Wednesday, March 27, 2013

This and That

So this month has been super busy, more so than usual. Along with work and all the normal day to day stuff, there has been a bachelorette party, St. Patty's Day, and birthday parties, including my little one's fourth birthday. We had a Brave movie theme party. It was epic. And yes, I ate cake, with lots of sugar and fat in it.

And the month will just continue to be busy, with Easter, and you guessed it: another birthday party. The weekend after that I have a wedding to attend, then my mom's birthday, and on and on. So I really haven't had much time to devote to blogging, but while I have a small window of free time, I thought I would share with you some things I have been eating and a few other tidbits from the last few weeks.

Meet my new favorite breakfast:

Chia seed breakfast bowl with raisins and walnuts
 
Okay, if you've never had chia seeds, the way this stuff looks may seem odd, but it tastes amazing. And it's really good for you. Chia seeds are loaded with fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, help reduce sugar cravings, and have even been linked to helping with mood disorders and brain function. The consistency of this breakfast is sort of like tapioca, so I realize it's not for everyone. But I promise, it's delicious, and you can feel really good about eating it. It's an awesome way to start your day! Oh, and did I mention, it's a make ahead recipe? Bonus! I love make ahead recipes for breakfast. I am not a morning person. I'm pretty much a zombie from the time I wake up until around 10 (ish). This is a breakfast you can just pull out of the fridge in the morning and eat. Perfect.
 
The recipe can be found here on one of my favorite websites for recipes: oh she glows. Angela makes her recipe for two, but I usually cut it in half and just make it for myself (the rest of my household eats eggs or cereal for breakfast, and nothing else). For toppings I usually use walnuts and raisins. You can basically treat the chia seed "pudding" like oatmeal, and add things to it. I like to add crunchy stuff for texture. With 1/8 cup walnuts and 1/8 cup raisins, my version clocks in at about 350 calories.

Another favorite breakfast as of late:

Egg white scramble with ham, green onion, spinach and avocado
As I mentioned, my other household members will only eat cereal or eggs for breakfast. My teenage daughter has also started eating omelets for dinner about two to three nights per week. Between all of us, the 18-pack of eggs I usually buy every week just isn't cutting it. On mornings where I'm not in a rush, I like to make an egg white scramble for breakfast. Lately I've been sautéing some green onion and spinach in a nonstick pan with a little olive oil, then adding three to four egg whites beaten with one whole egg, and scrambling it all up. I top it with half an avocado and some hot sauce. The day I took the picture above, I added a few slices of ham to the whole mess. It was sooooo good. I love breakfasts that are packed with protein to help keep me feeling full and energized throughout the day. A scramble made with three egg whites, one whole egg, 1 cup spinach, 2 green onions, and topped with half of an avocado clocks in at 250 calories. Hot sauce like Cholula or Frank's Red Hot adds zero calories. Score.

So along with breakfast, I've also been eating cookies:

True story.
 
But seriously, I made these trail mix cookies from a paleo recipe website, cavegirl cuisine, and they are fantastic. As I've mentioned, I don't adhere to a paleo eating style, I just like to steal borrow their ideas. Not only are these cookies super yummy, they are packed with stuff that's good for you (walnuts, coconut flake, dark chocolate, sunflower seeds, dried fruit), and they are really easy to make. Observe:

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, make into balls, bake.
The only change I made to cavegirl's recipe is I used craisins instead of dried cherries. That's just what I had on hand. Oh, and I didn't have any raw honey left, so I used standard clover honey. But that's it. Here's what they look like:

 
 
See, they even look like they came from the paleolithic era, all scraggly and primitive. The cookies actually take a few days to fully firm up (although they will still be pretty soft and chewy), but they are damn good no matter when you eat them. When I made them I ended up with 18 cookies, each one clocking in at 135 calories, 10 grams carbs, 10 grams fat (4 saturated), and 2 grams protein. These make an awesome dessert or snack, and during this busy month, they were an easy go-to when I was hungry.

Last but not least, this month I participated in an online 30 day squat challenge through my fitness pal. Yes, I know, there are 31 days in March. I didn't quite get it either. Anyhoo, the challenge consisted of an increasing number of squats per day, in varying types (curtsy, prisoner squats, one legged, etc), with rest days every four days. The first day started with 50 squats, and by March 30th, I was supposed to do 250 squats. Confession: I made it to Day 13. And I'm really bummed (get it?). However, I fully intend to complete 230, squats tomorrow, 240 on Friday, rest Saturday, and 250 squats on Easter. Hey, completing half of a challenge is better than nothing right?  And with bikini season right around the corner, I am all about toning and firming my abs and glutes right now. If you're interested, here is a copy of the challenge. After all, who says you can't do it in April?

Day 1-50 squats
Day 2-55 squats
Day 3-60 squats (prisoner squats)
Day 4-Rest
Day 5-70 squats (curtsy squat)
Day 6-75 squats
Day 7-80 squats (Curtsy Squat Rear Leg Lift )
Day 8-Rest
Day 9-100 squats (freehand jump squats)
Day 10-105 squats
Day 11-110 squats (split squat jump)
Day 12-Rest
Day 13-130 squats (bench pistol squat)
Day 14-135 squats
Day 15- 140 squats (prisoner siff squat)
Day 16-Rest
Day 17-150 squats (sissy squat)
Day 18- 155 squats
Day 19- 160 squats (skater squat)
Day 20-Rest
Day 21- 180 squats (one legged squats)
Day 22- 185 squats
Day 23- 190 squats (side squats)
Day 24-Rest
Day 25- 220 squats (Hindu squats )
Day 26- 225 squats (Pop Squats)
Day 27- 230 squats (frog squat)
Day 28-Rest
Day 29- 240 squats (plie squat)
Day 30- 250 squats (16 of each squat done during the challenge)

(I had to look up most of the variations of squats online, there are plenty of pictures and videos for demonstrations)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Monday Meal Plan (March 4, 2013)

Look at me! Completing a Monday Meal Plan on a Monday! Let's get right to it, shall we?

The first thing I ate today was a cup of Kashi Go Lean Crunch with a cup of almond milk and some sliced strawberries. That's the only thing I don't have a picture of, I swear. I don't really wake up and begin to fully function until about 10 (ish), so pictures weren't really in the cards at 8 a.m.

Anywho, after I woke up a little more, I ate some of these little beauties:


The baker at my husband's restaurant brought in some eggs from her chickens. They were so pretty! And tasted awesome. Normally I would have eaten some egg whites scrambled with one whole egg but since these eggs were special, I didn't want to waste any of them. So I had two whole eggs scrambled with a little shredded cheddar and about a quarter cup black beans (rinsed and drained).

For lunch today, I made a hot open faced sandwich on a slice of toasted Ezekiel Bread, with ham, a slice of swiss, spicy brown mustard and a slice of pineapple:

I put the sandwich under the broiler for about three minutes to melt the cheese. Much healthier than making a buttery grilled cheese sandwich in a pan and still tasty.
Late afternoon/evening, I went to the gym. I'm doing a 30 day squat challenge for the month of March, and today was 60 squats. I also ran a mile on the treadmill, did 50 sit ups (incline and roman chair), and did two sets on each of the leg machines in the circuit. Before I went to the gym, I had a Larabar:


After the gym, I had a green smoothie, which I made with 1 cup spinach, 1/4 cup cooked quinoa, 1/2 cup blueberries, 1/3 of a frozen banana, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, and 1 cup home brewed green tea. The idea for this smoothie came from a recipe I found on Pinterest, but I added spinach and chia seeds to it. I have this idea in my head that I can add greens and chia seeds to any smoothie recipe I find and it will be even better for me and still taste great. Sometimes  it works out, sometimes it doesn't. I'll be honest, this smoothie wasn't out of this world. But it was a nice recovery drink after my workout none the less.

Ignore my smudgy microwave and ancient coffee pot.

This is what the smoothie looked like before I added the green tea and blended it all up. If you decide to make this smoothie, be warned, it will turn out more of a purple-gray color than green.

For dinner, I had about six ounces of oven roasted lean pork, and made another recipe I found on Pinterest: twice baked sweet potatoes with lime. The original recipe is from the blog Carrie's Experimental Kitchen, and can be found here. The combination of sweet potato and lime sounded a little strange but I like that sort of thing. The only change I made to the recipe was using regular shredded cheddar cheese because I didn't have any reduced fat cheese. I used one tablespoon of shredded cheddar for a whole potato. The flavors of the sweet potato and lime juice/zest were so strong I didn't taste any of the cheese, so next time I will probably just omit it. Here is what dinner looked like:

Not a very interesting plate, I know. The hubs drizzled honey over his pork, which really brought the flavors of the sweet potato and pork together. Have I mentioned he's a chef?
 
This day clocked in at 1,555 calories, 180 grams carbs, 56 grams fat, and 99 grams protein. If you are aiming for a lower calorie day, you could omit the cheese from the eggs and the potato. Or skip the Larabar. I ate one mainly as a little carb boost for my gym visit. And also because Larabars are freaking delicious.

Hope everyone has an amazing week. I'm off to unpack a few more boxes...


 
 
 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Quick and Easy Ham and Eggs

Not much time to devote to a blog post this evening so I am just going to share with you what I made for dinner. Last night's dinner was all about bacon, tonight's was all about eggs. Apparently I am craving breakfast.


I found this super easy, healthy, five ingredients or less recipe for Spicy Eggs in Ham Baskets on Pinterest and modified it just a little. The good news is this recipe is so simple it leaves tons of room for modifications and additions.  The original recipe can be found here. Here is how I made it:

12 large eggs
12 slices deli ham
Frank's Red Hot Sauce to taste
Fresh chopped basil to taste
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Spray a muffin pan with non stick spray and lay a piece of ham over each muffin opening. Place the muffin pan in the oven for five minutes. The ham will crisp up and turn into a little "basket". Crack one egg into each basket. For our family I used 9 whole eggs and three egg whites so that I could have four of these (3 whites, one whole), and the rest of the family could have theirs made with whole eggs.

After you crack the eggs into the baskets, pop the muffin tray back in the oven for another five minutes. Then turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees, and bake another five minutes. The original recipe states when you cook them this way, your eggs will still be a little runny, but mine came out about over medium, which I was fine with. Scoop the egg baskets out of the pan using a rubber spatula. They should come out easily. I garnished mine with salt, pepper, a few drops of Frank's Red Hot Sauce and some fresh chopped basil. They make a cute presentation and they are super tasty. You could also add a little cheese to these or some other herbs or some sliced jalapeños (which is what the original recipe calls for but I didn't have any).

I served these with a green salad and some fresh fruit.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Paleo Bacon Madness

 
Madness!
As I've mentioned before, I don't subscribe to any specific diet or style of eating, but I do like to steal borrow recipes and ideas from them as part of my own personal eating style. I figure certain eating styles must work well for people, otherwise they wouldn't be so popular. And although I won't commit wholy to any one "diet" or "lifestyle" (I refuse to completely cut out an entire group of food or carbs, etc.), I often find myself searching and making recipes by those who do. This usually includes the vegan lifestyle (some days I eat an entire vegan menu without even meaning to) and the Paleo diet/lifestyle. Today, I ended up making two Paleo recipes that both included BACON for dinner and dessert. And since I was too busy to post a Monday Meal Plan (shocking), I decided to share some of what I ate today with you, and I actually took pictures!

A friend of mine who is currently eating Paleo sent me a recipe a while back that sounded fantastic, and this week I finally remembered to buy all of the ingredients I needed to make it. The recipe comes from the PaleOMG blog and the original can be found here. I modified it a little, like I usually do. My friend made her version with turkey bacon, but I knew the hubs would never go for that. So I chose to use real bacon. Now, unlike my husband and most of America, I'm not a huge fan of bacon. I mean, it's okay, and I eat it on occasion. But I could really take it or leave it. I have to tell you though, the recipes I made tonight were so good, they might just have put bacon on the map for me.

So here are the details on dinner:


See that? It's roasted spaghetti squash. And it's delicious! I love using spaghetti squash in recipes that call for pasta. Although I usually replace about half of the pasta with squash, since this recipe is Paleo, that meant NO PASTA. But in this recipe, I didn't really miss it. Okay, so the first thing I did was cut the spaghetti squash in half and roast it, cut sides down on a cookie sheet, in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes. The original recipe said to roast for 20-25 minutes for a medium spaghetti squash, but my guy was pretty big. While the squash was roasting, I prepared the rest of the recipe:


That pretty package of bacon pictured at the top of this post got cut up into 1/2 inch pieces. The original recipe calls for a full pound of bacon, but I reserved three slices from the package for my dessert recipe. The original recipe also calls for uncured bacon, but I had regular bacon and used that. (Not sure if that makes my version of the recipe non-Paleo). I cooked the sliced bacon in a pan over medium heat. This recipe makes a crap ton of food, so you will want to use a large pan. I used a wok.

Once the bacon was cooked crispy, I removed it from the pan using a slotted spoon, and set it aside in a bowl. The original recipe states to then remove half of the bacon grease, and leave the rest in the pan. I dumped out about two-thirds of the bacon fat.


I threw three cloves garlic minced, and half of a yellow onion diced into the pan with the bacon fat, and cooked those until the onion turned translucent. (If you have any doubts about this recipe, the smell of garlic and onion cooking in bacon fat will clear those right up for you). Then I added a small jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained. The original recipe says to cut the artichokes into halves or quarters, but I cut them into thirds because I'm a rebel like that. I then added half a pound of chicken, diced (no picture on the chicken, sorry). The original recipe calls for a half pound of chicken tenders cooked into the recipe. I used about six ounces of the precooked stuff. I know, I know, GASP! Look, I don't always have a ton of time, and precooked chicken is okay in my book. If you buy it from a store like Trader Joe's or Sprouts, you end up with a little more sodium than if you cooked it yourself, and that's about it. Moving on...


Spaghetti squash was done and had cooled enough for me to handle. I scooped out the flesh of one half of the squash and threw that in the pan. This came out to about four cups of squash. Since my squash was so large, I decided to reserve the other half for lunch tomorrow. Then I added the cooked bacon back in and mixed it all up. Last, I turned the heat down to low, added about five cups of spinach, and cooked that until it started to wilt. This is the end result:

Nom, nom, nom, nom!!!
Not sure that the picture does this recipe justice, but like I said, it made a crap ton of food! FYI: I'm pretty sure I coined the term crap ton, just sayin'. Also, you can see a glimpse of my awesome new kitchen in the picture above. Swoon.

If you divide this recipe into six servings, each serving clocks in at 305 calories, 14 grams fat (4 saturated), 14 grams carbs, and 32 grams protein. I really liked this recipe. I added just a tiny bit of Spike seasoning and black pepper to my portion. The hubs liked it too, but thought it might be even better with some acidity, like some lemon juice or a tomato sauce. So I have some good ideas for next time...

Now let's get to the good stuff: dessert. I stumbled upon this recipe while bouncing around on some recipe blogs and it was so simple, I just had to make it. Four ingredients, all of which I already had? Sold.  The recipe comes from another Paleo recipe blog, http://civilizedcavemancooking.com/, and can be found here. I only made slight changes to this one because it was so simple. Here are the ingredients and measurements I used:

3 medium bananas
3 slices bacon cooked crispy (the original recipe calls for 4 slices)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
5 tablespoons almond butter (the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup)

The recipe also calls for a specific brand of chocolate chips, Enjoy Life. They are gluten free, grain free, soy free, nut free, dairy free, etc. They sound awesome, but I didn't have 'em. So I used regular old store brand semi-sweet chocolate chips. (Pretty sure this time that this definitely disqualifies my version of the recipe as Paleo). Anyway...


Slice the bacon into thirds (I did this before I cooked them). Slice the bananas into thirds, then slice the thirds in half. Spread each banana half with almond butter (about 1/2 tbsp for each pair), and place a slice of bacon in the middle. You should now have nine little banana almond butter bacon sandwiches. Place them on parchment paper and stick them in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Melt the chocolate chips over low heat. You can do this in a double broiler, but I did it in a small sauce pan. Just watch it, stir it, and remove it from the burner when the mixture is slightly lumpy. The remaining lumps will melt, but if you leave it on the burner until they do, the mixture will burn. Dip each frozen banana sandwich into the melted chocolate, and place them back on the parchment paper like so:

The bacon kind of looks like little tongues sticking out. Martha Stewart I am not.
The amount of chocolate is just enough to cover about half of each sandwich. Which was fine with me, because they are a little less messy to hold on the non-chocolate end. After you dip them, freeze them again until you are ready to eat, which for me was about five minutes. Here they are again:


And look, you can see apples and pears behind them. See, it's not all bacon at my house. These little babies clock in at 183 calories, 11 grams of fat (4 saturated), 23 grams carbs, and 3 grams protein per sandwich. And they are fantastic. The combination of textures and flavors in these is amazing. They are so good,  I didn't even mind eating a frozen treat while it's still so damn cold out.

So there you go, bacon and Paleo (sort of) dinner and dessert. And I still ate slightly less than my calorie goal today. And we have leftovers for tomorrow. Score!

What's your favorite bacon recipe?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cleaning out the Closets (A Week in Review)

http://loriportka.com/
So we are finally finished moving into our new home. Sort of. Mostly.

I still have to go back to the old house and yardsale all the stuff we left behind. And speaking of stuff we left behind: that's mostly what this post is about. I'm going to try to keep it short, mostly because I still have so much left to do with the unpacking and the sorting, and the picking up/dropping off children, and the grocery shopping, and on and on....

We chose to move for several reasons. And it was stressful. Really, really stressful. I posted about this a while back before we even started the official move, and as that day got closer, my anxiety and irritability, and awful eating habits just kept getting worse and worse. And I knew it, but I couldn't stop it.

And then something amazing happened. Last Sunday, when it was all said and done, my husband and I were standing around in our new living room, and we both realized (almost simultaneously) how relieved we were, on so many levels. And not relieved that the actual moving part was done (although we were), but relieved that we were in a new place, with new beginnings for our family. I had no clue the power of healing that could be found with a simple change in location and scenery. But it wasn't just that. It was what we left behind at the old place. I won't go into all the gory details, but so much of what our old home held was broken, both literally and figuratively. And that "busy" word I use so much, was mostly just a euphemism for stressed the hell out. But I don't think my husband or I quite realized the full extent of it until we finally moved on, literally and figuratively. And now I feel hope again, and I feel like I can relax (a little), and just enjoy my home and my family. Now we can begin to resemble a "real" or "normal" family again, without all the stress and heaviness we used to feel. We are healing, and I will never, ever, let myself or us go back to what we were. Like the picture above says, I am choosing to live a life I love, from now .

Now on to a few other tidbits from the week. I didn't get to post a Meal Plan Monday due to the move. Plus I was so off track with eating, it would have been inappropriate to list almost anything I ate on this, my "healthy" blog. But I am back on track now.  Back to the GYM (so happy!).

I'm on the left. Check out my girl Rosemary's guns!
And I am back to logging on my fitness pal, back to cooking and eating meals at home, and back to posting here. All very, very good things. And since Meal Plan Monday was a bust this week, here are just a few good things I ate (sorry, no pretty pictures):

Breakfast: Two multigrain waffles topped with 1/4 cup lowfat cottage cheese and sliced strawberries

Recovery Green Smoothie (after the gym):  1 cup almond milk, 1/2 of a gala apple chopped, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1/2 medium banana, 1/2 cup nonfat vanilla greek yogurt, 1/2 cup orange juice with calcium, 1 cup kale

Lunch: Lunch has been mainly sandwiches this week, roast beef or ham on cracked wheat sourdough bread with asiago cheese and mustard. (Unfortunately, all of these items register high on the sodium meter, so I know I will have to make some changes there). I usually have my sandwiches with grape tomatoes or other crunchy veggies on the side for some texture and to circumvent my chip craving that comes with sandwich consumption :)

Dinner: We have taco night once a week at our house. It's tradition. Tacos in our house are not fancy. They are made with ground beef (93% lean), and premade taco shells. Deal with it. But most of the time, I also make pumpkin black bean poblano tacos for myself (the kids and hubby don't care for them and that's okay). This week I also made guacamole using my bestie's recipe which clocks in at about 90 calories per serving, and had that with some Garden of Eatin' gluten free organic blue corn chips. Delish.

Well, I am off to make a snack and then organize my new closet. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Meal Plan Monday

Since my last post was a bit of a downer, I decided to share with you a good day for me from last week. I am hoping to do this every Monday as a series: pick my favorite day of the week eatingwise and share it with you. I say hoping because, well, you know, I'm busy. So here is what my best day looked like last week:


Breakfast: This my friends, is what I refer to as a "bowl of goodness". I stole that name from a website I can't recall at this very moment, and probably could google to figure it out and give them credit, but I need to finish this post so I can get to bed. Anywho, a bowl of goodness for me always starts with oatmeal. Then I just throw in a bunch of yummy, healthy, reasonably sized portions of good stuff and mix it all up into a hot mess. (The picture above was taken pre-hot mess). This particular bowl consisted of a half cup of rolled oats cooked in half of a cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, half a cup water, and a teaspoon of homemade Indonesian vanilla extract we got from my mother-in-law for Christmas. Then I added two teaspoons of Better N' Peanut Butter (lower sodium and fat than regular peanut butter and still tastes great), a heaping tablespoon of nonfat vanilla greek yogurt, half a tablespoon of chia seeds (great source of fiber), 1/8 cup raisins, 1/4 cup blackberries, and half of a tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder. It was the bomb. I also had a cup of black coffee.

I normally have a snack mid-morning, but I was still really full from my bowl of goodness, so I ended up foregoing the snack. Then came lunch:


Lunch consisted of a curry chicken salad sandwich on toasted Ezekiel sprouted grain bread (a low glycemic product I love, but to me it only tastes good toasted). The chicken salad recipe I used was a hybrid made from two sources: the cookbook Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, and a "super foods" diet plan published in Self Magazine. I combined the two to make up my own recipe mainly because Skinny Bitch's recipe (like all of their recipes) is vegan (as in vegan mayonnaise and fake chicken).  I have no problem with vegan mayo on principle, but it's not for me. And Self Magazine's recipe wasn't very complex (i.e. not that flavorful). So here is my adapted/hybrid chicken salad recipe:

Chunky Curry Chicken Salad

2/3 cup chicken breast, cooked and chopped (if you are pressed for time, use the precooked stuff)
1 tbsp canola mayonnaise (I used Best Foods brand)
1 tbsp plain nonfat greek yogurt
1/2 tsp curry powder
Dash of ground black pepper to taste
1 to 2 tsp raw lemon juice to taste
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 cup red seedless grapes, halved or quarted depending on size

Combine the mayo, yogurt, spices, and lemon juice in a bowl. Fold in the chicken, grapes, and celery. In case you were wondering, according to Self Magazine, the curry and grapes are what qualifies this recipe as "super".  I also had a fuji apple and home brewed green tea with lemon juice with my sandwich. And yes, the sandwich is on a skull and crossbones plate. We have a full set.

Mid-Afternoon: I had a green smoothie which I made using my go to recipe, minus chia seeds since I had already had some with breakfast: 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 1 tablespoon almond butter, half of a frozen banana, 1 cup spinach, and 1 scoop protein powder (I used Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein). I added the protein powder because I was going to my daughter's basketball game and knew I was going to end up eating a late dinner. The added protein helped me feel full until then. Sorry, no picture for the smoothie. BUT, I also had this:


Two squares of dark chocolate. I actually had this before the smoothie, around 2:30, when I got a hankering for something sweet. I had the smoothie around 4:00, right before I left for the basketball game.

Dinner: Again, no picture for this meal but that was mainly due to the fact that it was kind of late by the time I cooked it (about 7:00), and I didn't feel like waiting any longer to eat. I had "brinner" (breakfast for dinner). I scrambled three egg whites and one whole egg with a quarter cup of black beans (drained and rinsed) in a pan with Emeril's brand nonstick canola oil spray, and topped that with a third of an avocado chopped, and some Cholula hot sauce. Delicious! I finished the night with some chai tea. Black tea is warming, and I needed it. It's been so damn cold this winter!

The whole day clocked in at 1409 calories, 169 grams of carbs (my exact allowance for carbs), 47 grams of fat, 95 grams of protein (one gram over my daily goal), and 40 grams of fiber (23 grams over my daily goal!) Like I've mentioned, I just love it when my numbers add up. And extra protein and fiber is always a good thing in my world.

I didn't work out on this day, but if I had, I would have added in some more calories. I usually aim to eat back about half of the calories I burn when I work out. I got this idea from an article in an athletic magazine that reported most online calculators overestimate the number of calories burned through various activities. The article stated unless you wear a heart monitor, your total calories burned through may be a lot lower than you think. Since I don't have a heart monitor (yet-fingers crossed for my birthday), I use the "half formula", rather than eating back all of the calories I think I burned. Just the way I do it.

So there it is: my first addition of Meal Plan Monday. Hope you enjoyed it. What did you eat on your best day this week?


Saturday, February 9, 2013

The "B" in Busy

This is me right now. In squirrel form.
We're moving. And I couldn't be more excited about that fact. Moving means I will no longer have to drive my daughter an hour each way to school. Moving means my best friend's house will be about eight minutes away. Moving means I get to decorate a whole new place. And go to Costco and stock up on a bunch of stuff for my pantry. I have never had this much cabinet space in my life! So by all rights, I should be in a pretty decent mood right?

But I'm not.

I'm irritable. I'm incredibly short with my kids, the dog, cashiers, strangers... In short, cover your virgin ears (or eyes?): I'm a real bitch right now.

And I'm overwhelmed by the simplest of tasks. The thought of having to forward my mail feels like someone expecting me to rebuild a car engine. Nearly every time I start to pack a box, my three year old runs into the room and promptly begins unpacking it. And this might sound like a cute little anecdote, but it literally makes me sit down on the floor and well up with tears, as if my three year old and I are in fact, the same age. 

See, my husband, like me, is also busy. His restaurant (shameless plug) is doing really well, which means he's working a lot. And being married to a chef, that comes with the territory. I know that. I've always known that. And he is helping as much as he can with the move. But I still feel so helpless. Like a helpless little child who can barely tie her own shoes. Which is so not me. And that's making me irritable. And short with the kids, the dog, cashiers, strangers....

And to add a little fun to the mix, I've started eating my feelings. I stole that term from the movie Mean Girls, but it's absolutely true. For months now, I've been on track, eating well and feeling good. Then the whole moving thing started, and this happened:

Yup, it's another squirrel picture. Deal with it.
It all started at Trader Joe's. (I heart TJs so hard). I went in for milk, almond and cow. That's all I needed. But then I thought, I should grab some more spinach for my green smoothies. (I haven't made a single one since I bought the spinach). And then I grabbed some strawberries, mini heirloom tomatoes, Larabars (do yourself a favor: go out right after you read this and buy a Cherry Pie Larabar), and some spicy california rolls. And then the three year old noticed the special bakery table set up for Valentine's Day. There were heart shaped cookies, and whoopie pies, and gluten free flourless cakes (which is what I normally would have purchased, if anything). But then the three year old found them: Triple. Chocolate. Bundt Cakes. A pack of four of them. And she insisted, in her typically calm, rational manner, that I buy them. Remember how I mentioned I'm easily overwhelmed right now? I bought them. And we got them home and I looked at the nutrition information on the bottom of the package. And then I laughed, and laughed, and laughed. A half of one of those chocolate glazed, chocolate cakes rolled in chocolate chips, is 340 calories. And a ridiculous number of grams of fat and carbs that I'm not even going to bother to list.

Now, under normal circumstances, I can resist the urge to eat a triple chocolate bundt cake. In fact, lately, after my no sugar challenge, I don't even have the urge to eat things like triple chocolate bundt cake. But right now I'm all like:

Last one, I promise.
After a little counseling/assurance from my bestie that it would all be okay, I ate half of a triple chocolate bundt cake. And it was damn good. And I didn't feel that bad about it. And then the next day at lunch, I had some french fries and a sugary delicious Eegee's frozen slushy drink. And I still didn't feel all that bad, because I was celebrating my move. So it was okay. But later that day, I had both kids with me, and we had spent the day driving across town, moving boxes. And my mom came to see the new place and I was celebrating again. And the kids needed to eat. So we went out for pizza. And spinach artichoke dip. And hot wings. Damnit.

Today, I woke up with a renewed spirit. I had a cup of multi grain peanut butter cheerios with almond milk, coffee, and four ounces of orange juice for breakfast. And I felt good. And then I started packing boxes. And my three year old began unpacking them. And my teenager, who was supposed to be distracting the three year old, spent most of the morning complaining because I would not allow her to go to her friend's house. And then I discovered that at some point, the dog had urinated all over the three year old's toys. The same toys I was attempting to pack into boxes. And then the three year old started to sob, loudly, and inconsolably, because she couldn't put a puzzle together, and eventually I just decided I hate today. So we went to a fast food restaurant where my three year old could run around and burn off some energy (I know I'm in Arizona, but it's too damn cold right now to go to a park), and I ate a cheeseburger and fries.

Oh, and have I mentioned in the midst of all this, that I haven't had any time or desire to exercise? Yes, I know, moving is a physical activity. Believe me, I'm logging it as such on my fitness pal. But I haven't had the time or energy to go to my beloved boot camp class at the gym, or yoga, or even just go for a run, which are all a part of my normal week. And it's making me irritable. And short with the kids, the dog, cashiers, strangers....

So here is what I've decided: this stops now. I am going to get back on track, now. And I am going to be nicer to my kids, the dog, cashiers, strangers, and possibly my husband. Just kidding honey. But I am resolved to put an end to the season of the bitch. And to start eating like I know I should, and to make time to get my workouts in. Because it's all a cycle, I know that all too well. I know that if I eat right and exercise, I won't be so stressed, and overwhelmed. And then I can focus on all the positives of moving. Which is what I should be doing, and what I want to be doing. And those three chocolate bundt cakes on my kitchen counter? They'll be joining all the other stuff in the old house I secretly got rid of when the three year old wasn't paying attention.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sunday Morning Pancakes

www.carlemuseum.org
I am not afraid of carbs. That may be obvious given that my first recipe post on this blog was for zucchini bread, and the second is for pancakes. My philosophy when it comes to carbs is moderation and portion control. I don't shy away from pasta, bread, rice, waffles, muffins, or pancakes. I just eat reasonable portion sizes, and always try to accompany them with some veggies and fruit.

Recently, I rediscovered a cookbook my mom bought me for Christmas about five years ago, Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld. I was super excited about the book because at the time, my older daughter was nine, and refused to eat a single vegetable, except lettuce, and only if it was smothered in ranch dressing. The cookbook is made for people who want to sneak vegetables into their kids' food, and I couldn't wait to try the recipes. But then I opened the book and was a little disappointed. Several of the recipes called for "trans-fat free soft tub margarine spread". I'm married to a chef. We don't do margarine in my house. And I hate to say that because I sound so snotty but it's one of the few things that I just refuse to eat. I was also overwhelmed by the book, because almost all of the recipes incorporate vegetable purees, which she suggests making and freezing ahead of time to use as needed. At this point in my life, that doesn't sound so daunting. But five years ago, the thought of it literally made me give up and put the book on my kitchen shelf to collect dust.

And there it stayed, until about six months ago, when I finally realized that making vegetable purees was not rocket science and I could easily just make a few at a time for recipes I wanted to make that same day or the next. I realized, albeit five years later, that I didn't have to follow her system of making a ton of purees and I could use butter instead of margarine. Sounds simple right? I just needed to do it my own way. But for years, I couldn't.

Confession time: I am a rule follower. Big time. The thought of doing something different than the way I was told used to practically paralyze me with anxiety.  I don't know exactly why, and most of me thinks I shouldn't delve too deep into it. The point is, until recently, I was genuinely unable to comfortably modify recipes or think outside the box, at all, when it came to cooking. But then I had a break through, and I'm so glad I did. Because it opened up the possibility for me to make and eat things that I love, while still maintaining a (mostly) healthy style of eating.

Sundays are my favorite day to cook because I can take my time, and make recipes that I don't usually have time for during the busy week. This is especially true for mornings. Most mornings I end up eating breakfast at work. I'm the first one out of the house in the morning and I'm always in a rush, even if I somehow manage to wake up early. It's Murphy's Law. And I don't particularly like eating first thing in the morning anyway. I like to wake up a bit first. So when I go to the office, I pack my entire day's worth of meals and snacks, including breakfast. My older daughter typically eats breakfast at school, and the little one eats with my hubby before he takes her to preschool. So it's rare that we even get to eat breakfast as a family. But Sundays are different.

For a long time I made scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast on Sundays. My older daughter and I would have turkey bacon, and the hubby and little one would eat the real stuff (and whatever was left of the turkey bacon). We would have toast, and fruit, coffee, and juice, and sometimes I would make pancakes. But they were never really that good. So they felt like a waste of time. And I hate to waste my time.

Then a few weeks ago, I was flipping through Jessica Seinfeld's book, and found a recipe for pancakes made with sweet potato puree. It just so happened I had some sweet potatoes on hand, so on Friday I roasted and pureed them, and stuck the puree in the fridge for Sunday. And then I remembered I had a pancake mold! My aunt used to sell Pampered Chef (remember them?) and I have had this teddy bear shaped pancake mold for 15 years, and never opened it. Ridiculous. But I just never do Martha Stewart/Pinterest stuff like that. So I spent all weekend anxiously waiting to make Sunday morning bear shaped pancakes. And I just knew my three year old would be equally as excited about them. Here is the recipe I used:

1 cup water
1/2 cup sweet potato puree
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup Krusteaz Heart Healthy Buttermilk Pancake Mix
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (for the pan)

Makes 4 servings

Mix all ingredients except the oil together. Mixture will be lumpy. Set a griddle or pan over medium heat and add the oil. When the pan is hot, pour pancake batter by 1/4 cup full onto griddle or pan for each pancake. You should end up with eight pancakes.

Each serving (2 pancakes) clocks in at 153 calories, 25 grams carbs, 5 grams fat, 4 grams protein, and 2 grams fiber. And they taste soooooo good. The sweet potato kinda makes them a little crunchy and a beautiful orange color. And the cinnamon and sweet potato together make them sweet, even without syrup.

Sunday came and I spent all morning doing this:

Look at the poor little guy on the upper right, he's got some sort of a growth.


Supposedly, if you turn the bears upside down, they can be rabbits too. Minus the ears, I didn't see it. I finally finished all the bears and proudly presented them to the little one. And she immediately began to cry. What the what?! I was so confused. "Honey, what's wrong?" I pleaded, my heart dropping into my feet.  "Maaaaaaama! You were supposed to make Christmas pancakes!" she responded. I get a lot of "supposed to" at home. I like to think that my daughter believes we are so bonded, we must share thoughts, which is both adorable and infuriating all at the same time. But I came up with a solution anyway.

She handed me the Christmas shaped cookie cutters, still left out from December, (busy, I am busy), and I proceeded to cut a stocking, santa, star, and angel shape out of my beautiful bears. I would show you a picture of what those pancakes looked like, but the little one promptly devoured them once they were the correct shapes.

But here is what mine looked like:

Topped with homemade chocolate almond butter and sliced banana and strawberries. Because that's how I roll.
 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Bikini Bread


My three year old loves the color green. Everything has to be green. Her hair bows, her halloween treat bucket (yes, I found a green pumpkin bucket-thank you Target), her favorite sweatshirt, the magnet she recently swiped from preschool and then proudly showed me in the car (we're returning it on Monday). So when she saw me making bread with little green bits in it, she was super excited. The conversation went like this:

"Oh mama, can I please have some of that green bread?"
"Of course you can baby. This bread is called zucchini bread."
"Oh mama, can I please have some of that bikini bread?"

And the name stuck. It was too darn cute not to. Plus, you can eat this bread and still fit into your bikini this summer! Look at me. I'm so clever.

I made this bread because my mother-in-law has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment, and I wanted to bring her something satisfying that she could just eat, without having to fuss with it. The recipe I used makes two loaves, so I sliced one up and wrapped individual portions for her, and kept the other loaf for our family. She liked it so much, I'm going to make another batch and give her both loaves, but slice and freeze the second one.

The recipe I adapted for this bread comes from the cookbook "The Everything Cookbook". It was published in 2000 and is a part of the "Everything" series of books that simplifies things for people (similar to the "XYZ for Dummies" books). I like the book because the recipes are just that, simple. And it feels like the authors who put the book together tried to do so with some healthy considerations. You can find the book available for sale super cheap here. I wish I could tell you that while making this recipe I took a bunch of photojournalistic style pictures of the process, but I didn't. My kitchen was a disaster and I don't need pictures of that floating all over the interweb. Hey, I'm busy, remember?

Here is the recipe I used:

3 eggs
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup 100% apple sauce (the original recipe calls for 1 cup oil, but I replaced half the oil with the  apple sauce)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups grated, unpeeled zucchini, loosely packed (works out to about 2 1/2 zucchini)
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (you can also use whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

*The original recipe also calls for 1 cup chopped walnuts. Although I love walnuts, and they are a source of "good fat", I ommitted them in order to cut down on the total fat and calories of the recipe.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two loaf pans with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy (that's the everything cookbook's word, not mine). Beat in sugar, oil, apple sauce, and vanilla. Stir in zucchini. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir the dry ingredients into the zucchini batter. Pour mixture into loaf pans (as evenly divided as possible) and bake 40 minutes (or until the center of the bread springs back when lightly touched).

Let cool about 10 minutes before cutting. I cut each loaf into eight pieces.

I did manage to get this picture and the one above. Look at those tasty green bits! And my grandmother's beautiful antique plate!

If you make the recipe according to the directions above, each piece clocks in at 206 calories, with 31 grams of carbs (obviously not a low carb recipe, but you knew that), 8 grams of fat, 3 grams of protein, and 1 gram of fiber.

The apple sauce makes this recipe so moist and sweet. In the past I would have slathered a piece of bread like this with butter but you don't need to! It's fantastic on it's own. And you'll have a loaf to give to a family member or friend too - if you want to. If not, you can always slice and freeze the other loaf, then pull individual slices out and microwave them about 30 seconds. Enjoy!

My So Called Sugar Free Life




The good stuff

This is a post I've been wanting to write since the inception of this blog, but as I said in my last post, there's a reason why the first word in the title of the blog is "busy". Anywho, here goes. Last month I did something I never thought I'd do. Something big. And a little crazy.

I quit sugar.

No more of these:

Lofthouse frosted sugar cookies. So. Good.






Or any of these:
 
You mean, not even honey?? Or agave? Or Stevia???
 



That's right. No sugar, and no sugar substitutes. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
 
Now when I say I quit sugar, I don't mean, I quit sugar forever. I don't even mean I quit sugar for a year, or a seemingly significant amount of time. I quit sugar for exactly two weeks. Two LONG weeks. And I purposely chose to start this challenge after the holidays (I started January second), and after my, ahem, monthly visitor. Mama knows not to set herself up for failure, thank you very much.
 
This was something I had wanted to do for a long time but had never had the, for lack of a better word, balls to do so. I admit it: I was scared. How could I live without any sugar or at least a substitute for an extended period of time? I was going to have to change my entire way of life. And to be honest, I'm not even that much of a sweets kinda gal. With the exception of cake, particularly birthday cake, you know, the sheet kind with the buttercream frosting (I've been known to buy the birthday cakes for one they sell in the grocery store), and those Lofthouse cookies above, there really aren't many sugary treats in the world that I can't easily turn down or cut out of my life entirely. Except maybe Mint Milanos. Okay, add that to the list. But other than that...
 
The reason I was scared is because I knew that sugar, and sugar substitutes were in so many things that I regularly consumed. For instance, honey. I love honey in my tea. Especially chai tea. Chai tea with honey and a little almond milk is the way I wrap up most of my nights at home, before drifting off to a blissful, warm, belly full of milk and honey dream state. I also use honey or agave in some of my green smoothies, or mix them in with yogurt and fruit and walnuts. Delicious! Stevia is not a huge part of my diet, but I do like to use their flavored drops to mix with seltzer water or use in my coffee on occasion. And speaking of coffee, that's kind of what started the madness.
 
I don't usually make New Year's resolutions, but this year I made a small one. I wanted to quit using flavored creamer in my coffee. I know, I know, first world problems. But I really did want to quit them. I have had a love affair with flavored creamers for years. So much so, that when the seasonal flavors come out for winter - pumpkin, peppermint mocha, etc.,  I call up my mom and BFF to let them know which ones are out and which ones I bought. Then they tell me which ones they found and I inevitably go out and buy those flavors too. Eggnog. Salted Caramel. I'm salavating as I type. Anyway, I wanted to quit the coffee creamers because they were really messing with my fat and sugar goals. I'm a borderline obsessed user of my fitness pal (in a good way) and I just love it when all my numbers line up. So I was consistently frustrated when my daily goals for fat and sugar intake were just over the mark and I could look right at my food diary and pinpoint the fact that if I just hadn't had that cup of coffee with creamer at breakfast (and mid-morning), the little numbers would have been perfect! Yes, I am a numbers dork. I will own that. I just wished I knew how to quit the creamers (insert Brokeback Mountain joke here). And then I saw it: "The No Sugar Challenge".
 
The plan I followed can be found here. I also kept a daily blog on my fitness pal during my two weeks which can be found here. Since this post has already gotten a little wordy for my taste, I will do my best to summarize what I learned. First and foremost, there is sugar in everything. Everything that comes in a package or can or jar contains sugar or a sugar substitute (of which there are multiple names I can't always pronounce). Whether it belongs there or not, it's there. For instance, in turkey bacon. Why? And in almond butter (unless you buy the raw variety, which I ended up doing). And in roasted red peppers and chewable vitamin C tablets, and on and on. Now, you may be thinking, duh! But I was genuinely surprised by this. I expected to find it in all the cereals, and breads and protein bars, but not my beloved turkey bacon! You may also be saying, in your snide little way, "then don't eat processed food". And the truth is, I don't eat that much processed food. But again, I am a busy wife and mom, and sometimes, I make quinoa from a package. And I don't always roast my own red peppers. And I eat bread, and not always Ezekiel Bread, which is the only brand I found without sugar. Bottom line: a sugar free diet is more limiting than I imagined, and that may be why people have a lot of success losing weight with these types of plans. They're pretty darn restrictive.
 
I also learned that if you are planning to eat sugar free, don't plan to eat out. At all. Again, I don't eat out all that much. But it does happen. And it happened when I participated in the no sugar challenge. If I had planned better, I would have eaten something at home before we went out or brought myself a snack. But for some reason I didn't on these occasions. And I am a borderline obsessed planner (in a good way), particularly when it comes to eating. But there were a couple times it just didn't happen: once at a Bruegger's Bagels we stopped at after my daughter got her braces removed and was "starving"; and once at the mall, where we went on a cold rainy day out of desperation to let my little one burn off some energy at the little play area. Both times, my hunt for a sugar free option did not go well. When you ask cashier's at fast food restaurants what they have on the menu with no sugar, they look at you like you have two heads. Or like you are the most annoying person on earth. They're happy to tell you about their gluten free options. But I actually had one woman tell me (unapologetically) that she flat out could not tell me what did and did not contain sugar on the menu. At Bruegger's, I ended up ordering a spinach and ham omelet bagel sandwich, and gave the bagel to the little one. At the mall, I finally found chicken street tacos at Rubio's (the fish tacos had sugar). And yes, if I had a smarty smart phone, I probably could have looked up menus myself, but I have a blackberry. Nuff said.
 
Overall though, the benefits of the no sugar challenge far outweighed the pains of having to become a neurotic label checker and deal with lackluster service at food joints. For instance, I feel like my taste buds have been reset, so to speak. Before the challenge, I read that by cutting out sugar for even two weeks, your taste buds would learn to better detect the natural sweetness in foods. And it's totally true! I don't need honey or agave in my yogurt anymore. Just fruit. And sometimes a little vanilla bean powder, which is an amazing little product I discovered during the challenge (you can find it in bulk food sections of health food stores). And raw almond butter is just as good on toast as the kind that's sweetened with organic cane syrup. I don't need sugar or sugar substitutes like I thought I did. And while I was doing the challenge, a woman I take a boot camp class with at the gym actually told me "you look healthier, your eyes look brighter, it's amazing!" And I had sooooo much energy. The first few days were a little rough and I was irritable. But my energy levels were incredible and I never crashed. I almost always crash in the afternoon. But once I removed sugar from my body, it just didn't happen anymore.
 
Alright, I'm getting the signal to wrap it up...
 
I highly recommend participating in a no sugar challenge. It was a great learning experience and I am still eating far less sugar than I was before. But I have to admit, when it was over, I couldn't wait to eat something... anything, with a little sweetener in it. The first thing I ate: a homemade dark chocolate peanut butter muffin made with honey. And it wasn't nearly as satisfying as I had hoped. Since the challenge, I have elected to choose a few days a week where I eat sugar free. I initially thought I could keep up with eating sugar free most of the week, and limit my sugar and sugar substitute consumption to weekends. That didn't work out so well. BUT, I am still off the flavored creamer wagon! Or is it on the wagon? Anyway, I don't buy it or drink it (often). Since the challenge, I have used flavored exactly creamer twice, when I had coffee on the way to, and just before I ran in The Color Run. But all of the other coffee in my system has gone in black. That's right, I drink black coffee now. Like a man. Who am I???

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Color Run! (Why You Should Run a 5K)



See this? It's a picture of me, my BFF, her hubby, and our friend, soaked in rain, a little muddy, and of course, full of COLOR! This was taken last Saturday, just after we ran in The Color Run 5K held in Tempe, Arizona. If you don't know about The Color Run, check it out here: http://thecolorrun.com/
I love the picture above in particular because it shows the contrast of just how gray the skies were that day as we ran in the rain, being pelted by clouds of brightly colored powder along the way, much like this:

This was only my second 5K and I ran nearly the entire way! I felt so amazing at the end and despite being concerned at first about the rain, I actually loved that added element. There was just something about running in the rain, through puddles and mud, in between people clad in ponchos squirting (and sometimes just plain dumping) vibrant colored, sweet smelling corn starch that nourished the eight year old girl in me and made my feet feel somehow lighter.

I ran my first 5K (also with my BFF) for My Team Triumph in September of last year. (More about that organization here: http://www.mtt-az.org/) The race was timed (unlike the Color Run) and I really wanted to do well because we ran as a team. It was super exciting because it was my first 5K and it was for such an important and amazing cause. I walked about a third of the way and ran the rest. The feeling of crossing that finish line was incredible, and I was hooked. I promptly decided I was going to find as many 5K races as I could and set a goal to eventually run one the entire way (this was a big goal for me because I am not a runner, at all).

Then, reality set in. I realized I was still a busy wife, mother, full time employee, and that there are also fees associated with nearly every race, fun run, walk, or other similar event. No matter how badly I wanted to participate in the Susan G. Komen race, the "Tough Mudder" or the local half marathon (insert wild laughter here), I didn't know how I was going to find the time, or the money.

Then in October, the BFF reminded me about The Color Run. It wasn't scheduled until January, and as long as we registered before the end of the month, the fee was reasonable. I was sold. I hopped on the computer, punched in my credit card number, and waited. For three months, I waited. The night before the event, we all drove up to Tempe and stayed in a hotel. It was that, or wake up around 5 a.m. and drive two hours before running. No thanks. This is us "preparing" for The Color Run:

(BFF's hubby ended up with my red shades at the actual run)

(Yes, I did wear rainbow socks and a sweat band)
(This photo is from the BFF's blog: http://mommacandy.com/, where you can also read about the experience)
 
I was so excited I could hardly sleep. The oddly overheated hotel room and not sleeping in my own bed didn't help either. But I didn't care. At 6 a.m. I woke up and wasn't my usual, ahem, morning self. I was happy. And energized. And ready to get dressed, get breakfast, and get to that starting line. Then I heard it. The pelting on the window. The weather man on the television, explaining that, yes, as we had heard it might, it was in fact, raining. This was going to be interesting...
 
 
We went downstairs and found several others dressed like us, some also in tutus (super jealous), eating breakfast and occasionally checking to make sure that yes, the rain was still coming down. I had a yummy bowl of oatmeal with peanut butter, raisins, walnuts, and banana slices. Awesome carbs and protein combination to fuel up for a wet run! Despite watching a few people come back from the starting line muttering about how "horrible it was out there" we climbed into the shuttle and headed out. The rest is history. I came, I ran, I conquered. And at the end of the race, there was a huge, crazy, color throwing party, complete with a DJ and tons of muddy, color streaked, gleeful, crazy people just like us. And all before 9 a.m. Here's another post-run picture, courtesy of http://mommacandy.com/:
 
 
Whether you choose to participate in a crazy event like The Color Run, or a simple fun run, get out there and run a 5K! I say run, but if you can't run, walk it, and run whatever you can. The feeling of accomplishment and giddiness that comes from crossing a finish line after those 3.1 miles is something I wish I could bottle and sell. But since I can't, go out there and get it for yourself. You won't be sorry. Our little foursome has already committed to doing The Color Run every year from now on. But before then, I will still be on the hunt for my next 5K, even if I can only sneak one more in this year. And for the record, the race took place Saturday, it is now Tuesday, and not only am I just getting to posting about this, but I also just barely got my shoes clean from all the color (there's still some in my hair). There's a reason the first word in the name of this blog is "busy".  Good night!
 

 


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why You Should Drink Green Smoothies



Okay, okay, stay with me, you've made it this far! I realize that to a lot of people, the thought of drinking a green(ish) drink is less than appealing. And you might look at the picture above and think, there is no way I want to stick a straw in that and guzzle it down. But here's the thing: green smoothies can and do taste really good!! And the benefits of drinking green smoothies are awesome. Drinking one nutrient dense smoothie every day can help drastically reduce sugar cravings and improve fiber intake, which helps promote weight loss/weight management. For more examples of green smoothie benefits, click here: http://greensmoothiesblog.com/health-benefits-green-smoothie/

I drink a green smoothie every day. Without fail. While I am not even close to certified in... well, anything, I can give you my own personal, albeit anecdotal, opinion: they work. Once I incorporated a green smoothie into my daily routine, I had tons more energy, felt fuller throughout the day, and had less sugar cravings. Now here are some reasons why, even if you're a busy lady like myself, you CAN make them part of your routine too:

1. They're easy to make and clean up. All you need is a blender, some fruits, green veggies, liquid (if you want a thinner smoothie) and ice (and that's optional, I don't use ice in winter). Blend everything up and rinse out the blender. Done.

2. There are about a gazillion smoothie recipes out there, so you won't get bored. Just google "green smoothie" or "green monster smoothie". Also, see below for links to some of my favorites.

3. You can make them ahead. So many people tell me, "I don't have time to make a smoothie every day" or "I wanted to make one, but the day just got away from me". And I tell them: make your smoothie at night, before you go to bed, and pour it into an airtight container (I use a canning jar). The next morning, pull it out, shake it up, and guzzle. Or, you can even take it with you to work and save it for a mid-morning snack like I often do.

4. Kids like them too. Because they taste good. Really, I swear! So you can double a recipe and share with your kids or hubby and maybe help them make better choices too. Win, win. If your kids are reluctant to try them at first, you can start by adding just one or two spinach leaves or pieces of kale to the first smoothie, and gradually increasing the amount each day or each week. Baby steps.

My go to Green Smoothie recipe can be found here: http://greenmonstermovement.com/ along with tons of reader recipes for green smoothies. When I make it, I use:

1 banana (frozen)
1 cup vanilla almond milk, unsweetened
1 tbsp chia seeds
2 handfuls (about a cup each) spinach
1 tbsp raw almond butter (you don't have to use raw, it's easier to find the no stir kind, but it contains sugar)
Protein powder (optional, I add this to my smoothie if I am going to drink it before or after a workout, or if want to use my smoothie to replace a meal)

Here is a link to the protein powder I use: http://www.gardenoflife.com/Products-for-Life/Foundational-Nutrition/RAW-Protein.aspx

Other links for green smoothie recipes I love:

http://www.thegraciouspantry.com/clean-eating-green-tea-mango-smoothie-for-the-no-sugar-challenge/

http://foodbabe.com/2011/11/02/the-hari-shake-a-poem/


You will notice when you start to look up green smoothie recipes that everyone has their own special blending instructions. I will be honest with you, I don't follow them. I just combine everything and blend until smooth. Done. But it does help to put the ingredients in the blender in a certain order, especially if your blender is not that powerful. The order I use is:

Liquid
Fruit
Yogurts and/or butters (such as almond butter or protein powder-if using)
Greens
Frozen fruit and/or ice

If I am adding protein powder, I blend everything else first and then add the protein powder at the end and blend a little more.

Other tips:

If your recipe calls for banana, go with a frozen banana. They make the smoothie taste creamier and more like a shake, which is nice on days when you might be craving that sort of thing. I take bananas, peel them, break them in half, and freeze in plastic bags every week so that I always have them on hand.

If a recipe calls for something you don't have, just omit it (unless it's greens), or replace it with something else. There's no exact science to this! Experiment with combinations. Add stuff you like to existing recipes. And if there is an ingredient you don't have, but have also never tried, like chia seeds for instance, maybe go buy some and try something new too.

If you end up drinking your green smoothie in a public place, like work or school, ignore those who may give you funny looks or make snarky comments. People are idiots. Don't let that deter you from doing something great for yourself! Even if it's your own friends or family members.

DISCLAIMER: Lastly, I want to be sure that anyone reading this knows: I don't advocate for any kind of juice cleanses, or all smoothie diets, or anything of the kind. What I recommend to people is to simply add one green smoothie per day to an existing diet. That's what works for me and I hope it will work for you too.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Baby Steps

That's my "baby", who is now three, eating an apple in the middle of an orchard in Willcox, Arizona.

I am nearly finished with a two week "no sugar challenge" (that post is forthcoming), and as much as I thought I knew about checking labels, I had absolutely no idea how many products out there contain sugar, even when there is seemingly no reason they should. As a result of this, I have had to search a lot longer and harder for products I can use during the challenge. Which is probably why so many people lose weight on these challenges: they're not easy to commit to, let alone navigate.

When it comes to eating, I am not a dyed in the wool, well... anything. I don't eat only a vegan diet, or gluten free, or paleo, or raw, or (until recently) sugar free, or even a clean diet all the time. I do, however, tend to gravitate toward foods and recipes that fall into these categories. That being said, I do purchase and consume some packaged and canned, and yes, even some "processed" products. I try my very best to be as selective as possible with those products, but from time to time, I do eat something that a lot of those who write the blogs I follow might faint over. For instance, Pepperidge Farm Mint Milano Cookies. No, I don't want to learn how to make a healthier or clean version of them. They are perfect. And I love them. It's pretty rare now for me to buy or eat them, but what I am trying to convey here is that I will never outlaw them entirely from my life. Just like I don't believe I will ever outlaw all meat or animal by-products, or all cooked food, or carbs, or gluten, etc. I am fortunate enough not to have any food allergies, so I don't have to commit to an anything-free eating plan. But I also don't judge or question those who do. Different strokes for different folks.

It's been my experience that often, people looking to make healthy changes in their lives feel a need to go really extreme, rather than start with some small changes and build on them. When this happens, I believe people are almost always setting themselves up to fail. I've had people tell me they are starting the paleo diet, or two days of a juice fast followed by only protein and veggies for six weeks, when these same people have been eating mainly fast/junk food for years. Suddenly, a person who rarely consumes vegetables and lean protein is going to live on grilled fish and leafy greens and succeed? I think not. The same goes for all the people who make New Year's resolutions to run two miles every day, or rush out and buy P90X, even though they may never have committed to any kind of exercise routine before. I think some of this tendency toward the extreme comes from a desire for instant results, and some of it may come from a desire to prove to themselves and other people that "I'm really doing something".

I try (usually in vain) to tell people that creating a healthier lifestyle for themselves and their families doesn't have to be an "all in" thing at the beginning. Instead, my philosophy is, make a few small changes, "baby steps", especially to your diet in the beginning. Then make a few more. And then a few more. Think of it as building a house, brick by brick. And when I say small, I mean small. Decide to eat one serving of vegetables every day. Just one. A handful of baby carrots. And then find a few more vegetables that you like, and add one more serving of those vegetables to just two days every week. And so on. Until eating vegetables every day just becomes part of your routine. Commit yourself to walking your dog, even once a week. Then make it two days a week, and so on. Then start running for 30 seconds and walking for four minutes, running for 30 seconds, walking another four minutes. Whatever you can do. Just keep building on it.

Another suggestion is to swap one or two of the products you really like or regularly consume every month with a similar one that's better for you. Below is a list of "switcheroos" that I have incorporated into the way I eat over the last two years:

Swap soy sauce for Bragg Liquid Aminos. You can find Bragg's products at most health food stores including Sprouts, Sunflower, and Whole Foods. Liquid Aminos taste just like soy sauce, but they contain no preservatives, no alcohol, and they are gluten free. Plus they contain 16 Amino Acids and they are made with certified non-GMO soybeans. Oh yeah, and they have ZERO CALORIES.

Swap your regular hot sauce for Frank's Red Hot sauce. Frank's is made with only five, natural ingredients. Most other hot sauces contain weird chemicals that aren't necessary or good for you. Frank's also has ZERO CALORIES. Put it on air popped popcorn. Or dip celery sticks in it. Put it on scrambled eggs. The possibilities are endless.

Swap spicy mustard for mayonnaise as a mix-in for tuna. Tuna is an excellent, low in fat source of protein that many people start eating regularly when they decide to adopt a healthier lifestyle. A pitfall here, however, is that canned tuna doesn't taste very good dry. At all. So people want to mix it with something and most commonly that something is mayonnaise. But mayonnaise is high in fat, so many people then go out and buy "low fat" mayonnaise. Instead, if you use spicy mustard, you avoid all the fat AND all the calories. And you avoid all of the chemicals typically found in low fat versions of mayonnaise.

Swap egg whites for whole eggs. I don't suggest this for all of the eggs you eat, because the egg yolk does contain all of the nutrients an egg has to offer. But if you already like to eat omelets, try using 2 egg whites and one whole egg instead. Or if you like to eat hardboiled eggs like I do, eat the whites and give the dog the yolk. An egg white has only 17 calories, zero fat, zero carbs, and 3.5 grams of protein.

Swap almond milk for cow's milk. This is my preference. You may prefer to swap soy milk for cow's milk, or maybe rice milk, coconut milk, even hemp milk. They are all options but almond milk and soy milk are the most accessible, available at nearly every grocery store and Walmart. I like the taste and texture of almond milk the best, and typically buy the unsweetened vanilla flavor. One cup of almond milk comes in 30 calories, versus even skim milk which contains 80 calories per cup. For me, that's the main advantage. But I also like it because I try to minimize my intake of dairy in general. I find the less dairy I consume, the less sluggish I feel. But I don't think I could ever live a life of never having a little low fat cottage cheese or greek yogurt. And speaking of....

Swap greek yogurt for regular yogurt. Greek yogurt has tons more protein. Adding more protein to your diet leaves you feeling fuller, longer, which can lead to you eating less (if that's one of your goals). I also find I like the tangier taste of greek yogurt better than regular yogurt. I buy plain, non-fat greek yogurt every week and use it in smoothies, sauces, parfaits, and tons of other recipes.

Swap apple sauce for oil in baked recipes like cakes and muffins. It works! And drastically lowers the fat content. You can easily find ratios for how to make this swap online (it's not typically cup for cup).

And finally, and I realize this may be a big, rather than my promised "small" change for people, but... swap honey, agave nectar, or Stevia for refined sugar. I fully realize there are recipes where this just doesn't work. But it does work in so many recipes. And making this swap can be as simple as switching from sugar to honey in your tea. Or mixing some agave instead of brown sugar with your oatmeal. And here's something awesome: Stevia comes in flavored liquid form, and is available in this form at most health food stores. Something I like to do if I am craving a soda is mix about ten drops of root beer flavored stevia with plain seltzer water. It's not the same thing, but it has enough of the essence I am looking for to satisfy my craving. You can also get the vanilla flavor and use it in your morning coffee instead of flavored creamer. And best of all, these two naturally flavored drink options have, you guessed it, ZERO CALORIES.

So there it is, a list of eight options for small changes you can make now, if you are starting a journey to healthier living. You don't have to go all hardcore right out of the gate. In fact, in my opinion, you shouldn't. Just try a few small changes at a time. Build habits and routines, and find your own eating style, whatever it is. But please, in the beginning, don't set yourself up to fail by biting off more than you can chew (so to speak).