruits and help us guard against a whole host of health problems and diseases from diabetes & heart disease to breast & colon cancer. We relish the Fall for all the variety of apples that are available and because they are the most crisp and juicy. Eating Well has a variety of yummy looking recipes using apples. One in particular that caught my eye is the Salmon Over Warm Lentil Apple Walnut Salad.

Persimmons are a great source of fiber, vitamin A and antioxidants. A recent Japanese study has shown is it good for fighting cancers.  Cooking Light has an appealing Spiced Persimmon Pecan Muffin recipe that should pair well with a soup or salad.

Pomegranates are a an antioxidant-rich superfood which may help protect against arthritis, diabetes and a long list of other diseases. Growing up we had a favorite fall salad with grapefruit, avocado, and lettuce topped with pomegranates. A delicious looking recipe I found uses pomegranates in a Moroccan stew- Chicken Tagine with Pomegranates.

Beets are a vegetable we love roasted in salads during the summertime but they are also plentiful in the Fall.  The health benefits of beets include lowering cholesterol and anti-aging. A combination I have not seen before but looked appealing for a recipe is a beet risotto with greens goat cheese and walnut. 

Finally, Brussel Sprouts are packed full of benefits from providing lots of critical antioxidants and vitamins to protecting us from heart disease and stroke; it also protects our DNA.  We often just roast brussel sprouts for our vegetable at dinner time. Another recipe I found delectable looking was Citrus Curried Couscous with Brussels Sprouts.

I can't wait to try out all these new found recipes, all the while providing my family with delicious Fall Super Foods to help guard against .... just about EVERYTHING!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Autumn Chicken Stew in the Slow Cooker


Our cooler days are compelling me to design menus with stews, soups and chilis. What is great is to make use of the produce in season so I have been looking for recipes that call for them. The slow cooker/crockpot makes it that much easier to accomplish.

I found the Autumn Chicken Stew recipe in the 400 Calorie Fix by Liz Vaccariello. It is packed full of vegetables including butternut squash, parsmips, sweet potato, red onion and baby spinach. It is on page 247.  A serving is 2 cups which includes a 1/2 cup of couscous. Total calories is 380. I found virtually the same recipe on line Autumn Chicken Stew in the Slow Cooker.

It was very filling, visually appealing and suits the season. Besides some initial chopping of vegetables, it was easy to make. The seasoning is mild. In the future I think I will add other spices, like cumin, to the dish.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Enjoying Homemade Herbal Teas


Have you been noticing, as I have, that more and more people are focusing on ways to enjoy cooking and creating delicious alternatives to store bought goods? Not only is it fun and creative but it is more economical, great for lessening our carbon footprint, undoubtedly healthier since there is no need for preservatives or additives, and it is so much more meaningful as gifts for our family, friends and hosts who invite us over for parties. I plan on writing much more on this topic as we get closer to the holidays since I plan on making many of our gifts this year.

As the days get shorter and the days are numbered for harvesting my herb garden, I thought I would write about a fun, delicious and simple herbal tea I have enjoyed brewing and sharing with friends when they come over for dinner. It is also very appealing to me as a "comfort food" when my mind and soul needs a little extra nourishment.

We have been growing the same mint for 30 years which we acquired from a relative. It has moved with us from home to home and from state to state. Mint is very hardy. I love the flavor of our particular variety of mint. It is sweet and fragrant. It is great for many dishes, marinades, beverages and...teas.

Recently I have been enjoying cutting our mint right before a dinner party, harvesting the leaves and then tearing them a bit as I put them in our Coffee Press. I am generous with the leaves, filling the bottom of the press with a solid inch of mint leaves. Then all you need to do is pour boiling water over the leaves and let it steep for 4 - 5 minutes before pressing the leaves to the bottom with the filter..and presto!... You have a great after dinner tea that is fragrant, flavorful and great for digestion. Best off all, it is fresh from your garden and therefore, homemade, which is bound to impress your guests and make them feel very special that you took the time and effort to provide this tasty treat.

Many herbs are perfect for tea. The most popular tea herbs are chamomile, rose hips, lavender, mints, sweet fennel, orange thyme, hibiscus, lemon balm, lemon verbena, linden flowers, dandelion, St. John's wort, licorice root, ginger root, raspberry leaf and goldenrod violets.

Try mixing your favorite herbs for an herb tea blend.

Some plants should never be ingested. Know what you're growing if you're making tea from your own plants. Never make tea from herbs such as borage, calamus, chaparral, comfrey, ephedra, germander, life root, pennyroyal or sassafras. In certain strengths those herbs can cause liver damage and other organ risks.

Be extremely careful that you don't make tea using any herb plants that have been sprayed with pesticides. Always good to have good control and management of the herbs you use.

Time for my afternoon mint tea...hope you can make the time to enjoy a cup too!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How to Shuck an Ear of Corn and have them silk free!



One of the many benefits I have found in writing this blog is the information I am learning from others. There is nothing better than engaging in conversation, sharing and learning thanks to your friends. I learned of another easy "trick" in food preparation from a friend this week.

If you hate shucking ears of corn and ending up with all the stringy silks to pick off, try this. It is absolutely unbelievable and yet so simple. I wonder what took the world so long to figure this out. Click on the link below and be amazed! It is a cute video that is also charming to watch, even if you don't have an ear of corn to shuck!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnBF6bv4Oe4 



Wish it was the peak of the season for fresh ears of corn...but fortunately we can hold on to this information for next summer and make it even more easy, fun and healthy with fresh corn on the cob. No more need to avoid it!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Combatting the Common Cold

Part of the challenge of living a healthy lifestyle is that sickness does creep in from time to time. I have been struggling with a cold, for instance, for the past couple of weeks. Rest and Fluids are most recommended when you have a cold. What else can help? This is what I found out (cold remedies)-

Cold remedies: What works

If you catch a cold, you can expect to be sick for one to two weeks. But that doesn't mean you have to be miserable. These remedies may help:
  • Water and other fluids. You can't flush a cold out of your system, but drinking plenty of liquids can help. Water, juice, clear broth or warm lemon water with honey helps loosen congestion and prevents dehydration. Avoid alcohol, coffee and caffeinated sodas, which make dehydration worse.
  • Salt water. A saltwater gargle — 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt dissolved in an 8-ounce glass of warm water — can temporarily relieve a sore or scratchy throat.
  • Saline nasal drops and sprays. Over-the-counter saline nasal drops and sprays combat stuffiness and congestion. In infants, experts recommend instilling several saline drops into one nostril, then gently suctioning that nostril with a bulb syringe (push the bulb in about 1/4 to 1/2 inch, or about 6 to 12 millimeters). Saline nasal sprays may be used in older children. Unlike nasal decongestants, saline drops and sprays don't lead to a rebound effect — a worsening of symptoms when the medication is discontinued — and most are safe and nonirritating, even for children.
  • Zinc. For years, cold sufferers have treated their symptoms with over-the-counter remedies containing zinc. But without sound evidence to support this treatment, doctors generally didn't recommend it. Now a comprehensive analysis of clinical-trial data on zinc and colds has concluded that zinc really does appear to be beneficial. The conclusion comes with a few caveats. Researchers haven't determined the most effective formulation, dose or duration of zinc treatment for colds. Zinc lozenges can leave a bad taste in your mouth, and some trial participants reported nausea as a side effect of the lozenges. Zinc-based nasal sprays, not included in the recent, positive analysis, pose a different problem; the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that these products can take away your sense of smell, possibly for good.
  • Chicken soup. Generations of parents have spooned chicken soup into their sick children. Chicken soup may be soothing because of its possible anti-inflammatory and mucus-thinning effects.
  • Over-the-counter cold and cough medications in older children and adults. Nonprescription decongestants and pain relievers offer some symptom relief, but they won't prevent a cold or shorten its duration, and most have some side effects. If used for more than a few days, they can actually make symptoms worse.
    Experts agree that these medications are dangerous in children younger than age 2. The FDA is evaluating the safety of over-the-counter cold and cough medications in older children.
    Keep in mind that acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) can cause serious liver damage or liver failure if taken in doses higher than recommended. It's common for people to take Tylenol in addition to flu medications that also contain acetaminophen, which can lead to acetaminophen overdoses. Read the labels of any cold medication carefully to make sure you're not overdosing.
    If a cough lasts after your other cold symptoms have resolved, see your doctor. In the meantime, try soothing your throat with warm lemon water and honey and humidifying the air in your house. Avoid giving honey to infants.
  • Antihistamines. First-generation (sedating) antihistamines may provide minor relief of several cold symptoms, including cough, sneezing, watery eyes and nasal discharge. However, results are conflicting and the benefits may not outweigh the side effects.
  • Humidity. Cold viruses thrive in dry conditions — another reason why colds are more common in winter. Dry air also dries the mucous membranes, causing a stuffy nose and scratchy throat. A humidifier can add moisture to your home, but it can also add mold, fungi and bacteria if not cleaned properly. Change the water in your humidifier daily, and clean the unit according to the manufacturer's instructions.
I also went to Whole Foods and have added a couple of supplements to help boost my immune system. The first is Kick-Ass Immune by Wish Garden Herbs. This one has a variety of herbs from Yerba Santa, Baptisia, Goldenseal, Elder Flower, Yarrow, Osha and Echinacea, The other is DefensePlus by NutriBiotic. It includes Grapefruit Seed Extract, Echinacea, Astragalus, Vitamin C, Mushrooms Etracts, Goldenseal & Ginger Root.

The challenge with being sick is that it is hard to stop and take time to heal. I think I compounded and caused a further flare-up of my cold by traveling, staying up too late and going out when I should have stayed home. Now I am paying for it.  I am hoping the immune boosting concoctions will help me finally turn the corner on this uncommonly extended common cold.