Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cookbook Challenge - Week 5 - Chicken with Fennel, Carrots & Couscous

This week I went overboard with my cookbook challenge - I actually had 4 items on my menu from my newest, and now absolute FAVORITE, cookbook - Power Foods: 150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients. This book is from Whole Living Magazine, part of the Martha Stewart 'empire'. I've always found her recipes to be well constructed and tested - these are no exception! Every single one I made was excellent. In fact I think I may be cooking from this cookbook again next week.

The recipe I'm featuring here is one that used an item I'd never cooked with before - fennel. I was hesitant because generally anise is not a flavor I love - however cooked fennel in this dish does not taste at all like the anise I think of in baked goods. I enjoyed its texture and flavor and will definitely use it again. I love trying new vegetables! I made a couple adjustments to the recipe (instead of all dried apricot, I subbed 1/2 apricot and 1/2 golden raisins), and I think next time I might add some toasted pine nuts or almonds on top for garnish and extra nutritional value.

(photo from Whole Living)
Chicken Breasts with Fennel, Carrots and Couscous
serves 4
(slightly adapted by me)

  • 1 cup water
  • 2/3 cup couscous
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (6-8oz each)
  • 1 3/4 tsp paprika
  • coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 TB canola oil
  • 1 fennel bulb (trim, core, thinly slice)
  • 3 large carrots (peeled & thinly sliced)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots (preferably unsulfured), chopped
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup black olives, halved (I used sliced black olives as that's what I had)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
  1. Pat chicken dry. Rub both sides with 3/4 tsp paprika and 1/2 tsp salt. Season with pepper. In large skillet, heat 1 TB oil over med-high. Cook chicken until lightly browned, about 3 minutes per side, then transfer to plate.
  2. Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining 1 TB oil. When heated, add fennel and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are crisp tender and lightly browned, about 5-7 minutes. Add remaining 1 tsp paprika, the cumin, and 1/4 tsp salt, season with pepper. Cook, stirring, until spices are fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add chicken and any accumulated juices from the plate, to the skillet, along with the apricots, olives, orange juice and broth. Cover and simmer until vegetables are soft and chicken is cooked through. 12-15 minutes.
  4. Bring water to boil in small saucepan, add couscous and stir. Cover and let stand until tender, about 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
per serving: 492 calories, 1.4g saturated fat, 8.9g unsaturated fat, 99mg cholesterol, 50g carbohydrates, 46.5g protein, 703mg sodium, 6.5g fiber.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Not Your Mama's Egg Salad Sandwich!

Egg Salad has been reworked in this sandwich to lose the mayo, reduce the fat, and increase the protein and whole grains. Call it a grown up Egg Salad Sandwich perhaps? Either way - it was delicious!! Thad apparently agreed since he wants it again for lunch tomorrow.

This recipe is from a new cookbook I got last week that I was really excited about. I have several meals planned for this week from this book and am now even looking more forward to trying them. It's Power Foods: 150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients. I made just a couple small adjustments and made the recipe for 2 instead of 4, so here's my version:

Grown Up Egg Salad Sandwich
serves 2

4 large hard cooked eggs
1 1/2 TB fat free ricotta cheese
1 1/2 TB plain 0% Greek yogurt
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp finely chopped green onion (green parts only)
salt and pepper
yellow mustard to taste
1 cup watercress, thick stems removed
4 slices whole grain bread (favorite is Great Harvest bread - can't get enough of it! I think it was their 9 Grain bread I used today)

  1. While eggs are cooking, combine ricotta, yogurt, dijon, green onion & 1/4 tsp salt in a bowl and season with salt.
  2. Peel eggs, cut in half and remove yolks. Crumble yolks into bowl. Finely chop egg whites and add to bowl.
  3. Gently stir to combine.
  4. Toast your bread in a toaster or oven. I sprayed mine lightly with cooking spray and 'toasted' in the oven at 350 for 4 minutes each side.
  5. Spread egg salad evenly on two pieces of bread. I then squirted a little yellow mustard on each sandwich because we like the tangy-ness of it, you could certainly leave out this addition. 
  6. Arrange watercress on top of egg salad, dividing evenly. Top with other piece of bread, press down lightly, cut and serve.
without bread, per serving: 180 calories, 10.8 g fat (3.3 saturated, 1.5 polyunsaturated, 4.2 monounsaturated), 426mg cholesterol, 268mg sodium, 3.5g carbs (.3g fiber, 1.1g sugars), 15.8g protein

with Great Harvest 9 Grain bread, per serving total: 440 calories, 11.8g fat (3.3g saturated, 1.5g polyunsaturated, 4.2 monounsaturated), 426mg cholesterol, 808mg sodium, 55.5g carbs (8.3g fiber, 11.1g sugars), 25.8g protein

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Moroccanoil - Where Have You Been All My Life?

Seriously, this is the best hair product I have ever EVER used. EVER. really! And no, no one has given me free product to try or paid me to say it!:)

Like most women I've had a love/hate relationship with my hair my whole life. I've always been told what beautiful hair I have, but secretly would hate it most of the time. I have a lot of hair! not necessarily thick in texture, but a lot of it - and it's naturally wavy/curly. Most of my life I've let it airdry because to be honest, well, it took a long time to dry and I'd still end up unhappy with dry frizzy (but straight) hair. Yes, I've tried every smoother, straighten, silicone spray, gel, whatever that's been on the market. Hair salons have done well on my hair product purchases over the years, trying the latest thing that is supposed to the best solution. Still, I end up two days later being frustrated yet again. So, many days I went with airdrying and then by mid day I was pulling it back in a ponytail because my hair got too 'big'. Never again!!!

My stylist has been using Moroccanoil on my hair for a couple years. I've resisted buying some to try because well, I kinda feel like I've learned my lesson with the dozen bottles of other salon products sitting in my bathroom cupboard. Well last month I finally succumbed and got a bottle. OMG, this is seriously the best hair product EVER. Did you catch that? EVER! well for me at least :) My hair blowdries smooth and healthy. A little help from a curling iron or straightening iron and I'm out the door feeling like I was at the salon. No frizz. Amazing!

Guess what Glamour magazine this month says? The trend is now 'natural'! LOL! They tell you to ditch your styling/straightening irons and blowdryers and throw some product in and let it airdry. REALLY? please tell me they're not serious. I don't want to go back!!!

Cookbook Challenge - Week 4 - Trim Chicken Enchiladas

Last year after watching a segment on the Today show, on impulse, I ordered Secrets of a Skinny Chef: 100 Decadent, Guilt-Free Recipes by Jennifer Iserloh (intro by Joy Bauer of the Today show). I got the cookbook and was a little disappointed because it seems to have so many recipes that are not necessarily focused on healthy foods, but rather healthier versions of comfort foods (chicken parm, sloppy joes, steak and potatoes, mac and cheese, chicken pot pie), still using some of the things I've pretty much cut out of our diet. I know, it sounds crazy that I was disappointed, right? Well in changing how we eat and what we eat, I've gone away from those comfort food dishes and re-learned new foods to love and crave. The move to a more whole foods/clean eating/organic mentality is very different than a focus on a low-fat/low-cal one. So, the cookbook sat, unloved, unused. As part of this challenge I decided to try something from this book. Yesterday was our friend Vern's birthday so I told her to pick a recipe and I'd make it for her. We had friends coming over too, so certainly a good reason to celebrate. She picked chicken enchiladas.

Then I began reading the recipe and became skeptical - really? ricotta and mozzarella, thyme and rosemary in my Mexican dish? that sounded more Italian to me! I knew our friends would be up for trying out a new dish on them, so I went with it! I followed the recipe except I used regular burrito size flour tortillas because the local store I ran to had that or tiny taco size ones - no wheat options to choose from. So instead of making 8 enchiladas it made 6 since they were larger than the 8 inch tortillas indicated in the recipe.

I was very pleasantly surprised that everyone (including me!) loved these, and I could see making them again sometime (although I think I might add chopped jalepeno peppers for more heat). I will even try something else from the cookbook now too on a day we're craving some comfort foods but want to be a bit healthier about it!

Trim Chicken Enchiladas
serves 6-8

1 TB olive oil
1 10oz pkg sliced mushrooms
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch chunks
1/2 tsp mild chili powder
1 cup low fat or fat free ricotta cheese
1 10oz can enchilada sauce
6 burrito size flour tortillas (or 8 fajita size 8 inch wheat flour tortillas)
2 cups shredded part skim mozzarella cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Warm oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the mushrooms, peppers, onion, thyme, rosemary and salt. Cook 8-10 minutes until softened. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Sprinkle the chicken with chili powder. Add chicken to the skillet on high and cook 5-6 minutes until the chicken starts to brown. Turn the heat off and stir in the ricotta and vegetables.
  4. Warm the tortillas in the microwave for about a minute. 
  5. Pour enchilada sauce in a shallow dish (I used a square baking dish). 
  6. Lightly coat each tortilla with the sauce and put scoops of the chicken mix on top of the tortillas (I used a 1/2 cup). Sprinkle with mozzarella. Fold up tortilla over the filling and roll. Place in a 13x9 baking dish. Repeat the process with all the tortillas. Pour any remaining sauce over the rolled tortillas and top with the remaining cheese. Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes until the enchiladas are bubbly and cracked on top.
The nutrition info in the book states 253 calories, 22g protein, 20g carbs, 11g fat (3.4 saturated), 30mg cholesterol, 2g fiber, 572 mg sodium.

(Mine were more because the serving for 8 was divided into 6 and the tortillas were bigger - so probably closer to 350 calories/enchilada and less fiber since I didn't have whole wheat tortillas).

I served with refried beans and cilantro-lime rice.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

When Your Workout Throws You a Curve Ball . . .

you might just need to play a different game!

I know, cheesy metaphor :)

Almost two weeks ago I pulled my calf muscle badly in Jazzercise class. I felt and heard a pop, then pain, but managed to finish out class anyway. Probably shouldn't have, but I don't think I realized how badly I must have pulled it.

I spent the next several days limping around, taking some ibuprofen and trying to stay off my feet. So much for my commitment of getting a daily workout in after too many days without over the holidays! I had a lot of anxiety about not working out. Between Thanksgiving and New Years I didn't get in as many workouts as I wanted, ate too many cookies and foods at family gatherings, but thankfully ended up my weight the same over those 6 weeks. The first week of January was great - I got in Jazzercise every day and Yoga one day, got back into my planning, cooking and eating healthy and felt great - and dropped several pounds that week (which is always a great motivator that you're doing the right thing!). Now this happened, threatening to derail me!

This past week I just had to get some sort of workout in, but have been so hesitant to go back to Jazzercise before my calf might be completely healed. So, I turned to Yoga. I'd been going about once a week and wanted to go more often, so here was my chance to jumpstart that goal. I am so so glad I did!! I went to 4 classes this week - all Power Yoga or Power Yoga 101 - and I feel great. It was good stretching and strength building. I also really enjoyed being able to share the experience with Thad - we went to 3 of those classes together and even got to do some partner yoga poses in one class. I have a long way to go in my yoga practice, but I feel more confident in each class with what I can do - and know that part of what challenges me is pushing myself to see it mentally as a fluid ongoing process and practice and not something I need to accomplish. With Jazzercise I see improvement and accomplishment in getting all the right moves, in doing all songs at high impact, in upping my weights - but that's not a mentality that I can apply to Yoga. It's just different.

Anyway, Monday I'm going to go back to Jazzercise (and take care to be aware of my calf muscles). I hear songs on the radio that are a Jazzercise routine and I miss it. I don't think I could ever give that up. I'm also going to go to yoga more this week too, I may just become a regular there now as well :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cookbook Challenge - Week 3 - Pad Thai with Tofu

Thad picked this week's 'cookbook' recipe - Pad Thai from  Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day . This is a cookbook we received as a gift years ago from a vegetarian coworker friend. She had given us 3 books written by the chefs from Moosewood Restaurant Collective in New York. I've only made one other recipe from this particular cookbook and it was great, so I had high hopes for this recipe. As I was cooking I was a little leary as it wasn't quite looking like what I thought Pad Thai should - but once it all came together and the flavors melded - it was, and it was excellent!

Pad Thai (page 236)
serves 4-6; serving size - 8 ounces
Per serving (without tofu): 296 cal, 11.3g protein, 15g fat, 31g carbs, 71g sodium, 142 mg cholesterol
(note: I've adapted the recipe slightly and added in instructions for the Tofu if you choose to include it. You could also use cooked chicken breast pieces, shrimp, etc if you prefer.)

2 quarts water
3/4 lb mung bean sprouts
6 ounces rice noodles (instead, I used 6 ounces Al Dente Pasta Spicy Sesame Linguine)
3 TB peanut oil

4 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups grated carrots
4 large eggs, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt
2/3 cup chopped peanuts
6-8 scallions, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 TB canola oil (optional)
1 package Firm or Very Firm Lite Tofu (optional)
1/4 cup cornstarch (optional)

3 TB lime juice
3 TB ketchup
1 TB brown sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce

  1. (optional - if you are including Tofu) Take tofu out of package, drain and place on a plate or cutting board with a couple paper towels under it and over it. Place a weight over the tofu (bag of beans, etc) and let sit 30 minutes to help draw out more of the liquid. After 30 minutes, cut tofu into 1/2" cubes, then dredge pieces in cornstarch. Heat 1 TB canola oil in a nonstick frypan, then fry the tofu for about 7 minutes, turning often so all sides crisp. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. In a covered pot, bring the water to a rolling boil. Blanch the bean sprouts by placing them in a strainer and dipping it into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Set aside to drain well. When the water returns to a boil, stir in the noodles and cook for 3-5 minutes, until tender but firm. Drain, rinse under cool water and set aside to drain well.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the sauce ingredients.
  4. Prepare the remaining ingredients and have them near at hand before you begin to stir fry. Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, swirl them in the oil for a moment, and stir in the grated carrots. Stir fry for 1 minute. Push the carrots to the sides to make a hollow in the center. Pour the beaten eggs into the center and quickly scramble them. When the eggs have just set, pour in the sauce mixture and stir everything together. Add the drained noodles and sprouts and toss to distribute evenly. Stir in the peanuts and scallions, and serve at once.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's off to work I go . . .

. . . well at least part time for awhile!

Today was my first day as an employee in over 8 years. I found a somewhat perfect part time job working as a greeter at a Toll Brothers community model home. It's Thursdays and Fridays 11am-6pm plus possibly filling in on other days as well. It is temporary while her regular greeter is in Florida, through mid-March, but I may be able to stay on as a 'floater greeter' and work at multiple communities if I'm interested at that point and they want me. It pays well for part time work, it's a great environment, and even better, it's not stressful and nothing comes home with me! Just about perfect for what I need and want right now. I can still get my workout in in the morning and plan ahead for dinner too.

I know, I'm sure people must wonder why I haven't looked for full time career-related work by now. It's been over a year since we closed LM, and sometimes it feels like it's even further in the past, the way I live is so different now. There are a few reasons, but the primary one I would have to say is that I was honestly burned out and at the edge of how much stress a person can handle - to the point that I don't know for sure if I'll ever really want to be working full time again. Of course that may not actually be possible and my mind may change as time goes on or if the right opportunity arises, but it's still how I feel today. So, this part time job is another step forward in finding balance in my life, I suppose you could say. (Plus some extra money to save is very welcome too!). We'll see what I have to say in another few months!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

White Chicken Chili

On our way to Florida we stopped and had a late lunch with friends in the Atlanta area - Jenn served this VERY delicious white chicken chili, and yesterday she sent me the recipe. Today I was having friends over so I thought it would be the perfect lunch to share with them.

The recipe calls for a great deal of monterey jack cheese, 4 cups alone going into the chili. I asked Jenn how much she thought I could reduce of that and not sacrifice flavor and she thought about half. At the same time I did a search on Cooking Light's website to see if they had something similar and what they did about the cheese 'issue'. I found a white bean and turkey chili recipe with a 5 star review and it did not use any cheese at all, but otherwise very similar to Jenn's recipe. So, I ended up basically combining the two recipes and put mine in the crockpot a couple hours before lunch, on high. Everyone loved it, and so here's 'my' lighter version. (It of course could be done in a pot on the stove, but I wrote this recipe as I made it today in my slow cooker.)

White Chicken Chili
serves 6-8

  • 1 medium-large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cans Great Northern beans
  • 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 8 oz can of green chiles
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1.  Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium heat, add onions and cook until translucent/lightly golden. (about 10 minutes).
  2. Turn slow cooker on high.
  3. Combine chicken broth, shredded chicken, beans, onions, chiles, garlic, cumin, cayenne, chili powder, oregano in slow cooker. Cook on high for at least 1 hour, then turn down to low until ready to eat.
Serve with the following optional toppings:
  • shredded monterey jack cheese
  • finely chopped jalepeno peppers
  • finely sliced green onions
  • sour cream
  • 1/2 cup diced roma or compari tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • lime wedges

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Operation Beautiful

I ran across this blog today when I realized it was written by the same author of another blog I read, The Healthy Tipping Point. I LOVE this idea!! For those who love paying it forward and random acts of kindness, this is for you! It's amazing what a compliment or positive thought can do for someone, isn't it? . . . in comes "Operation Beautiful".

Now let me tell you what it is . . .
  1. Grab a pad of post it notes
  2. Write some positive affirmations or great thoughts to encourage with other women
  3. Put the pad into your purse
  4. Next time you're in a public ladies' room, leave one of the notes on the mirror
  5. (optional, write at the bottom of the note)
Check out their website for photos from women who have found or left notes (and the notes!)!

I'm going to write some up this week :)

Cookbook Challenge - Week 2 - Curried Cilantro Lime Chicken

Indian food has never been my thing, I think I had some heavy curry dishes that just turned me off from it years ago. However, Thad loves it and I know it's very healthy, so when I was looking through my Jillian Michaels' The Master Your Metabolism Cookbook for a recipe to try this week, I chose this one - Curried Chicken with Cilantro-Lime Sauce (p124) & Coconut-Ginger Yellow Rice (p208). I was skeptical (especially with the green sauce on the chicken not looking the prettiest and so I didn't take a photo) but Vern assured me that's how it was supposed to look. I was pleasantly surprised that I really liked both recipes and will definitely do them again - very flavorful! I didn't notice the curry flavor I was remembering, and I loved the tangy-ness of the cilantro-lime sauce and the rich texture of the rice.

The chicken with the sauce was 206 calories, 8.5g fat, 26.8g protein, 4.7g carbs, 273.3 mg sodium. The rice was 276 calories, 11.6g fat, 5g protein, 39.9g carbs, 134.2 mg sodium. A couple things I really like about this cookbook - in addition to complete nutrition information, it also lists the health benefits of each dish. The chicken dish is listed as: anti-cancer, heart healthy, boosts metabolism, improves mood, anti-inflammatory. The rice dish is listed as heart healthy, boosts metabolism, anti-inflammatory, improves digestion, healthy skin. I also like that the chicken recipe intro suggested making the rice recipe to go with it (I probably would not have known and would have just served plain rice). There's also helpful tips to help you time things to finish at the same time. Very well thought out cookbook!

Curried Chicken with Cilantro-Lime Sauce
serves 4

for Chicken:
1 TB virgin coconut oil
1 tsp red curry paste
4 (4-5oz) boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp honey

for Cilantro-Lime Sauce:
2 packed cups cilantro leaves
2 TB fresh lime juice
1 TB olive oil
1 tsp honey
1-2 tsp finely chopped green chile
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp salt

  1. In a large skillet over med-low heat, add the oil and curry paste and heat, stirring, until combined.
  2. Add the chicken and cook for 2 minutes. Turn and cook for 1 minute.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the chicken broth and the honey and stir to blend. 
  4. Pour over the chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked, about 15 minutes.
  5. While the chicken is cooking,prepare the cilantro-lime sauce. In a blender, place the cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, honey, chile, garlic, ginger, garam masala, salt and 3 TB water. Puree until smooth, adding another TB of water if necessary.
  6. When the chicken is cooked, transfer to a plate and gently tent with foil to keep warm. Put the cilantro lime sauce in the pan and simmer until reduced and thickened. Return the chicken to the pan and flip each brest once or twice to coat with sauce. Spoon the remaining sauce over the chicken and serve.

Coconut Ginger Yellow Rice
serves 4

1 tsp virgin coconut oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
3/4 cup coconut milk
thin quarter size slice of fresh ginger
1 cup long grain brown rice
4 lime wedges

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over low heat. Add the shallot, turmeric, salt and pepper. Cook stirring occasionally until the shallot begins to soften, 1-2 minutes.
  2. Stir in the coconut milk, ginger and 1 1/4 cups water. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Stir in the rice and return to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, 45-50 min. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand, covered for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove and discard the ginger and fluff with a fork just before serving. Garnish with lime wedges.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fitness Check In

This week has really felt great. Getting back into my fitness routine and cooking as well just feels, well, right! I went to a Jazzercise Circuit class on Monday, regular Jazzercise on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, then took a Yoga Basics class at Divine Yoga Friday morning and rounded out the week with a regular Jazzercise class this morning. Do I sound insane that I felt like I was 'cheating' by not going to Jazzercise yesterday and doing yoga instead? crazy, I know.

I actually really loved the yoga class Friday. There were only two of us and we talked first about where we're 'at' and looking for from the class. The other woman runs and does a video the rest of the week, so we're kinda on the same page of wanting some stretching and flexibility poses. It made for a great class! I also had an instructor I'd never had before, Denise, and I think it's fun to experience different teaching styles. The one thing I find so challenging about yoga is that I always used to think I was so flexible, but I get into a yoga class and find that I have a long way to go. I think if I started going more often it would really make a difference. My biggest issues seem to be having too tight hamstrings, not being able to open my hips up enough (i.e. it's challenging for me to do a double pigeon pose, my knee won't lay flat/hip wont open enough), and upper body strength to go into low plank from high plank well (and a multitude of inversion type poses that require more upper body strength). I'm sure if I went more often and as I continue to lose weight (and then have less weight to support), all of those things will become easier.

Today's Jazzercise class was also a great one. I haven't had Kim in awhile and her class is always fun - somehow it always ends up kicking my butt when I least expect it. Several 'heavy' songs in a row will do that! It was also interesting that today was 'movement screening' for people interested in becoming instructors. There were 3 women that came for it and part of the screening was them doing the cardio portion of the class with us. None of them were actually from our center. I can imagine the nerves they must have had. Kim tried to convince me before class to do the movement screening but I just don't feel I'm ready for that yet. At least now I know what it involves a bit more and after having seen them participate - and not always be on beat or doing the moves correctly - made me realize that it is something I definitely could do at some point down the road. I just feel like, at least for me and the standards I expect for myself, I need to lose some more weight and be in better shape before I could be an example for a class of others.

Tomorrow my goal is to make it to a body sculpting class!

Spicy Caribbean Soup with Rice

I've made this soup twice now and loved it, so thought it was worthwhile to share here after we had it for lunch today! It was originally found on a cookinglight forum, but I did make some adjustments to it to make it a little healthier (olive oil instead of butter and less of it, brown rice instead of white). It works out to about 280 calories/serving with my adjustments instead of the 360 the original recipe cited. It also reheats well!

Spicy Caribbean Soup with Rice

1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 TB olive oil
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground allspiace
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups cubed raw butternut squash (any type of winter squash could be used)
2 cups cooked chicken cubes (I used 1 1/2 chicken breasts, cut up and cooked in a nonstick pan before going in the soup, but last time I used leftover chicken from a rotisserie chicken)
3 cups cooked brown rice
cilantro for garnish (optional)
red pepper flakes for garnish (optional)

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Saute onions and garlic for a few minutes to soften
  2. Add bay leaf, pepper flakes, coriander, allspice, salt, black pepper and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered 10-15 minutes
  3. Add squash, simmer covered 10-15 minutes until squash is tender but still slightly firm. Remove bay leaf.
  4. Reserve 1 cup squash cubes. Puree remaining mixture (I put in my blender but if you have an immersion blender, go for it!). 
  5. Return reserved squash and pureed mixture to pot. Stir in chicken and cook until thoroughly heated.
  6. Put 1/2 cup brown rice into each soup bowl and ladle soup on top of it. Garnish with cilantro and pepper flakes (optional).
I served with a slice of toasted whole grain bread with a bit of swiss cheese melted on it. yum!


Per serving: 288 calories, 6.5g fat, 35mg cholesterol, 179mg sodium, 40g carbs, 6.4g fiber, 18g protein

Friday, January 7, 2011

Brazilian Style Collard Greens

I had some collard greens leftover from the soup I made for lunch and so went searching for a recipe to turn them into a side dish for dinner. Today was my first time cooking with collard greens and it will definitely not be my last! This recipe is adapted from one on the Whole Foods website.

Brazilian Style Collard Greens
serves 3

1 large bunch collard greens
1 1/2 TB olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt and ground pepper to taste

  1. Cut off tough end stems from collard greens. Pile them, roll tightly, then cut into thin strips.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet or medium pot over medium heat. Saute shallot with garlic, stirring often until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add greens, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often for about 5 minutes until greens are tender.

Spicy Shrimp with Artichokes and Tomatoes

I love shrimp dishes - they cook so quickly, are versatile and make for a light dish. This was a little spicier than I usually like, so next time I'll use a little less of the red pepper flakes. This recipe is adapted from Cooking Light, August 2003.

Spicy Shrimp with Artichokes and Tomatoes

2 tsp olive oil
1 pound of uncooked shrimp, tails removed
1 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes (next time I'll probably only use 1 tsp)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups small diced tomatoes (I used fresh compari tomatoes for great flavor!)
2 TB chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1 6 oz jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (just so there's not big chunks)

(the original recipe calls for a 14oz can of artichoke hearts, but I had a small jar instead. Use either)

  1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skilled over med-high heat
  2. Add shrimp, pepper flakes, and garlic. saute 3 minutes
  3. Add tomatoes, parsley, paprika, salt and artichoke hearts, mix. Cook for 3 minutes stirring frequently
  4. Serve over pasta or rice with dinner rolls or crusty bread on the side

Almond Chicken Soup

This cold weather lends itself to warm yummy soups and so I had a couple of them planned on the menu this week. I think it's the perfect lunch meal!

This soup had a Thai flavor with the ginger and creamy texture the almond butter gave, that Thad swore it had coconut milk in it. Nope! Great complex flavor and tons of good for you ingredients. This recipe I found on Whole Living and adapted it slightly.

Almond Chicken Soup
serves 4

3 cups chicken broth
1 cup vegetable broth (I ran out of chicken broth so subbed this in for the rest of the chicken broth)
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 minced garlic clove
1 large sweet potato peeled and diced
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch pieces (I cut mine still partially frozen, easier to work with!)
1/2 cup smooth almond butter
1 cup collard leaves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (do not substitute ginger powder, they are not the same. measure carefully as ginger can easily overwhelm if it is too much)
salt and pepper to taste
lime wedges

  1. Combine the broth, onion, garlic and sweet potato in a big pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, add the chicken, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the almond butter and 1/2 cup of the soup broth from the pot into a thick paste.
  3. Add the collard leaves and ginger to the soup and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the almond butter paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Ladle the soup into bowls and squeeze with lime wedges.
I served with toasted whole wheat bread from Great Harvest. I try to always keep a loaf in the freezer!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lisa's Veggie Chili

Do you have a recipe you've made dozens of times? I got this recipe 12 years ago from a former boss when I lived in Philadelphia. Lisa is vegetarian and I got a copy of the recipe after having it at her house and loving it so much. Until the past year I'd always added 1 lb of ground beef to the recipe and not used the bulgur wheat. Now I do 1/2 bulgur wheat and 1/2 ground beef, but I'd honestly be just as happy with this recipe with all bulgur and no beef! So, here's the recipe with my current 'version' of 1/2 and 1/2. If you decide to make it, you can just adapt it by doubling one or the other and taking the other out of the recipe. The mix of spices is perfect in this and has turned out great with the recipe doubled as well!

Lisa's Veggie Chili

1 TB oil
1 large yellow onion diced
1 green pepper diced
1 red pepper diced
1 cup sliced celery
2 cloves minced garlic
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
15 oz can red kidney beans, drained
15 oz can stewed tomatoes, diced
3 to 4 tsp chili powder
1 TB oregano
2.5 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 to 2 tsp bottled hot sauce (I use Sirachi because I think Tabasco is too vinegar-y)
1/2 lb lean ground beef
1/2 cup bulgur wheat

Brown ground beef in a nonstick frypan, drain and set aside
Place 1/2 cup bulgur wheat in a small pot, add 1/2 cup boiling water, cover and let sit for 20 minutes, fluff with fork.
Heat oil in a large pot
Add onions, peppers, celery & garlic
Saute about 8 minutes
Stir in tomatoes, beans and seasonings
Add in cooked ground beef and bulgur wheat
Bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered over low heat for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

A side note about bulgur wheat -

Cooking Light published a comparison of bulgur wheat and brown rice - which we already know is great - and bulgur wheat is even better for you! They're about equal when it comes to protein, calcium and sodium, but bulgur wheat has fewer calories, less fat and more than twice the fiber, and 4x as much folate.

I found all kinds of interesting facts about bulgur wheat on the Sunnyland Mills website - including articles about Bulgur Wheat in politics and at Woodstock!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

One Year!

Thad and I on Christmas Day 2010
Exactly 1 year ago today I started on the journey to change my life! What a huge difference a year makes. I'm officially down 120 lbs. Of course that is an amazing and wonderful thing, but in reality, what I celebrate more is how I feel. A year ago I was depressed, stressed, unsure of the unknown, unhappy and needing to change so many things in my life. While there is still much uncertainty in our lives, today I manage stress very differently and have learned to appreciate the important things in life - Thad, Izzie, and spending time with family and friends. No matter where we end up, it's the time spent together that we will remember. I've learned that there are things you cannot change, but you can change how you react to them and how it affects you - your mental and physical health! I have gained confidence in my ability to live a healthy and active lifestyle and enjoy sharing that with others and supporting them as well. I've found that I love to cook, learn new techniques, use new foods, and understand what different foods do for us and our health. I enjoy being active and challenging myself and look forward to improving my fitness level this year. I've found so much inner peace from these many changes in my life this year, that is the true celebration!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Healthy Eating / Healthy Lifestyle Articles

New Year = New You - or at least that's what all the articles and news features tell us. I have to say that I do love fresh starts, as cliche as it is. Anyway, I've gotten many emails and articles with some great resources over the past couple of days and I thought I'd compile links to them here - for reference for me - and perhaps it might help someone else as well with their healthier living goals! (I'll update as I run across more this week)

  1. 10 Easy Steps for a Fresh Start (great healthy eating guidelines from Whole Foods)
  2. Get Cooking with Whole Grains (Whole Foods)
  3. Setting Goals (great real-life advice about goals, a great reminder! - Jillian Michaels)
  4. 10 Healthiest Resolutions (be specific & make healthy goals their healthiest - Whole Living)
  5. 11 Healthiest Food Trends of the 21st Century (Spark People) 
  6. 10 Secrets All Foodies Should Know (EverydayHealth) 
  7. Simple Changes for Lifelong Health (whole vs processed foods, changing what you eat, by Whole Foods) 
  8. Seven Principles of Clean Eating (Cooking Light) 
  9. 10 Commandments of Eating Better (Skinny Chef) 
  10. The Health Mistakes Fit Women Make (Fitness Magazine)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Cookbook Challenge - Week 1 - Red Beans & Rice

(I'm going to count Sunday as the end of a week for the purposes of this challenge, so even though it was a short 'week' for the year, I'm going with today as the end of Week 1)

Yesterday on New Years I served a spiral sliced ham from Costco for dinner. Of course that means a ham bone and leftover ham! Thad mentioned red beans and rice, and I've been wanting to make something from a cookbook I got on our trip to New Orleans in October, Gumbo Shop : A New Orleans Restaurant Cookbook.

This was my first time making red beans and rice, so I followed the recipe carefully. The only adjustment I made was only using 1 TB of canola oil to cook up the veggies in a nonstick pan instead of the 1/4 cup the recipe called for. It was plenty! It came together rather easily and smelled delicious. Luckily it also tasted great too - in fact Thad claims it was better than the red beans and rice that we had at the actual Gumbo Shop restaurant in New Orleans.

Red Beans and Rice
serves 6

1 lb dry red kidney beans
2 quarts water
1 ham bone
1 bay leaf
1 TB canola oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp sage
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt (or to taste)

Rinse beans well and sort through them. Place in a large pot, cover with the water and soak in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours (I did 6 hours and it was fine). Place the pot of beans over medium heat, add the ham bone and bay leaf, slowly bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Meanwhile heat 1 TB canola oil in a heavy skillet (I used a nonstick frypan) on medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and celery and saute until soft. Then stir in the garlic, thyme, sage, black, white and cayenne pepper. Cook for 2 minutes and then add tot he simmering beans. Continue cooking until the beans are tender. Add salt to taste. Remove 1/4 cup of the cooked beans and mash through a strainer, then mix back into the pot. Simmer about ten more minutes and serve over steamed rice.

2011 Goals

I wouldn't really call them resolutions because they are not a change I'm resolving to make, but rather goals I am continuing to work towards in my life.

  1. Lose 30+ more pounds and maintain in the 'healthy' weight range
  2. Go to Jazzercise class 5 times/week. Continue to increase my hand weights (now at 7lbs), start using the leg weights I got for Christmas in class. Attend one body sculpting class each week.
  3. Do more yoga. Go at least 1x/week at a minimum. I'd like to get up to 2x/week with one class being a power yoga or power yoga 101 class.
  4. Cook healthy meals. Cook at least one recipe from a cookbook each week. 
  5. Plan lunch and dinner meals every 4-5 days, make 1 trip to the store to get everything I will need. (save time and money!)
  6. Use to track categories of our spending and look for ways to increase our savings.
  7. Spend some time each day reading health/fitness/nutrition related books. I want to start by re-reading Jillian Michaels' Master Your Metabolism.
  8. Blog regularly!