Friday, March 28, 2014

Just A Quickie

I'm still working a lot of overtime this week, so my apologies that I haven't been posting.  But here's a quick one before the weekend, which reportedly is supposed be absolutely stinkin' gorgeous!  If you decide to grill this weekend (like we probably will!) but want to keep your calories down, try these!  This recipe serves 2.

Stuffed Portabello Caps in Balsamic Vinegar

4 Portabello mushrooms
1 c. Shredded zucchini
1/2 c. Onion, chopped fine
1/2 c. Barley
1/4 c. Red bell pepper
1/2 Granny Smith apple, shredded
1 c. Spinach leaves, chopped 
1 tsp. Rosemary
1 tsp. Thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste 
Balsamic vinegar
4 slices of Muenster cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  

In a large bowl, combine the onion, barley, bell pepper, spinach, apple, zucchini, rosemary, and thyme.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Trim the bottom of your portabellos removing any dirt that might cling to the stalk (I just chopped that part off and threw it away).  Then dice up the stalks and add them to your stuffing mixture.  

In a large glass dish, pour about a quarter-sized drizzle of balsamic vinegar and swirl it out with your finger to set the caps on, and then place them upside down as pictured.

Pour another drizzle of balsamic vinegar onto the upturned mushroom caps.  Just a drizzle as a little bit of balsamic goes a long way!

Take a good handful of the stuffing and pack it just a bit like you would a snowball.  It won't stick together well, but will work for getting it into the cap.  Place this into your upturned mushroom cap.

Once your caps have been filled, distribute any filling that remains in the bowl evenly among the caps and place the pan in the oven.  

Allow them to bake for about 12-15 minutes.  You can check to see if they're done by checking the temperature toward the middle of your stuffing.  If it's steaming inside, it's nearly done.  

When this happens, place a slice of cheese over the top of each stuffed cap and allow to bake for another 2-3 minutes just until the cheese melts.  

Once the cheese has melted, remove the pan from the oven and serve immediately.  This would go well with a side salad or grilled asparagus with garlic.  

Substitutions:  You can totally sub out any of the vegetables here.  I chose these mainly because I had a zucchini and hunk of red pepper that needed using, and half a Granny Smith apple left over from a smoothie that I didn't want to waste!  But you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand for a total of about 3 cups.  You can also substitute the barley for another grain such as quinoa, rice, or even bulgar wheat if you want to keep it vegetarian.  OR, you can use the same amount of cooked ground turkey or beef for added protein.  

Here are the stats:  
Serving size:  1 stuffed cap
Time Spent:   30 minutes total
Calories         97
Carbs            19 g
Protein          3.5 g
Fiber             7.8 g
Potassium    164 mg

Have a happy and healthy weekend!  Don't forget to get outside if you can and enjoy almost-spring!  After all, it might snow next week!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

True March Madness

I'm not sure what it's like where you live, but here in Colorado winter is hanging on with the tenacity of a bulldog with a bone!  And in typical March fashion (true March Madness if you ask me!), we have our beautiful teaser days of 70+ degree weather followed immediately by snow, sometimes in the same 24-hour period!

Here's a fast meal for one of those cold winter nights that's chock full of vegetables and lean meat that will make you totally forget you're eating healthy.  A perfect comfort food when it's cold outside and all you want to do is crawl under a blanket with a good book.  And it's so simple to make, you'll actually have time after dinner to read!

Chicken Pot Pie
1-1/2 c. Hot water
1/2 c. Milk
2 tsp. Chicken bullion
2 Tbsp. Flour for thickening
1 Chicken breast, chopped in bite-sized pieces
1 c. chopped celery
3 Large carrots (about 1 c. chopped)
1 Large clove of garlic, minced
1/2 c. Frozen peas
1/2 c. Frozen corn
1 c. Chopped onion
1 Potato, chopped
3 Sprigs of Rosemary (or 1 tsp. dry)
1/2 tsp. Celery Seed (optional)
1 Prepared pie crust (I used a frozen one I had left over from Christmas...or maybe even Thanksgiving...) :D
1 egg (optional) for brushing top of crust
Dissolve the bullion in the hot water and set it aside.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Heat some olive oil in a pan and add in your chicken.  Cook it til there is no pink left.  Add in the garlic, onion, carrots, and celery and cook just til the onion and celery soften up.  

Add in your 1-1/2 cup of chicken bullion and allow it to heat up to almost boiling.  

Mix the flour into the 1/2 cup of milk stirring until there are no lumps.  Turn down the heat on your chicken and vege mixture and, using a whisk, add the milk and flour mixture into the hot chicken/vege mixture stirring well so there's no lumps.  You want a nice, thick gravy to form here.  Stir this until it's well combined.  

Add in the rest of your vegetables and add in your rosemary, celery seed (if used), and season it with salt and pepper.  Allow this to cook for just a few minutes to incorporate the seasonings. 

Then, dump the entire mixture thing into a glass baking dish (I used a 9 x 9 glass dish).  Top it with the pie crust.  You can of course use 2 crusts to make this the traditional way, but the pie crust serves no nutritional purpose, so I've only used the one as it also cuts the fat from pie crust in half!  Make slits in the top of the crust for steam to escape.

Using a brush, lightly brush the top of the pie crust with the beaten egg before putting it in the oven.  Bake for about 25 minutes.  Keep an eye on this as it can have the tendency to bubble over and make a mess in your oven.  You can set the entire thing on a cookie sheet if you want to avoid this.  

And here's the finished product!  Again, this is one of those recipes that you can break down to it's parts and then substitute for whatever you've got in the house.  Here's the bare bones of it:

1-1/2 c. Hot water
1/2 c. Milk
2 tsp. bullion (any kind you have on hand, but it will taste better if you use chicken for chicken, beef for beef, etc.)
2 Tbsp. Flour for thickening
1 cup of some sort of meat.  You can even use hamburger or ground turkey!
3-4 cups total of different vegetables.  Be creative!
3 Sprigs of Rosemary (or 1 tsp. dry)
1/2 tsp. Celery Seed (optional)
1 Prepared pie crust
1 egg (optional) for brushing top of crust

You can also make this vegetarian and omit the meat altogether.  And if you want to omit the pie crust, top it with mashed potatoes!  If you put about 4 potatoes (chopped into small bits) on to boil while you're making the first part of the pot pie, they'll be ready to mash and use as topping by the time you reach the point that you're pouring the mixture into the dish to bake, and voila! A version of Shepherd's Pie!

This smells absolutely wonderful when it's baking.  AND it heats up nicely for leftovers to take for lunch the next day!  

Here's the stats:  
Time Spent:  40 minutes
Servings         8
Calories     302
Carbs          40 g
Protein      16.2 g

Compare this to KFC's Chicken Pot Pie:

Calories     790
Carbs          66 g
Protein        29 g

Happy eating!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ah-ah-ah-ah Stayin' Alive... Stayin' Alive...

Thankfully (or sadly?) I don't remember much of the disco era even though it's technically mine!  And this song always brings this to my mental movie screen:

Courtesy of The Week
But keeping it alive is also a big deal when it comes to your produce.  If you're eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, you might find that you're throwing a lot of it away, and if you're anything like me, when I clean out the fridge every Sunday, all I can see in the garbage can is dollar signs.  I can literally add it up in my head as I'm throwing food out, getting seriously pissed off as I hear that 'cha-ching' of all the actual money I'm throwing away in the form of fresh produce that has gone bad because we didn't eat it fast enough.

Those days are actually in the past for me as I've learned some tricks since then!  Things I learned the hard way by trial and error, that is!  So stick with me through our usual Sunday ritual and I'll share! :)

Here's our receipts for the week:  I spent $103.37.

This was a week that we stocked up on bulk goods, so a good portion of this is going to last us for the month.  Here's what it bought:  It seems like less food than usual for the same amount of money, but consider that $20 was just in meat!

Oatmeal was on sale at Sprouts for $0.69 lb, so we stocked up.  These two giant bags of oatmeal cost me a total of $4 and will last us at least a month considering it's used both in baking and for breakfasts.  I'm tellin' ya: purchasing in bulk when you can will save you a TON of money!

This week's menu will include turkey chili (recipe this week), That Meat Stuff With the Corn (recipe here), stuffed portabello caps (recipe to come!), and lentils in some form.  I've been working a lot of over time, so my apologizes that posting has been spotty for the last two weeks.  I'll try harder. :)


So by now, you know my Sunday Drill:  Go grocery shopping. Come home.  Clean out the fridge.  And then cook/bake/chop/grill for a couple of hours in preparation of the week when I really don't have time to do a lot of extra cooking or baking.  

Just like the Boy Scouts, THIS is the main key to eating healthy for every meal: Be Prepared.  

After :)

And after that 2 hours or so, THIS is what I have to show for myself!  It's a great feeling of accomplishment to have THIS much to show for so relatively little time.  And the time it saves me over the course of the week FAR outweighs the time I spent preparing it on Sunday. 

So yes, I'm being preachy: take a couple of hours of your weekend and invest it in you and your family.  A little preparedness can change your eating habits for life!

Now: to the waste aspect.  As you've seen, we buy a LOT of fresh produce.  And I can honestly say at this point that our waste is almost nil.  The main trick of course is to EAT IT! :)  Because it WILL go bad.  But we throw very little away, and here's how:

Some vegetables and fruits like moisture.  Some don't.  The next time you're shopping for produce, take a look at how the produce section is set up.  There is a part that sits under a watering system to make sure it stays hydrated.  And then there are the displays that can just sit in the open air.  This is what you want to recreate when you get home.

Take asparagus for example.  I noticed when I first started buying it, that I would throw a lot of it away and pretty quickly after I purchased it!  The tips would get gooey and smell bad.  So I started doing this:  

When you bring them home, take the rubber bands off both ends.  Lay a paper towel on the counter top, and lay them on the paper town.  Roll them tightly making sure those tender tops are encircled with the paper towel as that's the most important part to keep dry.  Then, holding them in one hand, run JUST THE BOTTOM ENDS, the cut ends, under a thin stream of water making sure to keep the paper towel dry.  You just want the stalk to be freshened up before you package them.  

Now place the wrapped asparagus back into the plastic bag, squeeze out the air, and put it in your crisper drawer of your fridge.  I've been able to keep fresh asparagus fresh this way for over TWO WEEKS!!!  Asparagus for a good portion of the year is quite spendy, upwards of $4 a pound.  But sometimes you just want some freaking asparagus!  And having to throw any part of that money in the trash is a huge disappointment and yet another thing I can't afford.  This will keep that from happening.

Mushrooms are another food that needs to be refrigerated but in low humidity. For being relatively dry in appearance, mushrooms are FULL of moisture and will sweat inside a plastic bag.  But if you try to leave them out of a bag, they shrivel up.  They go bad in the fridge really fast either way.

But using this same principal, you can make them last for over 1 week sometimes 10 days.  I generally buy my mushrooms in bulk, mainly because I don't use an entire pre-made package in time before they go bad, even doing this.  So I buy them just as I need them.  

So do the same thing here as you did with the asparagus.  When you get home, take them out of the bag and then line the bottom of the bag with a clean, dry paper towel.  Set the mushrooms back in the bag, cap side down, on the paper towel.  This method will also work on sliced strawberries and keep them from becoming slimy before their time. :)

Leafy greens, on the other hand, need more moisture.  I noticed that my kale would dry up and get really limp pretty quickly.  This vegetable needs more moisture before you put them in the fridge.  This also works well with different types of lettuce (green leaf and red leaf in particular).  

When you bring them home, take them out of the bag and give them a good wash.  Run them under water for a minute and make sure that some of that water gets into the middle of the bunch. Then make sure you let it drain well.  You don't want a puddle of water in the bottom of your bag, but you do want them to still have droplets of water on the leaves when you put them back in the bag.  Once you do this, squeeze as much of the air as you can from the bag, and put it in the fridge.  This will keep your kale crisp for up to THREE WEEKS.  Again, make sure you don't have a ton of water in them or they get soggy.  But seriously...did I mention three weeks?  

And then there's watermelon.  One of my favorite fruits.  But Rik isn't a big watermelon eater and I sometimes have a hard time eating it all before it goes bad.  You know how you cut it all up and put it in a bowl, but then it sits in its own juice and the bottom of the bowl goes bad so the entire bowl has to be tossed?  Here's a trick for that:  

First, make sure you have a bowl big enough to hold the melon without squishing it down when you put the lid on. If that happens, you're basically "juicing" your melon by smooshing it and making more liquid that seeps to the bottom which is what you're trying to avoid!  Take some smaller lids and put them on the bottom of your plastic container, then put your melon chunks on top of that.  It keeps them from sitting in that extra fluid!  When you've filled your bowl, put the lid on part way and drain any extra juice out of the bottom before you put it in the fridge, and every time you open it over the week to eat some, drain it again.  This will double the life of your watermelon and give you twice the time to finish it before it turns! :)  This will also work on fresh pineapple and other juicier fruits that you'd like to keep cut in the fridge but may not eat them as fast.  

If you still find that you're not able to eat your fruit in time, most fruits can be frozen.  That includes watermelon!  In fact, adding a few hunks of frozen watermelon to your morning smoothie not only makes it cold, it adds an almost margarita-like quality to your drink!  (And hasn't craved a good margarita on the way to the office?!)  The trick to freezing fruits is to make sure that they don't touch each other.  Here's how:  

Line a cookie sheet with one of those produce bags you just got from the store.  I keep mine rolled up in a bag to reuse for things like this.  Great way to recycle!.  Take your chunks of fruit and put them on the sheet in a way that they're not touching each other as much as possible.  This way they don't freeze into one giant hunk of banana.  

 Put it in your freezer like this over night.  

The next day, with the food still on the plastic bag, turn it inside out, and voila!   You've got frozen chunks of fruit already bagged and ready to pull out!  This works on almost any fruit: Pineapple, papaya, bananas, strawberries, watermelon, peaches, apricots, blueberries, black berries...the only fruits that don't turn out so well that I've experimented with so far are apples and pears.

So now we've eliminated yet another excuse not to eat more fresh produce!  And you're saving
money!  Seriously guys:  Yes, it takes a little bit of time to eat well.  It's an investment in you and those you love.  But it doesn't take a TON of time.  I promise.

And don't be afraid to remind yourself what you've got in that fridge!  I make a note every Sunday night and tape it to the 'Meat' drawer about eye-level in the fridge telling Rik exactly what is in there for him to use to put together a healthy lunch because we all know that stuff gets shoved to the back of the fridge and you forget it's there! Yet another way to make sure you're not throwing away your hard-earned money and the work you put into eating well this week, and a reminder to your family -- and yourself! -- that you love them!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Healthy People Are Nicer

Yah...I have no idea if the above statement is true, but I sure ran into a lot of nice people today when I was out shopping.  Of course it may have been due to the fact that the sun was out, it wasn't freezing, and there is just a touch of spring in the air!  Or maybe people who care about their bodies really do  care more about others too.  I don't know.  Either way, I had an enoyable hunting/gathering.

Here's our receipts for the week.  We spent $93.49 on food.  And please ignore the "Bkry Cupcake...$2.99" entry.  Yes, I once gain left home without eating, so I got 2 mini cannoli figuring I'd share one with Rik when I got home.  Sadly (for him) they appeared to have been frozen and then thawed and were definitely not crunchy or nearly as as they are fresh.  I knew he wouldn't like them, so I saved him and at them both myself.  I'm a good wife that way.  :D

Here's what it bought.  This week's suggestion from Rik was he wants me to experiment with a vegetable lasagna (as in no noodles), so there are things there for that (recipe hopefully to be posted at some point this week if it turns out!).  He's eating more protein this week, so there are more chicken breasts for that.

And here's tonight's dinner!  I'm really happy with how it turned out.  As in, it isn't one of those dishes that "tastes good for something healthy".  It just tasted good!  Had I not told him, Rik would never have known it was a healthy version of one of his favorite meals.

Beef Stroganoff You Wouldn't Guess is Healthy

1/2 lb. Lean steak cut into strips
1 smallish spaghetti squash
2 c. Mushrooms, sliced
1 c. Chopped onion
1 c. Beef broth
1/4 c. Greek yogurt
1/4 c. Flour
1/2 tsp. Garlic salt
1/4 tsp. dill
1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

  • Before you get going on the stroganoff, get your spaghetti squash in the microwave to cook.  (Click here  for instructions.)
  • Heat about 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet.
  • In a plastic bag (I repurpose leftover produce bags from the grocery store), mix the flour, garlic salt, and about 1 tsp of black pepper together.  Dredge your meat in the flour mixture (click here for directions)and add the meat to the heated oil shaking off any excess flour beforehand.  Add your chopped onion at the same time, and stir this until the meat is browned.  

  • Turn  your burner down to medium and add in the beef broth. Adding liquid to a hot pan will make it steam like crazy as it deglazes the pan, so be prepared to be scraping the bottom of the pan as soon as you add the liquid to get all the bits unstuck and into your sauce!  (And remember, deglazing makes cleaning your pan super fast later on!)  Stir this well.  The flour from the meat will thicken the broth.  
  • Add in the dill and Dijon mustard and stir well.  Add in the Greek yogurt and stir well. Now you can season with salt and pepper and/or more garlic salt to taste.  
  • Add in the mushrooms, turn the mixture on low, and cover.  Let this simmer for about 10 minutes stirring once or twice.  Make sure it's not set too hot or it will burn.  

  • While this is simmering, slice open your squash and remove the seeds and scrape the 'spaghetti' out of the squash, because you're done with dinner!  Give the stroganoff one more stir, and you're ready to top your 'noodles' and enjoy your meal.  

This took me 15 minutes start to finish.  I was prepared for at least twice that amount of time and sort of surprised myself at how fast it was done! And Rik, who once won a stroganoff cook-off, deemed it absolutely delicious to the tune of zero leftovers.

Are you ready for the numbers?  Here ya go:

Time spent:  20 minutes
Serving size 1 c. squash topped with 1 c. Stroganoff
Calories    133
Total fat    6.3 g
Carbs        8.3 g
Fiber            2 g
Protein    11.6 g

Now, match that along side the frozen Skillet Masters Beef Stroganoff you can buy in the frozen foods section, and here's the comparison:
Serving size 2 cups
Calories:     640
Total fat:    30 g
Carbs         52 g
Fiber            2 g
Protein         16 g

Shocking, huh?!  And this is actually not bad for you: nothing processed, all fresh ingredients, especially if you're using a good-quality yogurt.  And I swear to you: Rik couldn't tell that it wasn't full of sour cream.  And if I can fool him, I'm pretty confident you won't notice the difference!  Give it a try and let me know how it turned out in the comments!  I thoroughly enjoy coming up with a recipe that is so good, you honestly can't tell it's healthy.  This would be one of them!

More to come this week including Chocolate Zucchini Bread that you can eat without guilt so stay tuned!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

My Biggest Cheat (So Far)

There are a lot of articles out there about how long it takes to form a new habit.  And we're all familiar with the fact that most of them state two weeks to 21 days as the standard time frame in which a new activity goes from being something you force yourself to do to something that is now part of your lifestyle.  

In my experience, that's a huge load of crap.  

Over the years I've tried multiple times to make exercise a part of my life.  After about a month of hitting the gym every-other day or so (and hating every stinking, sweaty minute of it!), I always gave up.  Mostly because I would get to the point where the pain it was causing me just wasn't worth any possibility of gain. But then the guilt would set in as I'm totally aware of the biology of pain and the fact that exercise would ultimately make me feel better...on a long enough time line...that I wasn't  apparently ever capable of sticking out...

It's not that I lack determination or sheer stubbornness.  Ask anyone who knows me: once I've "decided" something, its ON!!!  For instance, I set my mind to losing weight and I lost over 20 pounds.  That's just one example, but serves to prove that I do have the capability of setting my mind to a goal and achieving it (and after all, I'm not in a wheelchair despite popular medical opinions over time, so there's that!).  The problem with exercise was that no matter how I tried, I couldn't make myself WANT it enough to get that stubbornness to kick in.  When Rik started his fitness journey in October, I really wanted to want it.  I did.  I told him (and myself) that come the first of the year, I was going to change my lifestyle.  I was going to exercise.  I wanted to get better.  I wanted to get off my meds.  I wanted NOT to be in pain all of the time.  I spent hours --nay, DAYS!-- psyching myself up about exercise in an attempt at self-brainwashing which sadly failed miserably.  

And January grew closer.  

Meanwhile, Rik was gung-ho.  He never missed a workout.  He'd come home from work, change his clothes, and hit it hard.  There was no pansy-ing about.  It was heart-pumping, sweat-dripping, balls-to-the-wall exercise, and he would come out of his workout exhausted, shirt dark with sweat, and a filled with an exhilaration to which I aspired.  And up to January 7th, failed.  

True to my word, I started working out the first week of January.  I drug myself out of bed every morning 30 minutes early to do the 25-minute T-25 workout that had given Rik such great results.  And, as with every time before, I hated every moment of it.  I resented the time taken away from sleep.  I resented that my heart was beating at 158 BPM before 7a on a Monday.  And I resented the peppy hot man with 6-pack abs telling me I could "DO THIS".  Enter my biggest cheat.  

Last year I worked with this fantastic woman named Candy who had quit a 30+ year smoking habit over night through hypnosis.  As she was sharing her experience with me and how happy she was that it was out of her life, I cracked a stupid joke about "Geez, I wonder if someone could hypnotize me to like exercise!". She looked at me with a straight face, said, "Why not?",  and gave me the name of her hypnotist.  

About 2 weeks into my workouts, things still weren't better, so I made a call.  I found a hypnotist on Groupon who for a mere $49 (which was in my price range) promised that she could get me results.  She was willing to do it over the phone which meant I didn't have to take time off work to go to her.  So I set up an appointment.  

The night came and the phone rang at 5p, and I answered it from the floor of our bedroom closet where I'd created a nice cocoon out of blankets and pillows with my earbuds in away from any noise or household hustle that might interrupt my concentration, ready to for magic to happen.  I remember the entire session.  It's not like you see in the movies or at your local Renaissance Faire:  I didn't bark like a dog, or "wake from a sound sleep thoroughly refreshed".  What DID happen was, this woman's voice in my ears totally relaxed me, and her suggestions that I "enjoy the process of exercise" and "know that this is the best thing I can do for MY body" and "I am capable of this change because I WANT this change" were totally believed by that relaxed mind.  Some part of my brain that would normally sit on the sidelines during such an event and jeer was totally into this.  Every affirmation was met with "YEAH!  I CAN DO THIS THING!" in a way that my conscious mind (whom I know well!) is thoroughly incapable!  Thirty minutes later, I hung up the phone feeling exactly like I had at 4:59p though maybe more relaxed. But I still wasn't looking forward to 0630.  I got up, fixed dinner, went through my usual evening rituals, and went to bed.  

Courtesy of St. George News
It's still dark out, and 0610 the following morning finds me wide awake thinking about getting up to exercise, 5 minutes before my alarm is going to go off.  I just laid there and took inventory.  The alarm went off and, just to test it, I told myself I'd lay there for another 5 minutes.  Three minutes later I was out of bed.  I couldn't lie there any more.  Something was pushing me to get up.  It was so insistent, I couldn't ignore it.  I threw on my workout gear, popped in the DVD, and started working out.  Ok.  The first day may have been a coincidence.  But by day 4, I was still doing it.  I was incapable of lying in bed any longer than the boundary of my alarm.  I was doing it!  I was working out every day.  But...

There was still this part of me, this little portion of my brain that would stand in the background of my mind watching me working out with this amazingly puzzled (and slightly angry) expression wanting to know WHY we were up so early and why the HELL we were sweaty?!  I took this to mean that my hypnosis needed a tuneup.  

I hadn't really 'clicked' with the first hypnotist, so decided to try a different one.  I found another here in Colorado who also did phone sessions and as an added bonus would record them and send you the file so that you could use it for "backup" sessions of self motivation whenever you needed them, so I called Tammy Carpenter at Mind Over Body Hynotherapy in Loveland, CO.  I immediately liked her. Tammy is a NATH certified (National Association of Transpersonal Hypnotherapist) therapist with a Masters degree from the University of Wyoming, with the clinical thoroughness of a physician. We talked briefly and set up an appointment for just a few days later.  Her approach was very different than my previous experience in which the woman had called me up, asked me 3 or so questions, and then did the 1 hour session I'd paid for in about 25 minutes.  Tammy asked in-depth questions about me, about my physical issues, and about what specifically I wanted out of our session.  She was very thorough and very engaged.  I told her that I'd always been very drawn to yoga, not only as an exercise but as a practice.  But that even my experiences up to that point had been "tainted by the exercise part" and I just couldn't get into it like I wanted to.  I told her that I realized I was cheating by not being able to just pull myself up by the bootstraps and MAKE myself do it.  She pointed out that apparently I had been for the last month or so, which was in all actuality quite true!  But I know myself.  And I know I would eventually throw in the sweaty towel. So we began, and once again, I remember everything that transpired during my 60-minute session, and mentally participated in my hypnosis. The following day found a voice file in my email inbox with a nice note from Tammy.  The file was easily downloaded to my iPhone to be used over and over whenever needed.  But I've found I haven't needed it.

And this time I think we achieved the big-picture change that I was hoping for.  

Me: smiling at 7a after workout
About a week ago as I was in downward dog pose, I realized that I felt amazing.  There wasn't a single part of me that was angry, no part of me that was in the moment at the end of the workout rather than the actual moment I was physically IN.  I loved how I felt.  I loved what I was doing right then, in that moment, sweaty hair and all.  In fact, I'd changed my workouts from 25 minutes to 45 minutes 5 days a week and sometimes on Saturday.  I'm doing cardio 4 mornings a week, yoga on Friday's, and sometimes an extra yoga session in the evening after I finish work just because it's so enjoyable to me.  I left T-25 after 5 weeks realizing it just wasn't what motivated me, and have switched my cardio to dance which makes me amazingly happy at 6a for some reason.  And I'm meditating again.  My dreams are more like they used to be colorful, interesting, and memorable.  I sleep better.  I've cut one of my three sleep aids out completely and the other two in half.  And it's a little too soon to tell with certainty yet, but I seem to be requiring less pain meds.  And last week I hit an amazing milestone:  I can reach my ankles in staff pose, something I haven't been able to do since my accident 14 years ago.

So yes.  I cheated.  I couldn't find the wherewithal to just MAKE myself do this by sheer force of will as I have other things in my life.  I was incapable.  I was weak.  There.  I said it.  But thank's to the open mind of my friend Candy and my own unwillingness to accept defeat at my own hand and ability to maybe think outside the box to find a solution, I'm now not only a morning person, I SUCCEEDED in changing my lifestyle.  It's been almost 3 months now.  And in that time, I've missed 4 workouts.  Four.  I still have work to do.  But that angry part of my mind that stood back asking rude questions is now on board with the rest of me, dancing her ass off at 6a every morning.  

And feeling AMAZING!!!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sugar Is Sweet (And So Are You)

Not all sweeteners are created equal or so I've found.  After learning that I'm doing my body no good by choosing the 'low fat' or 'sugar-free' alternatives of most foods  which is basically just chemically altering any naturally occurring ingredients to remove any fat or sugar so you may not be getting that fat or sugar, but you're getting a pretty large dose of chemical additives, I've been trying out different natural sweeteners to see where I can switch up my white sugar for something a little bit more healthy.  Not that I see our house ever being completely white sugar free any time soon.  I think my once a year Christmas baking would suffer drastically, and there's just no truly delicious alternative to home made caramels made with real cream and brown sugar!  But in working with the creamer recipe, I've learned a lot about sweeteners and how you can substitute them into your recipes and cut out another processed food and not really notice a difference.  Each teaspoon of white sugar contains 16 calories and 5 carbs.

Brown Sugar

Brown sugar is basically refined white sugar with a little bit of molasses added in for color.  Again, I use this primarily for baking, and sometimes as a treat on my oatmeal in the morning.  But it isn't really a healthier substitute for white sugar. One teaspoon of brown sugar contains 11 calories and 3 grams of carbs.


Stevia is a herb related to the daisy which is native to South America and the American Southwest, whose leaves are naturally sweet.  It has zero calories and is naturally 200 times sweeter than sugar.  It's also been shown to have zero effect on your metabolism making it perfect for diabetics.  You can buy stevia in dry powdered form and also in concentrated liquid.  Think of stevia as a naturally occurring Sweet n Low without the hazardous material.  It has the same sort of aftertaste that manufactured sweeteners have without the chemical additives.  I use it primarily in liquids like my recipe for Hot Chocolate or when just a touch of sweetness is called for like in Oatmeal Muffins To Go. As far as nutritional information, 1/2 teaspoon is about as sweet as 1 teaspoon of sugar.  It has 0 calories and 0 carbs.  This is a fantastic replacement for your Sweet n Low or Equal for your summer iced tea as aspartame is now known to cause a variety of health problems.  I keep a few packets of it in my purse for eating out.


We're all familiar with honey.  It has high levels of monosaccharides (the simplest form of sugar), fructose (naturally-occurring sugar found in fruits), and glucose (a naturally-occurring simple sugar found in plants).  These 3 types of sugar, though better for you than refined white sugar, still aren't recommended as a sugar substitute for diabetics due to the fact that the sugars found in honey are absorbed directly into the bloodstream during digestion and can impact blood sugar levels in a way that sweeteners like Stevia do not.  It can also be cost prohibitive and can change the taste of your baked goods as it has its own unique, delicious flavor.  I use honey mostly in tea, on hot cereal, and in combination with almond butter either on toast or combined to dip apples in for an afternoon snack when I'm craving something sweet.  One tablespoon has 64 calories, 17 grams of carbs, but also contains 11 mg of potassium.  It can be used to replace sugar in recipes in the following amount: 1 c. of sugar = 3/4 c. of honey.  However, because it's a liquid, you have to make adjustments to to your recipes.  This site is a good guide.  

Corn Syrup

Yup, it's one of those things you've probably heard isn't good for you.  It's been demonized not so much because of what is in it, but that it's found in fairly large quantities in almost every prepackaged food out there in some form or another, which means that we're consuming very large quantities of it. It's made from the naturally-occurring starch found in corn and in large quantities (like many other things) can lead to excessive weight gain, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and a rise in your 'bad' cholesterol (triglycerides).    It's fairly high in calories at 57 calories per Tbsp., has 16 grams of carbs, and contains NO vitamins or minerals.  I use it primarily for Christmas baking and can't remember a time I've ever used it as a sweetener for anything else.  

Agave Nectar

Agave nectar is an all-natural liquid sweetener made from the core of a blue agave plant which is native to Mexico.  It's about 25% sweeter than refined white sugar which means, like stevia, you can use it sparingly,  It's also very low-glycemic index food which means it doesn't cause a rapid spike in blood sugar which makes it an excellent substitute for diabetics. Agave nectar also meets the requirements of a vegan diet. It's taste is very mild and, unlike honey, won't change the taste of what you're using it in.  I discovered it on my last attempt at Homemade Coffee Creamer as I'd tried date syrup and stevia and didn't like the resulting final product.  It can be substituted in recipes in place of sugar as follows:  1 c. white sugar = 2/3 c. agave nectar, and reduce your oven temperature by 25 degrees and adjustments have to made to your other ingredients as this is a liquid.    

Coconut Sugar

I recently started experimenting with coconut sugar and it's interesting.  It's brown in color, subtly sweet, and has a bit of a caramel taste to it.  It's not as sweet as refined white sugar or traditional brown sugar.  Like agave nectar, it's a low-glycemic index sweetener which makes it a healthy alternative for diabetics or people who have issues with their blood sugar in general like hypoglycemia. It can replace sugar in your baking recipes as follows:  1 c. of sugar = 1 c. of coconut sugar.   However, it has the added benefits of  a high mineral content and is a rich source of potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron as well as B vitamins!  It has 19 times the potassium of brown sugar/molasses, 30 times the phosphorus, and over 10 times the zinc, and contains 16 amino acids!  Each teaspoon contains 11 calories, 3 carbs. 
Again, it's about little changes.  If you think about it, just buying a box of stevia packets and taking Sweet'n'Low and Equal out of your diet is a HUGE change!  But it's a small change.  You'll no longer be putting straight chemicals into your body and who knows what kind of positive impact that may have on the rest of your life!  Little changes on a long enough time line equal a lifestyle change.  And all of us can make little changes.  

Because you're worth it!