Friday, July 3, 2015

Summer Weight Loss Program

For those readers who are trying to lose weight, how's it going? Are you having success? I'm here to support your efforts, so I thought I'd do a few periodic updates in order to offer more ideas for easy weight loss this summer.

In my last post, I suggested you start by writing down everything you eat and drink. That's correct. Everything. I realize water has no calories, but it's still a good idea to note how much you're drinking. Another thing this journal will help you realize is how many times per day you put something into your mouth.

Do you find yourself mindlessly snacking, popping one chip or cookie or grape or macadamia nut into your mouth after another? Do you eat in front of the TV or the computer? Are you distracted while you eat, unaware of how much is actually going in?

Here's your next assignment: Whenever you eat, think of it as a MEAL. It might be a mini-meal. But try to banish the word "snack" from your vocabulary. Especially in its verb form. Because "snacking" tends to mean the mindless consumption of endless handfuls of non-nutritious and addictive junkfood. (Definition is mine; you might not find this in the dictionary...)

I like to eat 3-4 meals per day. I almost always eat breakfast, as studies show that eating within 30 minutes of rising raises the metabolism and helps burn more calories over the course of the day. On occasion, when I have bootcamp early in the morning for example, I might skip breakfast and just have coffee. The combination of coffee and vigorous exercise will release fat and also burn extra calories. Make sure your breakfast contains enough protein. (About 20 grams for a small woman. 30 grams for a man or someone trying to build muscle.) Eating a high carb breakfast (cereal, muffins, doughnuts, toast, pancakes, waffles, bagels) will set you up for a quick rise in blood sugar followed by a quick crash. You will be hungry sooner than if you consume a good balance of protein, carbs and fat. Great choices include eggs, turkey sausage, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, leftovers from dinner, etc.

As much as possible, try to schedule your meals ahead of time and stick to a consistent schedule. Do not go more than 5 hours between meals as this will cause your blood sugar to dip too low. Excessive hunger and low blood sugar can lead to poor choices such as junkfood and overeating. No bueno.

If you normally snack in the evenings in front of the TV (as I used to do) just plan to have a full or mini meal instead. Decide on a healthy combination of foods that contain protein, carbs, and good fats. Dish out the correct amount of food. When you're finished with your last meal of the day, feel free to drink herbal tea or sparkling water, but do not consume any more calories. I try to cut off my consumption of calories by 8pm each night. Even when I get home from teaching at 7pm and still need to eat dinner, I try to finish by 8pm and then just drink decaf green tea.

Avoid foods that encourage mindless snacking. My go-to snack used to be pistachios. These are delicious and very healthy. By all means, eat them in controlled amounts. But if your habit is to shove one after the other down your throat (as I did!) then I suggest making a switch. Choose foods that are easy for you to control. Some foods are clearly triggers for overeating. Discover what these are for you and then STAY AWAY! Do not bring those triggers into your home! Triggers for me include: whole grain rice chips, pistachios, any kind of potato chip but especially the kettle chips and salt and pepper chips, cereal, dried fruit, cookies, cakes, basically all baked goods especially homemade ones. I can usually manage to ration fresh fruit, as long as it is not going into a wine glass along with wine! And speaking of wine, alcohol is another trigger. Drinking lowers inhibitions, including those that keep one from overeating.

Have I ruined your summer plans yet?

I'm only halfway kidding! I don't want to ruin anything, but becoming more mindful of your eating and drinking habits is the only way to make a change for the better.

Let's lose weight this summer! I'm available for one-on-one personal weight loss coaching. Post a message if you'd like some support. We can do this face to face or long distance. I'm here to help!

#hocofood

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Chicken, Quinoa, and Kale Patties

Every once in a while, I like to share my latest discoveries at Costco and/or Trader Joe's. I don't shop at our local grocery stores anymore (Weis, Harris Teeter, Safeway, Giant) and I have never even entered the new Whole Foods. Why not? I just don't feel the need. (I have visited the local farmers' market and Larriland, our local pick-your-own farm, several times this summer, however!)

If you were expecting a recipe from this post, I apologize. It certainly would not be very difficult to whip up a batch of chicken patties made with kale and quinoa. But did I? Nope. I purchased these at Costco. You can find them in the refrigerated section. They are fully cooked! And therefore only need to be reheated for a couple of minutes in the microwave. Really, you cannot make dinner any simpler.


In case you can't read the small print, these patties contain 19 grams of protein each and only 170 calories. There are no artificial ingredients. No preservatives. No additives. Just real food.

I had these patties once before, probably a year ago, and then POOF! They disappeared from the Costco shelves as suddenly as they had appeared. Of course, this was after I discovered their awesomeness, so I was pretty grumpy. But on our last trip, there they were again! Hello delicious patties!

Suggestion: serve over a bed of steamed spinach and mashed potato!

Of course, with prepared products, you are always going to pay a little more for the convenience aspect. You could make something similar yourself and save a few bucks. But I have to admit, I can be one lazy SOB at times. And one of my favorite things to make for dinner is a burger.

Speaking of burgers, Costco also carries a delicious frozen mahi mahi burger. This product contains wild-caught fish with a blend of Southwest-style seasonings (onion, red and green peppers, a little spiciness) and cooks up in minutes in your frying pan. You could throw one on top of a salad or saute a few veggies on the side. Again, a very quick easy meal. A good amount of protein and low in calories.

And for many years, my hubby and I have been enjoying Costco's frozen salmon burgers. These have all the same benefits I've been describing: convenience, quick-cooking, high protein, low calories. The Trident salmon burgers are made from wild-caught salmon, not farm-raised. Simply seasoned without any overwhelming additions. High in Omega-3's as well. You cannot go wrong with this product!

There you have my Costco shopping list. At least the burger section. If you try any of my suggestions, or if you find a product you would recommend, please share!

#hocofood

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Blueberry Snack Cake (Paleo-friendly and Grain-free!)

When I posted my list of things to do on Twenty Chore Tuesday, this cake was high up on the list. After heading outside to pick blueberries fresh off the bushes, I began to weed the garden. Then it started to rain. So I came inside to bake!

I completely ripped off this recipe, first from the King Arthur Flour website and then from my own blog. I recently posted a recipe for Rhubarb Snack Cake and this is practically the same exact recipe. I made a couple of small changes, the first being the substitution of the blueberries for the rhubarb, of course. I also reduced the amount of coconut sugar from 2/3 to 1/2 cup. I figured the blueberries were sweeter than the rhubarb so the cake could be a little less sweet.

I have to admit, I am a sucker for a cake full of fruit. Give me an apple cake any day of the week. The rhubarb cake was quite good, very moist, with a nice contrast of tart fruit to sweet cake. But a delicious blueberry dessert really takes the cake, in my opinion! (Good one, right?) This one is very moist to begin with, and the berries add to the moisture level, so you'll want to store this cake in the fridge once it has cooled.



Ingredients:

About 1 pound fresh blueberries
Coconut oil baking spray

1/2 cup avocado or coconut oil (or grass-fed butter)
6 large eggs
1/2 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
2 Teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut flour (Do NOT substitute a different type of flour!)
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix ingredients in a large bowl in order given. Spray 9x13 baking pan with coconut oil and pour in blueberries. Layer batter over the top of the berries. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until golden brown on top. Let cake cool before cutting. Serve with vanilla ice cream or Greek yogurt or whipped cream for a decadent, yet still somewhat healthy, dessert.
Enjoy!

#hocofood

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Twenty Chore Tuesday

For the past several years, Tuesday has been my day off. I teach at least one class on every other day, except the weekend when I usually plan my classes and practice my choreography. (Insert snickers from my students who know that practice does NOT make perfect in my case.) Starting in the fall, I'll be moving my Wednesday morning classes to Tuesdays, so Twenty Chore Tuesday will become a thing of the past.

What is Twenty Chore Tuesday, you ask?

No, I'm pretty sure no one is wondering that. Because it is exactly what it states: an opportunity to pack in the stuff you might not want to do on all those other days of the week. Why Tuesday? It fits perfectly into my particular schedule, but you could always switch it to Thirty Chore Thursday if you like. (The alliteration is the key.)

I'm working on my list. Here's what I have so far:

1) Make pickled beets. This will be a first for me. I'll make a small batch (using 4-5 beets) which should fit into about 2 pint-sized jars. If I like the recipe, I'll use it when my beets in the garden are ready to harvest. (I'll share the recipe in the future. Today I'm experimenting.)

2) Bake a blueberry cake. I plan to use the Rhubarb Cake recipe I posted a few weeks ago, substituting the blueberries for the rhubarb. This is a grain-free, Paleo-friendly cake. And a good way to use up some surplus berries! My bushes are still producing and I've already frozen a couple of quarts for winter smoothies.

3) Weed the garden. This is one of those chores I constantly put off. I need to just put my big-girl gloves on and start yanking out those thistles.

4) Vacuum the bedroom. Another chore I've put off for so long that the dust bunnies have reproduced and created several new generations.

5) Vacuum the family room. Dog hair city in there. Our akita is STILL shedding after 2 baths and numerous brushings.

6) Throw away the broken water pik. Someone PLEASE design a new type of tubing for this appliance! I'm now on my THIRD water pik. The thin, crappy tube always splits where it attaches to the handle.

7) Take all my vitamins and supplements. I always put this on my list of things to do because I ALWAYS forget to take them!!!

8) Foam roll. I know I've written at least one blog about how important it is to massage your muscles. Foam rolling is a great method of self-massage that works wonders on tight, sore, achy muscles.

9) Couch stretch. This is the most important single stretch we all need to do DAILY to reverse the effects of too much sitting. I'm trying to remember to do this every single day.

10) Drink 4 quarts of water. It's summer. It's hot out. And I'm not drinking enough plain old water. I'm managing to consume plenty of coffee and green tea, but somehow I keep forgetting to drink water. With bootcamp tomorrow morning, I need to remember to hydrate well TODAY.

That's it so far. Not too impressive, I know. I'll keep working at it and hopefully come up with 10 more chores I can accomplish in the next 12 hours.

Maybe I've inspired you to make your own list of chores for the day? Or for the weekend? Or maybe you'd prefer to live vicariously through me and my drudgery?

Either way, have a happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cure Your PMS

Earlier this week I was in a serious funk. Maybe rage is a better word. Some women get weepy when their period is due, but I've always gotten angry instead.

Hostility and headaches are a sure sign that my monthly visitor will be arriving soon. Both are annoying, but deep breathing and ibuprofen work very well on these symptoms. However, I haven't yet mentioned the dreaded bloating.

Just when I was enjoying my recent weight loss, PMS went and ruined everything. I was swollen everywhere: from my face to my boobs to my belly all the way down to my toes. No big deal, you might say. This too shall pass, you might say. It's just a little water retention, nothing fatal.

WRONG!

I truly felt like killing somebody in that bloated state. (Is it possible I read way too many murder mysteries???)

Anyway, the point of this post is that I found a cure for my water retention, and in the process, I miraculously removed ALL my PMS symptoms!

My miracle PMS cure has only 2 ingredients. It is a delicious, non-alcoholic cocktail. You might even have the ingredients on hand. (Well, maybe not.) It is extremely healthy and will help your bloating issues very quickly. Be warned: this drink is TART! (Do not add any type of sweetener, though. And do not use a juice that is sweetened with anything, including other fruit juices.)

Cranberry juice is a natural diuretic. You will find yourself excreting that excess water in no time. It is also a tonic for the bladder and kidneys. It will ward off urinary tract infections and keep this system functioning at an optimal level. Enjoy!



Ingredients:

4 green teabags (regular green tea with nothing added)
1 quart cold, filtered water
1/4 cup unsweetened pure cranberry juice (I use Trader Joe's brand.)

Remove all paper tags from teabags and drop into quart-sized glass jar. Pour cold water over them. Let sit for several hours to infuse. When your tea is strong enough (to your taste) remove teabags. (As you can see from my photo, I leave the teabags in because I don't mind the bitterness. But that's just me.) Add cranberry juice and chill. Drink 1-2 cups daily or as needed.

PLEASE NOTE: this advice is not meant to substitute for a doctor's care or instructions. Please consult your doctor before drinking any strange concoctions or listening to any weird bloggers with rage issues. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Triple Almond and Sour Cherry Crisp

I realize I recently wrote a post about losing weight this summer. So it is very, very naughty of me to now post this very, very bad recipe which contains sugar! I am going to use PMS as an excuse.

Seriously, I am having a raging episode of PMS this week. Driving is difficult due to all the terribly inept drivers I have to constantly yell at. Not to mention the vigorous accompanying hand and arm gestures. Most of this yelling and gesturing occurred as I was on my way to teach yoga, no less. It is possible I have a serious problem. I really need to do a shitload of deep breathing.

If you're wondering whether this delicious fruity dessert might help my situation, the answer is a definite no. In fact, I had a serving of this crisp straight out of the oven, decorated with whipped cream, and just look at me now: puffy and bloated and practically homicidal. Sugar is not the answer, my friends.

Despite this, I'll probably chow down on another hunk while watching The Bachelorette. Now you have seen the ugliest I have to offer. If you're still reading this blog after today, I'll be counting myself pretty damn lucky.

In my opinion, cherries and almonds go together beautifully. In this lovely dessert, the sour cherries are brilliant red and the topping is a cross between an almond cookie and granola. It's a rustic-looking concoction, but that's my style. You are not going to catch me rolling out pie dough or using cookie cutters at any time of the year besides Christmas. The topping is sweet enough but not overly sweet. The cherries are pretty darn tart! I love this contrast and even added lemon juice to beef up the tartness. If you like your desserts sweeter, add more sugar to the cherries and omit the lemon juice.

Okay? Here's the recipe.

Ingredients:

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup whole almonds, chopped or not

Mix all the above in a large bowl until well combined. Set aside.

1 quart sour cherries, pitted
2 heaping tablespoons instant tapioca
1/4 cup sugar (more of less, to taste)
juice of 1/2 lemon (optional--use if you like things very TART)

Mix cherries with additional ingredients and let sit 15 minutes. While cherries are sitting, you can preheat oven to 350F.

Dump cherries into deep dish pie pan. Cover cherries with almond topping. Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes. Topping should be golden brown and filling should be bubbling. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 20 minutes so you don't burn your mouth! Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream or yogurt on top. Or plain. That's up to you.
As far as naughty treats go, this one isn't really all that decadent. You could even eat it for breakfast with a big scoop of Greek yogurt. In fact, I might have to try that tomorrow morning...

Monday, June 22, 2015

Dried Cherries

Have I told you how much I love my dehydrator? I never thought I wanted one, until I borrowed a friend's last summer and discovered the wonders of drying stuff!

So far this summer, I've dehydrated strawberries and now a bunch of sweet cherries, both dark red and yellow. I think you can see in my photo the two different colors:

There are many great things about drying your excess freshly picked fruit. Dried fruit takes up a lot less space than fresh or frozen fruit. Although I do keep my dried fruit in the freezer, just in case there is a low level of moisture left which could cause mold to grow, several pounds of cherries was reduced to a small sandwich baggy of dried fruit. In addition, drying concentrates both the flavor and the sweetness. These cherries I picked at Larriland seemed very watery and lacking in sweetness, probably due to excessive rain during their ripening, but now that they are dried, the taste is much more intense.

In order to dry the cherries, I simply cut them in half and removed the pits. I say "simply" but in reality, this took a long time and my feet got very tired from standing and I whined to my husband who then took the rest of the cherries and pitted them for me. True story. I loaded them on the trays (all by myself!) with about a half inch of space all around them. I set the thermostat for 135F and let them dry for about 18 hours. This was the minimum amount of time suggested in my guide. I tend to like a tiny bit of moisture left in my dried fruit. Again, I store the finished product in the freezer to avoid the growth of mold.

What to do with dried cherries? You could use them in cookies, cakes, scones, pancakes, granola, hot oatmeal, ice cream, chicken salad, or any recipe that calls for raisins or dried cranberries. I plan to throw some into my next batch of turkey muffins.

If you are looking for cherries to pick, it is still cherry season here in Howard County, Maryland! Check out Larriland for opportunities to pick your own (www.pickyourown.com), or visit one of the Farmers' Markets for freshly picked sweet and tart cherries. Hurry, though! The season doesn't last long!

#hocofood