Back to School

Somehow I blinked and the summer of 2018 has ended.  What a great summer it has been with so many days of sun and fun.  Now I need to prepare to return to a full work schedule and longer days.  I work all summer, so there’s no worries about coming back from an eight week break.  That long break, though I loved it, used to make it so hard for me to get back into a routine.  During the summer, the pace is definitely much easier and there is far less stress on me.  Mainly, I am planning for the upcoming year, organizing, learning and working normal hours.  What will be missed the most by me is having more time to workout in the morning without rushing to be at work super early and getting home before dark.  I’m also worried about keeping my nutrition clean once stress comes barreling my way again.

I’ve been testing out some easy, quick, nutritious recipes these past few weeks of summer to prepare for the return of my full schedule.  If I am to keep my nutrition in line, I need to have an arsenal of healthy and quick meals that I can get on my table in 30 minutes or less.   There are so many websites offering healthier versions of recipes and its been fun searching out new ones to try.  We’ve had some winners and some losers in the recipe category and I’m so thankful for my Plant Paradox community for their networking and sharing of recipe makeovers.

This week’s winner was a quick, easy shrimp recipe.  Shrimp is high in protein, about 20g for 3 ounces.  It is also very low in fat and carbohydrates, making it a nice weekly choice for lean protein.

Shrimp & Cauliflower Rice

Ingredients:

  • 15 pieces raw shrimp, shelled and de-veined
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (I like a little more)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Add the olive oil, red pepper flakes, smoked paprika and garlic to a bowl.
  2. Add shrimp to the bowl and toss to coat.
  3. Pour the shrimp into a skillet and sauté.  (I like cast iron)
  4. Sauté for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Turn shrimp over.  Sauté  another 1-2 minutes, until pink.
  6. Squeeze juice from 1/2 lemon (1tbsp) into skillet and stir to evenly coat.  Cook an additional 1-2 minutes.
  7. Season with salt & pepper.
  8. Serve immediately over cauliflower rice.

I found a package of organic cauliflower rice that I steamed quickly and topped with a little garlic and oil.   The meal was delicious and the paprika gave the shrimp a beautiful color and smoky flavor. If smoky is not your thing, just eliminate the paprika.  It’s just as good without it. This meal from start to plate took about 15 minutes.6BEA921F-1231-4EC5-8F0E-A4198E52CE76.jpeg

 

Good luck to all school personnel returning to work this week.  With a little planning, we can and will maintain our healthy eating habits this year.  If you have a plan for the year ahead that you’d like to share, please leave me a message below and I’ll contact you.

 

 

 

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Change Your Eating, Change Your Life!

Last week, I talked about how I needed to reevaluate my current nutritional intake and begin to make further changes to improve my health.  I am off for two weeks, so I have more time to read, learn and come up with a new plan of action.  My current goals are to: 1) Improve my health; 2) Improve my sleep; 3) Feel stronger; 4) Lose weight.  I have to accept that though I love to cook, my work schedule makes it hard to do much during the week.  I also admitted to myself that I do not wish to spend my entire Sunday, especially in nicer weather, cooking for the week and/or meal prepping.  I am looking to simplify my life, but make healthier choices by avoiding quick fixes.

I spent my first week off, reading and creating my plan of action for the remainder of the summer.  I will try out this routine while my work schedule is not a full one and hope that I can create some solid habits for when the school-year begins.  I mentioned last week, that I really liked a few of the recipes on the Paleogrub website.  They seemed to meet my criteria of healthy, simple and delicious.  Further, they do not require massive amounts of obscure ingredients.  In fact, I had many of the staples already on hand.  I decided to purchase the Paleogrub Cookbook and their ten week meal plan.  The meal plan is simple to follow and tells you exactly what you need to prepare all meals.  It gives you a specific plan for each day that includes recipes and directions for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The Paleogrub Cookbook is digital and once downloaded includes a search feature that is very helpful.  You can follow it exactly as written, or as in my case select the meals that you like.

I know that it is not realistic for me to think I will cook every single meal included in the daily plan.  Some days, I just want a smoothie for breakfast and that’s fine.  Also, what they say serves two people really serves my husband and I with enough leftover for lunch the next day, which is perfect for my work week.  Depending on how much you actually eat, I think you may not need all the lunches listed.  What I did this first week was preview the week and make a plan for what I wanted to cook.  I selected three dinners and one breakfast.  Knowing I will have leftover for lunch, I only selected one lunch this week simply because the photograph looked so appealing.  The plan also conveniently creates a shopping list for you, but I found that it included items for the entire plan as written for the week.  Since I am customizing, based on our personal likes and needs, I did have to modify the shopping list.  This was easy enough to do though, I simply emailed the list to myself and did an edit.

I do not make any money recommending this plan to you, I merely wanted to share that I thought it was good.  The meals are laid out separately by week and I downloaded them to my computer and now have them to return to.  I have noticed the scale moving down this week, which makes me happy.  I don’t feel hungry, or deprived and I feel like I look forward to both cooking and eating my meals.  Here are two recipes that I enjoyed eating this week.5E61D052-1C6F-4EF7-B01C-F7D8B8E13C6B

Roasted Carrot & Avocado Salad

Ingredients:

  • For roasted carrots
    • 1 pound carrots (assorted colors or just orange ones) peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
    • ½ tsp ground cumin
    • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
    • 2 garlic, minced
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
  • Rest of ingredients
    • 2 small avocados, pitted and sliced or cut into chunks
    • 3 cups arugula or salad greens mix
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • ½ lime, juiced
    • salt, black pepper to taste

I followed this lunch recipe pretty much as written, with only two changes.  Instead of arugula, I used spinach and chopped romaine.  Additionally, I only used one avocado as I felt that was enough for us.  The salad had a bit of a kick as written, so either I added too much red pepper or it needs a bit less.  My husband loved the kick, so it was fine, but next time I will use a bit less red pepper.  I measured by eye, so it could be that I added too much.  Always adjust to your personal taste preferences.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Peel the carrots and cut them into ½ inch pieces.
  3. In a bowl mix the ground cumin, red pepper flakes, garlic, ½ teaspoon of salt and 1 ½ tablespoon of olive oil. Add the carrots and toss to combine.
  4. Spread the carrots into a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for 25 minutes or until fork tender. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
  5. In a large bowl, place the avocado, arugula or salad greens and warm carrots.
  6. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and lime juice and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  7. Divide the salad between serving plates and serve.

This recipe made enough for two to eat salad with ample leftover for next day’s lunch.

ThaiPorkPatties

Thai Pork Burgers

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. minced pork
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 green onions, finely chopped 2 stalks lemongrass, finely chopped
1 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp honey

I followed the recipe pretty much as written, with just one change.  I was not able to find fish sauce and googled what a substitute could be.  I used coconut aminos in place of the fish sauce, but you can use soy sauce as well if you don’t have that on hand.

Directions:

  1. Heat the grill to medium heat.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl and stir well.
  3. Using your hand, form 6-8 small patties.
  4. Grill for 4-5 minutes on each side. Serve hot.

I got four nice size patties out of a one pound package or organic ground pork.  This dinner recipe was enough for two with leftovers for lunch the next day.  The patties had a very nice taste.  We topped ours with a spoon of homemade paleo mayonnaise with a pinch of onion powder, garlic and cayenne pepper.

If you try either of these recipes, please let me know how you enjoyed them.  If you have a recipe to share, please leave me a message below.

 

To check out Paleogrubs recipes and meal plan, please visit their site at – Paleogrubs

 

 

Eating vs. Exercise

I’m off the next two weeks and already realize on day two that if I had more time, I’d likely be in better health.  This morning, I got up and went to my usual 5:00 AM class at the gym.  I figured it would be better to do this run based workout session during vampire hours than in the hot sun.  I was the last to finish the six rounds, which consisted of running, jumprope and hang power cleans, but I did them all.  I’ve been working hard at the gym trying to get myself on track again, yet each morning when I step on the scale the numbers are within the same range.  Thankfully, I use the scale daily to ensure I’m not creeping up; but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed I’m not trending down rapidly for all the work I’m doing.

I’ve written and reflected on this before, but it’s definitely time to go there again.  While I am seeing some gains in my running pace and measurements, I am not seeing huge gains on the scale.  If I am honest with myself, I need to look to my nutrition because I know that you can’t out exercise a bad diet.  In fact, research shows that about 70% of weight loss actually comes from your dietary choices and only 30% from exercise.  I actually believe that for me exercise matters more than 30%, but there is no denying the impact eating clean has on my weight.  Here is a video that demonstrates this 70/30 theory, but I definitely don’t agree with his statement that “cardio is a joke”.   Cardio to me is an essential component in a balanced workout routine.   – Eating vs Exercise

My food choices really haven’t been too bad, so it’s not totally that, but it is summer and we have been on vacation so there definitely are extra calories being taken in through my beverage choices.  Sorry, but who doesn’t love a nice cold glass of sangria, beer or vodka on a nice hot day.   I’ve also had a hard time maintaining a schedule since we got back from the beach and have hardly been cooking.  I’m not saying we are eating out every day, I wish that were the case, but my intake hasn’t been the most balanced and I’ve not said no to fresh ice cream when offered.

I know what to do and funny, now that I’m off already have the motivation to cook – maybe I need to retire to get healthy.   I love to cook, I just lack motivation when I’m at work all day and I’m tired of spending my entire Sunday in the house meal prepping.  There has to be a better way.  I’ve been researching meal planning options for meals that take 30 minutes or less to cook.  I found many on the Paleo Grubs site and planned my week with easy, healthy meals –  Keep it simple silly is my new mantra.

Today after my workout, I knew I needed a nice healthy breakfast so I came home and cooked a recipe I love.  It’s super easy and super delicious and really hit the spot.  Here’s the link to this delicious breakfast, which I would never have time to make on a work day.  It could be a wonderful weekend treat after a tough workout for you though, so I hope you give it a try.

Sweet Potato Hash & Eggs

I generally follow the recipe as written, but I used white, sweet potatoes just because if it’s orange I think it tastes different.  I know it doesn’t, but since they were available I used the white ones.  Carmelizing the onions is a MUST as it truly enhances the flavor so much and I added a bit of red pepper to the process.  I used hot turkey sausage and boy did they add a nice kick to this mix.  I definitely did not eat all that food, I shared with my husband, the recipe is for two (2).

I’ve written on this topic before as my life seems to keep cycling through the same mess.  If you have time, please read – You Can’t Out Exercise a Bad Diet

I’d love to hear how it’s going for you this summer.  Drop me a line below and please, if you have any quick, easy meals, include a recipe.

Mindset Moves

Long term readers of my blog know that I’ve worked hard to have a positive mindset about myself and my abilities to reclaim my health.  I’ve read and learned a lot and really strive to live mindfully, despite serious injuries and setbacks along the way.  I’ve rebuilt my base more than I care to think about, yet here I am rebuilding it once again.  It’s just the cycle of my life, which flows in ebbs and tides and I’ve learned to ride the waves.

Along this journey, I’ve shared many of my mindset struggles – negative self talk, wallowing in pity following injury, why me mentality, and the list goes on and on.  It’s once again time to pull myself up by my bootstraps and get focused on what I am trying to accomplish.  It has been a life goal to complete the NYC Marathon and I am once again working towards this goal.  I am way behind where I was this time last year in my training, but my mindset is in a good space.  I am most definitely NOT pushing myself to do more than my body is ready for and will NOT suffer another injury doing so.  I will admit to thinking about how I should be running longer by now, but won’t allow myself to go there.  I know that my body is NOT ready for the work and if I push beyond my ability right now I will get injured again.  I also know that my goal is to finish the marathon, no matter how long it takes!

I’ve dialed in my nutrition and really taken the time to learn about the role nutrition plays in reclaiming my health.  I’ve taken an online course to learn about different types of eating (tracking macros, KETO, plant based) to see which best meets my body’s current needs and my goals.   I highly recommend going through this online course at least one time to experiment and track your body’s responses.  I learned a lot about myself in the process and not only related to diet.  Here is the link to this community for anyone interested in learning more – One 3 One  Now that I’ve cycled through this course twice, I am moving on to my next steps.  I signed up for a cooking course to learn how to cook more plant based dishes.  As you know, I love to cook but have been a self proclaimed vegetable hater for far too long.  I hope to learn more  about cooking plant based meals to expand my menu planning.  Here is the link to this online platform – Rouxbe Online Platform   You will find many options there for cooking courses that may appeal more to you.  I signed up for the Rouxbe Membership which will allow me to work through these courses at my own pace.

Working at my own pace is where I’d like to end today.  As an educator, I know that children come to us at all different stages of development.  I know that there are modifications available to meet the needs of each of them.  I also know that sometimes people have implicit bias that shape how they plan and react to certain individuals.  Sometimes, as educators, we offer modifications before we allow students to try the unmodified task.  Sometimes we predetermine and decide that the student needs the modification.  What that does, in my humble opinion, is send the message that we don’t believe in their ability to complete the task as is.  What that does is take away the opportunity for the student to engage in the given task with feedback and modification AS NEEDED along the way.  Truly, it’s the same thing when we engage in exercise.  As a middle aged woman, I know that I am not seen as someone who can do most athletic challenges and I likely can’t at this point in time.  But, there is nothing more disheartening than someone else predetermining that you can’t, before you even try.  I’d like to publicly thank my CrossFit Freshkills coaches, for believing in me and not making me ever feel like I can’t.  Today I’d like to thank Coach Libby Elias, a fellow educator, for her belief that I could indeed complete the four rounds required without a modification.  Her belief was inspirational as I worked through the tough workout.  So, in the spirit of mindset moves, I’d like to ask that we all adopt the mindset of “maybe they can” and not rush to provide a modification before allowing them to try.  Perhaps our students, including middle aged women like me, might just surprise you.  What we say and do matter so much and can have lasting implications on other people’s mindsets, so let’s try to be more mindful of that.

Here’s the link to a few posts I’ve written on this topic:

Mindset Matters

There’s Always Tomorrow

Want to Know a Truth…

On the Road Again

Always happy to connect with readers, so feel free to drop me a line in the comments below.

 

Community

Days like today remind me of all that is good and right in my Staten Island community.  So many runners turned out today to support the family of a young man lost in Afghanistan when he was just 24 years old.  Looking around at the runners today, I noticed so many groups running together.  There was my school’s group of runners, my yoga studio team and several other groups from local clubs and businesses.   Watching the early finishers go by on the other side early in the run is always impressive.  How do they run so darn fast and make it look easy?  What’s even more impressive to me though, is how they stick around to cheer all of us back of the packers in.  The running community is one of the most supportive and welcoming groups around.

Listening to this Gold Star family speak about their son today was such an emotional experience.  They were clearly overwhelmed by the large turnout for this 2nd annual memorial run.  They said it gave them hope that they will be able to give back to other families, but beyond that they said their biggest nightmare is that their son will be forgotten.  Judging by the turnout and many things said about their son today, I don’t think that will happen anytime soon.  Staten Island will soon be naming a ferry boat after SSG Michael Ollis.  Should you wish to learn about Michael and donate to the SSG Michael Ollis foundation, please visit their website.

http://www.ssgollis.org/

Tomorrow I start my second plant based cycle of eating.  I’m excited to experiment with some new recipes.   Knowing this, today we decided to have a juicy, grilled hamburger for dinner.  I know it’s very carnivore like to eat this as my last meal before heading into the cycle, but it really did hit the spot today.  We just grilled them up super quick and ate with a side of salad and roasted vegetables.  Easy cook and cleanup post run and now I’ve got an appointment with some reading material.

Roasted Peppers, Potatoes & Onion

Ingredients:

    • 1 bag of mini red, yellow, orange peppers
    • 1/2 medium onion sliced
    • 2 medium red potatoes
    • olive oil
    • Everything but the Bagel Sesame spice

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Slice potatoes into slices that resemble french fries
  3. Thin slice the peppers
  4. Slice onion and break into rings
  5. Combine all in a large bowl and toss with olive oil
  6. Pour onto foil lined sheet tray and sprinkle with Everything but the bagel spice.
  7. Cook for 20 minutes or to desired consistency
  8. Serve immediately

The salad was simply romaine lettuce, fresh organic strawberries sliced and some shredded cabbage.  This was topped with olive oil and Carter & Cavero Pear & Cranberry condiment.

 

What are some of your favorite plant based meals?  Please share with me for a future blog, or even just in the comments.  I’m going to need lots of ideas.

Did You Eat Your Vegetables Today?

I am a self proclaimed veggie hater, always have been.  Imagine me now in my nutrition class, the research staring back at me saying how important those pesky vegetables really are.  So important, that my plate right now should hold about 75% vegetables and 25% lean protein.  That’s a tall order for me.  My breakfast plate should also be about 50% vegetables and my lunch plate 75%.  I can almost see my mother laughing at me and saying, “Really, did you think I made this stuff up?”2bm_sgg_dinner-plate-1.png

When I was a young girl, I blatantly refused to eat any vegetable other than corn, which isn’t even a vegetable.  Thankfully, I had a dog named Pierre who loved vegetables and would eat them fast when my mother turned her back.  When I was a teenager, my mother gave up fighting with me about eating vegetables.  It was I’ll admit, quite the fight and one I was not planning to lose.  When I moved out and was fully in charge of my eating, vegetables were never on my shopping list.  I was very thin and lived happily on my diet of Entemann’s cake, deli sandwiches and lunch from the Morgan Stanley cafeteria.   As a young mother, I made valiant attempts to get my children to eat vegetables.  My children all ate home cooked baby food.  I lovingly purchased fresh vegetables and fruits to cook and puree for each of them.  When they were young toddlers and began to fight with me about eating certain foods, I realized how hard it likely was for my mother.

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The dogs of 72nd St. Rusty, Rumple & Pierre

The past few months as I moved back into running training again, I’ve cleaned up my eating substantially.  I signed up for nutrition classes to learn how to better fuel my body and offset any genetic flaws.  What I did not do though is increase my vegetable intake to the level of 75% of my plate!  Clearly, I still have some work to do here!

Three years ago, when my mother was placed full time in a care center, I vowed to not go down the same path.  I knew first hand what this disease had done to my family and did not want my children to face a similar fate as my husband and I age.  Alzheimer’s robs you of your precious memories and the ability to care for yourself.  It is quite painful to watch helplessly as your loved one fades away.  I did not want this burden for my three children and hoped to find a way to prevent, or delay it.

I’ve spent three years reading any research I can get my hands on and changing my lifestyle.  It has not been an easy journey, as it is hard work.  My why has kept me pushing forward, even on days where motivation is low.  I’ve had my setbacks along the way with injuries, but the push forward has continued.  This winter, I decided to stop spending so much money on nutritionists and put that money to use in educating myself.  I’m in the middle of my second nutrition course and hope to attend IIN Nutrition in the fall.  I am more convinced than ever, that the answer to my quest to prevent Alzheimer’s does indeed rely heavily on the foods I am eating.  I know that my best hope to ensure brain health is to change the way we eat and continue to move my body.  It’s an exciting journey and one that I truly hope I will get to share with my grandchildren and great grandchildren someday.

Today, my husband brought home a beautiful piece of ham for Sunday dinner.  He shops early in the morning on the way home from the gym and was quite excited about his purchase.  I had a 5K race this morning at 10:00 AM, so was less than excited about his purchase.  When in the world did he think we’d be cooking and preparing this ham?  He had this all planned out and brought in the Crockpot from the garage.  He said that he heard we could set it up in the Crockpot and it would be ready later in the day. Since my options were limited, I went along with his plan.  I literally washed the ham and placed it in the pot with some water.  That’s it!  I set it to 8 hours on low and got ready to leave for the race.

When we returned from the race the house smelled heavenly.  I forgot how nice it was to come home to a meal in the Crockpot.  I was able to shower, relax and unwind from my morning without worrying about preparing dinner.  When we were ready, I took the meat out of the pot and sliced it up to eat.  It was soft, juicy and delicious.  I plated it with some shredded cabbage mixed with kale and baby spinach.  I prefer my vegetables raw, so a side salad of this was just perfect for me.  If you have a Crockpot collecting dust in your garage, I recommend you pull it out, wash it up and get it going again.  It was wonderful not to have to turn on the oven today.

I’d love to hear what your favorite Crockpot recipes are.  Please leave me a message below.

The book I just finished in my course was –

 

It was very helpful to read about how certain foods that I thought were healthy are not in fact healthy for me.  Interesting read, especially if like me, you have inflammation. If you read it, please leave me a comment.