Monday, August 26, 2013

Meatless Monday: Quinoa and Summer Veggie Salad

I needed a quick Meatless Monday meal since the boys were finishing up the pizza from my son’s birthday party.  Wow, I can’t believe he will be 8 years old this week.  Yikes.

Anyway, I had too much pizza this weekend so I needed something healthy so I made a cold Quinoa and Veggie Salad.  As usual, you can add any veggies you like and I used what I had from my garden and from my farm share.  You can even play with the seasonings.  I’m thinking this one could have been nice if I added some chili powder and went southwest but I just used a homemade Italian salad dressing that I had on hand.  Remember, I needed something quick.  Yesterday I actually cooked the quinoa and I had grilled up the corn on Saturday night and had a few cobs left over so all I had to do was pull a few more things together and I was done.

2 cups cooked quinoa

2 roma tomatoes, diced

1 cucumber, diced

¼ red onion, diced

2 cobs roasted corn kernels

1 19 oz can black beans

Salad dressing

I find the key to a good quinoa salad is to spread the hot cooked quinoa out on a cookie sheet to dry.  Otherwise it clumps together.  You can skip this step but I find the texture and appearance is better when working with dry, “fluffy” quinoa.  You can also use frozen corn if you don’t have any fresh, sweet summer corn. 

Simply mix all the ingredients together and add your choice of salad dressing.  I made a simple Italian dressing using Penzey’s Spices Italian Dressing base.  I love Penzey’s.  I started with about ¼ cup but I had to add a little more, almost another ¼ cup.  You’ll have to add more the next day if you don’t eat all of it the first day. 

This is a great light dinner or lunch and it would make a great side to chicken or a steak (I eat grass fed beef and bison – both extra lean). 

This is also a family friendly meal.  Both my son’s eat it.  While making it my 3 year old insisted on being my sous chef and having a taste or two, or three!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Use Up Your Summer Zucchini and Tomatoes!

This is the time of year when we usually have tons of zucchini and beautifully ripe tomatoes.  Well, not in my garden.  Most of my tomatoes are green still and I’m only getting a few zucchini.  I know I am behind on the zucchini because I had to replant after my seedlings died but I am not sure why my tomatoes are still green!  Anyway, I am lucky enough to be getting tomatoes from my CSA share (as a reminder CSA is Community Sponsored Agriculture).  This is a perfect recipe to use up both tomatoes and zucchini.  It is based on Rachel Ray’s recipe from her book 30 Minute Meals.  I believe this was before she was famous and was still a local girl – she is from Upstate, NY.  I remember watching her TV segment on WRGB News and now look at her!  Anyway she called this recipe |”My Sister Ria’s Lazy Chicken, or My Lazy Sister Ria’s Chicken.”  I just simply call it Balsamic Chicken with Veggies.  I made some minor modifications such as using fresh tomatoes and more zucchini.  I also suggest serving this over quinoa instead of with crusty bread. 
1.5 pounds thinly sliced skinless chicken breast

Balsamic vinegar

2 Tbs olive oil

2 potatoes thinly sliced

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

½ Cup white wine (or you can use chicken stock)

1 medium or 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced

3 medium tomatoes (roma or another meaty tomato) diced

5 leaves fresh basil

1 sprig fresh oregano

4 thick slices of provolone from the deli


Slice chicken breast in half, rub with balsamic vinegar.  Heat half the oil in a deep oven safe pan over medium-high heat and brown the chicken.  Remove the chicken from heat and set aside.   Add the rest of the oil and add the sliced potatoes and onions.  I used a mandolin to get uniform slices but you can simply use a knife.   Season the potatoes and onions with salt and pepper and cook until they begin to get some color.  The onions will start to caramelize and get a nice brown.   

At this point preheat your oven to 400 degrees.   

Add the wine to the pan and put a layer of zucchini across the potatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Top the zucchini with chicken breast and add the diced tomatoes on top of the chicken.  Sprinkle the herbs on top and cover.   Cook until the chicken is done – about 10 minutes (I always use a meat thermometer with chicken). 


Add the slices of provolone on top of the tomatoes and place the pan into the oven until the cheese melts.  You can also use a broiler for this. 

My youngest son ate his chicken and potatoes.  In the past my oldest son loved this dish.  However, last night he had his palate expander removed (here’s hoping no braces!) and found it difficult to eat without it so he had soft foods instead. 

This recipe serves about 5-6 and has about 350 calories per serving. It packs a punch though since it has lean protein and lots of veggies. 


Monday, August 19, 2013

Enjoy Your Vacation But Avoid The Fitness Setback

I returned yesterday from a 7 day trip to Disneyworld.  The last time I went to Disneyworld I only went for 4 days but I gained 8 pounds!  I was determined not to gain as much weight this time. 

Although it is a vacation and you might not be as active or follow your fitness routine, you should not accept that you will gain weight.  It might happen but you shouldn’t just accept it as something that has to happen.  Don’t get me wrong, you want to enjoy yourself and eat delicious and maybe even a little indulgent food, but know there are limits. Also, just because it is vacation doesn’t mean you should stop exercising. 

Here are my tips to help avoid/reduce weight gain while on vacation:


Tip 1: Fit in fitness! There are tons of activities to do for fun that burn calories. Go on walks, hikes, runs, play golf, tennis or go swimming, kayaking or biking just to name some. Go have fun!


Vacation tip #2: Bring healthy snack foods. Airports and rest stops don't have very many healthy food options. Although they might have some, they are few and far between and harder to choose when there are more tempting options. Pack snacks like almonds, a piece of fruit, cut up veggies, protein bars, and sandwiches to name a few. If you have the room, if traveling by car, bring a cooler and you can bring things like yogurts and cheese sticks too!


Vacation Tip #3: Eating Out.  While eating out don't go overboard every night. Indulge a few times but not every time. Stay away from fried foods most of the time. Only have dessert once or twice. Or split your dessert with one or more people.

Another idea is to go with the smaller version-- a scoop of ice cream rather than a sundae.

One of the most important in my mind is to never, ever go to out to eat when starving! Always have a small, healthy snack beforehand.


Vacation Tip #4: Rent a house, cottage or hotel suite with a kitchen. You don't have to cook all the meals. After all, you are on vacation. But eat some breakfasts in the room (but not all breakfasts because I LOVE to go out for breakfast) and lunch is an easy meal to either eat in the room or pack and put in the cooler for the beach or trail. Shakeology is a great option for breakfast or lunch.

Aim to eat as healthy as you can for 2 meals of the day so that you can splurge a little on the third meal.


Vacation Tip #5: Pack resistance bands. They are light and travel easily. You can do a quick 10-15 minute workout and hit all the major body parts. The tough part will be unpacking them...sort of like when I bring work home at night and it never makes it out of my bag. But seriously, if you want to avoid weight gain while on vacation this is an easy one to do.


Vacation Tip #6: Need motivation to fit in fitness on vacation? Get an audiobook. While we were in Maine last year I wanted to finish an audiobook I was listening to so I got up most mornings and went for a run/walk along the Marginal Way. It was so relaxing and peaceful. I was able to enjoy it before it got crowded with people midday. 


Vacation Tip #7: If you are going to imbibe while on vacation don’t overdo it. And drink plenty of water in between your Pina Coladas and Mai Tais!


So how did I do?  I did gain weight, but only 4 pounds and some of that may be normal fluctuations.

 I did watch what I ate most of the time and I went to the fitness center to run twice and I did yoga three mornings.  While at the parks we did tons of walking and I went to the pool a few afternoons.  It may not have been laps but I was playing with a preschooler, not lounging sipping a pina colada (which does sound relaxing). 

Eating health was not that difficult.  I brought my own protein drink – Shakeology and a blender cup.  I had a shake for breakfast once and then I had a shake for lunch a few times.  We were on the Disney dining plan so while my husband used points to get lunch I used snack points for a side salad or took his lunch dessert to get a yogurt to go with my shake.  It was enough to satisfy me but left room for my dinners when I wanted to indulge a little.  Many of the table service restaurants had healthy selections and even when they had buffets I was able to fill half of my plate with veggies and then pick lean proteins.  The carbs were my downfall but most of the time I only took small services to sample.  I do wish the kids’ meals were healthier but I did manage to get some fruit and veggies in them! 

We had a fun time at Disneyworld and we succeeded at staying on our health and fitness course!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Scenes from my runs this week. Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

This week my total mileage was 15.25 miles.  It wasn't easy.  Every morning I'd wake up a little after 5am.  I'd get changed into my running clothes, strap on my heart rate monitor and drink a glass of water.  My dog followed me around as usual, eagerly waiting for us to go for our run.  Its been cloudy in the mornings and sometimes really kind of dark.

Normally this wouldn't bother me. But there is a bear living in the woods by my house.  I see the evidence (skat) and some people can tell by the mess in their yard that a bear has come through.  My dog smells it.  I know he does.  He's a Rhodesian Ridgeback (a hound) so he loves to smell everything!  But lately he is intensely smelling and tracking.  Rhodesian Ridgebacks were originally used to hunt lions but there aren't any lions in Upstate, NY.  But bear, we've got!

I'm determined to train for this half marathon and running on my treadmill just won't cut it so as I run, I have one ear listening to my book on tape (just finished Harvesting the Heat by Jodi Picoult and recommend it -- great book), one ear listening for traffic, and both eyes looking out for the bear!

Here are some photos from my runs.
Yes, that is the bear that Murphy has been trying to track!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

No Bake Chocolate "Creme" Pie

Sometimes I need dessert.  Ok, I need dessert every night.  Many nights I have homemade plain yogurt with granola or fruit but sometimes I need chocolate!  Its on nights like these that I grab a slice of this No Bake Chocolate "Crème" Pie. 

Not only is this pie yummy and looks decedent, but it is HEALTHY!  Yes, that's right.  Healthy.  Its made with tofu, peanut butter and Shakeology! 

2 scoops Chocolate Shakeology
1 container of silken tofu (you can use firm)
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
2-4 Tbs almond milk or water
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp honey (optional)
1 graham cracker crust - homemade or premade

If you haven't heard of Shakeology, give me a shout.  I'd love to introduce you this delicious meal replacement that is the most delicious, nutrient-dense, superfood-packed protein shake in the world!   It's made with all the healthy stuff you should be eating everyday, but probably don't.  I can send you a sample of one of the various flavors. 

Simply add the peanut butter, tofu, Shakeology, milk/water, cinnamon and honey, if using, in a food processor or mixer and blend until smooth and creamy.  Pour into your pie crust.  I simply smash up graham crackers (I always have some that break and of course my little one doesn't like the broken pieces) and add a little almond milk or water and press onto the bottom of the pie dish.  So easy.

Put your pie in the fridge for at least an hour.  I like to pre-slice the pie into 12 slices and keep it in the freezer.  Then I can pull out a slice and let it defrost so I can enjoy a piece after dinner or when the boys go to bed.    It has between 250-300 calories a slice depending upon your crust.