Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My thoughts on starting an exercise or weight loss program

It seems everywhere you look these days there are weight loss programs. Everyone it seems wants to lose weight. Or just start an exercise program. Considering the dietary habits of this country it's no wonder this is such a huge market. So where do you start? There are SO many options. Some may work for some and not for others. There's exercise plans, menu planning, supplements. It's enough to make one a bit crazy and just give up. But that right there is why this country is so unhealthy...well that and the mounds of fast food consumed. In my opinion the absolute FIRST thing you should is look at your diet. DO NOT eat fast food. Did you get that? Just DON'T! Start with more home cooked meals. You'll save tons of calories. Granted, you need to be smart about the choices in meals you prepare. Yes, making fettuccine alfredo from scratch with whole wheat and organic ingredients is MUCH better for you than restaurant made. But that doesn't make it "good" for you. Occasional treat? Sure. Put it on your menu once a month. It'll give you something to look forward to. Start your meal planning with well rounded meals. Even in a rush you can throw together some leaf lettuce and dressing as a side dish. My kids are used to atleast one meal a day is going to have a salad. Sometimes it's just lettuce. Sometimes I might have some chopped veggies in the fridge already and I'll throw those on. A couple times a week I'll actually throw together a nicer salad. I would say most people need more veggies in their diet. Start writing down what you eat, maybe you'll notice you should add more veggies too. Also, please limit the amount of meat at any meal to 8oz. You really would do well limiting yourself to 8oz of meat total in a day. Your colon doesn't like meat. If your colon gets backed up it causes about a million different problems. Okay, maybe not a million, but a lot.
Next, start an exercise program. How much time do you spend watching tv in the evening? Well if you answered any at all then you could spend that time exercising. I am well aware that most folks would like to relax in the evening. I have four kids, believe me, I'm with you on that. Say you watch an hour or two of tv, you could spend 30 minutes of that exercising. Whether you do calisthenics or sit ups or push ups, doesn't matter, just start doing something rather than nothing. If you have an exercise bike or treadmill, if possible, move it into the living room. For the first 30 minutes you watch tv spend it on those. THEN sit your butt on the couch and relax. Still plenty of time to relax and watch tv. And you'll notice that if you watch tv while exercising it goes much faster!!! Once you get yourself moving you'll notice it gets easier. It always does. It seems everyone has a Kindle or Nook these days. Grab it, hit a stationary bike and spend 30 minutes burning calories while you get some good reading in.  Here are some resources for some great exercise programs.
First is Dr. Mercola's Peak Fitness. 20 minutes 3 times a week will greatly increase your health:
http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2010/12/24/a-fountain-of-youth-in-your-muscles.aspx
The Couch 2 5K program is great. 9 weeks and you'll be running three miles:
http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_3/181.shtml

Bottom line: Start a diet log...are you consuming good quality calories? 1000 calories of lean protein and organic veggies will do a lot more for your health than 1000 calories of french fries and donuts. The amount of calories isn't as important as the quality. And start moving, doesn't matter where you start, the point is you start. 


Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

These are wonderful potatoes! There's never any leftovers for the chickens, yes they ARE that good! I made these yesterday aside a rotisserie chicken I made in my new toaster oven. Fabulous!

Ingredients: 8 servings
5 potatoes, chopped into one inch pieces
4 TB evoo
1 ts sea salt
1 TB dried rosemary
1 ts garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spread out potatoes on cookie sheet. Drizzle evoo over the potatoes and toss. Sprinkle the rest of the ingredients over the potatoes and toss again. Cook for 30-40 minutes, check after 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Garlic Lovers Pasta

HHHHHEEELLLLOOO....can you smell me from there? I bet you can. This pasta is garlicky, hence the name. And it is SOOO yummy! Try it, just make sure everyone else eats it too! Adapted from a recipe at www.mommybistro.com

Ingredients:
1 lb whole wheat pasta (you can really use any shape pasta, I used fettuccine because it was that or spaghetti)
6 cloves organic garlic, minced
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
8 TB evoo
2 TB dried parsley
1/2-1 ts red pepper flakes
Juice of one lemon
4 ts sea salt
Shredded parmesan (Really excited, our grocery store just started carrying organic!!!)
1/2 ts Ground pepper
Salt to taste

Cook pasta according to directions on package. Use 3 ts of salt in pasta water. While pasta is cooking, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add 4 TB evoo. Add garlic, 1 ts salt, and  ground pepper, and stir often. Cook garlic for a few minutes until it browns just slightly...you DO NOT want to overcook it because garlic gets an awful taste when overcooked. As soon as it browns, remove from heat. Stir in red pepper, lemon juice, 2 TB reserved water, parsley. Drain pasta and place in a large mixing bowl. Toss with 4 TB evoo and remaining reserved water. Add garlic mixture and toss. Divide among bowls and top with parmesan. Add salt to taste. Serve with a caesar salad! Yum!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mexican Corn Salad

This is a very light and refreshing salad. The flavors burst in your mouth! Impress your family and friends with this colorful salad.

Ingredients:
4 ears organic corn, cut off the cob (If corn on the cob is not available, organic canned corn can be used)
3 tomatoes, chopped. (Or one package of grape tomatoes, sliced in half)
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 handful cilantro, chopped
2 organic red peppers, chopped (If you can find organic orange peppers that would add another color)

Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of one lime
Juice of one lemon
2 TB chopped cilantro
1 ts parsley
1/4 ts chili powder
1/2-1 ts sea salt (start with less and add more if you think it needs it)

Blend dressing together and pour over salad, toss.

Chicken and Chile Wrap




The peppers in this add a zing to the standard chicken wrap. Super yummy! My hubby is very excited EVERY time I make these. I skip the peppers for the kids.

Makes about 5 wraps 
(I make big ones for me and hubby and small ones for the kids. This should make 5 big ones. Another option for a great appetizer - use small tortillas and when done cut them in half and you have mini wrap appetizers!)

Ingredients:
1 lb organic chicken, cooked, diced
5 whole wheat tortillas 
3 poblano peppers
1 bunch green onions
Homemade mayonnaise, to taste. Here's the recipe
1 cup shredded organic cheddar cheese

Coat peppers in olive oil and put under broiler on high for a few minutes. Flip them over and put back under broiler for a few minutes. If you would like to remove the skin, place the peppers in a bowl and cover for about ten minutes. This will steam the pepper and allow you to peal off the skim more easily. I used to do this but now I don't bother unless I burn the skin under the broiler. Slice the peppers.
Wet tortillas and place in a toaster oven for about 2 minutes. This is optional  but allows for easier wrapping. Lay out tortillas and spread mayonnaise down the middle. Layer on the chicken, peppers, cheese, green onions. Wrap up like a burrito and enjoy!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Crock Pot French Onion Soup

I could eat french onion soup every single day. Seriously. I could. But sadly I don't. But when I make this recipe there is enough for me to eat a bowl everyday for about a week. That makes me super happy =) This can be made in the crock pot or stove. I prefer the crockpot, but that means I have to start it in the morning. I only forgot to once, so I made it on the stove. Tastes great either way, but I think with the crockpot the taste is bolder because it's cooked for so long. Try it, you'll love it!

Ingredients:
4 TB organic butter
3 large sweet onions
2 cartons organic beef broth (I use Pacific, unless I have homemade broth in the freezer, I use that. You need about 50-60 oz)
1 TB sugar, organic
1/2 cup cooking sherry
1 ts sea salt
1 ts Worcestershire sauce, organic if you can find it
1 slice of bread for each bowl (I just use plain 'ol sandwich bread because it's easy and I always have it, but feel free to french bread)
1 slice of provolone, preferably organic, for each bowl.


Directions:
Whether using the stove or crockpot the directions are the same, just cooking time will be different. Melt the butter in the bottom of crockpot (on high) or pot on medium. Slice onions into rings or half rings (I prefer half rings for some reason). Throw the onions in the pot with the butter and toss. Add the broth, sugar, sherry, salt, and worcestershire. For the crockpot, cook on low 10-12 hours, or on high 6-8 hours. On the stove you'll want to cook for atleast an hour (bring to boil and then simmer). If you can let it simmer longer than an hour please do. You'll know it's done when the onions are translucent.

Toast bread until hard but not burnt. Place bowls on a cookie sheet. Ladle soup into bowls. Lay a piece of bread in each bowl and top with a piece of cheese. Put under broiler for a few minutes. Stay close and keep an eye on it. You want it melted and bubbly....a little brown is good but don't let it burn. Very carefully remove from broiler and use potholders to serve. This recipe makes a lot of soup, I'm talking maybe 12 servings. So it'll feed a crowd, or you'll have tons of leftovers (smile). But you can also pretty easily cut the recipe in half. Make sure to taste every few hours in case it needs more flavor. Make this a staple, you'll love it!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Asian Chicken Salad

Want flavors that explode in your mouth? Try this delicious salad. It can be a low calorie meal itself or a great side dish to stir fry or other favorite Asian main dishes.

Ingredients: (organic is always recommended!)
3 TB rice vinegar
2 TB Braggs liguid aminos (or organic soy sauce, NEVER non-organic)
1 TB ground organic ginger (fresh can be used if you have it, add 2-3 TB)
2 ts wasabi powder
3 TB organic sugar (I prefer sucanat. Just never use white refined sugar for anything...except a craft project ;)
1 TB sesame seeds
1/2 cup organic sesame oil
1 bag pre-shredded red cabbage
6 cups chopped romaine, organic
1 cup shredded carrots, organic
1 cup diced pineapple
1 cup diced mango
2 cups diced cooked chicken, organic
1 cup cooked chow mein noodles

Whisk together vinegar, braggs or soy sauce, ginger, wasabi powder, sugar, and sesame seeds in a small bowl until well blended. While whisking, pour oil into bowl in a thin stream. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, romaine,  carrots, pineapple, mango, chicken, and noodles. Pour dressing over mixture and toss gently. Serve.

Greek Salad Dressing

Ingredients:
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1 TB dried oregano
1 ts sea salt
4 cloves of organic garlic, chopped
Optional: 4 ounces feta, chopped (Separate directions below)

Place all ingredients in a bowl or large measuring cup and whisk. Slowly add the oil while whisking. Let sit for atleast 30 minutes before serving for flavors to mingle. Taste-too tangy for your taste, add some more olive oil, a little at a time. Store in fridge. Fresh garlic in olive oil at room temperature will grow botulism, not good.

Directions with feta. Place all ingredients except oil and feta in a blender. Add oil in a thin stream while mixing at a low speed. Add feta, blend for about 30 seconds. Again, let sit for flavors to mingle, and then store in fridge to avoid the whole botulism thing.

For a quick greek salad while flavors are mingling:
4 handfuls of mixed greens
2 tomatoes, chopped -  or one package of grape tomatoes
1-2 cucumbers,sliced
Half a jar of kalamata olives
1 onion, sliced

Toss all ingredients together with dressing and enjoy!




Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cheese Enchiladas

I'm from California and my favorite food ever is enchiladas. Granted I like almost anything Mexican (or Mexi-Cali, since I guess I've never really had Mexican food in Mexico). I judge every single Mexican restaurant by their cheese enchiladas. If they aren't good, I don't go back. Harsh? Maybe, but enchiladas are super important to me =) So, since moving to NY there is a serious lack of Mexican restaurants so if I want enchiladas I have to make them myself. I came up with this recipe and in my opinion it's perfect. I've passed down my love of enchiladas to my kids. They always have seconds and sometimes thirds. So try this recipe, you'll be happy you did!!! And FYI I use small whole wheat tortillas for this. You by all means CAN use corn tortillas. I actually prefer corn, but the tortillas are a little trickier to roll. So warm them first. My husband prefers flour tortillas. I conceded since I've been unable to find organic corn tortillas. Since corn is highly GMO'd, I opt for the flour tortillas. I did make my own tortillas once, but that took a long time.

I make two pans at a time, cut in half if you only want one. But believe me, you'll want leftovers!

Cheese Enchiladas

18 small tortillas
16 oz. organic jack cheese

Sauce:
2 TB olive or coconut oil
1 TB organic chili powder
1 TB organic cumin
1 ts organic garlic powder
1 ts sea salt
36 oz organic tomato sauce

In a saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Toss in the chili powder. Cook for a few minutes. Pour in tomato sauce. I use bottled tomato sauce (which is actually pureed tomatoes) I then rinse down the sides of the bottles to get the last bits of tomatoes out, filling about halfway with water, then add to pot. You don't want  it too watery, but I find it a bit thick if I don't add any water. If you end of adding too much water and need to thicken it, it's easily fixed by adding a little tomato paste. Add cumin, salt, and garlic powder. Simmer on medium low for atleast ten minutes.
Let sauce cool for ten minutes (not totally necessary, but your fingers will thank you in a few minutes).
This is how I set up my work station:


Pour a spoonful of sauce in each pan and spread it around. Also pour a spoonful of sauce on the empty plate.


Take a tortilla, lay it on the plate, and rub it around in the sauce. Flip it over and do the other side so both sides are coated in sauce. Sprinkle cheese across the middle. (Now by all means you can add veggies, ground beef, chicken, etc...I'm just partial to just cheese)
Grab one end and roll up. Place in baking dish, seam side down.
Continue with all tortillas. Pour remaining sauce over the top and spread around. Sprinkle on remaining cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until everything is hot and bubbly! I always serve them with a side of rice and beans, sour cream, and cholula hot sauce! Enjoy!