Friday, November 30, 2012

Just Rodney Yee

"I never laugh until I've had my coffee"...Clark Gable

Coffee and lots of it used to be the first thing I would reach for in the morning. It was a serious addiction of sorts....not that my coffee consumption was that bad except for fact that I could not think about anything else when I first woke up. I still love my java, but I switched to the decaf version about eight or nine months ago. It took forever to wean myself off, and even though I have switched to decaf it is still my go-to first thing in the morning. It goes to show you how ingrained a habit can be. There's literally nothing in my coffee cup now that's going to wake me up and get me going. But I confess, I just love the taste and the ritual of having a hot beverage upon waking.

Well, I digress. A little bit anyway. This morning I hit the on switch on my coffee pot and decided instead of waiting for it to brew I would jump into my morning routine. I have wanted to become a morning work out bee for a while, but it's very hard to get up and going like that in the morning. I haven't mastered a way to throw on my clothes and run out the door to the gym. I feel like it takes me five minutes alone to convince myself snooze is no longer an option. Maybe one of these days I will get there. But I have settled into doing some morning yoga for the past few months. It's not my workout, but it's just something I do to move and get a good stretch in. I have been avoiding classes right now, because I have bursitis in my shoulder and following the flow of movement for an hour has been a little much for me. I do love classes and I hope to get back soon. In the mean time, a girl needs some alternatives. It's also nice to have options to do in your home. It can be a nice way to save some time and money too.

So my recent discovery is Rodney Yee AM Yoga. The routines are twenty minutes which I can manage in the morning and it's just enough to make you feel like you are getting a good start to your
day. There are five separate routines with a different focus: Twists, Front Bends, Back Bends, Open and a Standing Routine. I work my way through the line up and then simply start at the beginning again. Rodney Yee is a pillar in the yoga community and his DVD collection goes on for pages when you browse on Amazon. Literally page after page. Check is out here www.amazon.com. His instruction is great if you are new to yoga because he really explains the postures and movement thoroughly. I am sure many of his other DVD's are good, but but this is my current fave.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Just Friends

You're such a good friend, Nellie!...Laura Ingalls Wilder

Favorite TV show growing up. EVER. Loved the books, the show and the whole part and parcel. I was the only kid on a elementary school field trip who knew how pioneers carried water. Oh, the things I learned from Laura Ingalls Wilder! This iconic scene has stayed with me over many others. Her "friend" Nellie has duped Laura into thinking that she hurt her leg and caused her to be in a wheelchair. Nellie is actually fine, but using the situation to boss Laura around and get attention. Laura finally gets wise to the whole scheme and pushes Nellie down a hill to show she can actually walk yelling "You're such a good friend, Nellie!" Yeah, right.

I was giving some thought this week to friendships. For some reason, I feel the end of the year and the holidays causes me to reflect upon the past year and the changes it has brought. For better or worse I think change actually has the most influence on friendships and relationships because once you evolve people have a new place or sometimes lack there of in your life. Or occasionally, there is that disappointment or the circumstances beyond your control that lead people to walk out of your life. Sad, but true, but honestly how many of us can really say we have the same set of friends we had 10 years ago? Perhaps in a way this is a positive because I know I wouldn't really want to still be the same person that I was all that time ago. I would have hoped I would have evolved somewhat!

During a recent dinner with a friend from high school, we were both sort of discussing that we were a
little the odd ones out. After all, we're both in our 30s and not married, let alone on the precipice of having children. Almost everyone we know from our age group has a toddler bouncing on their knee in a family portrait on Facebook. Since our lives are so different, how can we really continue to hold the same importance in that friend's life when their priorities have been shifted so dramatically. I think it's less on the radar of the person who is navigating their way through change and causes the person left behind to feel, well, a little left behind.  We can never really stop trying to make new connections since our needs change on a reoccurring basis. Who doesn't have the friend who has fallen off the face of the earth with a new beau only to resurface when the relationship is on the rocks or they are single again. No one wants to be alone but how understanding should you be - there is a certain point when there is a shift from empathetic friend to pushover. I certainly don't have the answers but I think it might be stopping the search for the perfect friend or forever friend and know that people will wander in and out of your life based upon the role you need them to fill. There is not one person to fit every need or circumstance. Sometimes the most random people can become our closest unexpected confidants. Whether we realize it or not, we are always in a constant change. Keep the faith, but know we don't all always meet on the same wavelength. Give until it doesn't feel good anymore then allow the tides of change to take care of the rest.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Just Turkey Pot Pie


Me o my, I love pie....Dorothy, "Michael"

People all have their personal favorites when it comes to pie. It always seems to be people have their "must have" for the holidays be it Pumpkin, Apple or Pecan. After a few days of overeating, we're all left stuck with a random hodgepodge of leftovers after Thanksgiving dinner. This year I ended up with half of a pumpkin pie and a whole lot of turkey. My boyfriend's mother always has turkey or chicken pot pies in her freezer. It's a great way to quickly pull together a lunch or dinner on the fly. Her recipe was courtesy of Pillsbury so I wanted to see if I could create a healthier version.

Healthy Turkey Pot Pie

Ingredients

1/4 cup Earth Balance or Smart Balance
1/3 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 13 3/4 ounce can chicken broth (low sodium)
2/3 cup skim milk
2 cups cubed, cooked or leftover chicken or turkey
1 10 ounce frozen peas, mixed veggies or green beans (thawed)
Pre-Made Pie Crust (I picked up a natural pie crust at Whole Foods)

In a saucepan melt the Earth Balance or Smart Balance. Blend in flour, salt and pepper. Stir in chicken broth and milk. cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; cook 1 minute more. Add cubed chicken or turkey and thawed vegetables; heat through. Divide mixture among six 1 cup casseroles. Top with the pie crust.



Place casseroles on a baking sheet. Bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes. Freezes well and can be reheated from frozen state: same 425 but 40 to 45 minutes.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Just Turkey Day


"Don't you worry about cholesterol, lung cancer, love handles?"...Rita, Groundhog Day

Groundhog Dog always made me laugh. I actually wonder why I haven't watched this movie in a while. Bill Murray is trapped in repeating the same day over and over again and he just finally doesn't care any more about anything. So he gives in to the temptations of smoking, drinking and bad food because it will be like it never even really happened when he wakes up the next day. Yikes, a total recipe for disaster!

Today is the big turkey day and maybe because I always react a little bit to winter weather I have been feeling a little like my life is like Ground Hog day these days. You start to get stuck in a bit of the same routine and get a case of the blahs. Since I got back from Austin and the chaos of the storm settled I have been feeling a little like I work, go to the gym and then go home. A routine is important but it's also good to branch out once in a while. Maybe that is why there is always so much excitement around the holidays. It's the idea of eating different foods and  partaking in a different routine where you get to enjoy giving gifts and socializing more.

I feel like the lesson in all of this is that's important to take time to carve out some adventure once in a while no matter what the season. Plan a vacation, or if that's too much try for a day where you embark on a new activity or try something you've never done before. It's time for an experiment. What do you do when you feel the need for a break from the ordinary? Happy Thanksgiving everyone and enjoy the day.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Just Elliptical Hills


"I'll never let go, Jack. I promise"....Rose, Titanic

Oh she let go all right. I honestly can't say I really blame her. Who can imagine how cold it was that night in the ocean? I have not watched this movie in years and I am not sure why it popped into my mind the other night. I was leaving my website design class, and as I ducked out into the brisk winter weather it somehow came to mind. After all, here I was shivering on a November evening in New Jersey. But that night on the sunken cruise ship must have just been the worst!

I am not sure about you, but I have been feeling more cooped up than normal with this cold weather since it makes it very hard to get outside and walk or jog. I have been searching online for new cardio routines to add to my workouts, and as I've mentioned before it is much more worth your while to partake in internal cardio than steady state exercise. I really liked this elliptical routine I did the other night that I found on one of the blogs I follow - Peanut Butter Fingers www.pbfingers.com

Julie, the author of the site, mentioned that it felt like climbing a hill. It really kind of did! It was different than my usual elliptical routines and it's good to mix things up so you and your body don't get bored. Check it out if you get a chance.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Just Thanksgiving


"Oh my exit!"...Cameron Diaz, My Best Friend's Wedding

And so the madness begins. It's the weekend before Thanksgiving and we're already at the precipice.  The holiday decorations are already covering the malls and I didn't check it out personally but I think Santa may have already arrived to hear from all of the children with their wish lists.

Trader Joe's was an absolute crazy scene today as I dodged shopping carts trying to get to the gravy and search out the produce section. How is it possible that Brussel sprouts could sell out? But alas, they did and if they were there I have a feeling that someone may have fought me for them. The atmosphere had that kind of feeling of intensity. It struck me as so ironic that this time of year we search out the presents and make the favorite holiday dishes but somehow it all comes at a price. These traditions never fade but it's almost bizarre to me that we do this every year. We go crazy and spend money that we don't have trying to fulfill the wishes of others and give in to all the temptations of cookies and the like around us only to of course make it our New Year's Resolution to lose the 5 pounds or so we gained. In fact, this may be the holiday where we short change ourselves the most. Within the  next few weeks, you will be able to hear a pin drop in the gym as people forgo that time in order to cook, bake and shop. I certainly don't want to be a scrooge, but isn't there a way to enjoy the holidays without overdoing it? The remorse cannot be worth it.

I was reminded of the scene in My Best Friend's Wedding where Cameron Diaz is totally swept up in her wedding planning that she almost misses her exit and practically takes out a few cars to get off the highway. We get so caught up that we aren't present in the  moment and we're too worried about the to-do list that must be tackled. I say streamline, set budgets and do not allow the small things to become a source of stress. Be polite and kind to strangers who are in the same boat. What we should all remember is the spirit of the holidays. Be thankful, give thanks and remember kindness most of all to ourselves and each other.



Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Just Spaghetti

"Everything you see I owe to spaghetti"...Sophia Loren

I giggled when I read this quote by Sophia Loren because it read like it was not only her beauty secret but her secret in life as well. Speaking of Italian food, my big plan for tonight was to make my grandmother's marinara sauce after going to the gym. She went to the trouble to write it down for me, but then I forgot it after I saw her the other night. I could have just called, but in a haze of hunger after my workout I did not think of that solution. So I decided to put together a dinner with my absolute favorite tomato sauce - Rao's Marinara which was on sale at Acme this week. I love this sauce, but at almost $10 a pop it's on the pricier side.

This was simple and really quite tasty. If it wasn't for the unfortunate issue of pots and pans it would have been super quick too. This is a serving for one and could easily be increased to more.

Turkey Marinara Pasta
3/12 oz 99% lean ground turkey
1 clove or teaspoon of prepared garlic
1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pasta (or spaghetti as Loren preferred to call it)

Boil water for pasta (I chose brown rice pasta) and in the mean time heat olive oil in a frying pan. Add garlic, red pepper flakes and oregano. Place turkey in the pan and cook until done the remove from heat. Add pasta to the boiling water and cook until done. The brown rice pasta took about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta. Put the pasta, cooked turkey, and 1/4 to 1/2 cup marinara sauce back in the sauce pan and heat for a few  minutes. Serve with salt, pepper and Parmesan to taste.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Just Rebuilding

"How long is a day in the dark? Or a week?"...Katharine, The English Patient

I seriously love The English Patient and this quote gives me chills right now. I try to mix up my quotes and not repeat myself as I used both this movie and this character before but nothing seemed to fit Hurricane Sandy better. I took an unintended week off from blogging and it feels good to be back today. Last week, we were all still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and I think everyone in my area is struggling with getting back into a routine. I was lucky and unscathed through the worst of the chaos. I was in Austin visiting my boyfriend right before the storm barreled down on the tri-state area and ended up extended my stay so we got to spend a lot of extra time together. Plus, I never even lost power in my apartment at home. It was like a guardian angel was watching out over me. But my family was not so fortunate and had been dealing with the loss of power and waiting for it to get restored. It finally was turned on the other night but now there's a plumbing issue with he pipes. Why is it always something?

It all made me think of how everyone responds differently to this type of adversity. What's the worst part? The emotional devastation of feeling displaced or the physical difficulty of just getting by day to day? For me, I have always been a person who values a daily routine. It might make me a little rigid but it's how I function best. I remember last year when we had a much smaller hurricane and lost power. I felt confused, upset and overall anxious. I cannot imagine how I would have felt after a week in the dark. My boyfriend said then that one day without power could be fun or romantic even, but more than 24 hours and you want to go crazy.

In my opinion, as we all move on from this I think the most important thing you can do for yourself is to
be kind to yourself both mentally and physically. No matter what the circumstances, try to eat the best you can, always minimize or manage stress the best you can and try to get adequate sleep. These are basic things but easily forgotten when push comes to shove. It all feels so hard that you are apt to do the easy and quick thing which is not usually the best answer. As we approach the holidays I think it's best to keep these things in mind as well. Know your limits both physically and mentally and monitor your actions accordingly. Don't overspend and then decide to worry about it later and dread your credit card bill coming in the mail. Don't overeat with the idea that you can start over. Don't give up the gym because it's cold and dark and a bikini seems like the last thing you'll be needing. All of these choices accumulate on us over time. Everything you do or choose matters.

Find a way to unwind that helps you manage it all. Everyone has so much on their plates these days that it's key to identify an outlet that allows you to distress. Write, meditate, dance knit, it's time well spent because it's relaxation for the soul.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Just Brussel Sprouts

"I'm not an amazing cook. But I can follow a recipe!"...Rachel McAdams

I had mentioned in a previous post how awesome the Whole Foods flagship store is in Austin. It is like a Disney Land for an organic food lover or any food lover really. Everything is fresh and beautifully displayed, and this particular location offers a fantastic food court with a ton of delicious options. My boyfriend and I  love to go there and it usually becomes a rather long "date". We like to browse the selections and pick up specialty items there. You have to be selective at Whole Foods because as we all know it's rather expensive!

On our last excursion, we picked up lunch from the food court and I put together a kitchen sink of a salad with a little bit of everything. I should have taken a picture of it to share! My boyfriend selected Dijon Balsamic Brussel Sprouts as part of his meals, and we both thought they were great. I tried to re-create them tonight as I happened to really like brussel sprouts and they are very good for you. They improve thyroid production, help protect against certain kind of cancers, and lower cholesterol.

The picture below doesn't really do the dish much justice because this was much better tasting that it appears. Here is the recipe if you want to check it out. I combined it with grilled chicken in a bowl to make it a meal, but it's perfect as a side dish.

Dijon Balsamic Brussel Sprouts1 Bag of Brussel Sprouts (Rinsed and chopped in halves or quarters)
2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Coconut Milk (Make sure it is unsweetened milk)
2 Teaspoons Coconut Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the brussel sprouts in a bowl and toss with all of the ingredients. Put all of the vegetables on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and bake for 20-25 minutes. Turn them over about half way through the cooking process.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Just HITT It

"All this walking"...Step-Sister, Fairy Tale Theatre

I loved Fairy Tale Theatre growing up. I was never a big fan of animation so to see all of my favorite fairy tales brought to life by real actors was fantastic to me. I do have a weakness for fairy tales and for some reason I find this line to be hilarious. Now it sort of reminds me how people can be faithfully putting in their time at the gym without seeing true results. I know I have been that person many a time..exerting a lot of effort with very little return.

I've been down in Austin visting my boyfriend this past week which turned out to be very fortunate timing for me since I managed to escape the terrible Frankenstorm that battered the New Jersey area. Looking at the pictures I feel awful about what everyone has been suffering through this week. My boyfriend and I were discussing an article yesterday afternoon about the importance of resistance excercise and why for whatever reason most people choose steady state cardio for their gym time.

In the excercise world, people used to look at the formula as calories in calories out, but we know now that it's more complicated than this. I sometimes do a quick interval workout during the week and often times I end up next to  a person huffing and puffing away on the piece of equipment next to me and I see that they have been on the bike or elliptical for almost an hour. Whoa...why? If you aren't doing some High Intensity Interval Training otherwise known as "HIIT" then you are really wasting your time. Sure, you are burning some calories but unless you are cutting back in your diet you are not going to see a huge difference. I've had people tell me they gained weight when they started really getting into running, and I know I used to spend almost an hour on the treadmill back in the day before I knew better. Honestly the time on the treadmill equaled about the same calorie increase in my diet on those days because I was a little hugrier from the activity and/or under the impression I could treat myself since I had worked so hard. Resistance training helps to create more muscle and that is what will burn more calories in the end. In order to burn fat and improving your body composition you really need to incorporate a form of resistance training into your workout. A good way to start this is to do some interval cardio a few days a week. If you can do this first thing in the morning before you have eaten all the better. It gets your heart rate up and gets you on the right path.

Here are two sample workouts that I often use that are really good to get started:

Choose a bike or elliptical and set it at a low resistance since you want to be able to move quickly. The formula is simple from there: go for five minutes at an easy pace and then you are basically going to alternate between a medium pace and a go for broke fast pace every three minutes. Basically three minutes on followed by three minutes off. I usually go four rounds and then end with a cooldown of 3-5 minutes to wind down.

If you want an even quicker workout that keeps you on your toes start out with a warm up of 3 minutes and then alternate between a medium pace and a fast maximum pace for 1 minutes switching between paces every other minute. Wrap up with a 2 minute cool down and it's a 20 minute workout. So toss those hour long sessions of walking on the treadmill and start to "hiit" it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Just Barleans

"In our family there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing"...Old Norman, A River Runs Through It

Fish Oil. I seriously dreaded this supplement for the longest time. The pills are on the large side and truth be told you would have to take a lot to get anywhere near the recommended dosage. You are supposed to have a gram per percentage of body fat. Unless you eat fish every day you really need a supplement.

I tried the liquid a while ago and it was dreadful. It was like swallowing oil and the taste lingered long after I took it. I had switched from the pills to Carlson which promised to be the finest in fish oil with a lemon or orange flavor. I couldn't hack it. It sat untouched in my refrigerator for months. So I had switched from pills to liquid, but since I could not bring myself to take it, my Omega-3 quota went to zero.

I have mentioned Dr. John Berardi on my blog before, and I think he's pretty amazing. He has helped people tremendously with his Lean Eating Coaching program which is totally focused on habit change rather than any type of diet program. His first habit that he wants his clients to follow is having their recommended fish oil dosage every day. They do not have to make any other changes yet, but he wants them to institute this new daily ritual. Ironically even though I naturally have a lot of habits that Berardi suggests, this was very tough for me to do. Until, one day I was perusing one of my favorite sites - Amazon.com when I came across Barlean's Organic Oils. They have their own site at http://www.barleans.com/ I was intrigued and surprised that it got mostly positive reviews from users. It promised to not have an oily texture or taste, but rather claimed to posses the taste and texture of a fruit smoothie. I honestly did not believe it to be true, but at only about $20 a bottle I took a gamble. Surprisingly, this stuff is delicious. It has the taste of a thick fruit drink with no lingering aftertaste. You do not even know it's oil. I checked the ingredients list several times figuring there had to be some terrible substance in it. Shockingly, there isn't. Omega-3's have numerous benefits including: hormonal health, cholesterol, bone density and mental health. It also promotes fast loss which is the reason Berardi supports it so emphatically.

I would definitely recommend this product over everything I've tried. My boyfriend loves it so much that he often likes to put it on food like Greek yogurt or coconut ice cream. I would not go that far, but I can definitely appreciate his enthusiasm for my discovery.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Just Start It

Just do it...Nike

If you have told me two years ago that I would be working out 5-6 days a week on a consistent basis I would have thought you were off your rocker. This is is something that I always wanted to do, but I never thought I would have the discipline to keep it up. "Working out" or "exercising" was always at the top of my New Year's Resolution List. Well, the only way I started to make this a habit was to actually toss that list. I am not saying there is a perfect time to start something new, but when I did start there were some key things that I did and most of it was just to get me to the gym. I have absolutely nothing against working out at home, but for some reason the gym atmosphere allows me to focus. If I tried to start a routine at home, I would often get distracted by checking my email or having a snack and then wow, I was suddenly tired and maybe it was better to just put it all off until tomorrow.

The hardest thing about starting to work out is not even the work out itself but the habit. For me, I figured out what I needed to do to increase my compliance. You can't start out doing hard core workouts 5 or 6 days a week in the beginning. It's a gradual process to build up the routine. There are definitely still days when I feel tired or not in the mood to go. However, I find I am fine once I get there. So how did I start? I joined a gym that was very close to my work and bought a new gym bag so I could pack my clothes the night before. I signed up with a personal trainer for a package of 5 sessions, and I was certainly going to use them after spending the money! Plus, it made going to the gym an appointment of sorts since someone was expecting me. You could most likely do the same thing with a co-worker or friend, but I did have anyone around who fit that bill. I joined a gym very close to my work, and picked up a new gym bag so I would have my clothes with me. No excuses that I needed to stop at home first. My plan in the  beginning was very simple. I worked out with the trainer for a half hour and would get to the gym a little early and do about a half hour worth of cardio machines to warm up. Now that I know more, I'm aware that I would have been better off doing the weights and such with the trainer and then a round or two on the elliptical, or done them separately. But I had no clue! I am still in the learning process and continue to research more all the time. For the next six months, I worked out three times a week and that was honestly the most I felt that I could do. The point is that there is no better time to start than right now. Why wait until the holidays are over or summer has started? Identify what can help you comply to your new habit and help yourself out by doing what you can to make things a little easier on yourself. When people ask about the best thing to do to start working out, it's honestly just building the habit and getting started. Rule of thumb is that it takes 21 days to build a habit so if you just start now it's less than a month away.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Just I Like "Green" Omelet

"I do not like green eggs and ham I do not like them sam I am"...Dr. Seuss



I can't really blame him...I think there is something a little unnatural about an egg with color. In fact, even though I love and partake in the tradition of dying Easter eggs every year I can never bring myself to actually eat one! This is probably a terrible waste of food.

Anyway, as I have grown older and evolved into a very healthy eater I really like to make my eggs or typically an omelet "green" by adding lots of veggies to it. The below is one of my favorite omelet recipes. It's packed with vegetables and protein. Honestly, one of the best weight loss tips I have come across in a while is from Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition. One expert piece of advice he offers in part of his lean eating coaching program is to swap your grains for greens. Pretty simple, right? Instead of having a bagel or muffin add in veggies instead to have a more filling meal. Learn more from Berardi at www.precisionnutrition.com.

I enjoyed my omelet last Sunday with some berries for brunch, but you could easily have it for any meal. I often eat like something like this if I am home for lunch. I am currently visiting my boyfriend in Austin, but he chooses to eat later in the day. So this serving is for one. :-)

I like "Green" Omelet

Ingredients3 Egg Whites
1 Tablespoon Chopped Red Onion
3 Tablespoons Chopped Zucchini
2 Cups Baby Spinach
2 Tablespoons Low Fat or Fat Free Feta Cheese
2 Tablespoons Non Fat Plain Greek Yogurt (for topping)
1 Tablespoon Chives
Salt & Pepper to taste

Instructions
Spray a frying pan with non stick cooking spray and heat over medium heat on the stove. Chop the red onion and zucchini and place in a frying pan on the stove over medium heat. Saute for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted. Remove the veggies from the pan and place on a plate.

In the mean time, separate the egg whites from the egg and whisk in a small bowl. Cook until the eggs are solid, but not overly brown. Place the veggie mixture and feta cheese on top of the omelet and fold it over in the pan. Let the omelet sit for a few minutes and then remove from heat. Top with the Greek yogurt, chives, salt and pepper.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Just Timing

Do you want fries with that?...McDonald's

Well, yes, maybe...on occasion at least. I think we all have to be honest that even when trying to live a healthy lifestyle there are always some road blocks in the midst. There are dinners in restaurants, a raving sweet tooth or a holiday on the horizon. It was my birthday last week, and I certainly did not want to miss out on cake or a glass of wine. Not that I was really entertaining that option. :-)

Even though there are numerous articles and advice given on these topics like healthy versions of your favorite foods or skipping the bread basket there is also a little secret in the fitness world that helps you to enjoy some of these things that you enjoy with a little less regret the next day. Do not get me wrong, it is usually better to enjoy a healthier version of your favorite treat. But sometimes you want what you want or it's a holiday and you don't want to miss out. You may have noticed this trend in certain diet plans or magazines that recommends activity at specific times, but you really want to elevate GLUT-4 before you enjoy a treat or your biggest meal of the day. I learned about this trick from my boyfriend, and in a nutshell GLUT-4 is the protein responsible for transporting glucose into muscle cells and we would of course rather that they go there than fat cells. Thanksgiving is in a few weeks and I read in Health Magazine today that the average person eats about 4500 calories in the day which is at least double of what most women consume on a daily basis. You can get so wrapped up in the cooking and preparing that maybe you do not really think about getting in some excercise that day. However, those are one of the days where it's more crucial than ever. If you are going out to brunch on a Sunday then you want to get in some cardio beforehand or if you have been eying a pumpkin scone at Starbucks and an imitation won't suffice then plan to get your fix after an afternoon workout.

It's not a perfect system of course, and I'm not recommending you go overboard. It's just that sometimes a little bit of timing can help stack the deck in your favor.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Just Switch

"Intentions Count In Your Actions"...Abu Bakr

How is it possible? On Tuesday night, after dinner and catching up with my boyfriend for the day I am finding myself sucked into Dancing with the Stars of all things. I have been a devout watcher for some seasons, but I have hardly watched any of the "All Stars" extravaganza that is happening now. Is it that I'm just that tired or is the siren song of reality television this strong? I do not watch that much TV, but when you only have a few hours to get everything done at night an hour or two is probably quite a bit. I like the TV as background but sometimes you can't help but get distracted by what's happening on the screen. I read a very interesting book recently entitled "Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard". It was a study regarding the battle within ourselves. We have intentions or goals, but it can be hard to overcome the emotional pull that can be very strong and puts a halt to our progress. Change can be very difficult even if we want it very badly.

For example, you want to eat healthy and workout 4 days this week. You desire this change and plan to do it. Monday goes well, but then Tuesday you hit a snag. There's a platter of cookies at work and you can't resist one. One may turn into a couple and you feel like you've already ruined it so why bother exercising. It can be a downward spiral. What was it about the cookie that was so enticing? Well, of course cookies are delicious, but was it worth the sacrifice? Maybe your mom used to make cookies and it reminds you of your childhood and you couldn't help indulge.This scenario can be played out in so many situations. It's all about knowing ourselves and finding a way to make the path easier. Unfortunately, maybe you are the type who can't just have one cookie. Recognize it and stay away from the platter or corporate break room! For me, I always have a lot of projects I would like to do in the evening, and I have every intention of making a dent in this to do list. But then I get home and have dinner and the night gets away from me. This past Sunday, I made sure to cook all my meals for the week because it truly helps free up time on the week nights. That way I can set aside time to work get things done a little time to relax and watch TV or read.If you have goals you want to make into reality you have to write them down and then figure out how you're going to make them happen. Desire is not enough, you need a plan to guide the way.

On a somewhat related note, I have been very excited this week that I was selected as a potential Face of Fitness with Fitness Magazine! I am in the running to become this week's Reader's Choice winner. Vote here  http://photos.fitnessmagazine.com/category/vote/photo/1461997

Friday, October 12, 2012

Just Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies


"The petite one with the tidy hairdo? She left me a huge tip"...Waitress, Thelma and Louise

I have no idea where last night went. Do you ever have that feeling? It was after 11:30 and I was just finally sitting down to start to write this blog post. Work has been crazier than normal and you know when that happens your days get more stressful and you work longer hours. After stopping at the food store to pick up a few things it seemed like the night was already slipping away. I wanted to make sure I got to the gym before it was too late. So I ran home to change my clothes, and off I went. I have been working on an upper body routine to build more strength since my shoulder issue is still a recurring battle. I also have had to transition to the treadmill since the weather is getting chillier and it gets dark earlier. I am trying to start to build  up my running since one of my goals this year is to hopefully do a mud run.

After a quick dinner which was a salad and leftovers I debated my next move. I had quite a few things to do, and the Vice President's debate was on TV. However, I had been craving Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies for quite a while, and coincidentally I had some bananas that were on the verge of ruin. So, yes, I decided it was a night to bake. These are one of Bethenny Frankel's famous recipes from her company Bethenny Bakes. She still features her popular recipes on her website so you can see the original recipe here: http://www.bethenny.com/2010/10/26/banana-oatmeal-chocolate-chip-cookies/

These were a hit with many celebrities including Susan Sarandon. Of course I could not let this post go without a reference to Thelma and Louise which is my favorite Sarandon movie of all time.

These are delicious and one of my favorite cookie recipes. I prefer them frozen - so good!



Ingredients
1 1/2 cups oat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon canola oil
1/3 cup soy milk (You can use skim or any other milk alternative too)
1/2 cup banana puree (1 medium-size banana)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
Combine all the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together, until well combined.
Use a medium-size ice cream scoop or a large spoon to scoop batter onto a cookie sheet covered with wax paper.
Bake for 12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking, or bake until the edges of the cookies are light brown.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Just Pizza


"What the hell do you think Leona really puts in that pizza?"... Jojo, Mystic Pizza

Aah pizza. I love pizza, I really do. Although I do not think anyone loves pizza as much as my mother. I live next door to a very good pizza shop that has been around for years, and I think it's quite convenient that she visits me a lot more than she did when I lived in my old apartment. I secretly believe she is coming by so she can grab a slice.

Before I started working out and learning more about nutrition I had pizza at least a few times a week. It could be for lunch or dinner pretty much any day of the week. I still enjoy it occasionally, but we all have to admit it's not the best choice in terms of nutrition. To spell it out there excess oil and full fat cheese, and it's all sitting on a lot of white bread which contains tons of carbohydrates and no fiber. Popular protein choices are usually pepperoni or meatballs. Hmm...can't say either one has ever been on a super food list of any kind.

I often make my own pizza when I crave it. I am getting to enjoy what I like, but also do not feel guilty having it. In fact, when you are in control and choosing the ingredients you can be totally satisfied, without feeling any guilt.

Below is a sample pizza recipe but you can honestly use any vegetable combination you like or happen to have in the fridge. I have experimented with different types of pizza crust and I really like using Flat Out Flatbread http://www.flatoutbread.com/

I sometimes like to add black olives or artichoke hearts. Grilled chicken or chicken sausage are my usual choices for protein, but you can also focus on vegetables and make it vegetarian. Once you put the pizza together, it only takes about 15-20 minutes to cook in the oven. I set mine to 400 degrees, but you may have to vary it depending on how hot your oven gets.

Grilled Chicken Mushroom & Pepper Pizza
1 Flat Out Bread (if I'm feeling fancy, I will dust the crust with a little olive oil for flavor)
1/2 Cup Pizza Sauce (look for a variety low in sugar)
3 Ounces Grilled Chicken
1 Cup Combination of Red Peppers, Yellow Peppers and Mushrooms
1/2 Cup Part Skim Mozzarella Cheese
Pinch of Oregano, Basil plus Salt and Pepper to taste


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Just a Home Gym


"Well, I did join a gym last year. It cost a fortune and I didn't get any fitter. Apparently you actually have to go"....Carol, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The current issue of "Health" features Julie Bowen who is quite adorable and down to earth. She's from "Modern Family". I recognized that she played Claire, but I didn't know her real name. But the article "The Under-$50 gym Home Gym" caught my eye and I was eager to read the suggestions simply because I like to be aware of what's available at any current Sports Authority, but it's also nice to have alternatives to going to the gym. I haven't had to travel too much for work as of late, but that can be a challenge. When you have an hour before you have to be at an event and you don't want to have to trek around searching out the hotel gym.

I really like the gym most of the time. It's great to have a place where you can zone out, and just focus on working out. I know many people argue that gym memberships can get to be quite costly so these suggestions are quite helpful.

They recommend resistance bands which I use for squats and a few other exercises. You can buy them for less than $10. Other recommendations include dumbbells, a stability ball, gliding disks and a jump rope. There was even a little shout out for foam rollers which are incredibly beneficial. They really help to relieve tension that has built up in your muscles. You can view the complete list here http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20634717,00.html

Other cost-conscious suggestions that I personally recommend include outdoor cardio like walking or jogging and yoga/stretching. I have a lot of DVD's that I enjoy which do not require any equipment other than a yoga mat. If you feel like you will be more effective working out at home or you cannot afford the monthly cost then I definitely suggest you check out these items. After all the best exercises are ones that you'll actually do.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Just the Weekend


Winds of Autumn
"I'll have what she's having"...Deli Customer (aka Rob Reiner's Mom), When Harry Met Sally...

What are your weekends like? Most of the time I feel my routine unfolds like this (more or less):

On a Friday night, I am exhausted from the week because for some reason the constant going and doing of the daily grind has caught up with me. I usually say I am going to try to watch a movie, but even though I do not work out on Fridays I have been going to the chiropractor after work and maybe doing an errand or two. This last Friday night I discovered that Trader Joe's is quite the happening place to be! Perhaps people were lured in my the quick wit and tasty treats in their weekly Fearless Flyer I had no idea! But I picked up my essentials and went out my way. I took a bath in Epsom salts which is my new favorite thing. Have you tried it? Very soothing and relaxing and it's a nice way to unwind with a book. The movie was started but then interrupted with a call from the boyfriend. Since we are long distance we will talk a few times during the day, but have a lengthy chat at night.

Saturday is my day of running around and getting errands done. I was at the gym by 9:00 where I did a circuit/sprint work out and was home by 10:15. I think picking a gym close by where you live is very important. If you have to drive far, it can be very hard to motivate yourself to go. Trust me - I've done it. After breakfast, I headed out to get all those pesky errands done. Tailor, TJ Max, and the bank...there were quite a few to list. I made some basics for the week including quinoa, chicken and vegetables, and finished the movie from the other night...Margin Call which I highly recommend. It had a stellar cast and was examining one typical NYC firm that allowed a window into the type of downward spiral that lead to such an economic collapse. Very disturbing and Demi Moore looked phenomenal. How old is she again? Man..I'll have whatever she's having. Yes, that is totally from When Harry Met Sally...

Sunday was a more low-key day thankfully. I woke up absolutely frozen though. Isn't it only Fall? I threw on some clothes to go for a quick walk and was greeted by 45 degree weather!I cannot believe I did not turn around and go home. Or at least go back for some gloves and a hat. I had a quick protein shake since I was meeting my friend, Christina for brunch to catch up. We met around 11:30 and enjoyed eggs (mine egg whites with veggies and goat cheese) and hers (eggs benedict). There is always something nice and relaxing about brunch and you can even have a cocktail if you choose. We just had coffee, but still, the option promotes a sense of frivolity mid-day. I stopped by my mom's house for a quick visit and headed home. I went to the gym for an upper body workout, and now I'm enjoying a date with my DVR. I also took a leap and decided to submit myself for the New Face of Fitness Contest from Fitness Magazine http://www.facebook.com/fitnessmag

I have never submitted myself for a contest before, but I could not resist. Right now I'm enjoying a date with "Revenge". Love that show! It's unbelievable how the two days simply fly by.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Just Simple Abundance


"You only live once--but if you work it right, once is enough"....Joe E. Lewis

How often do you express your gratitude? I think we are all probably guilty of not doing this enough. If we do not acknowledge all that we have then how can we expect more fortune to come our way? It's so simple, yet this is an item that often falls off the radar as we get swept up in the daily grind. We focus too much time and energy on our complaints of the little things that bothered us during the day. The long line at the bank or the tough deadline at work. It's tough to fit in all in these days, but it's important to never succumb to negativity or expect perfection. It's a recipe for disaster.

One of my favorite reminders of this principal is the book Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach. The author features a quote and short essay for every day of the year reminding us to celebrate ourselves, the good fortune in our lives and the little things that bring us joy. Even on a bad day we can find five things we appreciate. Ban Breathnach encourages readers to start a journal and write down these things every day. I have done this off on, and many times my entries did get repetitive but who cares? This is for you and your eyes only. It's an opportunity to say thank you for your blessings. It also trains your mind to think differently as your attention focuses on what you do have rather than what you do not.

I am also excited to read her latest book, Peace and Plenty, which explores our relationships with money. This is such a hairy subject and I'm intrigued about her advice. To learn more visit her website www.simpleabundance.com


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Just Family Dinner


"These mashed potatoes are so creamy"....Aunt, While You Were Sleeping

I love this family dinner scene in While You Were Sleeping where Sandra Bullock is the interloper pretending to be engaged to the son/brother/perfect guy who is in a coma. It's always entertaining to watch other family dinners and rituals. I was pleasantly surprised when my sister texted me late this afternoon to invite me over for an impromptu dinner. She was trying out a few recipes she had found through Pinterest. Pinterset seems to seriously be the new thing - I have to get one that. Possibly an item for my weekend to-do list. So I headed over to my mom's house after work where clearly the fun had already started. I have no idea what I missed...



The first recipe was Pumpkin Pastina from a blog called Proud Italian Cook http://prouditaliancook.blogspot.com/. Cute name, right? We did not serve ours in a pumpkin, but that part was optional. I have not had pastina in who knows how long. As the author explains on the site it's a very common way to introduce young children to pasta. Here is the recipe originally from Michael Chiarello's cookbook "The Tra Vigne".

Squash/Pumpkin
For the butternut squash, cut in half, scoop out the seeds, oil it inside and out, salt and pepper, and place it cut side down on a baking sheet. Both the squash and pumpkin cook at 375F for about 40 minutes. My sister bought acorn squash by mistake, but I happen to like all varieties of squash and thought it was one of those "happy accidents" where an experiment or change turns out well.



Pastina
In a pot, saute 1 cup of onions in olive oil with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Pour in
4 cups of stock (vegetable or chicken) and bring to a gentle boil. When stock is boiling,
pour in 3/4lb of your squash that has been scooped out, and 1/2 cup of good Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The consistency should remain loose, so add extra broth if you need.

While we waited for dinner, we snacked on these delicious appetizers which we served with marinara sauce on the side. These are Pesto Poppers from Three Square Chef http://www.threesquarechef.com/

These were very yummy and were gone very fast!

Pesto Poppers
Yield: approx 20
1 sheet puff pastry
fresh mozzarella
pesto
toothpicks

Preheat oven to 400F.

Roll out the puff pastry and using a 2 inch round biscuit cutter, cut out circles. In the center of each place a small piece of mozzarella cheese and a teaspoon of pesto.







Pull all sides together and attach with two toothpicks per popper. Place on a cookie sheet and bake 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and discard toothpicks. Serve warm! (can be served room temperature but so much better warm)





Our squash dish was accompanied by a large greens salad.


Nice night! Nothing like a last minute together with good food and good company.



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Just Simple Tuna Fish Salad


"How many people in this world would like lettuce and tomato, without something else, like tuna?"...Mom, Sleepless in Seattle

Tuna fish is a truly nutrient-dense food. It's an excellent source of protein as well as a variety of other nutrients, most importantly omega-3 essential fatty acids. This is a super food that you can enjoy a few times a week. I experimented the other week with eating it cooked, but most often I make a simple tuna fish salad that I would have on a wrap, salad or a collard green wrap.

I am trying to be better about making my lunches at night for work the next day. I always bring my lunch to work since it's healthier and saves money. Here's an interesting fact that I read in this month's Fitness magazine:

Brown Bag Benefit: Want to lose weight? Get packing - your lunch, that is. Women who went out for lunch once a week or more lost an average of five fewer pounds over the course a a year than those who ate out less frequently.

I am trying to be better about packing my lunches at night. It's tough because you've dealt with dinner and cleaned up, and then already have to think about another meal? But it's much better than being rushed in the morning. I am guilty of often leaving my kitchen on the messy side, and regret it when I come up at the end of the day. So I decided to put together some tuna after dinner tonight. Since I was away for the weekend I did not really get to do my usual food prep for the week on Sunday.

Simple Tuna Fish Salad
5 oz can of Tuna (always get tuna packed in water and look for wild caught/dolphin safe)
2 TBS Light Mayonnaise or Vegan Substitute (if you prefer)
1 TBS Mustard
1 TBS Coconut Milk (Unsweetened of course)
1 Celery Stalk, finely chopped
2-3 TBS Purple Onion, finely chopped

Mix all together and enjoy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes 2 servings.





Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Just Betheny Frankels Turkey Chili

"We love food"...Whole Foods

I got back tonight from Austin, TX where I was visiting my boyfriend for the weekend. Of course when I got home I was hungry from traveling all day, and most of the veggies and fruit I had in my fridge had gone bad. How does that happen to fast? So I decided to make a quick try to Whole Foods to stock up on some essentials.

I always wander so slowly through that store that I hardly think it was a "quick" trip of any kind. My Whole Foods in downtown Madison, New Jersey is nice, but the Whole Foods in downtown Austin is nothing short of mythical. My boyfriend describes it as an Epcot Center of food. It's the flagship store and it definitely showcases their motto "We love food." There is so much care put into the menu choices, displays, and everything is freshly made that day.


I needed to cook up a quick dinner and I decided to try Betheny Frankel's Turkey Chili. I am a big fan of Betheny's recipes and have both of her books. I also often look at her website for other suggestions http://www.bethenny.com/



The turkey chili was very easy to make and quite good. I tend to like my chili a little spicier so I topped mine with a little nonfat Greek yogurt as well as extra chili powder, cumin, and ground pepper. Very good! The below recipe made two servings and took only about 20 minutes to put together.

Bethenny Frankel Chili

Ingredients
1/2 medium onion, chopped (I used purple onion)
Nonstick cooking spray
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced (I always buy minced garlic - it makes life a lot easier!)
1/4 each red and yellow bell pepper (or half a bell pepper of any color), chopped
1 small can of pureed tomatoes or tomato sauce (about 8 ounces)
1/2 cup zucchini, chopped
1/4 pound ground turkey breast (Always buy check the fat or there is no benefit to choosing turkey over beef)
1/4 cup canned red pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Cooking Directions
Over medium-high heat, saute the onion in a nonstick skillet coated in cooking spray until soft. Add the chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.
Stir in the garlic and bell peppers, and cook until the peppers are soft and the garlic is golden but not burned.
Stir in the tomato sauce and the zucchini.
When all the vegetables are soft, add the turkey breast and beans.
Let the chili simmer for at least 10 or 15 minutes. The longer you simmer, the better the flavor. Serve.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Just Protein Pancakes


"I feel like I've never done this before"...Annie, Overboard

I was on Facebook one day last winter when one of the pages I follow shared a page for Protein Pancakes. Alas, as someone who typically tries to eat a healthy diet pancakes were not something I had regularly. So I was excited about the idea of pancakes that were in fact good for me to eat, and not the starchy substance that all health magazines and sites encourage you to avoid. This was new territory!

So of course I picked up the few ingredients I needed to make these magical pancakes, and whipped them for breakfast the next morning. This is actually how I discovered Tone It Up! -  http://www.toneitup.com/ which is a great online company that offers a lot of excellent information and tips as well as workouts and a nutritional plan.

This recipe has as much protein as an omelette and keeps you full all morning. I like a good omelette,  but I seriously can't eat eggs every morning. You can really vary the ingredients to suit your style. Or make easy substitutions depending on what you have on hand. For example, you could use some apple sauce if you do not have a banana on hand or vary the fruit. I have these a few mornings a week so I like to get creative! You could also have them as a snack. Here is the original recipe below:

Ingredients:
1/4 cup egg whites
1 scoop vanilla protein powder (organic brown rice protein or whey)- visit your local nutrition store or wholefoods!
2 tbs vanilla almond milk or skim
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs ground flaxseed
After above ingredients are mixed together add 1/2 banana (mashed)- mash first, then add!!
Add a handful of fresh or frozen blueberries

Pour into a pan that has been sprayed with olive oil cooking spray ~ heat on medium. Cook one side until you see the little bubbles.. just like cooking any pancake! Flip over (careful!) and cook on the other size until the middle is done (peek inside with a fork). Top with two sliced strawberries and optional powdered stevia. ENJOY your protein pancakes :)


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Just Curry Tuna Cakes


"Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid."... Mom, Almost Famous

This recipe caught my eye a few weeks ago on one of the blogs I follow -  http://carrotsncake.com/ . I really admire Tina who is the woman who started Carrots N Cake as she was one of the first big healthy living blogs. She even got a book published of her recipes which really shows you how powerful this medium has become. Tina is also one of the "founders" of the Healthy Living Summit which is an event that I hope to attend next year. It's great to see an example of someone who followed their bliss and through time and dedication turned their passion into their profession.

Here was the recipe:

Curry Tuna Cakes
Ingredients:
1 can of tuna, drained
1 egg
1/2 tbsp coconut flour
1/2 tsp curry
1 tsp minced garlic
Chopped scallions
Salt + pepper to taste
Coconut or olive oil for the pan

Directions:
Combine all ingredients (except oil) in a bowl; blend well.
Divide tuna mixture in half and then form into two cakes.
Heat pan on medium-low heat and coat with oil.
Add tuna cakes to pan and slowly cook on each side until lightly browned.
Remove from pan and serve immediately.

Makes 2 cakes

I was sort of intrigued as to how canned tuna would be cooked. With all of the spices it was actually quite delicious. Sadly my cakes did not hold their shape quite as well as Tina's. I think people are a little too concerned sometimes with how foods look. When you are cooking alternatively you have to accept that it might not turn out as perfectly as you would like. With some avocado slices and roasted asparagus on the side it honestly did not matter. I recommend checking out the blog and this recipe.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Just Relax


"The reason that I can be 38 and have two kids and wear a bikini is because I work my ass off. It's not an accident. It's not luck, it's not fairy dust, it's not good genes. It's killing
myself for an hour and half five days a week, but what I get out of it is relative to what I put into it. That's what I try to do in all areas of my life." Gwyneth Paltrow

Kudos to Gwyneth for stating the obvious. I remember this from an interview she had done within the past year or so. I thought it was so refreshing for a celebrity to completely come clean about what it takes for a woman to look good. Let alone one who is in her late thirties and has had children. It's dedication and not magic. Honestly, it's not even being rich and famous because I know we can all name a good amount of television and movie stars who have less than perfect bodies. I thought she was dispelling a lot of mystery.

Of course her bold statement elicited a lot of backfire as people criticized her less than perfect body and mocked her think frame. She was challenging other people that they could in fact do it too which only made them angrier.

I work out 5-6 days a week if you count yoga classes. Is that too much? I guess I probably maintain a schedule a little like Paltrow. Working out is one of those weird things where there is no guideline for how much you should do. Most people mock working out as one of those things they can't imagine fitting in at all. So is any type of regular exercise schedule viewed as overkill or an over indulgence of time? Sometimes it's hard to gauge by the way people react. I am almost a little insulted when people comment that I'm so skinny when I really want to be seen as fit.

I have struggled with pain in my right shoulder for about a year now. It comes and goes so some days I feel ok. This week has particularly bad. I did a low impact workout on Monday night and I had to skip my yoga class tonight. I went for a walk instead, but It felt a little like a set back to me as I settled in for the night with a bath and a glass of wine. I had to remind myself that like everything else it's a journey and not a destination. You cannot let challenges deter you from your goals in any area of your life. It's important to get back on that bicycle and just keep pedaling. However, for tonight it was nice to take it easy and relax. After all, to look good and feel good it's vital to listen to your body.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Just Pasta


"Snap Out of It!"....Moonstruck, Loretta Castorini

Moonstruck is the ultimate movie that inspires Italian-style cooking for me. Probably for a lot of other people too since there are very few people who don't like Italian food! I was driving home from the gym last night and was thinking about what to have for dinner. For some reason, I was just craving marinara sauce. Maybe the tang of the tomato? I was not sure really. I thought about how I could satisfy this craving while still making a healthy meal..  

I think it's really vital to find ways to make your favorite foods while still finding short cuts to make them better for you. It's no fun to deprive yourself of the things you really want to eat. A great way to do this is to learn to cook for yourself if you don't already. Then you can substitute where you need to in recipes or modify meals you have in restaurants. Isn't that easier then pledging you'll start you diet tomorrow? Maybe it's time to snap out of the cycle.

My simple recipe combined a healthy complex carbohydrate, protein, greens and some healthy fats. Plus, it was very easy!

Chicken Sausage Arugula Pasta
1/2 Cup Quinoa Pasta (you could also use whole wheat if you prefer)
1 Cup Arugula
1 Chicken Sausage (you can pick these up at Trader Joe’s or Stop and Shop)
1/2 Cup Marinara Sauce
½ tsp Olive Oil
2 tsp Parmesan Cheese (I always prefer fresh)
Add Ground Pepper and/or Red Pepper Flakes

While I boiled the water for the pasta, I cooked the chicken sausage in pan with a cooking spray. When both were done, I combined all of the ingredients in a bowl the marinara sauce which I had heated separately. I topped it all with the Parmesan cheese, pepper, and red pepper flakes.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Just Zumba


"No one puts baby in the corner"...Johnny Castle, Dirty Dancing

Or do they? Zumba is a latin dance craze that has become a popular feature at many a local gym. I hear a lot of people say they love it, and that it hardly feels like you are working out...I guess because they are having so much fun. Interesting. I can move around on a dance floor, but following a specific routine on the fly is not a specialty of mine.

So this past Friday night, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and give this dance-a-thon a try. I was running late of course from silly rush hour traffic that I didn't anticipate on a Friday afternoon. So I jumped right in with a group of about seven women who were all moving at different paces and levels.

There was a lot of cha-cha-cha and what felt a little bit like dancing at a wedding. You know how you become excited when you hear music you have heard before? So it was a little awkward at first, but gradually as I became more comfortable during the class I was moving a little more fluidly. The hour did go by rather fast and the positive spirit in the room was kind of catching.

I would not say it was an intense workout. I am sure they are all different but this class was not.  However, it did get my heart rate going and after a full day at work it simply felt good to move. I am not sure if I will return every Friday night to the class, but when the mood strikes I think it may make a guest appearance.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Just Walk


A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step. Proverb

There's nothing like a good walk to clear your head and this is often what I use my daily walk to do. It allows me to think things through or mull things over...sometimes it helps me come up with new blog posts! I try to walk every day for 20 minutes. I live in New Jersey and the weather doesn't always cooperate, but I do my best. As a cube dweller, I had been looking for a way to add in a little extra movement during my day. I do a lot of sitting during a typical day. So now I like to enjoy my lunch and then go for a 20 minute walk to just get moving.

Walking is also a great way to get started with a weight loss routine. It helps your body grow stronger though increasing your cardiovascular capacity. It's so simple, and all it requires is slipping on a pair of sneakers! I keep a pair at my desk. I highly recommend walking to get started with a walking routine if you want to start exercising or need a little bit of a boost to lose a few pounds. There have been studies that have shown that walking a little after you eat improves digestion as well. It's a win-win.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Just Sweet & Sour Fiesta Salad


"Why not? Life is short. Life is dull. Life is full of pain. And this is a chance for something special." Juan Antonio, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

I believe that eating and food should be a special experience. It's important to eat foods that we love and that love us back in terms of the nutrition they provide. I totally  heart this salad that I came up with over the summer. I just put it together one day just using miscellaneous items I had in my fridge. Honestly sometimes experiments results in the best meals! It's also another reason I like prepping food over the weekends because you can just grab different items and put them together. Even if you are cooking just for yourself it should be a ritual that you savor and enjoy. Hence, don't eat a bowl of cereal and a cookie standing at your kitchen counter because you can't be bothered. Whenever I have been lazy and done this I just end up eating odd snacks throughout the night, and I'm never really satisfied.

I came home from yoga class the other night and this was exactly what I wanted.
I was impressed I even made it to class since we were experiencing horrible rain storms and it's always a production for me to venture out in the rain. Aren't some nights just tougher than others?

Sweet and Sour Fiesta Salad

Salad
3 cups of greens (I prefer arugula but you could used mixed greens, spinach or kale)
1/2 cup cooked sweet potato (I toss the skin)
2 tablespoons chopped red onion (I always prefer the taste of red onion since I think it's sweeter and I also learned recently that white onions are surprisingly high in sugar...who knew?)
3 tablespoons corn (I defrosted some frozen corn I had on hand in the microwave)
1/4 of an avocado chopped
3 tablespoons black beans
3 tablespoons diced red pepper
3 ounces grilled chicken or protein of your choice (you could also use a white fish like cod or tilapia and tofu is great as a vegetarian option)

Dressing
2 tablespoons nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon chipotle or flavored mayonnaise
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Extra lime and salt/pepper to taste

It's so tasty and very filling! This serving is for one person so you could just double up on ingredients to make it for more people.



If you are feeling festive you could add a Skinny Girl Margarita to round out the meal. Who doesn't love Bethenny Frankel and her cocktails?


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Just Getting Start with Arms

"I can't give up shopping - it's my cardio." Carrie, Sex & the City

Oh Carrie...if only it was that easy to get Sarah Jessica Parker's awesome abs and sculpted arms. We would all be downing cocktails and planning a trip to a sample sale. Unfortunately, we all know it takes a bit more work.

My mother recently asked me for a simple routine she could do for her arms. Upper body exercises should be approached cautiously because you can really hurt yourself quite easily. I used to be caught in a terrible cycle of trying out exercises and being too ambitious and then pulling one muscle or another. Nothing can derail your ambition to get stronger. So discouraging!Try to do this simple routine three times a week.


These exercises are simple and can be done at home. I recommend them especially if you are new to working out or if you want to get starting using weights. Also, the only equipment you need to get started is a two pound dumbbell which you can pick up at Target or order through Amazon. This routine will only take about 15 minutes.

Front Raise - Hold the dumbell in front of you at 90 degrees.You want to hold this position for a total of 3 minutes on each side. You can take breaks as needed until you
progress. It's harder than you think Feet should be hips distance apart and draw your belly button back to your core to maintain a solid stance. Draw your shoulders down and back.



Standing Push Up - Stand at an angle on the balls of your feet. You are going to slowly lower to the wall. Keep your hands close to your chest. Perform 15 in a slow and measured fashion.



Delt Side Raise - Use the dumbell again at each side and hold for a total of 3 minutes taking breaks as needed. Feet should be hips distance apart and draw your belly button back to your
core to maintain a solid stance. Draw your shoulders down and back.



Wall Angels - Stand against the wall with your hips tilted under you and your belly button drawn in. Hand at a 90 degree angle on both sides. Raise them up above your head for a set of 15.




Angled Door Draw-In - Choose a random doorway in your home and stand with your feet flat on the floor as close to the beam of the door as possible. Hold the sides of the door and slowly draw yourself in. Remember to draw in similar to the above exercises.






Monday, September 17, 2012

Just Curried Pumpkin Soup


“The day there is a meteorite heading toward the earth and we have 30 days to live I am going to spend it eating butter. Here’s my final word on the subject…you can never have too much butter.” Julie, Julie & Julia

Well, I cannot really imagine being this in love with butter since we all know how bad it is for you! However, I can relate to getting excited and feeling comforted by the idea of certain foods. Soup is always a particular favorite of mine, and I have even been known to eat it over the summer…in the air conditioning of course. I also am a big fan of anything pumpkin flavored.  I am already planning to try some pumpkin pancakes for breakfast this week! I love this soup as it’s an old favorite, and I’ve modified it over the years to make it even healthier. As the weather started to turn a little crisp this past weekend, it seemed just like the right thing to make. I also wanted to participate in Tone It Up’s Fall Recipe Swap so I am sharing the recipe on their community site as well.

Curried Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients
1 head of broccoli
1/2 pound of mushrooms
1-2 shallots (depending on size)
2 tablespoons butter substitute (I like Smart Balance but any brand will work)
1 can of pureed pumpkin
1 can of coconut milk (I used Taste of Thai)
4 cups of vegetable or chicken broth (I used Pacific Organic Vegetable Broth)
2 tablespoons coconut flour
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
Preparation
Cook the shallots and mushrooms in a saucepan in the butter substitute until soft. Add the pumpkin, coconut milk, broth and coconut flour.
In the meantime, steam the broccoli for a few minutes before adding to the soup mixture. Add broccoli to soup and add curry powder, salt and pepper.
Cover and simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes. Serve topped with nonfat plain Greek yogurt and chives.