Pretty On The Inside

Best To-Go Breakfast

I saw this article on Buzzfeed this past week called 23 On-The-Go Breakfasts That Are Actually Good For You and decided to try a few of them.  Rik needs more protein in his diet right now to meet his numbers for P90X, so I decided to try the omelette muffins.  Here's the recipe I made based on the recipe found here:  

1/2 c. Red bell pepper, diced fine
1/2 c. Purple onion, diced fine
2 Large mushrooms, diced fine
1/2 c. Skim milk
11 Large eggs
1 c. Sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive oil  


Beat the eggs and milk together.  Add the salt and pepper like you're making scrambled eggs.  
Heat the olive oil in a skillet and fry up the veges until they're tender.  
Add them to the egg and milk mixture.  Add the cheese.
Scoop about 1/3 c. into a greased muffin tin and bake at 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until you can see they're set in the middle.  They get a little brown around the edges and puff up, then shrink back down.

Rik said they're fantastic.  This recipe made a square dozen.  Each omelette muffin as 148  calories and 12 grams of protein each.


Damn The Bakery

You get off work and run to the grocery store on your way home.  Its snowing.  You're cold.  There's nowhere to park. You get inside and think "I'll just grab a couple of things and get outa here."  You have the best of intentions.  You run through the produce section grabbing the things on your list, but to get to the meat section, you have to go through the bakery section.  Carrot cake with real cream cheese frosting is sold by the slice for under $3.  You remember that you keep a fork in the glove box for such a time as this. You haven't eaten since your 3 o'clock break, and that was hours ago.  You close your eyes and stumble through the bakery to the meat section.  Whew.  That was close.  






You grab the meat you need and head to dairy to grab the Greek yogurt which is the last thing on your list. And you walk by a small cooler where they have the discounted baked goods handily right across from the milk which would taste soooo good with that slice of that carrot cake.  That's half price.  It's only $1.50. And it's a biiiiiigggggg piece...




This totally happened to me last week.  I was super hungry and I'm a huge sucker for those single slices of cake.  Our store sells the gourmet carrot cake.  The kind your grandma used to make.  With real butter and real cream cheese.  Three layers of moist deliciousness covered in creamy goodness.  (And I really do keep a fork in my glove box.  Might have a little experience with the grocery store munchies.)  


I remember the time when I could go to the store hungry and come home with the best junk food haul.  EVERYTHING looks good. Ben & Jerry's Americone Dream, Oreos and milk, Cheetos, soda, Red Vines, donuts, and a slice of that amazing carrot cake.  Or the equally delicious Lemon Meringue Cake that has actual meringue instead of frosting!!!!  

This time though, I had done so good that day.  I hadn't had an ounce of sugar, so I knew if I didn't blow it now I'd be at least a pound lighter tomorrow.  And I wouldn't get the huge sugar crash I get now afterwards since I don't eat processed sugar like I used to.  

So here's what I did:  LaraBar makes these little bars of raw food goodness called 'Uber' that will totally snap the grocery store craving in half.  They were $1 each, so I grabbed 2: One to eat while in stood in line, and one to put in my purse for the next time this happens (cause you know it will!).  They are sweet, chewy, crunchy, and full of dried fruits like apples, cherries, and pineapple, with whole almonds and cashews, and held together with sticky sweet dates.  And I can pronounce each ingredient and would recognize it on a shelf.  No chemicals.  They have brown rice syrup for sweetener, so they really do help the sugar craving without the sugar crash and were surprisingly good considering what I was actually craving!  

And I completed my shopping trip without the cake.  I might even consider taking the fork out of the glove box.  

Maybe.  




As Good As It Gets

So awhile back I mentioned that I was working on an ice cream recipe using only whole ingredients and completely dairy-free.  I've been so busy the last few weeks that I didn't have time to actually work on that until this past week when I had an unexpected evening off.  I've gotta say, I'm pretty impressed!


I love ice cream   One of my favorites is Baskin Robbins 'Cherry Jubilee' in a waffle cone.  In fact, I ran over there last night around 830, in my jeans and one of My Person's old t-shirts and a my pair of big puffy yellow Pikachu slippers, and ended up having that for dinner!  I shared some with the Rocket Dog while we sat on the couch watching 'Big Bang Theory' reruns...it was awesome!  But I've found that ice cream, at least for me, tends to be a late-night sort of thing.  And late night is the worst time to be eating something as calorific and fat-tastic as ice cream.

So I needed a good replacement.

I think I've found one!  This creamy cold confection whips up quite nicely.  And I've found that if you use bananas that are less ripe, the actual banana taste is less which means you can add things to it that will make it taste more like chocolate, or strawberry, or vanilla than just banana ice cream with other stuff in it.

So far, I've made a good simulation of Ben & Jerry's 'Chunky Monkey' (banana ice cream with walnuts and chocolate chunks), a nice vanilla cherry (just the bananas with chunks of frozen bing cherries), and a chocolate almond version that I think I like the most.  This is the recipe you'll find below.  And this particular ice cream is healthy enough to eat for breakfast if the mood strikes you!  Full of potassium, fiber, iron, and vitamin C and containing very little fat...something most ice creams can't claim!

Chocolate Almond Breakfast Ice Cream
3 cups frozen banana slices (see two posts below this one for directions for these)
1 1/2 tsp. real vanilla
1/8 c. unsweetened almond milk
Pinch of salt
Tbsp. Raw cocoa powder
Handful of raw almonds coarsely chopped
3 squares of 70% dark chocolate (by this, I mean square like a Hershey bar has or an equivalent amount)




In a food processor, add the frozen banana slices, vanilla, almond milk, salt, and cocoa powder.  This will make a god-awful noise because of the frozen bananas, so be prepared!  You can let them defrost just a little bit ahead of time if you want to cut down on this aspect.

Pulse until it's nice and smooth and creamy.  You can scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all that tasty chocolate gets mixed in.  

And make sure that the mixture is completely creamy with no chunks of banana remaining.  This will ensure that the rest of the time you're mixing, air is incorporating into the mixture to make it light and fluffy and creamy.








Take your chunks of chocolate and put them in a microwaveable bowl.  Pop this in the microwave (or melt above a double-boiler) until the chocolate has completely melted. 




It should look like this when you're done. :)  

You can add more of this if you'd like, but it really changes the consistency of the mixture making it less creamy.  It freezes a bit harder requiring you to let it thaw just a little bit before you can scoop it out of the container.  I'm guessing if you use a lighter chocolate, this problem might resolve.  But right now it's the darker chocolates that experts are saying is better for us, so I'm going with that.  After all, when an 'Expert' tells you to eat chocolate, who am I to argue?! :)









Next, take your nuts and put them in a plastic Ziploc bag.  Using something heavy (I used the bottom of my glass water infuser bottle full of water), coarsely chop the nuts.  They don't have to be super chopped as you're going to put them in the food processor.  But make sure that they're at least in pieces as the food processor tends to always leave a couple of huge nuts in the mix if you don't!





You're almost done!  Now, just pulse this until it's mixed well.  This pictures shows that I hadn't yet pulsed the chocolate mixture.  This is a mistake, so ignore it!  I found that the chocolate refroze pretty quickly and therefore didn't incorporate well when I did it this way, so make sure that you mix in the melted chocolate really good before you add the nuts.

I totally forgot to take an 'All Done' picture!  I'll add that in later on tonight.  This makes about four half-to 3/4-cup servings!  I divided mine into separate smaller bowls so I can share with the women at work who follow my blog as they're always the ones who help me out with taste-testing new recipes!  (You know who you are Monika, Candy, and Kathy!)



But honestly, this stuff is pretty good!  My Person says that it tastes like a banana split.  And the fact that he tried it at all (and took a second bite!) speaks volumes for how good this stuff actually is!  For this recipe, I used bananas that were just ripe: no brown spots and a little bit green still at the top.  This brought out more of the chocolate and almond flavors than using a riper banana as they tend to get sweeter and more banana tasting the riper they become.

But mess around with this!  Your base recipe is going to be the first four ingredients.  After that, add whatever your little heart desires and see what you can come up with!  The more  you mix it, the lighter it becomes.  I haven't yet taken that to an extreme, so I'm not sure what might become of that...I'll have to do some experimenting to find out!  But let me know what you discover and I'll feature your recipe here!

And think of how excited the kids are gonna be when you tell them they can have ice cream for breakfast!!!



Just no Excuse
While Lisa was here, she was curious about my new eating habits and in a show of solidarity joined in for those days we were at home base and not tooling around doing touristy stuff on her first visit to this part of Colorado, and she did really good!  Not that we ate good every meal.  

There was plenty of not-particularly-healthy cuisine like the Gyros on Pearl Street Mall in Boulder with the little fried couscous balls to dip in cucumber sauce (mmmm) and the Ben&Jerry's Cherry Garcia shortly thereafter...the fruit tarts and Venti latte's for breakfast at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park after late and fun-filled night of ghost chasing and rewatching of 'The Shining' played in a continuous loop throughout the hotel on channel 42, not to mention the chile lime chicken tacos and Ed's Margarita's at Eds Cantina in Estes beforehand!  



Yah...we ate plenty of fantastic local cuisine on our quick tour of my current part of Colorado that was a far cry from the fruit and veges that I've been eating lately, and I've gotta say, it was a fun and memorable trip.


While we were having breakfast at home one morning though, she was asking me how I can continue to eat well considering how busy I am, and breakfast was a good meal to use as example.  My days are long.  I get up around 615a to have enough time to get ready and get my lunch packed.  And my breakfast break at work isn't until 930a.  So generally, if I'm really hungry, breakfast is in the car consisting of a handful of raw almonds along with my coffee.  But by the time 930a rolls around, I'm usually really ready for something more substantial.  On Sunday evening, I make this:  Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal.  And yes, it is.  It's a mix of buckwheat, sorghum, brown rice, and corn, and it's quite delicious!
Add one cup of the mix to three-and-a-quarter cups of boiling water, and stir pretty much constantly until it's cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Throw in some stevia and honey for sweetness, a little almond milk, some cinnamon for flavor and a pinch of salt, and that one cup of cereal cooks up to about 3 cups completed hot cereal.  I put it in a glass bowl and take it to the office where I leave it in the break room fridge and heat the whole thing every morning for breakfast.  This lasts me almost all week depending on how famished I am by the time breakfast rolls around!  But 15 minutes of standing at the stove, and I've got breakfast made for the entire week.


Nutritionally, you can't go wrong.  One-quarter cup has 0 cholesterol, 113 mg of potassium, 92 mg phosphorus, 4 grams of protein, and 6% of your daily iron requirement!  And 1/4 cup is quite filling.  It's a 'stick-to-your-ribs' sort of breakfast cereal.

There are ways to fit eating well into your busy lifestyle...I'm proof!  Now if I could just get on board with making the time for exercise, I'd be doing great!



All About Bananas

I'm picky about bananas.  They can't have any brown spots on them if I'm going to eat them plain.  This didn't used to be a problem, as any that passed their maturity date before consumption were then turned into this delicious, ooey-gooey, moist sour-cream-laden, sugar-filled banana bread that My Person and I could polish off in an afternoon.  However, now that I'm being all healthy cutting out processed sugar and dairy, that delicious banana bread is going to be a rare treat.  So what to do with those just-that-wee-bit-overripe bunch remaining?

I've been doing all sorts of experimentation with good-for-you foods, and last night it was bananas.  I"ll be posting on here soon with a truly killer version of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey that uses only four ingredients.  But I thought I'd start here so that you can see this step as it has a ton of uses all on its own!  I've started doing this recently and have absolutely stopped waste altogether!  And, these chunks (not limited just to bananas!) add that great cold creaminess to a morning smoothie without having to add ice cubes!




1.  Simple Start

You'll need a cookie sheet (or metal hard surface), a plastic bag (I prefer the ones you get for your produce in the grocery store), a good knife, and your bunch of over-ripe bananas.

Take your plastic bag and smooth it out on top of the cookie sheet.







2.  Peel and Slice

Peel the bananas and slice them into chunks laying them out on the plastic bag.

Make sure that the pieces aren't touching each other too much as you want them to freeze separately, not in a big giant ball o'banana.








3.  Freeze

Place cookie sheet flat in the freezer and allow to sit in there for a good couple of hours.

Let the chunks freeze solid.








4.  Inside Out
Once frozen solid, remove the tray from the freezer and turn the bag inside-out with the banana chunks now inside the bag.









5.  Good To Go!
The bag is now ready to tie in a slipknot and toss in the freezer, ready to be used in all sorts of yummy ways like smoothies!








Smooth Way to Get Your Daily Dose

As mentioned in previous posts, it's sometimes hard to eat the entire four servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit that the USDA suggests our bodies need for optimum health (based on the old food pyramid guidelines that were more specific).  I'm guessing this is also probably on the low end of the spectrum at that.  Serving sizes are suggested as about half a cup.  So we're talking a grand total of 3.5 cups, at minimum, of the healthy stuff every day.  This isn't always easy to do.



Ecosalon.com
I bought a juicer last year, and we used it for about a month and it was great.  But I didn't like that I was throwing away a good portion of the fruits and vegetables we were using.  It just seemed like a lot of that fiber was wasted along with nutrients.  Granted things like the carrot pulp got recycled into The Rocket Dog's bowl (she loves carrots).  But since we don't have a garden and therefore don't compost, and since I don't always have time to use the pulp in cooking (as a thickening agent or for flavor), it was just thrown away, and all that potential goodness along with it.  So the juicer got retired.  That and juice isn't very filling.

Also as mentioned (ad nauseum at this point!), I don't have a lot of extra time.  And juicing can be a little time consuming.  Also, no matter how much you love your veges, the process of chewing all of this whole food can take a bit of time, especially a plate full of crunchy vegetables!  There are times it's taken me my entire lunch hour to eat a whole salad.

On those days that I feel like my lunch salad isn't enough (and really, a single salad isn't enough unless it's HUGE), a whole fruit smoothie has become the answer.  No waste, and all of the goodness of the whole fruit or vegetable, in liquid form, that you can suck down efficiently.  I've started making them and keeping them in my bag for my afternoon break at 3p when I might be running a little low on energy.  Pour it into a quart jar (we use leftover Classico spaghetti sauce jars with the screw-on lids), throw it in your bag, and you GTG!  It takes a little time to get the knack of throwing in exactly the right amount of fruits/veges, and liquid to make exactly the amount that will fit in your go container, but the remainder will keep just fine in the fridge until you get home if you find you've overdone it just a bit.  I tend to use water as my liquid, but have also used coconut water, coconut milk, almond milk or chocolate almond milk for a change of pace.  And if you require a sweeter concoction than you might get from time to time, a few drops of stevia work fantastically.


This is this mornings concoction.    I threw in the following and got just a little bit over 22 oz. and meets almost the entire daily requirement of fruits and veges in one go!

1 small apple, cored, with skin, coarsely chopped
1 good-sized handful organic frozen sweet cherries (no sugar added)
1 banana
2 kale leaves, tough spine removed and torn into small bits
1/2 a mango, peeled coarsely chopped
1 kiwi fruit, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup cold water

Put this all in a blender and blend on high until liquefied.

You can use anything you happen to have on hand.  Here is list of things that I've used that have worked well for me that you can use yourself in any combination.  And remember, if it's winter and fresh fruit isn't readily available, check out the frozen food section.  Most grocery stores have a fairly good selection of frozen fruits with no sugar added that work perfectly here.  

Carrots                              Bananas                            Lemon                          Spinach
Cucumber                          Coconut Oil                      Orange                          Mint leaves
Peaches                             Pears                                Mango                          Chia or flax
Blueberries                         Pineapple                           Papaya                         Almond butter 
Strawberries                      Ginger Root                       Green leaf lettuce           Celery
Raw Cocoa Powder            Coconut                            Apples                          Kiwi

There are certain foods that have a very strong flavor, such as (surprisingly) celery, so be prepared to have that flavor overpower pretty much everything else in the smoothie.  And ginger root should be used sparingly...just a tiny bit is beneficial for things like an upset stomach, but a bit too much and it can be pretty spicy and overpower the other flavors.

This is also a great way to use up fruit and/or veges that aren't being eaten fast enough.  I tend to not eat every banana before it gets to a ripeness that I don't find appealing.  I've started cutting them into chunks, laying them on an open plastic bag spread on a cookie sheet and placed in the freezer (so they don't freeze all clumped together into a large ball!).  When they're frozen, simply turn the plastic bag right-side-out, close it up, and toss it back in the freezer, and now you've got fuel for your next smoothie!  Less waste all around!  This works for pretty much everything with rare exceptions (i.e., leafy things and fruits or veges with high water content such as cucumber and tomato).

A whole fruit smoothie is also great for those mornings when you're rushing out the door and know you're not going to have time for breakfast.  It's fast, portable, and very filling.  Know the night before that you're going to be short on time after the alarm goes off?  Cut the stuff up and toss it in a bag or covered bowl the night before.  Then all you have to do is dump it into the blender, add your liquid of choice, and Bob's your uncle!

This is one of those diet lifesavers that's worked really well for me.  It isn't just an economic and efficient way to get your nutrients.  A smoothie tends to fill in the chinks when you're a little hungry and might be tempted to munch, or are having a craving for a milkshake.  Granted, this isn't a McDonald's chocolate shake.  But if you're committed to good health, it's not a bad alternative and can even feel like a reward.  If you're craving sweets, go with the sweeter fruits or add some stevia, and you'll almost not realize that you're eating healthy.   I'm becoming convinced that eating healthy doesn't have to be a sacrifice, and am hoping I can convince you of the same thing.  :)




A Surprising Replacement

I was in Vitamin Cottage about a month ago and just ran in to grab a few things and left My Person sitting in the car since I'd only be a second.  Over in the refrigerated section, this jar caught my eye, and I snapped a picture of it and texted it to him with a big "HAHAHA" in the message.  (I later learned it's pronounced 'Vegan-aze').

Fast forward about three weeks, and we're back in Vitamin Cottage, and I point out the jar, and it piques his interest!  He reads the back, decides it's cheap enough to try that he won't feel bad if the whole jar goes in the trash 'cause it's just so gross (of course!), and we get it home.  At that time, he was about a week from having to take his physical readiness test for the military and was working on dropping those last few stubborn pounds before the big day.  And being willing to try something new is one of the things I love the most about him!




Now, before I go any further, let me first say that I'm not  a big fan of the regular stuff, real mayo or Miracle Whip.  Pretty much everything about them grosses me out, not the least of which is what they're made from!  But there are times that one of the other is a necessity.  Like that very afternoon when I was preparing a potato salad to take to a party and realized that all of my Hellman's had been consumed some time before, and all that was left was a small tablespoon or so in the very bottom!  

I was in the laundry room tossing some clean laundry into the dryer when I hear a surprised "Wow!" from the kitchen, and went back in to see My Person standing at the counter, open jar in hand, and a look of happysurprisedshock on his face.  "This stuff is amazing!!".  Knowing him as I do, I knew he wouldn't be that happy without just cause, so I tried it myself, and was shocked....shocked I say!... that he was right.  You couldn't tell the difference between this stuff and Best Foods.

Just 1 Tbsp has only 80 calories, and the stuff is completely egg- and dairy-free and contains oil, apple cider vinegar, brown rice syrup, soy protein, salt, lemon juice, and mustard.  The stuff should still be eaten in moderation, but if you've gotta have your mayo, this will trick you into thinking you're getting the real thing without the huge amounts of cholesterol and fat!

The moral of the story is, I used this for the potato salad, a recipe I used to make in my sandwich shop when the kids were little, and would sell out very day.  It was very popular.  But I had nothing but compliments on the salad and no one had a clue that it wasn't made with the real thing.

And, as always, if My Person will eat it and not bat an eye, it's got to be good!  Even if it's good for you!




Micro-Salads

So I learn something new every day!  I was just doing some online research after my lunch today, a bowl of quinoa tossed with sliced fresh banana, pineapple, mango, and kiwi which, though delicious, didn't quite fit the bill of what sounded good when lunchtime hit.  But, having blown off the grocery store yesterday in favor of cozily hanging out on the couch with My Person, wrapped in my favorite fuzzy blanket and watching disaster porn (namely the movie '2012' staring our favorite 'Better Off Dead'-er John Cusack!), a much needed trip to the grocery store never happened and the meager things I had to pack in my lunchbox today weren't really doing it for me.

So with the assistance of my good friend Google, I came across a couple of supergood blogs, my favorite of which was written by a self-professed 'Lazy Vegan' whose idea of a good meal was right up my alley!  (I'll do a little more research and do a post one of these days about the best healthy-eating blogs I'm finding).  

In the inevitable online hopscotch that tends to happen in such internet searches, I came across another online gem that was talking about something called Confetti Salads, or 'Micro Salads'.  

A few months ago when I first began this new way of clean eating, I realized that I wasn't capable of sitting down and consuming the large amounts of green-leafies that it takes to fill me up.  Being 16 kinds of efficient however, the restaurateur in me popped up and said "Lemme handle this...I'll get back to you" and immediately set to work to come up with a manageable and efficient way to get the full amount of fresh fruits and veges that are required to keep one healthy and happy while eating clean.  Little did I know that others haveof the  gone before me in this instance and paved the way with quantities of recipes, even going so far as to give this new and efficient method of salad-consumption a name!  Micro-salads.

The following recipe is from just such an experiment and is not only tasty, but packed full of everything that is good for you.  The whole idea is that you toss into the food processor any vegetable or fruit combination that might be a little time consuming to actually chew (for this use, apples and carrots), toss in something that is a little juicier (as in mango or pineapple), and pulse briefly   This will coarsely chop the tougher items, and turn the lighter, juicier items into this lovely sauce.  

I love a handful of crisp baby carrots.  And I love a nice, juicy apple.  But I can eat one or the other, not both, on a 15-minute break at work.  Enter the micro-salad concept: I can enjoy both, in rather large quantities, in under five minutes thereby helping to reach that target daily fruit/vege servings-per-day and enjoy the process at the same time!  Here's what I came up with:

Apple Carrot Confetti Salad

Two large handfuls baby carrots
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and coarsley chopped
2 soft dates, pitted
1/2 cup sliced fresh pineapple

Add all to the food processor fitted with an s-blade and pulse until carrots and apples are in small pieces but not applesauce.  The acid from the pineapple will keep the apples from turning brown, and the sweetness of the dates will add just that little bit of yum to the otherwise juicy and slightly tart deliciousness that has now become your 2p snack!


But experiment with your own combinations!  Remember when pairing things though: if you're going to use an item that easily oxidizes such as apples, throw in something acidic like lemon juice, pineapple, or orange, to keep the brown at bay.  But beyond that, the combinations are limited only by your imagination! :)

Cheers!
Something Light & Tasty
So we're sitting around the living room yesterday afternoon vegging away the final hours of the weekend hoping in vain that we can drag it out just that little bit longer, and I start thinking about what I want for dinner.  I'm feeling particularly guilty about how I've eaten this weekend, but know that come Monday morning I'm back on the clean eating wagon and if I'm gonna be bad, now's the time to do it!

"What do you feel like for dinner?"
"I don't know...something light.  I'm feeling bloat-y".  This from My Person.  But I know what he means.

We'd been to the grocery store, and I had a few things in mind, so here's what I threw together.  Totally tasty, and you could literally eat quite a bit without guilt.  Enjoy!

Good-For-You Stir-Fry

1/2 of a green bell pepper cut in strips
1/2 of a red bell pepper cut in strips
10 asparagus stalks, trimmed and broken in thirds
about 1/2 cup red onion sliced thin
5 white mushrooms sliced
1/2 c. fresh pineapple
2 T. olive oil
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 c. low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 c. white wine
1 Tbsp. corn starch
2 c. brown rice, cooked

  • Set rice on to cook.
  • Slice up chicken breast into bite-sized pieces.
  • Mix together the soy sauce, white wine, and a few pieces of the fresh pineapple in a small bowl.  Smoosh the pineapple so that the juice is in the mixture.  Set aside.
  • Use this time to slice up your vegetables.
  • Heat olive oil in a pan.  Remove the chicken from the marinade and set the marinade aside.  
  • Saute the chicken until done.  There should be a nice, caramelly coating on the bottom of the pan from the sugar in the pineapple and soy sauce.  Leave this there.
  • Add in about 1/4 c. of hot water to the chicken to deglaze the pan and keep all that nice flavor in the sauce.
  • Add in the vegetables and toss to coat.  Cover the pan and allow to steam/cook for just a couple of minutes until the veges become tender but not limp and some of the water to evaporate off.
  • While the veges are cooking, add the corn starch to the marinade mixture.
  • Take the lid off the pan and stir the mixture well.  Add the marinade/sauce to this and stir well to coat.  Allow this to thicken up just a little bit before serving.
  • Serve this over some brown rice and enjoy!
My Person loved this stuff by the way.  I made approx three 1-cup servings, ate one myself, served him one, and he finished off the pan.  I swear I'll get healthy stuff in him yet, and always smile a little bit to myself when I see him thoroughly enjoying something that's good for him. <3



Raw Brownies

Now that I've been 'eating clean' for over a month or so, I've gotta be honest...I'm really starting to get bored.  You can only eat so many salads and fruit smoothies before you start to feel completely tired of being healthy.  Last night was one of those nights.  For some reason, I was craving brownie batter.  Raw, gooey, dark, chocolaty brownie batter.  The kind your mom tells you you can't eat because it'll make you sick.  I stood in front of the open cupboards wistfully looking for something - anything! - that might meet this craving head-on whilst not ruining my day of eating completely, and thankfully the restaurateur in my kicked in.  I pulled out a few ingredients and set to work, and was AMAZED at what transpired!  It's pretty hard for me to amaze me.  But what resulted was truly delicious; a fudgy, slightly crunchy with just a subtle hint of coconut, and a completely decadent, satisfying snack for that voracious sweet tooth.  This was so good in fact that My Person asked to lick the spatula.  And then proceeded to eat quite a lot more than that!  And he's definitely not into the raw or all vege eating at all, so that is quite the phenomenal endorsement right there!  I basically just threw things into the food processor until they turned out right!  Here's the recipe below:


Brownie Batter Bites

1 1/2 c. raw almonds
1 c. water
1/4 c. coconut oil
1/4 c. raw cocoa powder
1/4 c. flax seeds
12 dates, pitted
1-2 Tbsp. unsweetened almond milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract (the real stuff, not vanilla flavoring)


  • Set 1 c. of the raw almonds in the 1 c. of water to soak for about 20 minutes.
  • In a food processor, take the remaining almonds and pulse to break up into smallish pieces.  Set aside.  
  • Once the almonds have soaked for their 20 minutes, drain off the water and put them in the food processor along with the cocoa powder, flax seeds, coconut oil, dates, and vanilla extract.  Pulse until everything is well mixed.  It should be a loose crumbly material, slightly sticky.
  • Add in the almond milk 1 Tbsp at a time and pulse to blend.  This should begin forming a slightly sticky ball.  Add less or more to achieve this consistency.
  • Dump the contents into a square baking dish and press.  I usually use just half of the baking dish so that the mixture, once cut, is about the thickness of homemade fudge.
  • Cover and allow to set for a few hours.  The liquid absorbs and the flavors blend.  You can refrigerate this also.
  • Cut into 1" squares, remove from dish, and place in air-tight container.  These will keep for up to a month in the fridge!
Tips:  
If the mixture is a little too wet, add in a bit more cocoa powder/chopped almonds/flax seed until it's the right consistency: dry, but a little bit sticky.
If you'd like it sweeter, add more dates.  You can offset the stickiness of the extra dates by adding a bit more of the dry ingredients above.


Sneaking In the Good

So I've restarted my clean eating plan, same as I've mentioned here before, that was interrupted at the very end of the two weeks when My Person and I both came down with the flu for about four days.  I don't think I've ever been that sick in my whole life, and that's not an exaggeration!  Nothing stayed down during that time, and I found after I finally began to recover, that I need to replenish and the plan just wasn't meeting that specific need, so all that work was for nothing as I ate whatever sounded enticing enough to try as I gradually began regaining my appetite.

I've been on the plan again for about 4 days now and am finding this go-round a bit tougher!  I did my usual grocery shopping on Sunday afternoon and then spent a few hours cutting up fruits and vegetables, making salads, cooking brown rice and quinoa in preparation of a busy week.  Just for some needed variety, I cooked some beans and threw together a quick 'chili' that, surprisingly, turned out far better than I anticipated!  I left out the hamburger, and the part that struck me was when I asked My Person to taste it for me, and he immediately ate a whole bowl and asked me to make some for him!  And if it was good enough that he didn't think it 'healthy', then it's got to be good!  Here's the recipe:

Thrown-Together Vegetarian Chili Beans

1 pound of pinto beans, picked-through for stones and set to soak
2 cloves fresh garlic
1 can generic diced tomatoes with green chile, mild to medium heat
3/4 cup diced green bell pepper
3/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup diced onion (white or red)
Cumin
Ancho chili pepper seasoning
Sea Salt
  • If you can, soak the beans over night.  Drain off the water, adding fresh before you put them on the stove.  Cook beans along with the two cloves of garlic for a few hours until tender, replenishing the water and adding a little bit more salt to the mix each time you add water.  You can taste the water as you go to make sure you're not over or under seasoning.
  • Once the beans are tender, drain off a good portion of the remaining water and remove the garlic cloves.  You can dice these and add to the mixture, or just remove.
  • Add the can of diced tomato, the diced peppers, and onion.  Return to the stove and allow to simmer until the vegetables are tender.
  • Season to-taste with the cumin and ancho chili powder, adding a little more salt (or garlic salt) if needed.
I let this sit in the fridge over night and took it for lunch with a cup of brown rice the following day.  My Person basically finished off the whole bowl the following day!  I guarantee that if he loved it, your not-so-healthy-picky-eater will too!



Apps To Keep You Fit

Like most people, I am never far from my cell phone.  In fact, on those rare days that I walk out of the house without it remembering only when I've driven approx 2.9 miles from home, it's important enough to be late getting to work in an effort to return home for the dang thing!  Considering I spent the better part of the first 30+ years of my life without one, it astounds me the degree to which I rely on this little bundle of electronic goodness!  From checking email on the go (which in all honesty I actually do for my other job every day), to checking movie times and Facebook, I've also incorporated it into my personal health regimen.  And, since it's technically "Tech Tuesday", I thought I might provide you with some of the cool apps I've found for my iPhone that I use on a daily basis.




The Fat Secret application is one that I used for weeks on end when I first started to take my weight seriously.  The first step to success in losing weight and keeping it off is realizing a few things about your consumption: mainly, how big the portion sizes really are that you're eating, and their nutritional value.  


This handy little app, also available online for those of you who don't want to do this on the go, has a huge database of foods and their nutritional information, and allows you to keep track of literally every bite you put in your mouth tallying it as you go so you can stick to that diet and mean it!  It is free to join (as is the iPhone application itself), and at sign-up, you enter in your current weight and your goal weight, and it then sets your goal caloric intake for each day and tracks it as you enter the information every day with regular reminders to weigh in and check on your progress.  There is also a section at weigh-in that allows you to keep notes, and I've used this for my measurements.

And it isn't just a calorie counter!  It also has an exercise aspect in which you can record every action, from sleeping (7 hours burns 438 calories!  Who knew?!), to Housework (174 calories an hour!).  I used this particularly in the first few weeks of my dieting last summer when I was trying to get a feel for my current eating trends and how they might be affecting my (in)ability to lose the weight I wanted.  I remember being shocked at how much I was actually consuming!  A real eye-opener!

Another added benefit of the app is that you can join on line for extra support, and the community is really quite supportive.  There are forums, menu plans, and even regular weight loss competitions you can join, either as an individual or a group, to challenge you to meet your weight loss goals.  Really overall a great little application to have handy on your phone desktop!

***
The second app I've recently begun to use is called BodBot.  This is also available online or via the free app.  This handy little app has you answer three or four simple questions when you join: whether you're male or female, your current level of activity, and your getting-in-shape goals i.e., do you want big-arse muscles or core strength?  It also lets you choose how much time you have to devote to working out on a daily and weekly basis.  Once you've done this, you will then receive a personalized workout regimen for the days you've picked to exercise!  

This is perfect for me of two jobs, as I have very little time, can't justify a gym considering how little I would be able to use it, but want to fit my workout into the few spare minutes I might have here and there.  The exercises use regular household items (a thick book, a gallon of milk, etc.), and require nothing special to complete, thereby eliminating any excuses you (like me) might already have lined up!  



The workouts are sent to wherever you choose, email or cell phone, and also have handy little videos to go with each one showing the proper way to perform the exercise, along with a diagram of exactly which muscles you're working out.

I plan on beginning a yoga class soon.  Therefore the parameters that I've set for my workouts are the 10 minutes per day, with the goal being core strength, enough so I don't actually die when I first begin the yoga class!  So for instance, today my workout is 2 Donkey Calf Rises (a sort of standing heel rise with the front half of your foot on a curb or thick book), and Body Weight Hip Thrusts (basically a supine pelvic lift).

Totally manageable!  

***


And then here's one just for fun that still sorta sticks with the theme, considering how much I've posted lately about drinking more water!  RunPee is this super helpful little app that will be your best friend the next time you're in a three-and-a-half-hour Lord of the Rings movie and have drunk half your daily intake requirement of water but don't want to miss any of the action!  The app costs $0.99 and is worth its weight in gold (yes, gross pun intended)!


Find the movie you're watching, and it will tell you at exactly what point in the movie (and I mean this literally, to the second!!!) it's safe to make a dash for the loo and will even give you a little synopsis of what you're missing to read while you're in the bathroom!




My Person and I are big movie fans and tend to go to the theater a few times a month.  Invariably, one of us has to rush out, always at what seems the best part of the movie, and have probably set world records when it comes to peeing in our hurry to get back to the movie!  This app has made that a little less stressful, and no need to limit your water intake the day you plan to see the next big blockbuster!


Cheers!                   ~M




Spa Water - On the Cheap!

It's been a few days now since I've had the infuser water bottle and both I and My Person are enjoying our water more than I can say we did previously, and it's been a conversation starter whenever I have it with me.  

Now that we've had them to play with for a few days, I've been doing some online research looking for new and interesting combinations, and am finding that this is a quiet trend that's been raging in certain (healthier) circles for some time (at least long enough for books to have been written on the subject!)  The beautifully illustrated book shown above, Spa Water: A Guide to Creating World-Class Spa Water At Home by Pam Wenzel, available on Amazon in hardback for $19.77, purports to be chock full of recipes, and if the cover is any indication, a rare treat indeed!  There are other books on the market, so I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that this is going to be the new craze pretty soon, and not the novelty I felt it to be when I saw it a few weeks ago.

As previously mentioned, I purchased the 27 oz plastic version at Amazon for $9.95, and due to some damage in shipping, had to contact the seller, Jon, who was more than helpful in getting us squared away.  I'd recommend them to anyone.  You can click the link above to be taken directly to their Amazon page to purchase your own from this seller.  He is also selling these cute tumblers (pictured left) for $8.95, two of which he's been kind enough to send me, so I may post about those in the future.


We've had a few days to play with them and, as promised, are some good recipes on ways to stuff your infuser.  Right now at my desk I'm using a slice of fresh ginger and some cara cara orange, and it's quite tasty!  Last night, I made Bosc pear with fresh mint sprigs which went over well too.  You can really have fun experimenting with this, and the fact that it's good for you is just a bonus, and you can even use the gadget-y aspect to get your children in on the fun.  I know that instilling the necessity of drinking water (and not counting anything liquid found in soda, juice, etc) with my own children, has been very gratifying when I see them choose that over something less healthy.
Obviously any fresh fruit will work, and some people suggest a few drops of Stevia or some Agave nectar or honey just to change things up.  I've gone the purely just the water and fruit/herbs and have been very satisfied with the combinations and quality.


  • Seedless watermelon and fresh basil
  • Cucumber slices and rosemary
  • Fresh raspberries and mint sprigs
  • Lemon slices and fresh basil
  • Oranges and fresh cilantro
  • Ruby grapefruit and fresh mint
  • Lemon slices and fresh lavender
  • Granny Smith apple slices and fresh lemongrass
  • Fresh pineapple slices and mint sprigs


Find a flavor and want to stick with it?  You can also purchase a pitcher to keep in the fridge, perfect for summertime, but equally useful in the dry winter months when it's also easy to become dehydrated. This 93 oz. Infuser Pitcher by Prodyne in BPA-free acrylic, is gorgeous and functional, available at Amazon for $19.99.

Whether you start like we did with the smaller bottle, or have just made drinking more water a more focused part of your New Years resolutions to be more health-conscious, this is definitely a cheap and tasty way to go.                  ~M



A Fashionable Inside
My lunch today
This morning as I was getting ready for work, I found a new outfit in my closet.  You know how you normally wear this shirt with those pants, or that sweater set with that skirt, but every now and again you'll pull out a couple of things in a combination heretofore untried, and it's like you've just gone shopping!  This entirely new outfit that's been sitting on your closet all along!  And this new one for me is going to be a particular favorite, I can tell.  It's one of those that makes me feel spectacular.  Like I'm invincible. 





Well, something close.




This afternoon as I was eating my lunch, I realized that I've lately been having that same feeling of satisfaction about what I'm putting into my body, as well!  As I poured a little bit of water into the bottom of the glass jar containing my fresh asparagus, and took the lid off my cup of brown rice, I smiled to myself thinking that my insides were going to be just as happy as my outsides were today.  I know it's silly, but that made me happy.

  
And like they say, it's the little things! :)  Happy Tuesday everyone.                         ~M




No Better Way To Start The Day

So you know that I've been on this clean eating kick for a couple of weeks now, and I've been trying to start my mornings with a smoothie rather than my usual cup/s of coffee full of that delicious nectar we call International Delight Creamer.  Sigh. How I miss thee.  

This mornings' smoothie was a delicious concoction of frozen cherries, a banana, a cup of unsweetened almond milk, half a granny smith apple, and a cup of raw kale.  And yes, it was delicious, kale notwithstanding.  I apparently enjoyed it immensely.   So much so in fact that I spent the first 40 minutes of my day with some of it on my nose.  Forty minutes that were spent talking to people.  High-up people.  

Yah.  It's Monday.


But today's tasty treat I found from those fantastic folks at PureWow, that wonderful site I reference here at least once a week.  For those of you who might be thinking of dabbling in the better eating pool, here is a great place to start!  Skip one day this week, just one, and switch out your coffee for this delicious alternative and see how you feel.  It's just one day!  And you can always fix your cuppa when you get to the office if you find the sacrifice to be just too much.



Almond Butter Cup Smoothie


1/2 cup Ice

1 Medium Frozen Banana
Throw all in a blender and blend on high until nice and smooth.  Put immediately into a nice tall 16 oz. glass and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Daniel Sage, Juice Press, New York City

2 Tblsp Almond Butter

2 tsp. Cocoa Powder
1/8 tsp. Cinnamon
2 Tblsp. Agave Nectar


While we're on the subject of good eats, I came across this delectable dip on Friday night as I was preparing for guests.  I found it in the cooler near the specialty cheese and, figuring it might offer a healthier alternative to my usual spinach dip, grabbed it on a whim.  Boy am I glad I did!  This light, delicious dip went perfectly with wholegrain crackers or on a slice of bagguette, as well as a great dip alternative for fresh veges.  I picked up the Spinach and Artichoke version and loved it.  It claims to be gluten-free with no added high-fructose corn syrup, and with only 45 calories in a 2 Tblsp. serving, you can eat this almost guilt-free!



An Honest Dissertation on Kale Chips

So as of yesterday, I've been on the clean eating thing for two weeks.  I've lost about 6 pounds, am fully hydrated, and have peed 23,362 times.  I cut out processed sugar, gluten (all breads/cereals/those-kinds-of-carbs actually), and have eaten nothing but fruits, vegetables, seeds, and brown rice/quinoa.  To stave off my afternoon cravings which almost always led straight to the vending machine (or to the drawer I keep in my office that, as of Thursday, January 17th, contained animal crackers, Cheez-its, and licorice), I opted instead to substitute kale chips.  Now, before you get any pictures in your head of tasty treats that look like thinly sliced potatoes and deep fried to a satisfying crunch, replace that space with a green leafy vegetable, rubbed with a combination of lemon juice and olive oil, lightly dusted with salt, and baked until about 2 seconds before it turns to actual dust and vanishes into thin air, and you'll have a more accurate picture of what they really are.


In fact, scratch that.  Here's an actual picture of what they look like taken from the last batch I made.  Having only eaten the ones I've made myself, I'm probably not what one would call an expert on the kale chip.  But I can tell you two things:

  • They're not as bad as you'd think (or as bad as they look!)
  • I wouldn't be seeking these out if I weren't on this eating plan. :)
and

Kale is a cruciferous vegetable in the broccoli family, a large-leafed green leafy vegetable that comes in a big bunch at the stores for under $2.  I'd wondered if dehydrating the leaves diminished their nutritional value, and after some quick internet research, found that is not the case.   Though ideally it's believed that our vegetables should be consumed raw or as close to raw as possible, the good people at LiveStrong state that's not the case.    They're full of fiber and protein, and are a powerhouse of potassium (see below) as well as the B vitamins and, even baked, has the same anti-inflammatory properties baked as raw!

Honestly, when that craving for something crunchy kicks in about 2 o'clock every afternoon, these aren't half bad.  They have a satisfyingly loud crunch to them, though they're quite insubstantial once one begins to actually chew.  Not a lot of that required for these.  But the health benefits are totally worth the experience, and having now eaten literally bunches of kale over the past two weeks, this method of consumption isn't half bad.  And at 110 calories for two whole cups, you really can't beat them as a snack.  Not to mention the other goodies you're getting!  
                                           
Calories110Sodium60 mg
Total Fat3 gPotassium642 mg
Saturated0 gTotal Carbs16 g
Polyunsaturated1 gDietary Fiber6 g
Monounsaturated0 gSugars2 g
Trans0 gProtein3 g
Cholesterol0 mg
Vitamin A767%Calcium20%
Vitamin C192%Iron3%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

They're super easy to make and take about 15 minutes start to finish.  If you're feeling adventurous, give them a try!  Here's what you'll need:

Kale Chips

1 bunch kale
A couple of Tbsp. of olive oil
Juice of about half a lemon
Sea salt or a nice flavored salt such as garlic or Lawrey's
A plastic bag, one from the produce section (yes, I know it's not politically correct to even look in the general direction of these when you're in the grocery store, but it works perfectly)


  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
  • After washing and your kale and letting it dry well, break off the woody stems and throw them away  I usually break them all the way up the spine to about within 1" of the top of the leaf.  Even baked, they don't break down well up to about this point.  Tear the remaining leaves into bite-sized pieces.
  • put the olive oil and lemon juice in a small container with a tight lid, and shake well.
  • Doing a handful at a time, put the kale into the plastic bag and drizzle some of the olive oil/lemon juice mixture over the leaves, twist the bag closed, smoosh the outside of the bag gently to coat the kale leaves with the olive oil mixture.  Once there's no more liquid in the bottom of the bag, open it up and use the now oily sides of the bag to rub the oil on any part of the leaf that might have been missed.
  • Cover a large cookie sheet with tin foil or parchment paper and spread the leaves loosely onto the sheet, put them in the oven, and set the timer for about 10 minutes.  When the timer goes off, take them out and gently toss the 'chips' making sure that they're not burning or drying unevenly.
  • Once they've become crispy and nothing like the limp wet leaves you initially put in the oven, their metamorphoses is complete.  Remove them and sprinkle with your salt of choice, allow to cool, and store in a tightly covered bowl.  Well, you'll want to eat them too. :)


So this weekend when you do your grocery shopping, decide to be adventurous and give them a try!  I figure that just by cutting out my afternoon visit to the vending machine or my drawer full of tasty treats (I actually dumped them two weeks ago) and switching it up with kale chips, or an apple, or cup of fresh fruit, I'm saving about $25 a month, and about 4,000 calories!

I'd call that motivation for change!



Water....Again

So I get all of these cool emails every day in my inbox telling me about neat gadgets I absolutely need, new apps that will save me time and money, and sales that I just can't miss.  I promise to narrow those down to just one a day that I will then pass on to you.  Yesterday on Purewow, this great website that has all kinds of new inventions, great recipes, and pretty much everything else you can think of.  In fact, what they say about themselves directly on their front page is this:  "Purewow is the free daily lifestyle email for stylish women of substance featuring the very best in culture, fashion, travel, tech, and so much more.  Sign up NOW!", to which I promptly did and haven't once wished I hadn't.  Their daily emails almost always yield one particular gem, and yesterday it was this:
Infuser Bottle
Plastic water infuser
The article "Steep Inclined" (they have such catchy and ironic titles!  Something to which I greatly aspire!) gave the link to this amazing water bottle used to make your daily water intake more enjoyable without breaking your diet or adding in more of those pink and blue packets that I've recently learned are actually so bad for you.  Not only can you make your own truly calorie-free 'vitamin water', you can make it 'free' of everything but good taste!  They also offered recipes on what to fill the inside cylinder such as "...apple-cardamom, ginger-mint, pear lemongrass, and blueberry-bay leaf ...(and) lemon-cucumber."!  


Seriously.  Check out their article as they have a link to another website with actual recipes with which to infuse your plain old boring water.

The one they featured in the first picture above is a 20 oz glass bottle for $15 and sold at UncommonGoods.  Being the HUGE klutz that I am, I went on an immediate hunt for something a little less accident-worthy and came across this 27 oz plastic version at Amazon for $9.95 (pictured right), and immediately purchased two: one for me, and one for My Person who is studiously working on his Diet Coke addiction, drinking water madly, but chugging it "just to get it over with" every day.  As I think I mentioned before in passing, I'm not a big fan of plain water, but have been sucking it down myself lately having eschewed all other liquids temporarily.  I'm actually looking forward to trying some of the infusion combinations that were listed and maybe making up some of my own! 

I'll add the best recipes here when I find them.    
~M



THE Best Lotion

I have very sensitive skin and often go without lotion because it seems that no matter what I put on my face, I'll break out.  Last year, I found this amazing stuff at Vitamin Cottage that is, hands-down, the best face cream I've ever tried.  
You know that weird residue you'll notice on your face in the morning when you're showering that seems to be the 'leftovers' of whatever lotion you used the night before?  With this lotion, there's none of that.  Your body soaks every last drop of it in and leaves your face soft and your fine lines (at least in my experience) less noticeable. It's safe for every day use, and their body lotion is just as amazing.   I've also seen it at Whole Foods. Using Gotu Kola Stem Cells, "shown to firm and help your skin fight environmental damage and free radicals", and 1% Chlorella Growth Factor which has been "shown to support collagen and elastin fibers".  The 1 oz. tube is regularly priced at around $20, you can get it right now at Spirit Beauty Lounge for $18, and they will ship you a sample at your request!  

I've tried the night cream, the day cream, and the body lotion, and LOVE all three.  They make a full line of skincare products, all environmentally friendly, with no animal testing, organic and Fair Trade certified, and $1 of every purchase goes to breast cancer research.  They've also branched out into hair-care products, soaps, and facial cleansers as well.

One note on the body lotion:  I've tried both the unscented and the scented, and would not recommend the unscented. It may not have added perfume, but there is a definite scent!  But go with any of the others, and you'll love the light floral and fruity scents that last only briefly  while this magic potion does its work.






To Drink or Not To Drink

caslab.com
I'm sure by now you've heard that most of us don't drink enough water.  That by the time we feel thirsty, we're already dehydrated.   I raised my kids to drink a ton of water, and when they were home recently over the Christmas break, I was glad to see that they still usually choose it over something else.  But if you're in your 30's or 40's, this isn't something we were raised with, and drinking the amount of water per day that a body requires can sometimes be a HUGE chore.  Not to mention all of those trips to the bathroom!


My Person and I have argued often and often that coffee and beer, though liquid, are not counted in your daily water intake.  The fact that caffeine and alcohol are diuretics is well-known, but the mechanism by which is works isn't often explained.  The consumption of these causes your body to pull water from cells excreting it as urine, and also inhibits your body's  ability to hold on to the water in the liquid you're drinking.  This explains all the bathroom trips as well as the saying "You don't buy beer, you rent it"!



acupofcoffeeandamuse.blogspot.com


With the cleanse I recently started (on day 3 and going strong, peeing my little heart out!), they ask that you drink half your body weight in ounces per day, more if you are an athlete or live at altitude.  I weigh approximately 150 pounds, and living at 5,000 feet, need to add 25 ounces to my water intake to account for the high altitude.  That puts me right at 100 oz a day.  Since part of the cleanse is giving up my beloved coffee for two weeks (sigh), I've started drinking the suggested morning drink of 32 oz of warm water with lemon while I get ready for work before eating anything.  Though this does nothing for my level of alertness (or lack thereof!), I am noticing that my joints hurt less, my lips are no longer chapped, and I don't seem to be having the dry-eye issues with which I'm usually plagued.

If you (like me) are on any daily medication, your body's need for water is even greater.  Toxins tend to build up in your liver and kidneys, main organs through which medications are metabolized.  With this build-up comes a sure level of toxicity that can be causing you not only physical harm such as joint inflammation and ulcer or stomach upset, but may also limit your body's ability to draw from fat stores.  And who among us isn't always trying to drop a few pounds?  It's hard enough being the age we are and trying to lose weight.  But having this one, easily remedied issue in the way of is something I hadn't previously thought of but will definitely consider!


Picture from: borderlessnewsandviews.com
*Studies have also supported the idea that drinking more water is good for your overall cognitive function, improving performance by up to 30%!  Who knew!

When first faced with the prospect of drinking one hundred ounces of water a day, I've gotta tell ya, I was seriously underenthused.  Having done it now for a few days, it really isn't the chore I believed it would be.  I'll keep you posted on how this goes.  I'll sign off for now though...time to run to the bathroom again!


*Article referenced from:  http://www.fitday.com




                                 
Something else I'm passionate about is food.  Cooking in particular.  If you've been following along, you'll know that I've recently made a huge lifestyle change in the way I eat and approach food in general.  I'm sure this will have long-reaching implications on my cooking (cutting out butter alone is going to make things challenging!).  But I thought I might share some healthy alternative recipes in this space.  I'm not talking about stuff that requires you to hold your breath while you eat.  I'm recently learning that truly healthy food can actually taste good!  And I promise to only post recipes for things I've tried and have loved.  Like this one:


Black Bean Hummus

2 cups cooked black beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

*******

In a food processor fitted with an 'S' blade, blend all ingredients for 1 minute or until smooth.  Chill for about 15 minutes and serve with Bibb lettuce, or your favorite raw veges.

I've got to say, this particular dip was so good that My Person ate a good portion of it.  And he's definitely the type who, if given a choice between Frito-Lay bean dip and a bowl of black beans, would take the canned stuff every time!  He not only cleaned out the bowl, but asked for seconds (which I gladly shared!)


Note:



If you can possibly spare the time, try to cook your own beans at home.  It helps to soak them for a few hours ahead of time or overnight if you can swing it, and remember to change the water before you put it on the stove to begin cooking; most of the parts that will eventually contribute to gassiness will be dumped down the drain with that water.  It will cut down on cooking time and also make them easier to digest (think: less farting).  Canned black beans, though still considerably healthier than no beans, are full of sodium and additives.  If you do use these, make sure to buy the low-sodium kind and rinse them well before using.  I threw in a few cloves of garlic while the beans were cooking, and then added in the garlic the recipe called for when I was blending the ingredients.  I was out of cumin, so substituted chili powder, didn't have rice wine vinegar so used plain white vinegar.  The result was absolutely delicious.  I promise.  I had it today for an afternoon snack with baby carrots and celery sticks, and it totally warded off the afternoon munchies leaving me feeling the exact opposite of deprived!  This dip will leave you feeling like you've just had something decadent and seriously not allowed on your diet!

Garlic Caesar Dressing

1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 2 hours
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 soft dates, pitted
3/4 cups water
2 large stalks of celery, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

*******

In a high-speed blender, combine all ingredients until smooth.  Refrigerate in a glass container for 2-3 days.  For thicker dressing to use as a dip, add less water.  
Makes 1 cup


Note:
I was absolutely amazed when I tasted this.  I had no hope -- literally zero expectation -- that this would turn out even remotely palatable!  But soaking the cashews made the final result very creamy...not quite 'sour cream' consistency, but definitely far more substantive a dressing than any 'diet' or 'low-cal' dressings I've tried in the past that have very little taste and almost no substance!   I made the mistake of going with the "more is more" idea when it came to the garlic, and now am afraid to eat this at work for lunch as I believe I'll be oozing garlic from my pores for the rest of the day which will be a sure turn-off for all the people I have to talk to over the course of an afternoon!  But this truly was a delightful surprise and definitely worth trying if you're looking for something to make those boring salads a little easier to go down.  I've already shared it with a friend at work (who was kind enough to take half of it off my hands as I'll never eat that much alone), who has purchased the cookbook herself so she can try what appears to be a home run quality recipe section on her own family.  Cheers!