Monday, June 11, 2012

Strawberry Banana Summer Porridge

This is a tasty post-workout meal. It has loads of fiber and nutrients, and it's really filling. I found something similar to this recipe on Pinterest, and it was the inspiration for my recipe. I made some adjustments, though, most notably making this a non-dairy recipe. You could do it with milk if you prefer, but I really think coconut is the tastiest option. One thing I really like about this recipe is that you can add pretty much any "mix-ins" that you want. Strawberry and banana is just a combo that I can eat often without getting sick of it, and strawberries are cheap and delicious in June. I also like that it's in a mason jar because it makes you feel stylish and eco-friendly while you're eating your meal-in-a-jar.

Strawberry Banana Summer Porridge
1 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 cup oatmeal, roughly ground using a mini-prep food processor
1 cup coconut or almond milk
1 packet stevia (about 1 tsp)
1/4 tsp vanilla
heavy pinch salt
2-4 strawberries, chopped
1/2 banana, sliced
1 tbsp chopped walnuts (optional)

Combine all ingredients except fruit and nuts in a pint mason jar. Place in refrigerator overnight to chill, allowing oats to soften and chia seeds to swell. Add fruit and nuts either immediately before eating or before taking porridge to gym, work, on errands. (I add mine in the morning before work.)

Nutrition Info
363 calories
61 g carbs
13 g fat
10 g protein
17 g sugar
12 g fiber

Other tasty add-ins that I plan to try:
  • Mango cubes, dried kiwi, and shredded, unsweetened coconut with macadamia nuts
  • Blueberries, 1 tsp almond butter, cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • Apples, red grapes, almonds, cinnamon
  • Blackberries and 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • Peanut butter (1 tbsp), 2 tsp cocoa powder, 1/2 banana
  • Cocoa powder, almond extract, almonds, coconut extract, dried coconut (like an Almond Joy!)
If you try any of my add-in ideas, let me know what you think!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Foodie Friday: Carrot Cake and the Green Giant

Today is Foodie Friday, which means it's time to try out a recipe for the weekend! The recipe in this post is definitely a dessert or treat, but it's also definitely one you can feel good about eating. While fruit is generally your best bet for a quick, nutritious dessert sometimes you just need the satisfaction of eating something that feels a little fancy.

Before we get to the recipe, I will talk a little about menus and food ideas. I spend a LOT of time searching cookbooks, magazines, and other blogs for recipes that make eating healthy appealing and, whenever possible, easy. Every Wednesday and Friday, I will post a recipe and provide some of the highlights of what I've been eating to help spark your creativity. So here we go for this week:
  • Sweet Potato Crab Cakes
  • Raw Lasagna (this was suprisingly fast and easy to make, and I was just winging it)
  • Salad with chopped zucchini, avocado, and tomato topped with olive oil and balsamic and two over-medium eggs
  • Pei Wei Spicy Korean Beef without the rice (this was pretty good and comes in at less than 300 calories, but they are not kidding about the "spicy" thing! My nose was dripping and my lips were burning!)
  • Homemade vegetable soup
  • Marinated grilled portabello mushrooms with tomatoes in balsamic vinegar and fresh basil
  • Green Giant smoothie (bonus recipe at the bottom of the blog)
  • Lots of fruit for snacking: watermelon, cherries, grapes, and mangos
Since this diet really emphasizes eating whole foods and lots of fruits and vegetables, I have found vegetarian, vegan, and raw vegan cookbooks to be great resources for recipes that prepare vegetables in new or delicious ways. I especially love books by Matthew Kenney, my favorite raw food chef. His stuff is kind of intense, though, so I mostly just like to get ideas from him or use his recipes for weekend cooking projects. When it comes to non-raw vegan and vegetarian cookbooks, I generally steer clear of the tofu and tempeh recipes because I try to limit my soy intake to miso, soy sauce, and edamame. (The reason for this is that I don't want soy messing with my hormones and I'm trying to give Monsanto the bird.)

Paleo diet recipes are another good resource. The Paleo diet has a lot of great things about it. It emphasizes eating whole foods and it does not allow flour or dairy, so the recipes are great for what I'm doing. There are a couple sites I have used that I like for recipes and menu ideas, but if you search Google for Paleo diet recipes you will get loads of sites to browse. Many of the recipes rely on tricks I first saw in the raw vegan world including the use of soaked, blended nuts to replace creamy cheeses, sour cream, and mousse-like desserts. I really like this technique, especially because I feel so much better when I have less dairy, but sometimes a dish really just calls for a creamy sauce or filling.

Check out the recipe below for a raw vegan carrot cake cupcake recipe, which I adapted from a recipe I found on the Choosing Raw blog. They are less like a real cupcake and more like a Lara bar. The effect is that they taste shockingly a lot like cake batter. While they are pretty calorie dense, they are also nutritionally dense and FULL of fiber. I must admit, though, that I think I will try a different frosting recipe the next time. I've been dreaming something up in my head, but I still need to run it through the R&D process. I will share it as soon as it is party-ready. For now, these are still really tasty. Enjoy!

Raw Carrot Cake Cupcakes

1 cup walnuts
1 cup dates (pits removed)
1/2 cup flax, ground
3 carrots, peeled
1 small/medium zucchini, not peeled
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup cashews
3 dates
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt

Soak cashews and three dates for frosting in enough filtered water to cover them completely for one hour.

Grate carrots and zucchini. It is especially fast to do this using the grater insert for your food process. Place in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a food processor, blend together walnuts and one cup of dates until the mixture is well combined and begins to form a loose ball. Add flax, salt, vanilla, and spices. Blend for about 10 more seconds. Add carrots, zucchini, and golden raisins. Process to your liking. I prefer to blend for about 5 seconds so the raisins and veggies are only chopped, not completely pulsed.

Form the dough into mini cupcake tins and transfer to refrigerater. (This recipe yielded 21 mini cupcakes for me.)

Next, you will make the frosting. Place soaked cashews and dates in a high-powered blender with coconut butter, lime juice, vanilla extract, and pinch of salt. Blend until smooth. Add water or coconut milk if the mixture is too thick.

Transfer to a piping bag and place bag in a bowl in the freezer or fridge to allow frosting to firm up.
When cupcakes are firm, use a knife to separate cupcakes for the tin and remove them. Pipe with frosting and serve immediately.

Nutrition (per cupcake)
124 cals
15 g carbs
7 g fat
2 g protein
10 g sugar
3 g fiber

Okay, and because I can't help myself, I'm adding a bonus recipe . . .

Green Giant Smoothie
I loved this, but I only recommend it if you are a fan of the flavor of almond. I thought it was creamy and perfect, but Nick wished it were a little more multidimensional. Maybe next week I'll do another recipe that is more to his liking, but for all my amaretto loving friends, here's one for you . . .

1 cup almond milk
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 avocado
4 big handfuls spinach
6 cubes ice
3 dates
3 tablespoons almond butter
1/2 tsp to 1 tsp almond extract
pinch salt

Place all ingredients in a high power blender (start with just 1/2 tsp almond extract). Blend until completely smooth. Add more salt and almond extract to taste. Serve in a goblet and sip it while imagining you are King of the Leprachauns.

Serves 2


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

After the Baby Weight

My current body. Well, pretty much.
In March, my husband and I gained a little Weight. We named him Rex Aldous. Unfortunately, in the nine months of pregnancy prior to his birth, we both gained a different kind of weight, too--and it has been a lot less fun to take care of than my baby.

Lately, I have taken it pretty easy physically. I had a C-section. I'm breastfeeding. I've gone back to work full-time. I can give a thousand reasons. But the bottom line is I can't (and won't) spend the rest of my life 30 lbs heaver than before I had Rex. In the year before getting pregnant, I got my weight down as low as it has been since elementary school (I know how that sounds. I didn't get down to 90 lbs or anything. More like 140. I was an early bloomer.) I was really committed. I was extremely strict with my diet. I did two-a-days during my hardcore cutting phases. And it worked great. The only problem is that my life has changed a lot since then, and it won't work for me to try and do things exactly the way I did before. That means I'm going to have to pretty much start from square one with my new schedule, my new body, and my new nutritional needs.

Right now, here's the plan . . .

The workout is tough but simple--and best of all, it's fast. I will be doing the "Kiwi Workout" on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. On the days that I'm not dying of exhaustion, I will also do cardio before work. On Wednesday and Saturday I will do cardio only.

My future body.
The diet part of the plan is where all the rules come in. Here is what I'm doing:
  • Weigh in twice a day (morning and night). This, combined with the next rule, should help  identify any foods that you ought to avoid. Experts disagree about this one with some recommending that you weigh yourself only once a week, or even once a month, to avoid anxiety from seeing normal daily fluctuations. You know yourself, so I'll leave the decision to you. I know that for me, weighing in helps. I fear the scale, and behave accordingly; however, if I know I'll only be weighing in every Sunday morning, I'm careless with my diet through the beginning of the week thinking I have time before I have to start being good. Then, by Wednesday, I realize it's a lost cause--too much damage has already been done, so I  continue to blow off workouts and eat like an idiot, telling myself I'll just start next week.
  • If you bite it, write it. Journal everything you write. I'm using My Fitness Pal for this. I really like it because it has every food I have ever eaten is in it and you can easily enter your own recipes. You can be pals with your friends who are also trying to lose weight, which is fun and a good motivator. And the smart phone app is awesome. You can scan bar codes on foods and automatically get the nutrition info. A word of warning, though: If macronutrient ratios are important to you (i.e. percentage of protein, carbs, and fat), just know that this interface has some shortcomings. Calorie Count has a much better analysis tool for that, but the food database is definitely not as extensive.
  • Absolutely no sugar, flour, or deep fried foods for the first month. No artificial sweeteners either. This is not a unique element to this diet plan, and that's because it works fast to help you drop fat. Plus, it is so important for your health. That being said, every food that I've ever had a love affair with fits into at least one of these categories.  
  • If you are worried because you've always been against stupid diets that let you eat fried cheese and bacon while telling you fruit makes you fat, don't have a nicky-fit just yet. While your body does, indeed, need carbohydrates, those carbs can come from a wide range of wholesome sources like fruits, vegetables, beans, and squash. Just stay away from wheat for one month and keep an eye on your weight and how you feel once you start to add it back in. For a lot of people, wheat products can be their "gateway drug" back to bingeing. It can also cause water retention or gastrointestinal problems.Following this rule sometimes means making an awkward scene at parties, outings, and family gatherings. Sometimes I relish being the uber-disciplined diva who has more self-control than her peers. Sometimes I just feel like a self-righteous jerk. Either way, you have to accept that you are going to miss out on a piece of the party if you're going to lose weight fast.
    If you need a sweetener for your plain yogurt, iced herbal teas, or Crio Bru, try stevia. I really like Truvia brand for my yogurt and Crio. I use flavored, liquid stevia for my iced tea and a few other things. Just don't get crazy with it and use a half a cup of stevia every day. Part of the idea here is to shift your tastebuds away from wanting sweet things all the time.
  • Limit dairy to just one serving per day. That means eight ounces or one cup. Ideally, this will be a serving of cottage cheese or yogurt. Try replacing regular milk with almond or coconut milk, which is pretty widely available these days. Our local Walmart carries both. The idea of reducing dairy is often met with resistence and the inevitable rebuttal, "Well what about calcium?" Almond milk and coconut milk are fortified with more calcium than cow's milk, and vegetables like spinach, okra, broccoli, and celery all have decent amounts of calcium, too. Plus, if you're taking a daily multivitamin (which you should be), you ought to be getting plenty of calcium without much difficulty.
  • Only eat starches if you have exercised. Not if you plan to exercise--only if the exercise is already done. Starches include beans, squashes, corn, and potatoes.You may also eat non-wheat grains like quinoa and oats. One thing to be aware of is that different people have different reactions to starches. When I have been very serious about losing weight, I usually try to limit my consumption of starches to once or twice a week at most, even if I'm exercising every day. Starches are like wheat for me in that once I start eating them, it can be a slippery slope to a Costco-sized flat of Dunford doughnuts and a bag of Cheetos. I don't think I'm in the majority, though. If you do find that you're having trouble losing weight and you're doing everything else right, dairy and starches should be the things you consider eliminating.
  • Limit fruit intake. Okay, I know what I said about this not being a bacon and cheese diet, but especially at the beginning your fruit intake actually is going to be limited. I am not telling you to limit fruit  because it's unhealthy or it makes you fat. Not at all. But I am telling you that it will slow down your fat loss. Try limiting your fruit intake to two servings a day. If you can stomach it, try to make one of those fruits a banana that is so ripe it has begun to get some brown spots on it. If you hate eating really ripe banans as much as I do, you can try freezing them. You can either roll banana halves in crushed salted nuts and freeze them on popsicle sticks, or you can freeze them in plastic bags and then add them to fruit and yogurt smoothies.
  • Only one serving of protein powder each day. Or better yet, none at all. Protein powder can be a very convenient resource when you need breakfast but you're going to throw up all over the counter if you have to eat another egg. It is also nice if you flat out don't have time to cook and it's just too hard to find a healthy fast-food alternative. Lastly, you can make a pretty respectable milkshake taste-alike with protein and frozen fruit on days when you just need a dessert. Protein is not a whole food, though, and it can also have a pretty negative effect on your blood sugar if you take it without any fat or other carbs. So if you don't need it, don't eat it.
I'm really excited to get myself back in shape, and I hope this blog can become useful to any of my friends who are trying to do the same. Losing weight can be a long and dreary road, but with some good recipes and a workable plan, I hope to shorten it up a bit and enjoy myself at least a little along the way!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


This was our first Easter as a little family with Rex. It was pretty relaxed. Rexy was having a temper tantrum in the morning, so we ended up missing church. I was kind of disappointed about that, but we went to my parents' house for Easter dinner and Rex was a happy little camper by the time afternoon rolled around.

The Easter bunny came early in the morning and dropped off baskets for all of us.

Since Rex doesn't eat candy yet his only had a few things in it. My personal favorite is a T-Rex egg that Nick spotted while we were out shopping. It had a new binkie in it this Easter, but we plan to keep it and make sure Rex gets it each year.

Dinner with my family was spectacular. We had ham, asparagus and mushrooms, funeral potatoes, and orange rolls for dinner. My mom also made a salted caramel banana cream pie with a peanut butter crust and salted peanuts on top. It was exactly as decadent and delicious as it sounds.

My parents surprised us with an Easter egg hunt in their backyard. There were some pretty awesome prizes to be had. Each of us got a metallic egg (these had cash inside) and a bunny head egg with a surprise gift certificate inside. The big money metallic egg had $50 inside; my brother got that one. The rotten egg had 1000 rupees in it. That's right. Indian rupees. I got that one.

Luckily my dad was the Money Changer. He informed me that at the current exchange rate, 1000 rupees equals just less than $20. He rounded up and gave me an even $20. I think my parents had a good laugh watching my disappointed face before I realized I was getting usable cash (sometimes I wish I were a little better at controlling my facial expressions!). It was a great surprise and so fun and generous of my parents.

It was a really fun, happy Easter and it made me look forward to how our holidays are going to be a little different from now on. Even though Rex was still too young to be excited about his basket (or even to know what it was), it still brings back some of the magic to have a child in our home. Do you think it's too early to start planning Christmas?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Manhattan Clam Chowder

This winter has been weirdly mild. Not that I'm complaining. I wish winter could be like this here every year. As a lodge-lounging enthusiast, I'm not sad at all about our snowless slopes. Still, there have been a few cold days this week, and cold days make me want to eat soup (and cookies and hot chocolate). Because we're still in the wake of New Year's resolutions and because I'm starting to get a little nervous about the weight I'm going to have to lose after Baby Boy is born, I opted for a calorie-friendly Manhattan Clam Chowder instead of the decadent and delicious New England variety.

Here is the recipe I used. We like this soup with a little extra bite, so I add more Frank's than the recipe calls for, and Nick adds even more to his bowl. Feel free to adjust the spices to fit your own taste.

Manhattan Clam Chowder
2 green and 1 red bell peppers, diced
5 stalks of celery, diced
1 large onion, dice
4 carrots, peeled and diced
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
8 cups chicken broth
4 slices of bacon, chopped (I use Jenny-O thick cut uncured turkey bacon)
1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
1 bottle clam juice
1 bay leaf
2 tsp Frank's hot sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
6 cans clams (four drained, two with juice)

Dice all vegetables and cut bacon. Put a large pot over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add bacon. Cook until fat is translucent or, if using turkey, bacon is slightly golden-brown. Add celery, onion, and carrots. Cook until onion is translucent. Add remaining vegetables, broth, clam juice, Old Bay, and bay leaf. Cover and cook until potatoes are soft. Add lemon juice, Frank's sauce, and clams. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Yellow Mist: Hypnotized into Eating Right

So last week Nick and I started a hypnobirthing class with with an instructor who lives near our home. (You can check her out here.) I had started out my pregnancy with an attitude pretty much like Amy Poehler in Baby Mama: And how many of you are planning on using toxic Western medications to drug your baby for your own selfish comfort? Anyone? Uh, yeah. That was me, bouncing on the Swiss ball saying "Woot woot!" with my hands in the air.

But the more time has passed, the more the idea of hypnobirthing has crept into my mind and taken hold. When I tell people about taking the classes and they ask me if I'm crazy--and I guess I can see the combo of hypnosis and natural childbirth elicits that response--I just tell them that I figure the relaxation techniques will help in case the epidural doesn't work. Truth is, though, I know for sure the epidural isn't going to work because I'm not getting one. I'm just too afraid of people thinking I'm some wacko hippie to tell them the truth. It's funny how pregnancy and parenthood have a way of making even perfect strangers feel entitled to share their (usually unwanted) opinions.

We've only been to one class so far, and our assignment for the week was to listen to "Birthing Affirmations" and a track called "Rainbow Relaxation," which turns out to be so very effective that I relax myself to sleep every time I hear it. Gonna have to work on that.

Rainbow Relaxation walks you through what is basically a guided meditation in which you encounter mists of every color of the rainbow. Each mist has a different meaning and causes a different result in your body. The yellow mist makes you want to eat right to care for yourself and your baby. It seems to be having more of an effect than the others.

I have really noticed a difference in my appetite and my food preferences since we started practicing this "hypnosis". If you know me at all, you know that I'm a food freak any time of year, and the holidays are no exception. It's a veritable naughty food clusterf***. I find myself paying more attention to when I'm full, eating slower, and passing on things like truffles, toffee, and delightful mint M&Ms that come but once a year. That. Is. Not. Normal. I'm happy about it, though. This is the first time since the beginning of my pregnancy that I haven't had a constant desire to gorge on pizza and Dunford donuts. And whether it's the hypnosis or that my body has finally reached it's maximum level of sugar toxicity, I don't care. I'm rolling with it.

I'm pretty committed right now to figuring out some kind of food plan that I can stick to even when I'm busy and even after Baby Boy comes, so I will be posting my food plans, experiments, and hopefully lots of pictures. Just don't judge me if some sweet rolls and rice pudding make it onto the menu. I want to eat healthy, but don't go thinking I turned into a Grinch.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Laughing Cacao

A friend of ours, Eric, is a chocolate connoisseur. And I don't just mean that he likes to eat chocolate. He is obsessed. He even started his own company making this amazing cacao bean alternative to coffee and a few other cacao goodies.

I unabashedly invited myself over to Eric's place for a tasting of Chava, his cacao drink. Nick and I really just wanted to buy a bag and drink it up, but Eric insisted that he would not sell us a product we hadn't tried. So at 10:00 on Wednesday night, he brewed a few cups for us to sample.

The effects of drinking Chava are, in my opinion, far superior to the effects of coffee. First of all, contrary to popular belief, cacao does not contain caffiene. It actually contains a stimulant called theobromine, which is similar to caffiene but less intense, so you don't end up with coffee jitters. Cacao also contains anandamide, a "bliss chemical" that is can also be found in marijuana. The combination is unbeatable. You feel energized but relaxed, like you could accomplish absolutely anything . . . and your first goal will be world peace.

Eric also shared some of his 200-lb stash of fine chocolate with us. He is a friend of Art Pollard, the owner and founder of Amano Artisan Chocolate. Amano is a relatively tiny chocolate company in Orem, Utah, but they have proven to be a major force in the chocolate industry. They won gold at the international Academy of Chocolate Awards in London last year. Amano also recently swept the national Olympics of chocolate with the same chocolate bar, winning gold, silver, and bronze.

I really liked the Madagascar chocolate, but there was another chocolate called "Dos Rios" that I liked even better. It has incredibly bright bergamot orange, cinnamon, and clove notes. I kept sneaking pieces of it while Eric worked himself into a chocolate frenzy, getting more and more excited about the many health benefits of cacao the longer he talked.

Anyway, as soon as Nick and I finish this round of HCG, I will definitely post some chocolatey recipes. In the meantime, I will continue drinking two cups of Chava a day and fantasizing about Dos Rios truffles.