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.

 

Stuffed Eggplant & Meatballs

When I was younger, I worked at Morgan Stanley in midtown Manhattan.  I had just graduated high school and had been working there part time my last year in school.  I was offered and decided to take the job, as they had a program that would pay for me to get my undergraduate degree.  I remember telling my parents that I’d be moving out at the end of the month.  Both were shocked, as I was only 18 years old and had just graduated high school.  I remember my mom freaking out that I was leaving the house at such a young age.  I remember my aunt asking me how I could possibly do this to my parents.  Truly, my only initial supporter in this move was my grandmother.  She reminded me how proud she was of me that I was so independent.  She reminded me that being a strong, independent woman who could take care of herself was a good thing.  I wonder now if she saw some of herself in me.  I wonder now if she wished her life had turned out differently, as she had married at the age of 16 and had two children by the age of 18.  Maybe she wished she’d been just that much more independent in her time.

During my years at Morgan Stanley, I reconnected with running.  I had a group of friends at work that liked to run after work in Central Park.   When we signed up for some races, I knew I’d have to be more consistent with my training.  I grew up across from a beautiful park in Middle Village, NY – Juniper Valley Park.  When I was running at Juniper Park, I much preferred running on the track.  It was soft and flat and I had no trouble guessing how far I’d run.  Remember, those were the days before technology kept track of your distance.   Since there was really no place to run, that I felt comfortable running alone, near my new apartment I drove back to Juniper Park to run.

Every year on Memorial Day there was a fun run in our neighborhood.  My dad and I would run this race together, though he was always much faster than me. He still tells the story of how some friends of mine came upon him out on the course and asked if I had left him behind.  Nope, he had left me behind likely in the first mile.  I’m now the age he was then and gone are the days of running together.  Memories of those runs linger with me still.  Each Memorial Day as I stand at the starting line, I feel his presence and chuckle at his much told story of being that much faster than me.img_1255

Four years ago, we started a Biggest Loser competition at my school and I decided to start running again.  When I saw a Memorial Day fun run in the neighborhood, I signed up immediately.  I posted on my school’s communication board that I was running the race and hoped someone would join me.  A few teachers did sign up and we had a great day.  We still run this race together each year to kick off the running season.  Through the years people have come and gone, but there’s still a core group of us that show up each year.  The course is flat and fast, but we don’t really care.  We just really go to honor those who have given their lives to ensure our safety.  We run to spend time together as a team.  We run to kick off the summer season with a great after race party.

 

 

 

 

 

Today, as we prepare for the holiday, it rained all day.  I went early this morning to a yoga class to begin my day.  Then I went to the market to pick up some fresh vegetables for meals this week.  They had some beautiful eggplants out, so I picked one up to cook today.  My husband really wanted Sunday sauce, but I really wanted to keep it light if possible.   I decided to cut back on the cheese and avoid breading, or frying the eggplant.  I only used two slices of mozzarella in the entire recipe.  I decided to skip the eggplant parmesan and make stuffed eggplant instead.  This would enable my husband to have sauce and meatballs and me to avoid the extras I didn’t want.  It was a delicious and filling meal.  We split one half of the eggplant and have another left over for another meal during the week.  We chose not to have any pasta and plated the eggplant with a nice arugula salad.  The recipe for my sauce can be found here – Sunday Gravy

Stuffed Eggplant

Ingredients:

  • Chopped sirloin (1/2 pound – use the other 1/2 for meatballs)
  • small onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • Tomato sauce (Sunday Sauce, or marinara)
  • 1/4 c breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c parmesan cheese
  • Mozzarella (2 slices)

Directions:

  1. Cut the top off the eggplant and then slice in half lengthwise.
  2. Scoop out the eggplant leaving enough meat to hold the shape when baked.FEBFD2C1-4CA9-41D9-A782-FA85AF1CB565
  3. Cut up the inside of the eggplant you scooped out into small pieces.
  4. Boil the cut up eggplant meat in water for 10 minutes.
  5. Brown the onion in olive oil in skillet. (4 minutes)
  6. Add the garlic and saute. (1-2 minutes)
  7. Add chopmeat to the pan and brown until cooked through.
  8. Add the drained, cooked eggplant meat
  9. Add scoop of Sunday sauce, or marinara sauce and stir.00EEE540-66C4-4CF1-80CD-F65209AB6FFD.jpeg
  10. Remove from heat.
  11. Add 1/4 c breadcrumbs and one egg and stir to combine all
  12. Scoop meat mixture into the insides of the two eggplant halves
  13. Cook on baking sheet for 50 minutes at 350 degrees

We ate our meal without pasta, but you can certainly serve this over rice or pasta.  We had a meatball on the side and some arugula salad and topped all with some parmesan cheese.   This picture is one half of the eggplant, which you can see is large enough for two.CE34CAAE-34DC-48CE-A8FD-718E48C9944E.jpeg

Turkey London Broil

This weekend was opening day for my running group.  Our first meeting of the season and our first run together in my favorite place – Central Park.  I have such a long history of going to Central Park and whenever I return after an absence, it feels as if I’ve come home.  I wandered those rocks, tunnels and paths as a child and teenager.  I spent countless days discussing life on those rocks, as we sunned ourselves and laughed the day away.  When I was 13, my friends Stacey, Michele and I used to ride the train from school to the park and hang out.  We spent so many days just wandering around and I remember how grown up I felt to be there.  We spent a lot of time at the zoo and just enjoying being in the city.  There’s really not a better park in New York City that I know of and none that holds so many of my memories.  Forty years later, as I run past those rocks, I find myself glancing up hoping to catch a glimpse of my younger self as we were back then.  Oh, if only for a day…

StaceyCentralPark
Will look for photos from our middle school Central Park days. This is Stacey, front and center, circa 1979 in Central Park.

This weekend, my running group met at the YMCA on 63rd Street and proceeded to walk over to the park together.  We did our loop of the park and then returned to the YMCA for a breakfast meeting with Olympian, Jeff Galloway.   This run was my first run since that fateful injury in late October, just two short weeks before the NYC marathon.  I must admit I was slightly nervous, but knew I had worked hard on my functional strength over the long winter.  I’m not at my running weight yet, but my legs are strong and ready to begin again.  Thankfully, the first run is just one quick loop around the park.  Anyone who actually enjoys running knows what I mean when I say how good it felt to be able to run again.  It was a gorgeous, sunny day and I had my friend Helen by my side.  My husband and dog were hanging out in the park, waiting for me at the finish.  Life doesn’t get any better than that.

This is the group entering the park at Columbus Circle.  You can’t see me, but I see Helen’s blue shirt.  We are in the middle front, behind the woman in the pink jacket.

Today, I am happy to say my glutes felt like they were used on the run.  I woke with slight muscle soreness and was so excited that it wasn’t in my quads, or feet, where it normally lands.  The training is working and I will continue to strengthen my core and glutes. This morning, I went for a 90 minute yoga class which ended up being a beautiful mix of flow and stretch, ending in a wonderful restorative resting pose.  It was exactly what my body and mind needed.  When I got home, my husband showed me a beautiful Turkey London Broil he had purchased.  I’ll admit I wasn’t as excited as he was, but quickly set out to prepare for our Sunday meal.

As I stared at the beautiful turkey meat, I dreamed of making a rolled and stuffed turkey meal.  Oh how great would mushroom bread stuffing be on this cloudy day.  I also thought about making a lovely mushroom pan gravy to eat over the meat.  Then, I remembered that I’ve got a goal ahead of me and my husband really wanted it grilled.  I mixed up a quick marinade and put the turkey in to sit for about 3-4 hours, turning once midway through.  I then spent the day relaxing, what a difference from the endless meal prepping I used to do on Sunday’s.  I love cooking, but not cooking all my meals for the week opens up the day to do anything I wish.  Plant based meals are generally super easy to prepare and can be cooked in 30 minutes.  This allows me time to make a quick, fresh and delicious meal when I get home from work.

Ironically, my husband has lost a ton of weight eating what I’m eating.  He didn’t even need to lose any weight, as he was already at a very healthy weight.  Isn’t it the way?  Of course he would lose more weight than me and fast too.  He’s so excited about it too and keeps telling me how good he feels.  Me, I’ve lost 10 pounds so far and have more to go to get back to a comfortable running weight.  The next phase of my online course will reintroduce foods that were eliminated to see how my body responds to them.  This will be done slowly, over the course of the next 3 weeks.  I’m truly not craving anything and eating intuitively has allowed me to eat what I need.  I haven’t been stress eating and mostly eat my meals and no snacks.  It’s been a great learning experience and I’ve decided to continue with the plant based meals, as I feel they are fueling me better and I just plain feel better.  I’m going to cycle through the online course again as it was a lot to process the first time through.

Turkey London Broil & Chopped Salad

Marinade Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp ginger
  • 1 Tbsp organic raw honey
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

Marinade Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Whisk together to combine.
  3. Place Turkey London Broil into the marinade and turn over to coat both sides.
  4. Cover bowl and place in refrigerator for 3-4 hours, turning once.5150C680-BD2A-4453-AF25-86CD7B62F4B3.jpeg

Turkey Cooking Directions:

  1. Take turkey out of marinade and discard the marinade.
  2. Salt turkey on both sides lightly
  3. Place on hot grill and cook about 8 minutes on each side.  (I use a T-fal grill so no need to turn.  This grill has a sensor and tells you when the food is ready.  It comes completely apart when cooled and goes right in the dishwasher.  I’ve had it for years now and it was the best investment ever!)
  4. Let turkey rest for about 5 minutes before carving.
  5. Slice to desired thickness.

Leftovers can be used in salads or sandwiches all week.  It was a delicious, light meal which we plated with a hearty chopped kale, broccoli slaw salad.

This is the grill I use. Click on the picture to see further information.

Shrimp & Sausage Skillet

They say the third time is a charm.  I sure hope that’s true as I’m starting my marathon training for a third time next Saturday.  I hope that this time I can make it to the starting and finish lines.  I’ve been working hard on my functional strength training to avoid injury and on my nutrition.  I am full of optimism but won’t lie that my nerves are getting the best of me most days.  I’ve lost ten pounds to date, but need to lose a bit more to be back at my comfortable running weight.  I’ve been taking an online nutrition course and have been learning a lot about how my body responds to certain foods.  These past two weeks of eating plant based meals, with one to two animal based protein choices, has been interesting to say the least.  The one thing I’ve enjoyed most is learning how to cook new meals and the fact that the plant based versions take far less time to prepare than my normal fare.

Today is Sunday and generally we eat Sunday Sauce in one of its many versions.  Since I haven’t had any animal based protein today, I decided to have a shrimp dish I found on a paleo recipe site.  I’m super excited that I have all the ingredients and am ready to cook without a trip to the market.  Today’s Sunday dinner is just for my husband and I, as we saw the family yesterday at my future daughter in law’s birthday party.  Gracie and my son Stephen have known each other since they were freshmen in high school.  When he first brought her home back then, I knew she was the perfect girl for him.  She has those qualities our family looks for – funny, kind, down to earth and honest.  She’s also a great match for my son Stephen. We are more than thrilled that they were engaged at Christmas and are looking forward to a May 2019 wedding.A3ECB322-39C1-4651-83DB-7170B9B8DA5F.jpeg

I found several keto and paleo recipe websites and I’ve been selecting things that I want to cook.  Today’s recipe is a paleo based recipe I found at paleonewbie.com, but I modified it to fit the ingredients I had on hand in my home as tomorrow is my shopping day.  It had a great flavor and one of the spices is a favorite – Old Bay.   In under 30 minutes I had dinner on the table.  That is so far removed from the hours I generally spend on Sunday gravy. Most meals so far have been so easy and quick, that I don’t need to spend my Sundays meal prepping.  Maybe we will go for a nice walk outside today with the time saved.  (Disclaimer here – I still love my Sunday sauce recipe found here – Sunday Gravy )  I’ve just learned that I can eat a variety of other foods that may better fuel my training right now.

Shrimp & Sausage Skillet

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of medium or large shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • 6 oz of Hot Italian turkey sausage, sliced
  • 2 sliced red bell peppers
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup artichoke hearts
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
  • Olive oil or unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with some olive oil or unsalted butter
  2. Season shrimp with Old Bay SeasoningC1EABF88-31F8-4959-8C94-CF215439F957.jpeg
  3. Cook shrimp about 3-4 minutes until opaque – remove and set aside
  4. Cook onions and bell peppers in skillet with 2 Tbsp of olive oil or unsalted butter for about 4 minutes418C087F-4295-42B3-82F0-160592401093.jpeg
  5. Add sausage and zucchini to the skillet, cook another 5 minutes
  6. Put cooked shrimp back into skillet along with the garlic, and cook everything for about 5 minutes
  7. Pour chicken stock into pan and mix through
  8. Add salt, ground pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
  9. Serve immediately

We ate ours plain, but you could serve this over salad, or zucchini squash.  It has a beautiful flavor and I bet will taste delicious tomorrow for lunch.67F21806-9752-42ED-AD56-4FD29BE52F43.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Take it Personally

Most of you know I have been training for the NYC Marathon for a few years now.  I’ve had ankle tendon surgery and two stress fractures as a result and haven’t toed the line yet.  This week, I received my acceptance to run the 2018 New York City Marathon.  I’ve been resting, cross training and working on my strength as I recover from the femoral stress fracture that resulted from last year’s attempt.  Suddenly, March has arrived and it’s time for me to begin running again.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about it, especially since I’m carrying an extra twenty or so pounds right now.  But, March is the target month to begin running as I’m healed.  Currently, I am 43 days into an 80 day strength training program and feeling stronger each day.  Tomorrow morning it’s me and the road, or treadmill, depending on the weather.

My nutrition needs to change when I am running and in training.  I’m not quite as free with my choices and very focused on using food to fuel me, rather than soothe me.  This requires both soul searching and action.  The switch also requires mental focus and tenacity, especially on days when I just want to eat and drink a glass of wine.  I am aware of what is making me stress eat and know what I need to do about it.  Taking a page out of my favorite reread – The Four Agreements, I’m plan to take control of my thoughts and get back to focusing on me.

I have written about the Four Agreements several times already, but here is my original post, from 2016, that describes what the agreements are  –  Life Change .

Specifically, at this point in time, I need to work harder on these two agreements:

  1. Don’t take anything personally; and
  2. Don’t make assumptions

Both of these are very hard considering my career is one in which everyone feels they have the right to make judgements about me.  Every decision I make, every word I say is looked at and scrutinized.  But, at the end of the day, my decisions are connected to me and other’s are connected to them.  My decisions are not personal, they are always made in the best interest of those I represent – children, parents and teachers.  I need to continue to remind myself that responses to these decisions, should also not be taken personally.  These are two agreements I work hard on each and every day, as I’m sure many people do.

As I enter this training cycle anew, I will once again reflect on the strong connections between the principles of exercise and education.  I’m looking forward to many long runs, which I find challenging, but therapeutic.  Today is my last supper in some ways, as it’s the last one outside the training window.  I have prepared three meals today that will get us through the week, but I will be focusing on a more balanced approach to eating.  My food choices have to be more about fueling and rebuilding this tired, yet capable body.

As I did my menu planning for the week, I was conscious of the days I will be running and what I plan to eat.  Tonight’s dinner for my husband and I will be Sunday Sauce, with homemade pasta, but I also prepared a healthy chicken dish that we will pick on during the week.  As I searched for some new recipes and inspiration, I came across the site – Laughingspatula.com.  There was a treasure trove of easy, quick and healthy meals for the week on the site, many Whole30 and Paleo friendly.  The chicken dish I cooked today comes from her collection, with some minor tweaks.

One Pan Roasted Chicken with  Sausage & Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts, bone in
  • 1 pound small red potatoes halved 
  • 6 sweet Italian sausage links
  • 1 in large red onion cut large chunks
  • 1 bag baby carrots

Marinade

  • 1 large lemon – juiced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves large garlic – chopped
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
  • 1 tsp red pepper chili flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Pour a glass of Chardonnay and turn on Alexa for dancing in the kitchen.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Combine all marinade ingredients, stir and set aside.6672281C-F185-4AD3-9D7C-2F0620AD1B7B
  4. Brown sausage, then cut into pieces
  5. Arrange chicken, sausage, potatoes and onion in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.A01574E7-F76D-4F54-A2E5-ECB7C00D0549
  6. Combine marinade ingredients in small bowl.
  7. Pour marinade over chicken and toss to coat.4B45B21F-2ED4-4CF1-8351-CCF7E26265A2
  8. Bake one hour or until chicken reaches 165 degrees and potatoes are tender.

Please let me know how you like this one pot meal; and if you have a recipe to share I ‘d love to try it out.  Your family recipe could be featured here on the blog, along with the story of your loved one.  Leave me a message below and I’ll get back to you.