Trick or Treat

I know holidays can be a difficult time to maintain a healthy eating regimen, and a few indulgences can be a rewarding and appropriate way to celebrate.  But perhaps, like me, you don’t want to go completely off the rails.

Here’s how I approached Halloween last night when my holiday plan was having dinner and watching a show with a few friends:

First, I ate breakfast and lunch as I normally would.  I don’t think skipping calories to binge later is particularly effective and I didn’t want to be starving when I arrived at my friends’ home (not a chic look).  Breakfast was a smoked salmon egg bake, salad, and a grain-free zucchini muffin; lunch was a wedge of (dairy and grain free) eggplant lasagna and some more salad.

For our celebratory dinner, I contributed a yummy and filling pasta with pumpkin marinara.  I used a corn and quinoa pasta and you couldn’t tell the difference – as you may remember on a past post, I have also used chickpea pasta to great effect.  The new alternative pastas are truly just as good as the “real thing”.  The marinara was creamy with a forward note of bell pepper (I used orange).

Pumpkin Marinara

I’m not crafty or creative but the hostess of my party is and I wanted to share a Pinterest-worthy and festive contribution accordingly.

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Halloween Apple Bites

After enjoying our meal, I happily treated myself to one of my friend’s ghost rice krispie treats, and relished every bite.

Halloween has passed, but I encourage you to try the pumpkin pasta recipe linked above this fall, and to get creative with some nutritious offerings at your next holiday gathering.  Then treat yourself to whatever your absolute favorite thing is.  No tricks, no guilt, no food hangover.

 

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Meditation

I recently joined a local program that will run for six months with the goal of implementing a strong and routine meditation practice.  I have wanted to meditate for years but find it difficult to start, much less maintain, the practice; the accountability of this group is very beneficial to me.

Why meditate?  There are many benefits, perhaps most notably a control of emotions and decrease in reactivity.  To me, it feels really soothing and relaxing for my poor busy brain….like a massage for my cerebral matter!  It also makes me realize how inane and repetitive my thoughts are, and how busy I am planning instead of being in the moment (I tend to do a lot of meal planning while I’m supposed to be meditating!)

Benefits of Meditation

One action item that is proving to be very helpful in my practice is utilizing a meditation journal.  This is a tool my group leader introduced and it’s such a good idea!  I’m looking forward to tracking my progress and noting patterns as they arise, and again, the accountability factor is helping me be successful.  Here are a few formats you could use:

Journal 1

Journal 2

Journal 3

In terms of the actual meditation, you may remember a previous blog in which I recommended the Calm app which I have on my iPhone; Headspace is another very popular app.  There are guided and silent options.  But really all you need is a timer.  I sit for 10 to 15 minutes presently and count my breaths from 1 to 10.  You can also use a mantra if you prefer…a word or phase that centers you with each breath.  When your thoughts inevitably wander, just observe without judgment and bring yourself back to your breath.

Metta meditation is the practice of loving kindness and can increase compassion.   It feels really lovely to practice.  In this meditation, you think “may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be safe, may I be at peace”.  Then you repeat these phrases “may you….” while thinking of one of your dearest loved ones, then repeat with someone “neutral”, repeat with someone you find challenging in mind, and finally extend the wishes to all of the world.

If you, like me, have been wanting to meditate but struggle to get started, try keeping a journal from one of the templates I provided above.  Maybe enlist a partner, friend, or group for accountability and a sense of connectedness.  I am happy to be that person for you, just reach out to me!  Now and always, may YOU be happy, may you be healthy, may you be safe, and may you be at peace.

 

 

 

 

Happy Doctor Day

I once read a suggestion to time one’s annual medical visits with one’s birthday, and while I realize this sounds like the saddest celebration ever, it makes a certain sense.  “Linking” or “habit stacking” is scientifically proven to work because attaching a new routine to an established one allows you to tap into a neural pathway that is already lit up and working for you.  You’re not going to forget your birthday (are you?) so now it’s just a matter of attaching some routine check-ups.

I also like this concept because it’s all about showing some self-love in the most basic and perhaps overlooked ways.  No, it’s not going to pamper you like a pedicure or delight your senses like a chocolate cake, but taking a few hours to mind your general health (and get ahead of any potential problems) is a testimony to how much your care for your body and your future.

My birthday was Sept 22, and I turned 38, which seems an age in which visiting a doctor is prudent 😉  Full disclosure, I have not received any care besides well woman exams…maybe ever in my adult life.  Sure, I feel good, but there was that very subtle anxiety deep down as I wondered if maybe something could be lurking, undiscovered.

I found a provider online: I checked reviews, located a clinic close to my home, and opted for a female provider based on my personal preference.  Then I called and made an appointment, verifying that my insurance would be accepted.  The wait may be several months, so plan ahead if necessary!

My appointment was Sept 14.  I was surprisingly smart enough to fast, without being advised to do so, and ended up giving 3 vials of blood that day!  The call I received about a week later saying all my results were normal was a great gift indeed.  Now I can relax, knowing that I am truly healthy and that my lifestyle is working for me (e.g. no high cholesterol from my paleo diet *rolling my eyes*)

Now I’m on the other side of my birthday, dental groupon in hand, ready to make another appointment.  I already scheduled my next physical for next September.  I’ll never have to wonder when I’m supposed to see the doctor, and I know that taking care of myself is the best gift I can give or receive, this year or any.

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Working that gown….not scared at all!

Summer to Fall

This is a time of year when one day might be in the 60s, the next in the 80s, and the meals I have been making have reflected that….one day, a light quinoa salad; the next, a hearty casserole.  Regardless, these three recipes are all packed with veggies!

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Roasted Summer Vegetables

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I don’t *love* eggplant, but roasting any vegetable makes it so much better!  This was easy to throw together and made for a great work lunch.

 

Paleo Egg Roll in a Bowl

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This is such an easy recipe and one of the tastier ways to work cabbage into your diet (which keeps your immunity up over the winter!)  It didn’t rock my world until I figured out to liberally stir in some sweet chili sauce when serving; here’s what I use (I found it at my local Sprouts):

Grama’s Sweet Thai Chili Sauce

Oh, and I serve it over rice, which of course is not Paleo.

 

Roasted Veggie Enchilada Casserole

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This is a dream recipe that could (less attractively) be called: Clean Out Your Fridge Casserole!  It’s very flexible and I just used what I had on hand, throwing in chopped broccoli for example instead of cauliflower.  I doubled the recipe (but didn’t double the cheese).  This feels like  comfort food but you can feel good knowing you are getting a lot of veggies in this dish.  It’s a super helpful recipe when faced with a big CSA box of produce that I need to use up and I know I will keep it on rotation as I head into fall and winter!

That’s what’s been cooking in my kitchen lately!

Last of the Peaches

This past week was the last week of a big bag of peaches from my CSA (moving on to pears today!)  So I have two peach recipes for you today: one that truly celebrates summer, and one that I think is a nice bridge into the fall season.

My CSA participation is always cause for innovation, creativity, and inspiration, and this week that meant my stumbling upon the peach-cucumber salad.  I know this is one of those things that doesn’t sound like it should work but it totally does and is so refreshing!  If you’re in Missouri with September basically being a bonus month of summer then this may hit the spot!

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You can find more involved recipes online, but for this I simply sliced 1 large cucumber and 3 peaches, tossed them in 2 tablespoons of lime juice and a drizzle of Yuzu hot sauce, and topped with a pinch of flaky Maldon sea salt.

However, if mornings are growing crisp and you want to embrace fall (and why wouldn’t you want to?), here’s a yummy chai spiced peach compote with which to top your breakfast treat of choice!

Chai Spiced Peach Compote

(I didn’t make the vanilla pancakes in the above recipe so can’t speak to them)

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Enjoy the last of the summer bounty in whatever ways delight you!

Eat Your Veggies and You Can Have Dessert!

I have a duo of recipes for you today; both are rich and satisfying!

First, a dinner recipe you may want to bookmark for this winter.  It’s “cabbage forward”, shall we say, which means you are getting a ton of Vitamin C – helpful to ward off colds and other minor ailments.  The ample amount of butter makes this dish feel indulgent and there is just enough spice and heat to feel balanced.  I added two small russet potatoes, which defeats the “low carb” premise of the recipe, but was delicious!  (I added them shortly after the onions and garlic so they would have time to soften).  I can’t stop eating this.

Fried Cabbage with Kielbasa

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So, you’ve been virtuous and eaten up all your cabbage, and you’re feeling great.  What’s for dessert?  I created a Black Forest Cake dessert out of the zucchini and cherries I got from my CSA delivery!

First, if you are trying to avoid grains, you know how hard it is to find a nut-free muffin recipe in the paleo world.  I love this recipe because it doesn’t rely on a nut butter which makes the texture weird in my opinion.  These are so good and I feel good about the clean ingredients that go into them.  And because I don’t *need* to go nut free, lemme tell you that heating one of these up for 10 seconds and then “icing” it with almond or peanut butter is beyond.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

While I was cooking other things (like the cabbage dish) on Tuesday, I was staring at the bag of cherries I had received and suddenly thought, “I could make a compote”.

Cherry Compote

I didn’t have a vanilla bean so just did a splash of vanilla, and I skipped the cinnamon based on a few of the reviews I read.  I also did a scant 1/4 cup of sugar…maybe more like 1/6 cup.

What can you do with cherry compote?  Swirl it into your oatmeal or yogurt, or choose a more savory recipe than what I posted above and serve it over duck or pork.  OR heat up your chocolate zucchini muffin, top with coconut milk whipped cream or ice cream, and a dollop of your compote!

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My husband was smacking his lips.  And see those little flecks of green in the muffin?  Yep, I’ve still got you eating vegetables…but you won’t mind a bit.

 

 

Food Connects Us to People and Places

Last week, my friend Kelsi visited for about 5 days.  Of course we went out for a few meals, but as her visit wound to a close, I suggested cooking at home for our last dinner.  We went shopping together and figured out our  menu and then cooked it up in my kitchen; me adding lemon zest to the asparagus and her adding flakes of sea salt, us both marveling at the finished result.  We had a variety of sausages, corn on the cob, asparagus, and sweet potatoes, with grilled peaches topped with coconut ice cream, granola, and honey for dessert.   It was a simple celebration of summer, of her visit, and of home.  Cooking with someone feels like family and makes a meal personal in a way that eating out never will.  The next time you’re making plans with a friend, consider creating and sharing a home-cooked meal in lieu of a restaurant visit.

This week, I got a salsa verde kit from my CSA and two days later a recipe in my inbox from Cookie + Kate for chilaquiles verdes!  Here in Colorado, if you go to any restaurant for breakfast, you’ll see huevos rancheros and the like on the menu; there’s a huge southwestern influence to the cuisine.  I want to eat it all but quickly/painfully learned that at restaurants most of the green chili has too much heat for me.  Well, of course, the beautiful thing about making your own is you can control everything!  (no wonder I like cooking so much, ha)

Salsa Verde aka “green chili”

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Chilaquiles Verdes

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Chilaquiles verdes is a traditional Mexican breakfast; I had never had it before but it was super easy to make and DELICIOUS!  I mean, it’s breakfast nachos, people!  I used store bought chips which I feel okay about 😉   This made me feel like I was participating in the local green chili love without burning out my palate.

Cooking really is a tremendous way to show you care – both for yourself and for others.  It can powerfully connect you to people and to a region.  Why not make food today in celebration of a place or a person you love?  ❤

 

Banh Mi

My CSA haul inspired greatness yet again!  Last week, my husband brought home our share and said about a large, pale, carrot-shaped vegetable: “I don’t know, the lady said it’s some kind of radish?  She said to cut it up for salads”.

I side-eyed it doubtfully.  Thankfully, my CSA posted an article on Facebook about a recipe idea for daikon radishes, and the mystery was solved.  With a name to go on, I quickly commenced an Internet recipe search, and it became abundantly clear that the tastiest thing to do with daikon is a banh mi sandwich.

I have never had banh mi, but as I looked at the ingredients, I realized it’s right up my alley: full of interesting flavors, textures, and colors!  Also, while I do understand that banh mi literally means bread in Vietnamese, I guess I went rogue as I surrendered to my current wrap obsession.  I didn’t want a huge baguette to compete with the filling.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi

 

Pictured above are pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, hot chili mayo, and juicy pork meatballs.  If you’re extra observant you may notice the cutting board in the photo…I would get so excited about this sandwich I would gobble it down standing up in my kitchen over the counter.

Don’t be scared about pickling your veggies; it’s really quick and easy.  I only had brown (coconut) sugar so my mason jar looked rather scarily murky….but it still tasted great 🙂

I can’t say enough about my CSA experience.  I would never have picked up a daikon radish in the store.  But it led me to another great dinner….and another great cuisine!  I don’t think I’ve ever made Vietnamese food at home before but this recipe will definitely remain in rotation.  (maybe next time my husband will even get to try it!)

Trying New Workouts

Last week was Colorado Springs Fitness Week; 15 local gyms participated this year and you can go to each gym one time for a $5 class.  It was a great opportunity for me to do some fitness exploration in my new hometown!  Apparently some people go to 10, 11, all 15 gyms in the one week.  Sigh.  Coloradoans are so extreme.  Because I enjoy the ability to walk, I went to 3.  (4 if you want to count CorePower yoga in the park).

Monday I signed up for a megaformer at Flylife Fitness.  This is a Pilates class with equipment which I had never tried before.  It was kind of complicated with sliding back and forth on the carriage, adding weights, grabbing handles and bars, etc.  I was constantly side-eyeing the experienced woman on the machine next to me, although the cueing from the instructor Amy was also good.  I got that teary overwhelmed feeling that I probably haven’t had since I first went to Zumba and had zero understanding of the choreography.  This is a good thing even though it feels awful in the moment – mastery is boring and I was trying something totally different and out of my comfort zone.  I was surprised how much I liked this class.  It’s very focused, very detailed, not cardio but toning.  My quads and hips were definitely feeling it the next day.

Wednesday I went to my first barre class at Iron Barre.  It was technically a “cardio barre” class but I think the owner/instructor Chantell read the room and realized she had a bunch of newbies so she made it a little less intense.  So she says and that’s a scary sentiment because it still felt really hard!  Barre is all about finding “the shake”, e.g. working a muscle to exhaustion.  But, just like with the pilates, it’s not in a high-impact way at all, and I barely broke a sweat even while my muscles were burning like fire.  I liked that barre feels more feminine than, say, a Crossfit box, (although there was a man in my class!); it’s not truly dance but inspired by it so there were lots of plies and movements at the ballet barre.  There was a core section at the end, as well as some time on arms with hand weights, so I felt like I got a really good full body workout.  The next day, only my quads were sore, which is fantastic!  I could still function.  Barre was my favorite new discovery.  According to the Internet Virgos love Pilates and Barre and I can see why.  It’s all about perfecting the details 🙂

As I mentioned, Saturday I went to CorePower yoga in the park.  This was not part of fitness week but something they are offering every Saturday in July.  I have been loving it and feel such a boost of happiness, peace and energy from exercising outdoors!  I don’t even use my mat and just roll around in the grass instead.  This past Saturday was overcast with a cool breeze so it felt particularly nice.

Finally, Sunday morning I went to a cycling class at Joule.  To be fair, my body was sore and tired and it was the end of the end, so maybe I would have felt differently and attacked it more if I had started my week here.  But this was the one class I didn’t love.  Even though the instructor laughed when I said I did a spinning class at the gym years ago and acted like the industry had come SO far since then, there’s really only so much innovation possible on a bike.  Yes, the studio has a high “cool” factor with its light effects, and yes the electronic readings on the bike telling you what gauge you are on and the like is helpful, but ultimately….we did sprints.  We got “out of the saddle”.  Etc.  Everything I remembered from spinning 10 years ago.  It was high cardio, with blaring music and a screaming room, and it just wan’t my scene.  Also, I may just not like biking.

That was MY fitness week.  There are other places I didn’t make it to but want to try, like Burn Boot Camp which offers strength training and HIIT in a women-only environment.  But, ultimately, I have discovered that I really like barre and definitely want to make that part of my routine moving forward.  I’m really glad I tried some new things this past week – it taught me more about my community and my personal likes and dislikes at this time.

If you have a workout you love, or if you don’t, I encourage you to try something new soon.  It pushes you physically and mentally and you have the opportunity to discover another thing to love!

What I Ate in a (non-diet) Day

Welcome to another installment of my food diary.  This time, I am sharing an example of how I eat on a day in which all food groups are fair game.  If your personal diet doesn’t exclude any particular food group, but just focuses on including a lot of fruits and vegetables, then I say good on ya!  (barring any allergies or intolerance of course)  I hope you enjoy a few new recipes that include dairy and grains but are still health-conscious.

Breakfast:  Morning Glory Oats

I’ve shared this one before, but it deserves a repeat and has been on frequent rotation at my house!  I fancied it up this time with some coconut chips.  Do not skip the orange zest; it is everything.

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Morning Glory Oats

 

Lunch:  Turkey roll-ups, pesto pasta salad, broccoli salad, and Galia melon.

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Turkey Pinwheels

Strawberry Avocado Pesto Salad

Easy Bacon Broccoli Salad

 

Dinner:  Spinach-Artichoke Enchiladas with microwaved rice/quinoa blend

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Spinach Artichoke Enchiladas

 

Dessert:  Chai Poached Pears with Cinnamon Whipped Cream

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Chai Poached Pears w/Cinnamon Whip

This is truly what I ate yesterday; I incorporated 10 different fruits and veggies throughout my meals.  Sometimes it’s more important to focus on adding good things than subtracting demonized food groups.  Don’t stress, reach for something green (or orange or red) and enjoy your meals!