Recipe Swaps

When I first gave up drinking dairy milk, I switched over to store bought nut milks.  While there are many healthy options available, I soon learned just how easy it is to make these milks at home.  I was excited by this as I love to cook and wanted to have control over what is actually in my milk.   As an added bonus, I am never without fresh delicious nut milks to use in my smoothies and/or meals.  When you find out just how simple it is to make, I believe you will join me in whipping up a fresh batch.

Things you need to have on hand to make fresh nut milks at home are nuts (any type you wish to use), cheesecloth or what I bought – a nut milk bag (to strain the milk) and glass jars (to store milk).

My favorite recipe:

Cashew Nut Milk (My favorite nut milk)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup raw unsalted cashews
  • 3cups filtered water, plus more for soaking cashews
  • one whole pitted date
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  • Place cashews in a bowl and cover with water (I use filtered water to soak)
  • Soak cashews for at least 4 hours (overnight is best)
  • Strain the cashews and add to your blender, along with the date and vanilla
  • Slowly add clean filtered water to your blender and blend until you reach desired consistency.  I like mine creamy, so 3 cups works.  If you like yours thinner, just add a little more water until it’s the consistency you want.
  • Strain the milk through a nut bag, or cheese cloth into your glass jar. (You can actually eat the strained creamy thick paste if you wish.  It’s a healthy, tasty snack.  Sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon and add some fruit.)
  • Store milk in refrigerator in your glass jar for up to 3 days.

This recipe can be used with any nut.  I’ve tried almond, pecan and cashew.  Cashew is my personal favorite, but they’ve all been delicious.  I use whatever nut I have in the house at the moment I want milk.  My daughter has now switched over as well and loves using this in her macaroni and cheese recipe.

Here’s the supplies I use:

Pro Quality Nut Milk Bag – Big 12″X12″ Commercial Grade – Reusable Almond Milk Bag & All Purpose Food Strainer – Fine Mesh Nylon Cheesecloth & Cold Brew Coffee Filter – Free Recipes & Videos (1)

Libbey Glass Milk Bottle with Lid – 33.5 oz

 

I am a huge fan of simple, easy cooking.  I was surprised and excited when I learned how easy making nut milk at home was.  I’m hoping you’ll try it.  Let me know how you like it!

Homemade Revisited

As I sit here watching the morning news, I’m reminded of why I prefer to make my food from scratch.  This morning there are several recalls of food products.  Some are more disturbing than others and should be a reminder as to why it is important to have control over what goes into your food.  Apparently, there are golf ball pieces in packages of frozen hash browns, salmonella on chips and what the soup can says is not what was found inside.  These issues serve as a stark reminder of why taking back control over our food sources is critical.

I work long hours and totally understand the appeal of purchasing frozen foods for ease of cooking.  But when I hear of these types of situations, it increases my commitment to control as much as I can when it comes to my food.  Hash browns, for instance, are merely made from potatoes, onions and peppers.  Super easy to cook yourself and then freeze for later use.  Doing this would avoid the large production plants in which ready made versions come from, in which we wonder this morning about the quality control.  What else is in our food that we are totally unaware of!

Recently, I read about someone who found a bat inside a popular salad mix.  I would literally die if I opened my bag of salad and found a dead bat!  This morning, I’m hoping we all consider what we are buying for convenience that could possibly be replaced, like bagged salads, canned soups and frozen hash browns.  All of these items are easy enough to assemble at home to avoid mass production assembly lines.

Here are my suggestions for making this type of change to your food pantry.

Canning Food

Items like soup that come in cans are generally filled with sodium and lord knows what else.  Soup is such an easy meal to prepare at home, but not something you might have time for after a long day at work.  Luckily soup is an easy to cook ahead store meal.  You can purchase glass food storage jars and seal the soup for months in your pantry.  Or, you can place it in freezer safe storage containers and store in your freezer.  Making a large pot of soup on the weekend is super easy as it’s they kind of meal that can slow cook in the crockpot, or on the stove.  Once cooked, you divide the soup into several glass jars, seal and store.

The process of canning is fairly simple. You fill a clean jar with prepared food, apply the flat lid and the threaded ring to the jar and submerge the filled jar in boiling water.  The time for boiling depends on what you are canning and is the process that creates an airtight seal, keeping food safe for extended periods of time.  These are the jars I purchased when I was canning tomatoes.  This morning I went down the basement and brought them back up.  I plan to wash, sterilize and prepare for use again.

Ball Pint Regular Mouth Jars and Lids BPA Free, 16 oz, Set of 12

DIY Prepared Frozen Food

Open your freezer and look at what types of frozen foods you are purchasing.  Are there any, like the hash browns on recall, that you could possibly make yourself?  Hash browns are a perfect example of an easy to make and freeze food.  Cooking these at home and placing in freezer storage bags or containers when cooled give you homemade goodness ready to grab and heat.  I took stock of my freezer this morning and I have lots of frozen organic vegetables and fruit for use in smoothies.  I started purchasing them when I got tired of throwing out food that we didn’t eat fast enough.  I also have baggies with cut up banana and fresh blueberries.  This reminded me that I can purchase and freeze fresh vegetables to avoid waste.  I just need to invest in some extra freezer storage bags to place them in.  They may not store quite as long as the store brought variety, but I don’t need to store them long.

I have seen food storage machines at Costco in the past and am wondering if I should pick one up for freezing vegetables and fruits. I think this would help them maintain their crisp color and avoid any danger of freezer burn. This one looks affordable and might be an investment I make.

FoodSaver V2244 Vacuum Sealing System with Starter Kit

Thankfully, if I am the person putting the fruit and vegetables in the bag, I’d be completely sure there are no extra critters inside my bags!

Make Your Own Salad Bags

The reason most of us purchase ready made salad bags is convenience.  I’ve had many a morning where I didn’t bring salad to work because I didn’t have time to wash, chop and assemble it.  Food prep will avoid this, but once you wash salad it begins to go bad if you don’t eat it.  I used to have a salad spinner that dried the salad after washing.  I may have to dig that out of my basement as well.  This way I would wash it, spin it, assemble it and store it.  Purchasing the Romaine lettuce whole is also more cost effective.  I could purchase my lettuce, wash and inspect, dry and assemble for the week in separate containers.  The trims can be added as needed to ensure freshness.  Most of the trims are easy enough to grab and go.  This is the type of spinner I have and I think I’m going to see if it dries it enough to stay fresh for the week.

Westmark German Vegetable and Salad Spinner with Pouring Spout (Green)

I’m excited to get back to my routes and rethink some of my food preparation practices.  I wish I had the time to grow my vegetables again, but I know I can’t maintain the garden properly.  Making these simple changes will get me closer to that and hopefully avoid unknowingly eating items such as golf ball pieces in my food.

What are your thoughts on these recalls?  Are you as sickened as I am?  Will you give these types of suggestions a try?  If you do, let me know how it works out for you.

Snap Out of It

Well this has been a rough week for me when it comes to healthy eating.  My birthday was Wednesday so there was some eating of cookies and cake during the day at work, followed by dinner out and some wine.  Then Thursday was a late night at work so we ordered dinner in – Chinese food.  Friday was a night out for dinner at a yearly PTA function which involved more wine and restaurant food.  While I didn’t over eat at any of these events, my body is just not used to eating in this manner anymore.   I’m feeling lousy because my eating routine is totally off kilter.  I’ve been eating out, not home cooked, so I feel sluggish and tired.  I feel like I’m full of salt, chemicals and wine.  I need to snap out of this and get back on track, but I’m not feeling motivated right now to even move.  My bed is so comfy and cozy and it’s cold and dark outside right now.  I have a scheduled slow, long run today and I’ve yet to move.  I feel like slapping myself and yelling, snap out of it girl.

I think I need to do some detoxing this week to get myself clean and restart my mojo.  It’s so amazing how much difference a week of unhealthy choices can make on my overall feeling of health.  I’m tired, bloated and totally lacking motivation.  I feel myself struggling hard to get back on track.  I know how easy it would be to just say forget it and continue on this path, but I just can’t let myself do it.  I have got to get myself back on track and quickly.  It seems to take me six months to lose 10 pounds, but I can put them back on in less than two weeks.  Funny how life works sometimes, right.

I’m not a fan of pills and drinking powdered shakes when detoxing.  I am a firm believer in nutrition and using the power found in food itself to get myself back on track.  I am going to pull out a 10 day green smoothie cleanse I used a few months back and give that another round.  Yes, this plan does involve drinking smoothies, but they are filled with delicious vegetables and super foods, not powders and expensive products.

10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse

This cleanse is super easy to follow.  I do the modified version which involves drinking two green smoothies a day (breakfast & lunch) followed by a healthy dinner.  There are options in the book for the modified version, as well as the full version.  The full version involves drinking three smoothies and eating healthy snacks and drinking tea.  I like to eat food and the thought of ten days without does not appeal to me.  Doing the modified version and substituting breakfast and lunch are super easy for me because then I don’t have to worry about packing lunch.  The author also hosts a free Facebook group, so you can go on and network with other people doing the cleanse. This book provides shopping lists, recipes, and detailed instructions for the 10-day cleanse, along with suggestions for getting the best results. It also offers advice on how to continue to lose weight and maintain good health afterwards. Easy and far less money than purchasing a program!  Many programs will cost $200 or more to get started.  This book is under $10.  You know I’m going to say it, win – win.

This is just the jumpstart I need right now! How about you?  Are you ready to do some internal cleansing?  Do you want to jumpstart your spring healthy eating and just plain feel better?  Then join me in doing the 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse!  I’m heading out to do my shopping after my run.  I’m feeling better already and can’t wait to get some healthy food coursing through my body!  If you are joining me, leave a comment below.  I’d love to exchange recipes and good health with you.

 

 

Recipe Swap

Sunday sauce is a staple in this house.  We love spaghetti and meatballs and afternoons spent together as a family.  I’ve tried to find ways to update this comfort food without changing it too drastically.  Yes, I have tried turkey meatballs and personally they are not my favorite recipe swap.  I’ve also invested in a spiralizer and make zucchini noodles and spaghetti squash as options to replace the traditional spaghetti noodle.  Both of these are good options for the meal, but I personally am not prevented from eating gluten for any health reasons and do prefer pasta with my Sunday meals most weeks.  Below is my updated version of the traditional spaghetti and meatball dinner.

Bison is a great choice for your meatball dinner.  My family can’t tell the difference when I use bison in place of beef.  I can’t say the same about turkey meatballs.  Grass-fed Bison is a low fat, low cholesterol meat with as many Omega-3s per serving as a serving of salmon.  The taste, texture and color is the same as beef, but this meat packs a nice amount of iron as well.  I order mine online, but am sure you can find bison in any store that has quality meats.  The pricing is very similar to that of beef.  Be sure to always buy grass fed, organic versions of any meats you eat.

Bison Meatballs

Ingredients

  1. 1 egg
  2. 1 pound ground bison
  3. 1/2 cup homemade gluten free bread crumbs
  4. 1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
  5. 2 tbs water
  6. Optional – I finely chop two kale leaves and mix in to sneak in a vegetable serving sometimes.

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients and form into small meatballs.  Roll them firmly in your hand to ensure they hold together.
  2. Place on tray and cook in oven for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees to brown.
  3. Remove from oven and drop meatballs into your sauce.
  4. Cook for at least 45 minutes, or however long you like your sauce to simmer.

Homemade Spaghetti

I do not have any gluten sensitivities, but I do try to limit my intake.  When it comes to pasta, I really only eat it once per week.  I prefer to make my own pasta and have an easy to use attachment for my Kitchen Aid that doesn’t require me to roll out the pasta.  I simply drop it into the machine.  You can substitute the all purpose flour for whole wheat and it comes out fine.  You can also find many gluten free recipes, but they do require many ingredients.  This is the actual recipe I use for my pasta.  I prefer that I know exactly what is going into my pasta, all ingredients I can pronounce.

Ingredients

  1. 1 egg, beaten
  2. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  3. 1/2 flour 00
  4. 1/2 cup semolina flour
  5. 2 tablespoons water Add all ingredients to list

Directions

  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine all flour and salt.
  2. Make a well in the flour, add the slightly beaten egg, and mix. Mixture should form a stiff dough. If needed, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons water.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 3 to 4 minutes. With a pasta machine or by hand roll dough out to desired thinness. Use machine or knife to cut into strips of desired width.

The above directions are for those who do not have a pasta machine.  I make mine right in my Kitchen Aid with the dough attachment so I don’t have to manually knead it.  I let my dough rest covered for at least 30 minutes.  I then roll into small balls and drop into my pasta cutting attachment.  So simple, so delicious!  Here is the attachment I use on my Kitchen Aid –

KitchenAid KSMPEXTA Gourmet Pasta Press Attachment with 6 Interchangeable Pasta Plates

The white attachment on this machine is the actual unit I have.  I love it and it has made making homemade pasta so easy.  It’s simple to use and clean.  It comes with 6 blades for different shape pastas.

Homemade breadcrumbs – Gluten Free

Toast gluten free bread in oven on sheet tray.  Remove, process in food processor.  Season as you wish.  I just use a slight amount of garlic, pepper, salt and Italian seasoning.

If you try the Bison as a healthier option, let me know how you like it.  My family hasn’t noticed and my daughter is super picky!  Please leave a comment if you have a different recipe swap for Sunday sauce.  It’s one of our favorite meals so I’m always on the lookout for healthier versions.

Recipe Swap

How many of you love pesto?  I know I love it, but am not always a fan of the basil versions.  I’ve experimented with many different pesto recipes and found that I prefer versions that don’t use basil leaves as the base.  Here are two of my favorite pesto recipes,  along with a new one I plan to try in the coming weeks.  They are presented in order of preference with spinach always being my first choice.  I love to use pesto as a spread for grilled chicken and on tasty panini sandwiches on my grill.

Spinach Pesto

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh spinach leaves, well-washed and stemmed
1⁄2 cup fresh parsley, preferably Italian flat leaf
1⁄2 cup walnuts or 1⁄2 cup pine nuts
1⁄4 cup parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
1⁄8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Instructions:

Place all ingredients into food processor and process to a fine paste.
Taste and adjust seasonings and transfer to a glass container and top with a thin coat of olive oil to prevent the top of the pesto from discoloring.
Keeps for weeks in the refrigerator. (Food.com)

Avocado Pesto

Ingredients:

1 cup packed fresh spinach leaves
1/2 large ripe avocado
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons water, plus more if necessary
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
sea salt & pepper

Instructions:

Add spinach, avocado, garlic, pine nuts and lemon juice to a food processor and pulse for 20 seconds or until pesto is chopped. Add in water and process again until completely smooth. You may need to add more water to get desired consistency.   Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cheese. (Ambitious Kitchen)

This version uses no oil and it is super creamy and delicious and is a great substitute for mayonnaise.  I also love it as a spread and dipping sauce.

Fresh Pea Pesto

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp fine lemon zest
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Instructions:

Pulse peas, garlic, Parmesan, lemon juice and zest in a food processor. With machine running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until well combined. Season generously with salt and pepper. Serve as a spread, on grilled fish, or over your choice of hot pasta. (Dr. Weil)

Just a note on the nuts.  I have tried all different types of nuts in my pesto sauce.  I’ve used pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pistachio, etc.  I’ve found they all work well, so if you don’t have pine nuts no need to fret.  I can’t wait to try the pea pesto as it sounds heavenly and just perfect for the upcoming fresh pea season.

I make my pesto in my blender to avoid investing in a food processor.   This one works really well and is easy to use and clean.

What recipe swaps have you made?  Please share your recipe below.

Thursday Tips & Tricks

Healthy living doesn’t have to be hard.  When we make it complicated, we are setting ourselves up for failure.  Let’s face it, most of us lead busy lifestyles and struggle to fit everything in as it is.  We need to find ways to make it easier to meet our goal to live healthier, or we may end up failing.  Every Thursday, I will share with you one tip, or trick I currently use to ensure that I keep my life simple.

I love to cook and want to eat healthy dinners, but I work a full time job that requires long hours.  I’ve had to learn some new tricks to ensure I get healthy food on my plate each night.  Realistically, I can’t walk in the door at 6:00 PM and start cooking a full meal as we would be eating dinner way too late.  I need quick, healthy, home cooked meals on my plate in 30 minutes or less.

I want to eat home cooked food each night, but usually arrive home hungry.  My meals need to be simple, quick and healthy because if they aren’t, I’m going to go down that rabbit hole of eating junk instead.  Gone are the days of ordering dinner in each night, or picking something up on my way home.  That only led to unwanted weight gain and feeling just plain lousy.

This week’s tip is to invest in a well made, easy to clean grill.  If you live in a climate that allows outdoor barbecuing all year round, lucky you!  If you don’t, and don’t mind standing outside in the freezing cold, or rain, more power to you.  If you’re like me and prefer to cook inside, you should invest in an easy to clean indoor grill.  This will become your most used kitchen tool, that will enable you to have a healthy dinner on your plate in 30 minutes or less.

I’ve tried so many different grills and the sticking point for me was always the clean up.  I don’t want to eat fast and then struggle to clean the mess.  I also don’t want something that spritzes up my kitchen, so prefer a closed grill.  I want something compact, preferably portable, that comes apart for cleaning.

I have settled on the Optigrill for many reasons.  First and foremost, the food tastes amazing and there is no more cutting into it to check it’s doneness.  The machine has an automatic setting that tells you when your food is ready.  No turning or bothering with it once it’s on the grill.  Second, the whole grill comes apart and goes right in the dishwasher.  No scrubbing at all and it comes out perfectly clean each time I use it.  Third, if I forget to take something out, I can use the frozen setting and cook without defrosting. Great for quick hamburgers or turkey burgers.  Finally, grilled vegetables or panini come out so good.

The possibilities for cooking on this grill, or any grill you own, are endless.  Our favorites are grilled chicken and salad, or quinoa, or spinach, etc.  Today, we had hamburger with lettuce, tomato and avocado and a side salad.  Easy and on the plate in under 15 minutes.  There’s also a fish setting that allows you to grill delicious tuna steak or salmon.  I’m not a huge fan of fish, but it does come perfect anytime I’ve tried it.  I’ve also never had a bad filet mignon grilled on it.  Just set it and watch the color coding for the finish you want.

For all of these reasons and to ensure I can cook dinner without relying on a microwave oven, my tip is to make sure you have a working grill ready to use in your home.   It may seem like an expensive investment, but I’ve had mine for 3 years and use it at least 4-5 nights a week to cook.  It was worth every penny and I’ve certainly saved money not ordering in so much anymore.  Here’s a link to see what the Optigrill looks like. (*I don’t work for Optigrill and was not paid to recommend it.)

T-fal GC722D53 1800W OptiGrill XL Stainless Steel Large Indoor Electric Grill with Removable and Dishwasher Safe Plates, Silver

What’s your tip for healthy eating during the week?  Please consider leaving a comment below.

Tuesday Training Tips

As a new feature to this blog, each Tuesday I will share a quick training tip that has helped me stay on track.  We all know there are a million excuses and reasons to skip a workout.  For me, I have always been pretty steady with my workouts and rarely skip them.  The first tip for my new Tuesday Training Tips post is to keep your workout routines interesting and fresh.

I have found that when I did the same routine over and over I would quickly burn out and lose interest and motivation.   For example, if you currently run for every cardio workout, try adding in days where you do something different such as biking, hiking, swimming, elliptical, rowing or even walking fast.  If you are training for a race, like I am, and don’t have the luxury of not doing a run, try mixing up the route you run or the tempo.

As you know, I am training to run my first marathon.  My official run plan starts in June, but I am currently running to maintain my fitness.  This winter I was using the treadmill most mornings, though I loathe it, because 5:00 AM is might dark, cold and desolate outside.  I found that I quickly began to lose interest and motivation to even run.  I realized it was because a) it is monotonous to run on a treadmill; and b) it was the same thing every day.  In my quest to reenergize my routine, I began exploring ways to make this routine more interesting.  Any of these ideas can apply to your current fitness routine and are easy and free to implement.

Schedule Different Routines

I found having a plan the easiest way to mix up the routines you follow.   Get out your calendar and schedule your workouts to build in variety and keep in interesting.  Below is a sample workout schedule that you could follow.  Just substitute the workout listed for the routine you prefer.

  • Monday – Easy run 45 minutes
  • Tuesday – Yoga class online – 30 – 60 min
  • Wednesday – Tempo training run – 30 minutes
  • Thursday – Strength class online – 30 minutes
  • Friday – Easy run 45 minutes
  • Saturday – Lap swim 60 minutes
  • Sunday – Rest day – easy walk

Another version I personally followed when recovering from broken bones involved only strength workouts.  These were streamed online and I used hand held weights.  The same principles applied in that I scheduled the sessions to stay focused and engaged.

  • Monday – chest/triceps
  • Tuesday – legs
  • Wednesday – back/biceps
  • Thursday – active recover – yoga/pilates
  • Friday – shoulders
  • Saturday – full body
  • Sunday – REST – easy walk

Scheduling workouts like this keeps it very interesting.  It also breaks them down into smaller, manageable parts.

Download an App

There are SO many free apps to choose from these days.  I’m currently loving the Running for Weightloss App, which has a free version.  I am in week 6 of using this app and it has really kept my interest on runs.  The one I am using is an interval training program which includes a coach who speaks to me on runs.  She tells me when to run, walk and sprint.  I find I look forward to these runs and include them into my routine three times a week.   I get a great workout and the session flies by.

Join a Club or Find a Friend

Everything in life is better with friends.  For me, finding someone to run at 5:00 AM is pretty impossible.  I joined an online running club and found many friends to network with.  We keep each other motivated and yes, sometimes meet up in person at races to run.  Just because you don’t have someone every day to workout with, don’t give up.  Even if you have friends you can talk to about your workout routines, you’ll find your motivation will increase.  My club is called the Sub30 Club and is offered through Runners World.

Vary Routine

If you are training for an upcoming goal race and need to just plain run, I’ve found the way to keep it interesting is to vary your routine.  Again, a schedule and a plan are most helpful to keep yourself focused and to ensure you are training enough to meet your goals.  When I trained for my first half marathon last year, I purchased a running plan.  I couldn’t believe the difference the plan made in my motivation to get out there.  I didn’t have a live coach pushing me along, it was just me and the road, but I was motivated and never skipped one planned run.  I am obviously schedule driven, but I think changing up the routines was the true key to my success.  Here is a sample week for my runs on the plan –

  • Monday – easy effort run 60 minutes
  • Tuesday – tempo run 45 minutes
  • Wednesday – easy effort run 60 minutes
  • Thursday – active recovery – walk/yoga/pilates
  • Friday – tempo run 45 minutes
  • Saturday – long run 90 minutes, easy effort
  • Sunday – REST – walk

The times increase over the course of 20 weeks for the long run.  The shorter runs generally stayed in the same range.  The plan I purchased was from Another Mother Runner.  There are many free programs available online if you are looking for a plan and can’t afford to buy one.

Do Just a Little Bit Each Day

I love the concept of doing short workouts every day.  It really makes it so accessible for anyone.  Seriously, who can’t carve out 10 – 15 minutes a day.  You may think it’s not enough and it may not be in the long run, but in the short run it will get you engaged and started.  For me, I use this concept to get my strength training in when I’m training for a race.  Running during training takes pretty much all my free time in the morning.  There just isn’t enough time to do a 60 minute run and get in a proper strength training routine.  My choice became either get no strength training, or add a little in each day and go for the compound effect.  I chose the later and added 10 – 15 minutes to the end of each run.  Here’s a sample of the add on to my current routine –

  • Monday – easy effort run 60 minutes/foam rolling 5 minutes/strength 10 minutes
  • Tuesday – tempo run 45 minutes/yoga burn 15 minutes
  • Wednesday – easy effort run 60 minutes/foam rolling 5 minutes/strength 10 minutes
  • Thursday – active recovery – yoga/pilates/walk
  • Friday – tempo run 45 minutes – strength 15 minutes
  • Saturday – long run 90 minutes – yoga burn 20 minutes
  • Sunday – REST

If I can’t fit the short add on into the routine in the morning, it is surely manageable to do at night.  I am the queen of excuses at night, so I make sure to fit it in, but you can certainly see that doing 15 minutes of something at night is much less stressful than carving out 60 minutes after work.

My routines are all available online and were inexpensive to purchase.  I use Yoga Burn, which is segmented into 15 minute segments.  I purchased Danette May’s Fit for Life subscription and it includes workout calendars for the month.  I just pick and choose the ones I wish to do for each day.  They are all segmented into 8 – 10 minute workouts.  Both of these are meant to be repeated three times, but for me I only really have time for one go around.  As I said, it’s not my only routine and I’m using it as an add on.  I’m also hoping for the compound effect and looking across the week rather than fitting it all in one session.

During the summer when I have more time, I will surely add more strength in, but if I want to stay in the game this works for me.   What are your routines to keep yourself motivated to workout?  I’d love to share some new ideas.  Please leave your comment in the section below.

Is Your Cookware Safe?

You go out of your way to eat clean, organically grown foods.  You even spend time cooking and preparing healthy food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  You are well on your way to reclaiming your health and feeling pretty good about where you are right now.  You really think you’ve got a handle on this healthy lifestyle business.  I’ve just got one question for you to think about. What type of cookware are you preparing your healthy food in?

When I first started researching Alzheimer’s disease, I was shocked to learn just how many toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis.  I began cleaning up my act literally.  One area I had not thought of, at that time, as a source of toxins was my cookware.  Thankfully, I didn’t have many nonstick pots, or teflon, in my possession as those are some of the worst offenders. I’d like to share with you what I learned about the hazards of using certain types of cookware.  Ease of clean up should most definitely not be the deciding factor when purchasing pots, including disposable versions.

Studies of various cookware options have shown that many can be dangerous to your health as they have been found to leach various toxins into your food and body.  You’ve taken proactive steps to remove toxins from your food, please don’t introduce them right back in through cooking in unsafe pots and pans.  The biggest offenders appear to be the nonstick lines of cookware.  Touted for their ease of cleanup and nonsticking properties, these pots are the most dangerous to use.  In fact, if you own them, I recommend you throw them out today.

According to studies, one of the biggest problems with non stick cookware comes from the chemical that creates the nonstick surface – perflurooctanoic acid (PFOA).  This chemical releases when heated and can potentially leach into the food you are cooking.  Further, if they are scratched or have breakage to the surface leaching potential increases.  I no longer have any nonstick cookware in my collection.  I have slowly replaced all my pots and pans, including the pan I cook my eggs in.  That pan is the most commonly used nonstick pan most people use and I’m betting you have one in your collection as well.  Please take some time to take stock of your pots and pans and bakeware.  I’m sure you will find nonstick versions, especially in your bakeware and frying collection.

When I first started looking at cookware I realized I needed to make some changes.  I wasn’t able to afford to replace all my pots, pans and bakeware at once as good quality pots are quite expensive.  I began researching and looking at the best options for safe, healthy cookware.  I then began purchasing literally one pot at a time.  Before you jump into purchasing, I suggest you spend some time reading and learning about the safest and healthiest cookware options.  Then select the options that works best for your lifestyle.

Here are the types of cookware that have been shown to leach dangerous toxins into our food during cooking.  I’m betting all of you have one of these five in your current collection:

Aluminum
Speckled Metal Bakeware (think Grandma’s roasting pan)
Non stick Anodized Aluminum
Ceramic Non Stick Aluminum Skillet
Non stick Glass Bakeware

I know I had many of them in my collection.  You’ll notice that aluminum is repeatedly on the list.  I wonder how many of you, like me, line your roasting pans in foil when cooking to make clean up easier.  Or how many of you wrap food in aluminum (think baked potatoes) when baking.  Aluminum is one of the worst offenders and an item I used most often during the cooking process.  Aluminum is a very soft metal and one that causes an extreme chemical reaction between food and the pan.  For example, all vegetables cooked in aluminum produce hydroxide poison.  I hope you keep this in mind next time you reach for those disposable aluminum pans.  People make fun of me on holidays because I cook for large crowds in pans that need to be washed.  I’d rather spend time cleaning my pan than being sick down the road.

Many people purchase stainless steel pots and think they are safe.  If you buy cheaper lines of stainless steel you can still face potential risks.  Cheaper stainless steel cookware is made from different alloys, including scrap metal.  Most of these lines can potentially allow chrome and nickel to bleed into food as the salts and acids of foods react with the pots.  When purchasing stainless steel you should only purchase high grade surgical stainless steel, even at the higher cost.

Another common line of cookware is cast iron.  Cast iron is a highly porous metal and grease can turn rancid in the pores.  My mother in law has many older cast iron pots and she says you’re not supposed to scrub them with soap or Brillo.  This totally grosses me out, but I have read these directions about cleaning cast iron pots during my research.

Now that I’ve got your attention and you’ve taken stock of your current cookware, let’s make a plan to replace then with safer, healthier versions.  My first two purchases when I began replacing mine were a roasting pan and a 6 quart pot.  Both of these are staples in my collection and ones I use most often.  I recommend you start with the pots you use most often to cook.  Then, look for sales and slowly replace the others.  I even put a pot I wanted on my birthday list one year and wouldn’t be offended if someone gave me one as a present.

Here are the safest options available when selecting cookware:

High Quality Surgical Grade Stainless Steel

This type of pot will be more expensive to purchase, but totally worth the cost.  Remember, you don’t need a full set of pots.  Start with the one or two you use most often and forget the rest for right now.  There are many brands that offer high grade surgical steel stainless pots.  Many have aluminum inside the steel metals to aid in heat distribution.  Don’t be alarmed by this, as the aluminum never comes into contact with your food and stays perfectly encased inside the stainless steel.  My personal choice are pots from the 360 Cookware line.  I like the vapor seal that allows me to use less oil in the cooking process.

360 Cookware Premium Waterless Stainless Steel 6 Quart Stockpot with Cover

Ceramic Cookware

I am new to ceramic cookware and excited by its versatility.  Ceramic, or glass cookware, can be one of the best options out there to avoid toxins.  Additionally, it can be used in high heat and is dishwasher safe.  The downside of using ceramic cookware is that it is breakable, so you do have to be somewhat careful.  If you drop it on your ceramic floor, it will most definitely break.  I primarily use this type of cookware for cooking eggs and baking.  The line I use is Xtrema Ceramic Cookware and this is my egg pan.

Xtrema 7 Inch 100% Ceramic Skillet with Cover

Enameled Cast Iron

I am a long time fan of Le Creuset products.  The research, however, is mixed on using enameled cast iron as it has been found that heavy metals such as lead and cadmium found in the ceramic glazes can pose potential danger.  In researching this issue, I found that Le Creuset addressed these concerns and feel comfortable still using my two pieces from their line.  Basically, they stated that these chemicals were present only on the outside of the cookware and never touch the food.    These pans are very expensive.  I purchased mine at the Le Creuset outlet during their yearly sale.  Mine were also seconds, but you can’t see anything wrong with them and I was happy for the huge savings.

One final category of cookware worth mentioning, is slow cookers and crock pots.  Many of us use these cookers on a daily basis.  There is little information available about testing done on the safety of ceramic inserts found in many crock pots.  Also, I am not sure about the grade of stainless used in the stainless versions.  For this reason, I decided to take no chances for my slow cooking choice.  I purchased a very versatile slow cooker, which is actually a stand alone pot as well.  It is made by 360 and works beautifully.  Here is the link to check out this great option for a safer slow cooker.

360 Cookware Gourmet Slow Cooker and Stainless Steel Stock Pot with Cover, 4 Quart

I hope you will begin to think about cooking your food in three ways: 1) what you cook; 2) how you cook it, and; 3) what you cook it in.  Don’t overlook the importance of using safe, healthy cookware as part of your healthy lifestyle.

If you have already made this change, I’d seriously love to hear about it.  I am always looking for information on this topic and for new and healthier versions of cookware.  Please leave a comment below about what changes you have made to ensure you are using healthy cookware to prepare your meals.

Accountability

Personal success can be achieved through taking personal accountability for our actions. This shift takes time for many to achieve and is one I’m working toward.  It’s hard to accept that you and you alone are accountable for your success or failure on this journey. It’s often easier to blame genetics, health or other outside reasons for your failure to make progress. But, today I’d like to talk about taking control of your journey and accepting personal accountability for it.

Think about this, every single decision you make in a day is in your hands. You alone decide to sleep in, get up, work out, or to eat that cookie or apple. You alone must take responsibility for the things you do and don’t do in any given day. Recognizing and honoring this is a necessary first step toward making lasting changes in your health. It can also be a powerful tool toward changing unwanted behaviors and ways of thinking about yourself.

Many of us spend our days drowning in negative self talk, blame and procrastination. On this journey toward reclaiming our health, we first need to address the elephant in the room – blame and excuses. Yes, it is far easier to say I’m still overweight because I’m a middle aged woman, or my parents were overweight, or, or, or. Accepting these excuses and reasons for our struggle is like giving ourselves a free pass. Further, accepting these reasons can lead to accepting where we are and giving up on trying to change our way of life.

Personal accountability is not meant to be a way to blame yourself for all that’s wrong in your life right now. Rather, it is meant to be a means to accept that despite where you are right now on your journey, including the reasons for being there, you have the power and responsibility to improve your health and make lasting changes.

Two of the most common reasons for not achieving our goals can be tied to making excuses and not having strong enough reason for doing something. Excuses can often lead to loss of motivation in any endeavor we take on. Motivation will quickly fade over time, especially as we begin to make excuses for our failures. Once we begin to blame outside sources for our lack of progress, we begin to lose our focus and drive. Having  strong reasons for getting healthy can help improve your focus and drive. Losing weight for a special event, while motivating in the short term, won’t sustain you over the long haul. Generally after the event is over, so is your motivation and drive to continue. Centering your why around longer term goals can keep you move forward when the going gets tough. In my case, my why is to maintain optimum health as I move into the next phase of my life. Seeking to avoid getting a disease such as Alzheimers keeps me focused and on track, even when I fall off the wagon for a few weeks here and there.

Success on this journey will require action. This action includes accepting personal responsibility for actions and not allowing yourself to make excuses when you fail to follow through.

Here are a few of the ways I have been holding myself accountable:

Planning

They say a goal without a plan is just a dream. That definitely applies to any health journey you are on. Planning is the biggest key to success. When I fail to plan I always end up on a bender. Planning includes shopping for healthy food, meal planning and scheduling workouts. Using a calendar and developing a schedule is the easiest way I get my daily workouts in. Blocking out a time to do it is critical. I am a morning person and I know that excuses will get the best of me if I try to workout at night. Knowing this, I plan my day around my workout. I get up early enough to fit it in each morning.

Menu planning and food shopping go hand in hand. If I don’t plan out my meals I end up cooking whatever is easy – pasta, junk food, etc. Whenever I am off target I know that it means I haven’t been diligent about shopping and planning. This is your best line of defense for success.

Share the Journey

For me, writing has allowed me to share my journey. It also holds me accountable. I find writing this blog very therapeutic as I work through issues I am facing myself. Making my journey public has also provided a means to hold myself personally accountable for my actions. I can’t sit here and write about things others should do if I don’t believe in them, or do them myself. This blog helps remind me of my why and keeps my focus on my goals strong. You don’t have to blog to share your journey. I imagine you all have people in your life that are on a similar journey. One of the best ways to stay strong and focused is to share your journey with a friend or loved one. Find yourself a partner and support each other along the way.

Positive Self Talk

Blame, negativity and excuses are hard to stave off. I’m working hard on using positive self talk to replace them whenever they rear their ugly heads. Find yourself a means to use positivity and gratitude to keep your spirits up. This will be a difficult journey and there will be times when your emotions take over. Having an outlet, or means to keep it positive will go a long way towards keeping you moving forward.

Tracking Progress

At the gym I always hear this, “What get’s measured gets improved.” It was on a radio playback. This is so true. Tracking progress will greatly improve your motivation and drive. Don’t just weigh yourself and lament over lack of weight loss. Measure all progress – This week I worked out six out of seven days, Today I ate three healthy meals, I slept through the night, etc. There are so many areas of our life that we can look to for progress. The scale is only one way to track our progress. In past blogs I’ve talked about taking your measurements as an alternative to the scale. Taking photographs is another positive way to see progress. Recognizing the daily and weekly successes to change our thinking is also a great place to celebrate process.

What are some ways you hold yourself accountable?  How do you maintain your positivity?  I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on this as it surely can be a struggle for me.  Please take a moment to share your ideas in the comments below.  Also, consider sharing this blog with a friend who is on this path with you.

Lighten Up

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Purchasing healthy food is really just the entry point to healthy eating.   Think about it.  You purchase beautiful, organic zucchini at your local green market.  What a healthy decision that was.  Then you go home, batter it up and fry it, or fry then douse in mozzarella cheese for zucchini parmesan.  Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?  Does that mean eating delicious zucchini parmesan is out for life?  Certainly not!  How we cook our food makes all the difference when it comes to healthy living.  But, that doesn’t mean our favorite foods should be completely off limit.  Learning how to lighten up your recipes is the best way to keep your comfort foods in your rotation.

Paula Deen was often criticized for her love of butter.  I can still recall her clearly saying “add two sticks of butter”, as she seemingly thumbed her nose up at her critics.  We all know what happened to her.  Now, Paula has changed her views and revamped her recipes to create healthier versions without sacrificing taste.  She’s lost weight and reclaimed her health without giving up the food she loves.  That’s the key really, learning to revamp recipes and looking for excess additions that are not needed, like two sticks of butter.

Before I start cooking any recipe, I preview it looking for excess oils, butter, sugar or cheeses.  These are often the easiest thing to substitute out or modify.  Other areas are the methods of cooking,  for example, sautéed lightly in olive oil vs battered and deep fried.  For example, I like to bake my meatballs and chicken cutlets in place of frying them in oil.

Here are some tips you can use to modify your favorite recipes to create healthier delicious versions.

Bake Don’t Fry

I don’t fry meatballs or chicken cutlets anymore, especially if they are going into a sauce for further cooking.  This saves me the unnecessary calories and fat from the oil and produces a delicious lighter version of this staple Sunday dinner.  For my meatballs, I still use meat, but have substituted ground bison as a healthier option.  My family really hasn’t caught on as the taste is similar.  I have also used ground turkey, but when I do I don’t bake the meatballs prior to entering the sauce.  I just roll them and place them in.  This keeps them moister as baking seems to dry them out.

For chicken cutlets, I place them in egg and then bread crumbs.  I make my own bread crumbs to ensure quality ingredients, but store bought could work as well.  To make bread crumbs, I personally use gluten free bread.  I slightly toast it in the oven on a cookie sheet then place into my food processor  (I use this in my meatballs as well).  You can season the crumbs anyway you wish.  I keep it simple and just use some aged parmesan cheese and Italian flavored seasoning.  Once the chicken has been dipped, it goes onto a cookie sheet which has been sprayed lightly with avocado oil.  I bake it for no more than 20 minutes (depending on thickness) if eating as is.  If you spray the top with a mist of avocado oil it will brown nicely.  If I am using in a chicken parmesan dish, I cook for 15 minutes then top with cheese and small amount of sauce.  No longer do I drown my chicken in sauce as it’s totally not necessary.

Grill don’t Fry

Rarely will I sauté my vegetables in oil anymore.  I have an Optigrill that I purchased after a sleepless night watching infomercials.  It was the best investment ever as I use it for almost everything.  As a reformed vegetable hater, I have come to love the simplistic flavoring of vegetables. In the past I would douse my vegetables in sauces and cheeses and cook them to the point of mush to get them down.  All this just added necessary calories and fat and likely destroyed any health benefits found in the vegetables.  When cooking eggplant parmesan, a favorite addition to Sunday meals, I stopped frying the eggplant.  I don’t dip them in flour or egg anymore either.  Overhaul of that recipe included grilling the eggplant (no oil required) , then just adding a small amount of sauce and cheese.  I leave mine right on the cookie sheet and personally love it this way.  If I eat the fried version now I find it often repeats on me.  Try it out and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.  If cooking for a crowd, you can assemble in the pan just like you would after frying.

Here’s the link to see the Optigrill.  What I love about this is the ease of cleaning.  The whole thing comes apart and goes in the dishwasher, unlike the Foreman grill that I never used due to my inability to properly clean it.  Additionally, this grill has automatic settings so you literally set it and it tells you when it is done.  No more cutting into things to see if they are cooked, or dried out overcooked food.  I’ve never had a bad steak on it.  No, I am not a dealer, nor do I make any commission on this item.  Just love it.

T-fal GC704 OptiGrill Stainless Steel Indoor Electric Grill with Removable and Dishwasher Safe plates,1800-watt, Silver

Use Broth instead of Oil

When stir frying quick meals, you can use a couple of tablespoons of low-sodium vegetable broth in place of oil or butter.  This method adds a nice flavor to your food as well as moisture.  You will save calories and fat from the oil during the cooking process.  Since we know that healthy fats are an integral part of our diets, when eating you can serve these broth sautéed vegetables with a salad.  I like to use avocado oil and lemon juice as a nice dressing over the top.  Since I cooked it in broth, I don’t have to worry about having too much fat in one serving and can add a drizzle of oil to the salad.

Be Choosy about Cheese

Cheese is something I love, but don’t often cook with.  For those recipes that call for cheese, I’ve learned to substitute healthier options.  No, I don’t buy low fat, part skim cheese.  Not only is regular cheese not that bad for you, the reduced-fat version has several drawbacks to it.   Low fat cheese has a very high sodium count (20% more) and the taste and meltability are just plain awful.  Next time you are buying something labeled low fat, I beg you to read the label.  You will see a long list of ingredients and that’s really not cheese in my book.  Truly sounds more like genetically modified fake food.

One of my favorite choices is Cabot cheddar cheese. It has four ingredients: pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, salt, and enzymes.   When using mildly flavored cheese, you need to add more cheese to taste it. Instead, choose a cheese with intense flavor like feta, sharp Cheddar or aged Parmesan.  Try mixing one of these soft cheeses on your chicken parmesan instead of shredded mozzarella.  With the sauce and cheese combination you likely won’t notice the difference. Since I don’t eat parmesan often, I stick with the mozzarella, but purchase freshly made mozzarella from my local store.

Substitute Ingredients

When a recipe calls for a significant amount of ricotta cheese, you can substitute half the amount with cottage cheese.  This will retain taste and texture while reducing some of the fat and calories.  This works really well in baked ziti and lasagna.  When making cream based recipes, you can substitute half and half for heavy cream.  You will still get the same creamy taste with half the fat found in heavy cream.  For any recipe that calls for mayonnaise, you can substitute a homemade dressing made from Greek yogurt and dijon mustard.  When mixed properly it tastes like mayonnaise and is far more healthier.  I use this all the time on my tuna salad.  Lastly, substitute out any pre-made salad dressing or marinade.  They are all laden with chemicals and sodium and totally unnecessary.  For salad dressing, I am a big fan of avocado or olive oil with lemon juice or vinegar.  Simple, easy and healthy.  For marinades, I use wine or vinegar and lemon juice with spices.  They contain far less sodium, yet they tenderize and flavor just as well.

I’ve talked about giving up coffee creamer. My recipe for coffee includes ingredients that are similar to Bullet Coffee. I’ve substituted out my sugar filled creamer with healthy superfoods. You can see my coffee recipe in many of my past posts, or email me directly for it. Here’s the link to the site where I purchase my coffee, Ghee and collagen protein.

Bullet Proof Coffee

There’s something about eating clean delicious food that is not laden with unnecessary oils, cheeses or spices.  I’ve become a minimalist when cooking these days and have come to truly love the taste of my food.  I used to add so much salt to my food and now find it not needed.  It didn’t happen overnight, but making these simple changes to my cooking over time have allowed me to wake up my taste buds.  Why would anyone need to add sugar to a dish of fruit?  The fruit alone is sweet and delicious.  I’ve only shared a few of the many ways you can revamp some of your favorite recipes.  Thankfully, the internet offers many ways to search for healthier recipes.  Cooking Light is a great magazine that carries many simple to cook, healthy dinner options.  Have fun with your menu planning and be brave.  Be willing to try new things and be open to experimenting with food.  I am willing to bet you too will come to love the new versions of your recipes.

If you have healthier versions of your favorite food, please consider sharing. I’m always looking for new ideas.  Here are two of my favorite cookbooks for light, healthy meals.

5 Ingredient Fix: Easy, Elegant, and Irresistible Recipes Clean Eats: Over 200 Delicious Recipes to Reset Your Body’s Natural Balance and Discover What It Means to Be Truly Healthy