Sunday, August 30, 2009

Healthy, Holistic living.....Me on my Soap Box

Reading about healthy living is a no-brainer for me, especially when I feel like I'm learning about the benefits of eating well. As an early-riser, I usually have some free time before I go to work and it's in these wee hours that I will sit and read through nutrition articles online. I'm always amazed by how ridiculous some of the nutrition information is, though I am even more shocked by what people are willing to do to lose weight. No, I'm not a doctor or a registered dietitian yet, but what I do know is that the most basic of all the theories is the best... keep it simple.

There is no magic to weight loss. If you want to lose weight, feel better, live a longer and healthier life, than eat a diet that consists of vegetables, fruits, lean meats and healthy fats. Yes, yes we've heard it all our lives, but maybe that's because there is such validity to eating this way. Free your bodies of all the chemicals, preservatives, additives and refined foods that you're consuming, on a daily basis, and eat the way nature intended. Foods that work with our bodies, rather than against them, provides nutrients with each bite rather than yellow-5, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated soybean oil.

Not only are these highly-processed foods filled with artificial preservatives, but are addicting and nutrient-deficient. The added sugars, fake flavors and complete lack of vitamins and minerals trick your brain into making you want more. That's why it's easy to finish an entire box of Cheeze-Itz without blinking an eye. Now, not only have you consumed all of those laboratory-created ingredients, but you've just put away 2000 calories of nothing but junk. Now guess where those 2000 calories are headed... Yup, right to your fat stores.

Try eating some apples and see how many you actually can eat. I have yet to hear about someone being able to consume a thousand calories worth of apples. Why? Because it's real food. Your body is satisfied when it is given nutrients and will signal you to stop before you can polish off no more than a couple hundred calories. 200 is a lot fewer than 2000 and that apple packs more nutrients in that amount than the monstrous amount from the junk food.

Think of it this way... WE ARE WHAT WE EAT. Would you rather have your body creating cells from preservatives and artificial ingredients or from foods straight out of the earth; wholesome and pure? The sad part is that most people would rather keep eating poorly and be worse off than eat holistically and live a longer, healthier life.

Let me leave you with one thought... You're worth it!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday Farmer's Market Trips

I love Saturday mornings. For one, I wake up for nothing. Even though I'm a very early riser naturally, I crawl out of bed and relish in the fact that I don't have to go into work. It is truly my day to do whatever I want, whenever I want. One thing in particular is the quaint farmer's market downtown. Although small, it is filled with a bounty of local produce, meat, and eggs, handmade crafts and jewelry. It opens at 8 am and you better believe that I am one of the first ones there. Noodle and I hop in the car, windows open, the new day's cool air swirling around us and make the 12 minute drive downtown.

I love being there early because I get first dibs on everything. My favorites there are the red bell peppers and farm fresh eggs and I am sure to load up on both of them. While I am a fan of all the vegetables there, these two go very quickly and cannot be purchased in the grocery store. The red bells are gorgeous, nothing like the ones out of grocery stores. Their flavor is so concentrated and sweet and their imperfect shapes make them even more beautiful. The eggs are so fresh that most were just collected off the yard the day before. After I started eating these, tasting an egg from the grocery store was almost flavorless. It is evident from the flavor and color of these golden yolks that the birds are fed well, roam free, and are cared for well.

I usually leave the farmer's market with bags hanging all over filled with butternut squash, spaghetti squash, zucchini, onions, tomatos and my eggs and peppers. It looks as though I'm feeding a family of four for the next two weeks when really... it's just me! Amazingly I'm right back there again in a week ready to collect yet again!

The best part is bringing them home and creating delicious, healthy, fresh meals from them all week long. Stuffed peppers, zucchini pasta, roasted butternut squash and so on. My mind spins with all the ideas! One of my absolute favorites that I could truly subsist on daily is my butternut squash recipe with walnuts and sage. If you're not a fan already you soon will be after this!

Roasted Butternut Squash with Herbs, Walnuts and Parmesan Cheese

1 large butternut squash 2 T dried sage
1 t dried thyme
1 t onion powder
1 t garlic powder 2 T olive oil 1/3 cup chopped walnuts 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese 1 t salt

Skin, seed and cube squash. Toss with 1 t salt, sage, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, and olive oil. Roast at 375 until tender, about 45 minutes tossing half-way through or until squash begins to golden. Add nuts and cheese and let sit in oven five final minutes minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool for three minutes. Makes a perfect side dish or meal on it's own.

Serves 4

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Incredible, Edible Egg!

I haven't met many people who don't like eggs. Sure, we all have our favorite ways of eating them, scrambled being the most popular nationwide (last I heard), but it's rare to find someone who doesn't find Eggs Benedict or a big, fluffy, cheesy omelet irresistible.

The egg may seem like a simple food but really and truly, it's incredible! Eggs have been celebrated in many different forms since the dawn of civilization. Not only have they served as a source of food since their discovery but they have been used to symbolize everything from fertility, the creation of life, friendship, love, and religion by people of all statuses worldwide.

Aside from the history, the nutrient profile for eggs is just as impressive. Yes high in fat and shunned by many, this incredible food is jam-packed with nutrients. Inside that bright yolk lies more than just cholesterol. Vitamins such as A, D, and B, Heme iron, folate, carotenoids, calcium, essential fatty-acids, amino acids and about a dozen more minerals fill the contents of the delicate shell. The protein in egg whites is 99% digestible, which is the highest percentage of all other protein sources available.

Incredible but simple, delicious and versatile the egg is an amazing little gem. Make it savory, make it sweet, eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner but overall just make sure to eat it!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ooo, ooo, ooo I love you!

I say fa-hi-ta, my husband says fa-jy-ta but either way I love fajitas! I can remember always begging my mom to let me order them when we went to TGIF's for dinner as a kid and even then I never had a problem polishing them off. Whatever it is about this delicious dish has me hooked and in all honesty, I could eat these everyday. Any time of the day. Yes, even breakfast.

Who doesn't love peppers, onions and chicken sauteed up in smoky southwest flavors, wrapped up in a warm tortilla and covered in salsa and sour cream! I'm salivating! I make these at least once a week and only because I'm doing too much other experimenting to make them everyday. Trust me, I would.

Everyone makes fajitas differently. Even I change things up sometimes in an attempt to explore different flavor combinations. What I don't stray from though is the basic ingredients. Well, I lied. I have been known to top them with peanut butter instead of sour cream or guaca mole but that's a different post!

My Fajitas! Ole!

1/2 pound chicken breast, sliced into strips or small chunks
1 lime
1 t cumin
1 t chili powder
1 t onion powder
1 t garlic
1 t sugar or honey
1 t salt
2 T oil
1 medium onion
1 large red bell pepper
1 large green bell pepper

Combine chicken through 1 T oil in a large resealable bag and let marinate at least 1 hour.

Thinly slice onion and peppers and add to a medium-high heated pan coated with 1 T oil. Let vegetables brown 1 minute before stirring around. You want to let them sear rather than mixing them to create that carmelization.

When vegetables are beginning to soften and brown slightly (5-8 minutes) add chicken reserving marinade.

Let chicken brown as well and once cooked through pour marinade plus a splash of water (2-3 T) into pan and cover. This will deglaze the pan and get all the yummy bits off the bottom.

After 30 seconds remove lid, give the chicken and veggies one more mix and then serve.

Eat like a salad or put into a warm tortilla with whatever you desire. Guacamole, sour cream, cheese, salsa, etc.

Variations of this dish are endless but this seems to be my favorite. The touch of lime and sugar take this to a whole new level and really help to balance out the smokiness from the cumin and chili.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Spaghetti Squash

I started playing around with spaghetti squash years ago but was never really impressed with the end product. It always turned out mushy, soggy and when I would scrape it out of the skin it never really came out stringy but rather in big chunks. I eventually gave up on trying to like it and stopped buying it.

Years later brings us to today and I again decided to give this guy another shot. I was seeing recipes including it that sounded wonderful so I went and bought myself a nice big one from the farmers' market. Eureka! I just made a dish that is an absolute keeper with just one little change... cooking the heck out of it! I put it in the oven for about two hours at 375 degrees F and it came out PERFECTLY! The flavor difference from what I remembered was night and day and the texture was just as I always thought it should be. I let it cool for about 45 minutes and began the scraping process; perfection. No mush, no sogginess and no chunks. Just beautiful al dente strands of squash.

I tested the taste of it with a sprinkling of salt and knew I had found a new staple ingredient for my kitchen. It was flavorful, slightly creamy with just a bit of firmness in the center. I used this in a new recipe for lunch and absolutely loved it! Didn't miss the pasta one bit!

Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Mushroom Sauce

1 1/5 cups spaghetti squash, cooked
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/4 large onion julienned
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 ounces ground turkey
1 ounce parmesan or asiago cheese
1/2 c tomato sauce, unflavored
1 T oil
1/4 t each, salt, dried rosemary, sage, thyme

Sautee onions and mushrooms in oil pan set at medium heat.

Once veggies begin to brown and liquid has evaporated lower the heat to medium low and add garlic.

Once garlic has softened and lightly browned add ground turkey and season with salt and herbs.
Once turkey is fully cooked pour tomato sauce into pan and coat entire mixture.

Add squash to pan to re-warm and toss with sauce.

Plate and top with tons of freshly grated asiago or parm!

This serves one!

Friday, August 21, 2009


Lately, I have been experimenting with "stuffed" recipes. I have always been a fan of stuffed red bell peppers so when I stumbled on a recipe that included baked eggs in peppers I had to give it a try. Two of my favorite things that I had never put together in such a way turned out to be excellent and I am happy to add yet another new recipe to my book of keepers.

Egg stuffed peppers

2 large red bell peppers, halved and seeded

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

5 ounces of cooked and drained spinach

1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes and roasted until soft and golden

Salt and pepper

4 large eggs

1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese


Set the oven to broil. Place the bell peppers skin side up on a baking sheet in the oven for 8 minutes or until skin starts to blacken. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan sautee the onion until translucent. Add in the spinach and squash and begin to mix together, mashing the squash. Add 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese and season mixture with 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. When peppers are beginning to blacken remove from oven and reduce oven heat to 350 degrees F. Spoon 1/4 of the squash mixture into each pepper half. Using a spoon, make an indentation in the center of each stuffed pepper. Crack an egg into each indentation; season with salt, pepper, and remaining parmesan. Bake until the eggs are just set, about 20 minutes.

Something totally different but surprisingly delicious. I give the credit to Rachel Ray who inspired me with her variation on this.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Product Review- Truvia

I started using stevia once again a few months ago in an attempt to cut out just the little extra I was using in my morning coffee. It's the only replacement I will consider as it is 100% natural. Stevia is actually a plant and when the leaves are dried and finely ground you get a sweetener.

I certainly wasn't going to buy a box of any other artificial sweetener so after hearing so many commercials about stevia's comeback I thought, why not. To my surprise, I really liked it. The makers have done an awesome job softening the blow of sweetness one would usually find when consuming this product. I didn't realize how great of a substitute it was until I decided to try Stevia in the Raw and Damn! That stuff was way too sweet. Even when I used just a little it had a very overpowering, not-at-all-like-sugar taste that I didn't enjoy. It reminded me of the stevia I used to use a few years ago and why I finally stopped using that.

I am a big fan of Truvia and I highly recommend this product to anyone looking for a natural sugar substitute. At $3.99 a box for 50 packets it's not too bad of a deal. I know a five pound bag of sugar can be bought for $1 but I think there's a reason for that. Your call!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Protein Pancake

Seeing that it's before six in the morning and I'm already up I figured that I should give some credit to my favorite breakfast recipe! The thing that gets me up and out of bed and gives me the energy I need to get through the morning. The breakfast pancake! There are probably several variations to it but this is how I make it. This recipe makes one big pancake that I top with peanut or almond butter. It's my biggest meal of the day and it powers me through my morning workouts.

1/2 cup egg whites
1/4 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 pinch of salt
1 packet/teaspoon of stevia or more if you'd like it sweeter
1/2 t vanilla
2 T almond/peanut butter (no pb if you're allergic!)

Heat a pan over medium heat while you mix the ingredients. Using a blender, add all ingredients besides peanut/almond butter and pure until mixture is creamy.

Coat the hot pan with oil spray and pour mixture into pan and cover.

After about four minutes, flip the pancake and cut the heat. Let sit in pan for at least three minutes then flip out onto plate. Cover in peanut/almond butter!

Y-U-M! This will have the power to pull you out of bed no matter how early!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Parmesan Baked Eggs with Spinach and Tomatoes

This recipe was concocted from another recipe I found and because it was so different than anything I've ever made I was excited to put it to the test. I always look at other recipes for inspiration and then tweak them just enough to make them my own. This was one that sat in my recipe binder for months but after preparing it, it got starred and put right under the "YUM" category. I made it once last week and have again four more times since! This dish makes a light lunch alone or can be eaten with a raw side salad for a more substance.

Here goes!

Parmesan Baked Eggs with Spinach and Tomatoes

Four eggs 1 10 ounce package chopped frozen spinach 1/2 large onion 2 cloves garlic 1 15 ounce can stewed tomates 1/3 cup parmesan cheese olive oil spary 1/4 t salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F. Sautee onions and garlic in pan with oil and let carmelize. Drain stewed tomates and spinach of all liquid and add to mixing bowl. Add onion/garlic mixture to spinach and tomatoes season with salt and pepper and add half of the parmesan cheese. Mix until combined evenly. Put veggies in a eight inch baking dish sprayed with olive oil and carefully crack four eggs over top trying best to keep them whole. Top with leftover cheese and bake in oven for 22-28 minutes depending on preferred doneness of eggs. Makes 2 servings.

Let's talk about food, baby...

Let's talk about my most recent adventures in the kitchen! With my husband out of the country for the next six or seven months I have been experimenting to my hearts content with several fabulous concoctions of recipes. With him home I tend to stay a little more conservative when I cook as he seems to have a less than adventurous palate. That said, I told him that one of the FEW perks of him being gone is my freedom to throw caution to the wind and get a little wild in my kitchen. I told him, babe, I'm having an affair with my kitchen while you're gone!

From here on out it's all about cooking, healthfully, but with a little bit more experimenting. Here's to my newest recipe that has already become a staple meal. It's loaded with ALL the good stuff and low in carbs!

Salmon with Zucchini Ribbon Sautée

2 6 ounce salmon fillets

1 small onion

1 large zucchini

1/2 red bell pepper

1 t minced garlic

salt and pepper

2 T oil

2 ounces parmesan cheese or however much you want!

Rinse and thoroughly dry salmon fillets. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat for about five minutes. Add 1 T oil to pan at five minutes and place salmon skin side up into pan uncovered. Turn heat to medium and let the salmon sear for five minutes.

Meanwhile, julienne bell pepper and onion and add to a separate oiled sauté pan set at medium heat. Spread veggies out to form a thin layer over bottom of pan and let caramelize for about three minutes.

Flip salmon and cover for another three minutes. Add garlic to veggies after three minutes and sautée for two minutes. Using a vegetable peeler, peel ribbons of zucchini into sautee pan with veggies until you reach the seeds. Sautee all veggies together and season with salt and pepper for another 3 minutes.

Pile veggies into two separate planes and place salmon fillets over top (I take the skin off of the salmon but feel free to keep it if you'd like). Grate fresh parmesan cheese liberally over salmon and veggies and dig in!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Raw Food Living

It is no secret that I love everything about health and nutrition. I am constantly trying to learn more everyday about what I can do to better myself mentally, physically and spiritually. I am absolutely passionate about taking care of my body by eating the best foods I can and exercising regularly. I yearn for the buzz of energy and peace of mind I get when I eat quality, whole foods straight from the earth.

In my most recent exploration of healthy eating I began reading and researching Raw Food Living. It started after I was approached by a gentleman at the farmers' market who was offering a raw food cooking class at a local church the following weekend. After speaking with him and looking at his website and was excited to learn more.

Through reading, I was amazed by how many people follow this painfully strict yet totally pure diet and rave about its life changing abilities. While at the cooking class I spoke with a few people who literally started glowing when they began telling me about the positive changes in their bodies from following this diet. Eating raw, fresh foods straight from the earth certainly doesn't sound gimmicky to me; it's the same way of living that I profess. My hold-up was just as obvious as anyones though; NO cooked food? That's just too extreme for me.

Raw foodists don't cook anything over 118 degrees. Rather these raw folk rely on dehyrators, blenders and food processors to create many of their dishes. They claim that cooking kills all of the enzymes and nutrients in food and therefore leave us humans void of these essential nutrients. During the raw food "cooking" class the chef went on and on about the food we eat is dead. He held firm to the belief that our bodies are constantly renewing and creating cells, trillions of them but for the typical american we're creating cells out of dead food. This really made me think. He continued on about whenever heat is added to any food we create chemicals that are toxic to our body. Now I agree with him that cooking veggies does kill nutrients, some methods more so than others, but on a side note, adding heat to tomatoes or carotenoids actually increases their nutrient capacity. Hmm, let's review another of his points. Adding heat to food creates toxins? Well when food is charred over a grill yes, there are some carcinogenic theories behind those black crispy spots that appear but just simply cooking food normally? No proof there. His third point worth talking about really made me think and goes against anything I've ever learned about science. Mr. Chef tried to convince us that when we eat any food that is cooked our stomach goes into paralysis because it believes we are poisoning it. Seriously? I don't even need to go on about this.

While I did disagree with the majority of what the chef discussed I did agree with him 110% that the standard american diet is killing our nation. Americans need desperately to clean up their eating and eat more fruits and veggies, no doubt. I've made mention of this a couple other times but I stand firm on my belief that americans bring on their own fate. Obesity levels are astounding in children and adults and cancer, heart attack, and overall illness percentages are increasing steadily. Our nation runs on highly processed, nutrient voided, empty calorie-rich food and WAY too much of it. I could go off on a tangent but I think I've made my point.

While I enjoyed the cooking class and loved hearing another's perspective on eating I was certainly not converted. Yes, It can only benefit anyone to add in more uncooked veggies and fruits to their diet but never cooking again? Even cavemen cooked! While converting to a raw food diet will never happen for me I applaud those who care so much about their health that they are willing to do so.