Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Getting Through the Day

I am lucky enough to have a four-day work week, but unlucky enough that on three of those days, I am stuck in my office with no breaks. It makes for a long days. Usually about now (around 2-3pm) I start wanting a snack. I don't know that I am really hungry, but I just need an energy boost and my body wants a diversion from typing and talking. In my past life, I would send Jason to the Circle K across the street to get me a Diet Coke and something Hostess. But alas, my Diet Coke and Hostess days are over. Now I make myself two snacks every morning and bring them with me to work. Sometimes I need one around 10am, and the other is for now. Snacks are a routine for me. I don't at all mind eating the same ones everyday if they are yummy. Here is what I've been hooked on lately....

Honey Crisp Apple Slices Dipped in Cashew Butter:
Cashew butter can be found at any store that has a selection of nut butters. I get the 365 brand from Whole Foods. The price is reasonable and as long as you give it a good stir when you first open it, it doesn't go too stiff in the fridge. I scoop a tablespoon or two into a little re-usable bowl with a lid - I use the ones for baby snacks because they are nice and small. Then I slice up the apple. I put both in the fridge when I get to the office and it is a nice refreshing snack midday.

Apple Cinnamon Oat Squares:
This is a recipe I found in The Whole Deal (Whole Foods free magazine thing). I've played with it a bit, using almonds instead of pecans and adding almond extract. I haven't perfected it yet and the squares are a little dull, but I am posting it here because I think this recipe has promise. Let me know what you do with it that works.

2 cups unsweetened almondmilk*
1 1/2 cups steel cut oats*
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup ground flax seeds (not whole flax seeds)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 (about 1 pound) Pink Lady apples, cored and grated
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Transfer to a foil- or parchment paper-lined 9-inch square baking pan, press down and smooth out the top and bake until firm and golden brown, about 1 hour. Let cool in pan; cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition: Per serving (1 square): 140 calories (50 from fat), 6g total fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 25mg sodium, 20g total carbohydrate (4g dietary fiber, 7g sugar), 3g protein

Nuts and Citrus
I love nuts, especially almonds and cashews, so I usually pack a handful of one or the other. To make it a more balanced snack, I 've been adding a mandarin (when my grandfather was giving them to me 20 lbs at a time) or now a clementine. They are both small, easy to peel and have great flavor.

If I have a sweet craving, I love Emerald's Cocoa Roast Almonds. They are a little more processed than plain nuts, but they are still better than the cookie or candy bar alternative for something sweet.  

Lara Bars
My new found love. The peanut butter cookie flavor has three ingredients. Peanuts, Dates, Salt. These are a great, filling snack on the run or to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Last thing....
I love it on everything. Best on pita chips, but almost as good (and totally guilt-free) on raw veggies. I especially like it on sugar snap peas, red bell peppers and celery. I've always bought hummus, but have a great recipe to try at home one of these days. I'll share if it turns out tasty!

Happy snacking friends!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Love Is In the Air

With Valentine's Day around the corner, I thought I'd share some info on a little affair I've been having with my kitchen. The local restaurants are really upset about it, but oh well, I'm over those relationships.

So, cooking. I love to cook when I know what to make, have all the ingredients and am not starving or exhausted. I hate to cook when I have to come up with something to make, I don't have everything I need and I'm hungry, tired and cranky.

I know that a really large portion of the bad stuff I eat comes from restaurants and processed foods, so I know I need to cook more at home. I also know that a meal out for my family is a $50 deal every time but eating at home costs a fraction of that. I need to love cooking. All the time. Here is what I do to get over my issues and enjoy myself in the kitchen.

Starting with recipes...my recipes are a disaster. I have boxes, books, magazines, files with handwritten notes, electronic files saved on my all-recipes account. I rarely know where to look for something good and end up going to the same recipes over and over, so I took a few hours a while ago and went through everything (well aside from all the cookbooks). I pulled all of the recipes that sounded good and clean and put them on the computer. Some were already there and they are all different file types, but I can better organize that later. I printed everything, and put them in page protectors in a binder. That way they are a little more spill proof because I make a mess when I cook. Best move I made when doing this is creating a table of contents. I add recipes as I find them now and update the table of contents now and then.

I sit down every Sunday or Monday morning with my binder and a note pad. I go through and choose five meals for the week. I only plan five so that I can eat left-overs or something else the other two nights. I write these down (being sure not to plan them out Monday, Tuesday, etc as I never know what I'm going to feel like eating) and hang them on the fridge. Then I go back to the recipes and make a shopping list. I always double check it with the fridge and cupboards so I don't end up with four boxes of chicken stock or something.

I shop every Monday. I hit up Trader Joe's first, then Whole Foods on my way back for anything I couldn't find at TJ's. I pick up The Whole Deal (Whole Food's monthly newsletter, coupon book thing) every time and use all the coupons I can. This month there is a $1 off the gluten free bread I love, so I've gotten a loaf every week. It freezes fine. I take advantage of the coupons as well as the recipes in The Whole Deal. There are some really good ones.

Now I am ready to cook for the week. I know what to make and I know I have everything I need. I have a snack around 3:30 so I'm not starving before dinner. I can't do much about being tired after work. I try to get enough rest, but some days are better than others. I get home, change into comfy shoes and get to cooking. I love it. I am trying so many new things and it is a lot of fun. Now if I can figure out how to love the clean up afterward, I would really be in business.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I Could Eat Mexican Food Everyday

So one of the things I was delighted to find out when I first started eating clean back in September, is that there are lots of options when it comes to Mexican food. Of course, no flour tortillas, cheese or sour cream, (and you have to watch some sauces for sugar) but most other things are fine. Mexican cooking uses lots of different vegetables and spices so the flavors are never boring. I love cheese and prefer to order everything with extra cheese, but done right, I don't even miss it. Corn tortillas are fine to eat, so street tacos with chicken or a lean beef are tasty and easy and pretty readily available if you have to eat out. Even Taco Bell and Del Taco have versions of these which aren't terrible. If you need some crunch a tostada is a good option and fresh salsa is great for you, so eat it up. I love it as a salad dressing.

One of my favorite things that I have found on the menus of some Mexican places is the burrito bowl. The idea is it's a burrito less the tortilla - so it has to go in a bowl. I love getting these at Don Quixote's and Chipotle and have been craving them pretty bad the past few days. To save on my budget and sanity (my kids always insist on ordering at restaurants, but rarely eat and it kills me to throw money away like that), I decided last night that rather than heading over to one of those places, I would make burrito bowls at home. Here is what I included (you really just throw it into a bowl until it looks okay, so I am omitting quantities as you can do it however you want):

Beans (I used both vegetarian refried and whole black)
Rice (Brown - Trader Joe's has awesome frozen brown rice that takes 3 mins in the microwave)
Skirt Steak (seasoned with chili powder, cumin, garlic salt then grilled)
Salsa Fresca
Green Onions
Shredded Cabbage (sounds weird but adds a great texture)
Chopped Black Olives
Grilled Onions
Grilled Peppers (orange or red bells and jalapenos)

It was hard to fit everything into one bowl, but I thought using two or a big serving dish would be a little over the top so I made it work. It was absolutely delicious. Better than in the restaurants and guess what? I have left-overs. My girls are less adventuresome when it comes to eating, but they enjoyed the steak and rice and some fruit salad I had in the fridge.

I've got a meeting to go to tonight, so I'm thinking quick leftovers sound really good again.

Tomorrow I'll talk about my love/hate relationship with cooking and how I'm keeping the upper hand in that department.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why am I here?

Hello world. I am a very busy mother of two. My husband and I own a family business, I coach my daughters' softball team, I volunteer in their classrooms and I have a photography addiction (took my hobby pro last year).

I began running seven or eight years ago when I was going through a divorce and my mom was dying. It was my therapy then. As my life recovered and I had daughter number two, the running fell to the back burner and then off the stove all together. Gradually all "me" time was lost. About a year ago I realized how much I really needed that back. Most of my days are packed full from the moment I get up until the moment I go to bed, but I realized that I was getting 8-9 hours of sleep every night. I figured I could do with a little less, so I started getting up an hour earlier and getting out for a run. It was so energizing and it got me back on track with everything health related.

Last September I participated in a 28 day cleanse program by eliminating sugar, dairy, gluten, soy, caffeine and alcohol from my diet. I felt so incredible and learned so much. My husband and I decided this would be a good program for us to do three times a year - September, January and May. I stuck with the program here and there for the rest of the year (until Christmas when I ate every goodie I could get my hands on). I got back into the swing of things with another round of the cleanse in January. This time was very different. Instead of counting down the days until I could eat a big burger or something, I counted the number of new recipes I could find. I got into such an easy routine of meal planning, shopping and cooking. Yesterday was the last of the 28 day cleanse and honestly, I have no intention of changing my habits now. This is working beautifully. I feel great and I am loving the food that I am cooking. Also beginning in January, I joined a fitness boot camp to change up the routine of all running all the time. I have seen huge results in how my body looks and feels. I've worked out muscle groups I didn't even know I had! All of these results in only one month.

So why a blog now? Because so many people have noticed the changes in me and have asked how they can get it too. So I want to share. I'll share recipes and workouts. Let you know what is motivating me and what is bringing me down. All of this in hopes that you too can learn to eat healthy, live healthy and be happy...in real life - you know, with work, kids, hobbies...the whole works.