Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pears. A delicious fruit that used to grow in my backyard. Sadly, the best pears were always out of reach at the top, and the crappy ones that weren't edible were always at the bottom and falling on the ground. So most of my childhood memories of pears are as a messy nuisance. I'm happy to report.... pears and I are, once again, in love.

Pears are a great snack; they are full of fiber and are low in calories. They don't contribute any fat or cholesterol to your day. They DO contribute some Vitamin C.

You know me, I like to think of creative ways to use my fruits and vegetables. Here is a breakfast treat that goes in the category of "should be disgusting, but is actually delicious."


* 1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
* two medium mushrooms, sliced into thirds or fourths
* 1/4 red pear, chopped
* 1/4 cup fat free or low-fat mozzarella
* small container of Egg Beaters
* sprinklings of salt, nutmeg, and ground red pepper (cayenne)


* Start by chopping up the veggies you need. While you heat up your sautee pan, put the chopped pears in the microwave for one minute. This will help soften them up a little before sauteeing.

* Spray pan with a little cooking spray, then sautee onion, mushroom, and pears until browned a little. Add spices and cook for another minute or so.

* Add Egg Beaters.

* When all that is looking pretty cooked, turn off the stove and add the cheese.

I had my scramble with a slice of Ezekial raisin toast. Best bread ever; expensive, but worth it. I keep it in the freezer and just tear slices off to toast when I need/want them. You can find it in the Meijer "gluten-free" frozen section!

Happy breakfast.

"I am doing the best I can given what I have today." ~ Jillian Michaels

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ready for run camp....

Today starts my journey as a Borgess Run Camp team leader. And I'm excited.

So excited that when I saw the snow flying as I woke up, I knew I had to get out and run in it. You'll think I'm crazy, but there is a lot of confidence and strength that can be taken from winter running. Don't question the power of running despite being cold, despite being wet, despite being nervous you might slip and fall. Because truth be told, you MIGHT slip and fall. But... you might not. You have to take the chance or sit on the sidelines. And it takes a real bad-ass to brave the elements and sneaker up when it's 20 degrees and snowing.

A bad-ass like me. Or you. Or the hundreds of other people in Greater Kalamazoo who join the various run camps offered to push us through the dreary winter months.

A friend asked me what my leadership goals were for this winter. I've been thinking about that quite a bit, because as excited as I am, of course I'm nervous. I wonder if I know enough. If I'm helpful enough. If I have a clue as to what I'm talking about half of the time.

But frankly, the answer to those questions is no. I'll never know enough, or be helpful enough, or always have a clue as to what I'm talking about. I'm human. Like all humans, I know what I know and I'm always learning more. The best I can do is offer others the things I *do* know.

So what ARE my goals? To lead and inspire by example. To show that it's ok to not always be sure of yourself, but not to let it be a roadblock. To help others to trust their footing, whether snowy or dry. To push people to be the best they can be, and be committed to themselves.

And maybe most importantly, to remind others that who you were is not who you are. Who you are starts today.

Happy December 1st, and happy trails, wherever they may lead you.

"You know what they say, life ain't always easy. And everyday we're survivors. So forget the day, it's all about tonight; act a fool and start a riot, a riot. Be a rebel." ~ Jay Sean

Sign up!! Marathon, Half-Marathon, or 5k... never run? Who cares! ANYONE CAN TRY. Sitting still is doing nothing.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mirror image....

Friends, I'd be lying to you if I didn't speak up and say I struggle with body image nearly every single day.

I'm not sure where it stems from, exactly. Whether it's the many adolescent years when I was heavier, or the power that losing that weight afforded me. Perhaps a combo of the two. My point is, for me, losing weight was like a hunger that never seemed to be totally satisfied.

It was eight years ago when I first went from an average size 10 to a size 2. I remember looking in the mirror and bullying myself. Seeing all the places I felt fat. It didn't matter what other people saw, it didn't matter what size I was wearing. All I could see was the places I thought I needed to improve.

I look at pictures from that time now, and I look pretty damn skeletal. It's hard for me to stomach the fact that in those days, I still felt fat in some of the smallest clothes Gap and Abercrombie had to offer. I consider myself to be a pretty healthy person; I eat mostly things I cook myself, steer clear of preservatives and refined sugar. I work out regularly. But mentally, it's often hard for me to empty my head of what society views as "beautiful," and concentrate on being strong and healthy.

I still have days where I look in the mirror and tear myself apart. I don't know why I do it, it doesn't make me feel good about myself. And there are a ton of healthier ways to feel strong. Like....

* cook myself a delicious healthy meal
* run a race
* lift weights
* run with a friend
* play soccer
* write a blog entry

.... or about a million other things. Point being; self-bullying does NOTHING for us, except make us feel bad. How can we be our own greatest champion if our greatest champion is beating us up every day? We can't. That leaves no one to champion you at all. Even if you're lucky enough to have someone that reminds you every day how beautiful you are, it's very hard to believe that if you don't feel it about yourself.

Today I looked in the mirror, and before I started to criticize my legs (one of my long-hated features), I looked closer. Rather than deeming my thighs "big", I concentrated on the fact that all of the running I've been doing has been slowly transforming fat to muscles. My legs look... strangely athletic. Which is new to me, but is something I should celebrate. Rather than piss and moan about my jeans feeling tighter, I should be jumping up and down that my legs carry me through race after race, and are going to carry me right through marathon training this spring. Do I want to run 26.2 miles on twigs, or tough trunks that might muscle me across the finish line under four hours? I think the answer is staring right back at me.

If I have to choose between being skinny and being awesome... I'll choose awesome.

until later....

"Good for the body is the work of the body, and good for the soul is the work of the soul, and good for either is the work of the other." ~Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Harvest Oatmeal

I'm a girl who is always looking to maximize my breakfast. Probably my top fave is oatmeal, mostly because you can do just about anything with it. Nuts, fruit, peanut butter... tons of options. Breakfast sets the tone for your entire day. I like to cram as many vitamins and minerals in as I can; it makes me eat healthier the whole day!!

Since it's fall, I thought I'd do a little experimenting with fall flavors and my oatmeal. Here's a recipe for something I'm calling "Harvest Oatmeal"....

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk (or you can just use another 1/2 cup water)
1/2 cup slow-cook oatmeal (I always recommend Bob's Red Mill brand)
1/4 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin
1/8 cup raisins
pinch of salt
nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla to taste
sugar or sugar substitute to taste
OPTIONAL: walnuts

* Bring the water and coconut milk to a boil.
* Add oatmeal, salt, and simmer until mostly thickened.
* Add pumpkin, raisins, nuts if opting for those, and seasonings/vanilla/sweetener.
* Cook until thick and creamy.
* Enjoy!

I don't like to add a lot of sweetener to my oatmeal, which is why I encourage you to taste-test it and see exactly how much you like.

~ Why pumpkin?
Besides being low in fat and calories, pumpkin is basically one of the most nutrient-packed fruits around. Alpha and beta-carotene, fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium.... lots of vitamins to boost your breakfast.

~ Why coconut milk?
Coconut milk is regarded by some as a "miracle food". It's dairy-free, so it's great for those who are lactose-intolerant. But it's also soy-free, gluten-free, and nut-free! It's somewhat high in saturated fat, BUT the majority of fatty acids it contains turn into energy rather than body fat. So it can actually help aid weight loss. It contains many vitamins/minerals like potassium and calcium, as well as electrolytes. And hey, theatre people! Coconut milk is also known to boost the immune system, and help relieve the symptoms of sore throats, as well as ulcers. Basically, coconut milk rocks.

So give it a shot, let me know what you think. Get those fruits and veggies in wherever you can!

“If you're in a war, instead of throwing a hand grenade at the enemy, throw one of those small pumpkins. Maybe it'll make everyone think how stupid war is, and while they are thinking, you can throw a real grenade at them.” ~Jack Handy

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Desperate Times Lunch Quesadilla

So it's a fact that sometimes I have to get a little creative at work when I want a healthy lunch. I call this a "Desperate Times Quesadilla" cause..... Well.... I was desperate. I win, it's totally tasty.

* two tortillas (preferably wheat or high fiber if you have them)
* a third each green and red pepper, cut into strips
* 2 Tbs alouette light garlic and herb cheese spread
* olive oil/cooking spray, salt, pepper, garlic powder

* take the pepper strips and sautee them in olive oil with the salt, pepper and garlic powder.
* warm up two tortillas in the microwave.
* spread each tortilla with a tablespoon of the light cheese.
* lay pepper across one tortilla and press the two tortillas together.
* put quesadilla in the pan and contine to sautee each side until a bit crispy.

I would have maybe added chicken if I had any, but it's delicious on it's own, too. And the whole thing took like 10 minutes from slicing to turning off the stove. A quick and easy lunch with a dose of fiber and antioxidants and Vitamin C. Bonus: red peppers have three times the Vitamin C as oranges, and almost an entire day's worth of Vitamin A!
"I run 6 to 8 miles a day, plus weights and aerobics on the lunch hour. I also lie a lot, which keeps me thin." - Hugh Laurie

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Goals (and reaching them...)

This past weekend I did the Kalamazoo Klassic 10k, which marks my 8th race so far this season (since the end of April). One might say I am a little bit addicted. There is just something about a giant group of people all coming together for the love of running. It *has* to be love, because why else would any normal human being get up at 6am on a Saturday to prep for a 7:30am 6 mile race... right?

I didn't do as well as I had hoped. Admittedly, I still did well, placing 8th out of 57 in my age group. And double admittedly, I haven't actually been racing (or even running) for very long in the grand scheme of things; really only a couple of years. So why am I so hard on myself?

I presume it's because I strive for excellence in whatever it is that I'm doing. I've always been a theatre girl, a girl who sings but isn't especially athletic. When I was doing theatre basically full-time, I threw my everything into it. Three hours of rehearsal a night, plus whatever extra time I had to devote to memorizing music, lines and choreography. And once I started getting faster in races, and then started placing in races... well, I got a taste of what it is like to be really good at something else.

For me, the chance to prove that I have another talent I didn't know I had is exhilarating! It's not just the chance to prove to the people I know that I'm not just a theatre person; it's a chance to prove to myself that I *can* be athletic. I can actually be a competitor.

So, it's true, I didn't place as high as I would have liked last Saturday. But it's also true that I am my toughest critic, I am the person who has the highest expectations of myself. And sometimes, I'm not going to place top three, and that's fine. I started that race saying to myself, "Ok. This is a big race. Chances are good, I won't place top three in age. That's okay. But I *will* place top ten in age."

And you know what? I did that. I found a good and challenging (but not out outlandish) goal for myself, and I hit it. I find that one of the easiest ways to fail when training, is to expect SO much out of yourself that you end up missing the mark and feeling dejected.

I'm not saying not to set expectations for yourself. I'm saying, don't set expectations *so* high that you can't reach them. Because frankly, you will reach them in time. But it might not be tomorrow, or the day after, or even the month after. Sometimes that larger goal takes lots of smaller goals as a step-ladder.

My larger point is, a skill takes time, devotion, and patience to develop. Even if you have a natural talent for something, it *still* takes practice to get it where you'd like to see it. Set attainable goals, and don't be too hard on yourself. Each goal reached is like a prize, something you did for yourself that you didn't do yesterday. And that, in itself, is an amazing feat.

until later...

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~Winston Churchill

Friday, June 18, 2010

More on the power of positive thinking....

I have found that to think positive, you have to surround yourself with positive reminders. Pictures that remind you of good times. Quotes that remind you to stay strong. Even stories about people who beat the odds. Reminding yourself that you are a good and deserving person isn't always easy, but it's necessary.

I have a huge mirror in my bathroom. Big enough that I couldn't possibly need the whole thing to get ready in the morning. So I like to put a few things up as daily reminders of the task ahead of me; to spend my day being the best me I can be. One thing I have up there is a list of "Mental Toughness Tips" that I got at a race this year. They hold true not just for athletics, but for jobs or nearly any other aspect of your life! And now, I'd like to share them with you.

* Play to your own standard of excellence, not up or down to the level of your opponent.

* Be committed, even when you are not motivated.

* Maintain positive focus and effort at all time, especially after mistakes. Being positive brings up your teammates, being negative brings up your opponents!

* Have a specific goal for every practice. Be sure to review why you are a better athlete after each practice.

* Practice how you want to play. Give full physical and mental effort at all times.

* When under pressure, define what your job is and focus on that.

* Know that competitive anxiety is normal and prepares you for battle.

* Prepare, prepare, and prepare some more. Nothing is better to build confidence.

* Take a deep breath to regain focus on the here and now.

* Your mind is built to warn you of danger; it is often best not to believe your mind when it worries.

Special thanks to Grand Rapids Sport Psychologist Dr. Eddie O'Connor for the great tips. You can follow Dr. Eddie on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/dreddieoconnor or on Twitter @ SportsDrEddie.

until later...

"Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles." ~Alex Karras

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Last night I realized something.

I'm not trying as hard as I could.

Now, I was watching that new Jillian Michaels show, "Losing It With Jillian". It's mostly Jillian yelling at people, breaking them down, pissing them off, making them cry... it's moderately fantastic, actually. But more than just yelling in people's faces, she makes them really look inside of themselves and figure out what is making them overweight, what is making them unhappy, what is breaking down their confidences, what is making them think they aren't good enough.

It kind of got me thinking.

After all, who doesn't occasionally blame their circumstances on outside forces? "I hate my job because my job sucks." "I'm overweight because exercise is boring and I have a bad joint." "I'm unhappy because he/she makes me unhappy."

Then I started to wonder what happens when you start facing the fact that your circumstances lie mostly with you and the work you're willing to put forth. Ok, I love my job, but let's pretend I didn't. What if we replace "I hate my job because my job sucks" with "I hate my job, but I love writing... so I'm going to write a book and get it published."

Replace "I'm overweight because exercise is boring and I have a bad joint" with "I hate death/heart disease more than I hate exercise, and exercise will only make me stronger."

Replace "I'm unhappy because he/she makes me unhappy" with "I love myself enough to admit when I'm letting myself wallow."

Looking around at the things I've accomplished, I realize I could do so much more if I stopped saying "I can't" so much and just do the work. It's like the mornings where I drag my ass out of bed at 5:15am and run 3 miles. I always feel so much better right out of the gate when I do that. And I think it's mostly because I've already accomplished something great before breakfast, while it's still dark even. It prepares me that much more for a successful day.

I have been saying for years, "Someday... someday I'm going to write a kid's book." I got sick of adding up the somedays a couple of weeks ago, and sat down one morning and just started writing. An hour and a half later, I had a little piece of poetic fiction that I was actually quite proud of. I wondered why I put it off for so long, why I constantly thought I wasn't ready to write it.

Challenge yourself daily. If you find yourself blaming a certain circumstance on someone/something other than your own psyche, stop. Think. I'm not telling you to blame yourself. I'm telling you to tell yourself you're better than that circumstance, and move ahead. Always forward, never back.

until later...

"We all have known good critics, who have stamped out poet's hopes; Good statesmen, who pulled ruin on the state; Good patriots, who, for a theory, risked a cause; Good kings, who disembowled for a tax; Good popes, who brought all good to jeopardy; Good Christians, who sat still in easy-chairs; And damned the general w...orld for not standing up. Now, may the good God pardon all good men!” ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Shopping for labels....

I think two of the worst phrases to hit the food industry are "made with whole grain" and "all-natural". You might think I'm crazy; whole grains and natural are good, right? Of course they are!!! But what you may not realize is, anyone can slap "made with whole grain" on a package (even if it's not the first, or second, or third ingredient), and "all-natural" just means the ingredients came from nature. Neither phrase makes something inherently "healthy". You have to be so careful and actually look at labels, because you can unwittingly pick something up, assume it's healthy, and toss it in the cart.

For example, here is a label from a chocolate brownie muffin from the folks at Aunt Millie. It is "made with whole grain". Sorry, it's a bit fuzzy.

Major concerns? Well, for one, the first ingredient isn't flour, it's sugar. That can't be good. Second, 220 calories for a snack? A snack with 8.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of fiber, and 24 grams of sugar? What a waste of a snack! It's cut off, but it's labeled as 5 Weight Watchers points. I don't track points, but my mom does. And I'm pretty sure 5 isn't good when snacking on a muffin. This is a dessert, not a "snack".

Moving on to another choice, not "made with whole grain":

Sure, these Hostess mini-cupcakes aren't whole grain. And the first ingredient is *still* sugar. But at least we've a) knocked it down to 100 calories, b) knocked it down to 3 grams of fat and 1.5 grams of saturated fat, c) gone down to 10 grams of sugar, and d) there are 5 grams of fiber in that package! If I were a sugar eating girl, I'd certainly take all this over all that.

Of course, your best bet is probably to make your own damn cupcakes and know exactly what is going into them. Because I can safely say, 9/10 of what you find on any grocery shelf is going to be full of icky preservatives and weird things you can't pronounce. But I know not everyone has time for that, and if you're going to do convenience, I'd like you to be informed!

Another good example is yogurt. Let's look at Greek yogurt. Oikos makes a "chocolate on the bottom" Greek yogurt. Sounds tasty. 110 calories, 16 grams of sugar. And call it what you want, "organic sugar" is still just SUGAR. I buy Stonyfield Oikos nonfat plain Greek yogurt. Yeah, I know, plain, yuck yuck yuck. But 90 calories and 7 grams of just plain dairy sugar. And it has 20% of your daily calcium, vs 10% in the Oikos chocolate one. And I'm sorry, you can do whatever to plain yogurt. It's a blank canvas! Add fruit. Put it in a smoothie. Add protein powder. Swirl in some natural fruit preserves. Or honey. You can pretty much do anything you want with it.

My point is, you have to be careful in the supermarket. Unless you are holding an organic apple or some such thing, chances are good that whatever "all-natural" thing you are holding has been processed in some weird way. Don't be tricked by the marketing departments that are getting trashed by the health nuts. Once word got out that people wanted their food stripped down, they had to re-strategize how best to get consumers to continue to buy their products. Hence the words "all-natural", "made with whole-grain", and "25% less sugar" were born. I'm done ranting, just... read your labels, people.

until later....

"Charlie Brown is the one person I identify with. C.B. is such a loser. He wasn't even the star of his own Halloween special." ~Chris Rock

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hungry Girl's (Gluten-Free!) Practically Fat-Free Fettucine Alfredo

So, I'm trying out a new recipe today, courtesy of "Hungry Girl" (see side bar for a link to all the Hungry Girl website has to offer.) In all of my tofu escapades, I've never tried tofu noodles!! So, I thought I'd give it a shot. When I first opened the bag, I was a little grossed out; the bag had said something about an "authentic smell", but what they really meant was "these noodles smell like f***ing fish". I will assure you though, that if you follow the directions and all, they will not *taste* like fish. So, that's good news.

As usual, I embellished this recipe a bit. Gotta get some veggies in!! The original was just noodles and sauce, with parmesan and salt/pepper.

* 1 package Tofu Shirataki Fettucine-shaped noodle substitute (or regular pasta if you're freaked out by tofu/gluten-free)
* 2-4 tsp of fat free cream cheese
* 2-4 tsp of fat free sour cream
* 2-4 tsp parmesan topping
* 4-5 white organic mushrooms, sliced into fours
* 1/3 cup spinach (I used the frozen stuff)
* 1 tsp garlic powder
* salt and pepper to taste


Drain and rinse the tofu noodles. Microwave them for a minute, it helps dial down the fishy smell. Dry them off. While microwaving the noodles, start sauteeing the mushrooms, spinach, and salt/pepper. When that looks good and cooked, add the noodles, sour cream, cream cheese, and garlic (I softened the cream cheese/sour cream in the microwave for about 30 seconds first). I told you 2-4 tsps because the original recipe called for 2, but I used more given the addition of spinach and mushrooms. Continue to sautee it until everything looks done? =)

I'll say this- this tastes pretty damn good, actually. The noodles are a little weird textured, rubbery a bit? But not bad at all! I would definitely buy them again.

until later...

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no use being a damn fool about it." ~W.C. Fields

Monday, April 5, 2010

Getting back on the horse...

Hello, faithful followers. It's been a while.

I don't have much of an excuse for not blogging, except I've been feeling a little... unmotivated. Yes, even I have fits of non-motivation. Last week I found myself eating more nachos than usual. Drinking pop. Drinking beer. Getting lax on my sleep pattern. And somehow, I managed to run 31 miles last week?!

It's really hard to preach about healthy living when you ate like shit, got no sleep, and probably ran more than any normal person should.

Point being, everyone is prone to a crappy week. Whether it's vacation, illness, or just plain over-doing it and slipping up as a result, shit happens. Nobody's perfect, and to an extent, a crap-tastic week can be a great reminder of what your real goals are. It puts things into perspective.

Today I woke up, an average Monday morning in front of me. Well, not *totally* average, I'm on vacation from Nannydom for the week. But it looked a little dreary and cold out. I felt the familiar pangs of "I don't waaaaaaanna run, it's cold, it's boring, I'm by myself." By the time I ate my Ezekial raisin bread with peanut butter and bananas, and had a little cup of coffee... the sun had come out. The clouds had disappeared. The caffeine was coursing. I was feeling a bit better. I thought, "Ok, Self. 6 miles. That's not so bad. It's sunny, the iTouch is juiced up. Take it steady and easy." I set out on my journey, 6 miles around my neighborhood; Gull to G, G to Nazareth, around the block somewhere around Parchmount, rest of the way up Nazareth, then up Gull. I took a comfortable pace the first few miles, somewhere around a 9:20-30. I didn't feel like I was speeding up, but I noticed my times clipping along for a couple of miles, so I pulled back a bit. Picked it up again for the last couple of miles.

Now, I have to interject something. Part of the reason I keep running this particular route (aside from the fact it's a nice even 6 with only a few light hills) is that I HATE NAZARETH ROAD. It's the very, very end of our half marathon in two and a half weeks. It sucks. It's tiny, gentle rolling hills, and I think most runners would agree, anything resembling rolling hills is not entirely desirable at the tail end of 13.1 miles. It's rude. Especially after three miles in Spring Valley Park- full of very unkind, Voldemort-evil hills. So, I am running Nazareth at least once a week to try and hurdle over this mental block that it's awful. It'll suck, but it needs to suck less.

Today, Nazareth felt almost... good. I don't know if it's because I took it pretty easy leading up to it, or because "Hey Soul Sister" by Train came on my Touch (and that little ukulele intro puts a zip in my step every time), or because the sun was shining, or what- but I kind of kicked its ass today. Or at the very least, didn't let it get the best of me.

If you're having a bad day, or bad week, or bad month- don't be too hard on yourself. Take a day or two off. Recollect your thoughts. Write down how you're feeling. Go for a walk, instead of a run. Spring is here, a time of rebirth and new beginnings! Enjoy the sunshine, the flowers, friends and family. And if you want to enjoy a plate of nachos, oh well. The world will not spin off its axis as a result of nachos and taking a day off.

until later...

"So get the hell up and make the best of this little sequence of feeling upset. It's natural to find the worst in something, but it doesn't make it right. There are things that we are all afraid of, hopes and dreams we've worked so hard for. Cheer up, cheer up! And listen closely- the bad times make the good ones come alive..." ~Lights Out Dancing

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This just in, HFCS is.... icky....

I have long been thumping my Healthy Bible (ok, I don't really have one of those, but if I did...) about High Fructose Corn Syrup. It's in about a bazillion things you buy that you might think are "healthy alternatives". Just a few examples...

* Campbell's Tomato Soup (both the regular and "Healthy Request" versions)
* Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars
* Keebler Toast and Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers
* Yoplait Light (fat free) yogurt
* Lender's plain bagels

Go ahead, take a look in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. I'm sure you'll find stuff. Then, read this article a friend passed on to me about a study done on HFCS....


until later...

Today can be a healthy unusual day for you -- and for others -- if you take time to give someone a smile . . . to express a word of kindness . . . to lend a helping hand to someone in need . . . to write a note of gratitude . . . to give a word of encouragement to someone who is temporarily overcome with problems . . . to share a portion of your material possessions with others.” ~William Arthur Ward

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Our Favorite Pizza

The littlest one I nanny for has a favorite pizza we make. It's sort of a recipe we came up with together, actually. The best part about it was it was originally a ploy to trick her into eating spinach. Spinach is one of the foods you should be eating EVERY DAY. My littlest charge likes to eat it because she's a gymnast and wants "Popeye muscles"- but it's rich in omega-3's, folate (helps reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke), and lutein, which does fight your muscles degenerating. It's a superfood! But for some reason, people are really turned off by it. I don't think it even really has a flavor, personally. I mix it up in salads, or stir fry... here is our pizza recipe. She knows it's healthy, and still loves it. If you're making it with kids, have them help with whatever parts they can. Helping make pizza will create a sense of pride in it, thusly making them want to eat it all the more.


Some type of blender
1 ready-made whole wheat pizza crust (I like Boboli best)
1 package of Kraft fat-free cheese (melts fine and you can use the whole package if you want) or 2%
1 small can pizza sauce (I use Pastorelli, I get it at Meijer. It's one of very few sauces that doesn't have added sugar and corn syrup in it, and isn't as expensive as some of the "organic" ones.)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
About 1 cup leafy spinach
About one cup broccoli, cut small
3/4 cup shredded chicken (I hate, hate, hate raw chicken. I buy a whole rotisserie chicken from Meijer, use what I need, and then have the rest for meals/sandwiches/snacks later.)


Start buy putting your crust on a cookie sheet and preheating your oven to 450 (if you're using Boboli; it may be different for other crusts). Sometimes to keep the kid busy, I have her spread a little olive oil on the crust- it's good for your heart. Next, the sauce. In a blender or Magic Bullet or whatever you have, dump your small can of sauce and your spinach and your garlic powder. Puree it. Spread that sauce on the pizza. Next, cheese it up with however much/little cheese you like. (This is really the true beauty of fat free cheese, no fat and 60 calories in a serving. And there really aren't a bunch of weird ingredients in it.) While the kid spreads on the sauce and cheese, I cut up the broccoli so it's more bite-sized. Go ahead and add the shredded chicken. The kid has a special way of doing the broccoli- she only adds it around the edges of the pizza in a circle, then crushes what's left and sprinkle it on top. It looks great and isn't overwhelming with broccoli. Bake it for 8-10 minutes, and you have a healthy alternative to pizza that will still taste awesome.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

until later...

“There's a pizza place near where I live that sells only slices. In the back you can see a guy tossing a triangle in the air.” ~Stephen Wright

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sunday Breakfast Casserole

One thing I love about Sunday is the idea of Brunch. I don't know why it seems more appealing on Sunday than other days, but for some reason, it does. One comfort food that I just love is a breakfast casserole. This is a low-fat, vegetarian, super-easy version. I apologize in advance for my "recipe", most of my friends know by now that I mostly work by guesstimates, rather than actual measurements.

* One tube of Pillsbury Reduced Fat Crescent Rolls
* about 1 carton Egg Beaters (You can use real eggs if you prefer, but I don't know how many to tell you, as I've only used the Beaters.)
* 1 cup or so of Morningstar Farms Sausage-Style Crumbles
* 1 and 1/2 to 2-ish cups of Kraft Fat-Free Cheddar Cheese (or 2% if you like it better)
* any vegetables you might want to add... I like onions, mushrooms, spinach, or a combo of the three!


* Preheat the oven to 350.
* Start by spraying a 9 by 13 glass baking dish. Lay the crescent roll in the dish, without separating the little triangles. Bake the crescent rolls until they are pretty much done, I find that works best for the next step. I won't surmise a guess as to how long, because my oven bakes things SO super fast. Just keep an eye on it, they should be smushed together and a light golden color.
* While that's baking, you'll want to sautee the sausage and any vegetables you're using. They just taste better that way. Add a little salt and pepper.
* When the crescent rolls are done and the sautee business is done, pour the eggs on top of the crescent rolls. The level should be fairly close to the top, leave an inch or so (so it doesn't bake over or something crazy). Toss in the stir-fry mixture and about 3/4 of the cheese. Bake until the eggs are good and poofy.
* Pull it out and add the rest of the cheese to top. Put it back in until that cheese is nice and melty, and a little browned.

This is really, really good served with sour cream, by the way. I apologize for my lack of times, I rely on my eyes and nose more than timers. Everyone's oven is different! Give it a try, and I hope you like it!

until later...

"I rarely wear clothes when I'm home by myself. I love making breakfast naked. But you've got to make sure the gardener's not coming that day. " ~Kristen Bell

Monday, March 15, 2010

The worries we carry...

I was in kindergarten when the Challenger exploded in mid-air, killing everyone on board.

I remember it vaguely. We were all herded into the elementary school cafeteria to watch the shuttle head up into space. It was a big deal because for the first time, a teacher was on board. Our teachers had been talking up the mission for quite some time. From what I can remember, and from what my mom has told me, I had quite a fit after the explosion. Crying, making my teacher take down all of the pictures. It was somewhat traumatizing.

This is my first real example of what I call an "anxiety problem". I stress out about literally anything and everything. Things I can't control? Most definitely. The day of 9/11 I was curled up in my living room, crying and shaking, for hours and hours. Those who know me well know that when I'm having an anxiety attack, it's very hard for me to calm down or be rational. But I don't really like taking altering pills, so I've had to learn to control my anxiety in other ways. It's not always easy.

Exercise helps me a LOT. I went through a span of a few months where I was feeling really down, pretty depressed. I worried about even tiny things, like after-work plans or dinner. I know it was winter at the time, and the lack of sunshine seriously contributes to my lack of good mood. But I also realized that my "restless legs" were coming back at night. That occurs when I lie in bed, and my legs feel like they are going in ten difference directions. It's bizarre and completely uncomfortable. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wasn't getting any real exercise, and my body/mind were totally fighting me for it.

The very first day I went out for a group run in January, and did 5 miles, I felt great. I rode that runner's high for a good couple of hours. My bad mood just melted away. And the more I ran, the more I realized that my legs were no longer swimming under my covers. Thank goodness!

Yoga helps, too. It's nice to devote an hour and fifteen minutes of my time to just me and myself. Strengthen my core, stretch out my muscles after a week of 20- 25 running miles, and then the best part.... nap time. No, it has a fancy Yoga name, but I love at the end of yoga when I'm told to lie down and close my eyes and relax. And they wake you up by chiming a little bell.... aaaah.

Stress can create really erratic eating patterns in people, too. I tend to eat too little when I'm stressed out. My appetite just disappears. Not healthy. Some people tend to overeat when they're stressed out. Also not good. However, some foods can help you combat stress a little. I like to have a little super dark chocolate, or a banana. They both usually give me a little boost. Caffeine really boosts my mood and makes me feel great, I don't know what it is. Definitely a mood enhancer. So I will have a small cup of green tea or coffee if I'm feeling extra down.

We all worry. Some of us more than others. But we also have to realize, the world is not ours to control. A friend once told me, "the only thing constant is change", and I've carried those words with me for 12 years. Every day is a gift, and we have no way of telling what tomorrow may bring. Why waste those precious moments worrying? Get up. Stretch your legs. Smile. Make a positive change for yourself. And a certain calmness, even happiness will come, if you make the most of your time with the people you love.

until later...

"“It would be great to be able to pass on to someone all of the successes, the failures, and the knowledge that one has had. To help someone, avoid all the fire, pain and anxiety would be wonderful." ~Sylvester Stallone

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Healthy kids...

As I believe I stated once before, I am a nanny. It's a job the entails driving children all over a 25 miles radius, playing Barbies, reading books, putting on shows, suffering through Disney channel original shows (although I *do* love "Phineas and Ferb"), answering my phone on the weekend when the 5-year-old hijacks her mom's phone and dials me to tell me she misses me.... yeah, it's a great job if you love kids. Luckily, I do. *whew*

Now, the trio of girls I care for is an extremely athletic trio. Even the youngest needs a full hand to count all of the sports she participates in. Most of my afternoon is dedicated to taking them to their various after-school practices. Often, we have about a 15-minute window in which to prepare and eat a good snack.

What classifies a good snack in my book?

When you are doing as many sports as these kids, I'd say something with a good mix of protein and carbs. Peanut butter apples, turkey sandwich on wheat bread, occasionally my "special mac and cheese" (I use 2% cheese and whole wheat pasta, throw in some chicken, and they have no idea it's pretty good for them)... something filling and energizing.

The problem I have is, the pantry is like this black hole, sucking the two older kids into its void of chips and crackers and cookies and toaster pastries. They come home from school and meander into that pantry, looking not unlike zombies searching for brains. I don't have this problem so much with the youngest girl, because I've been with her since she was a baby. Her fragile mind has already been warped with my healthy-eating ways. "Apples with peanut butter? Sounds good. Hey, do we have any more edamame? Can I have some of your dehydrated vegetable chips? PLEASE??"

But what do I do with the older two? Can a girl get a lock for the pantry??? It's really holding us back.

The best we can do with the younger generation (and really, this applies to you as well) is this:

1) Start them early. The best way to enforce great eating habits is to start the habits when they are first chewing. I tried the littlest charge on any food I could when she was a toddler. Sometimes she liked it, sometimes she didn't. But we had a couple of rules. You try at least one bite, and you can't say you don't like something if you've never tried it. The mantra, "No thank you, I would not like to try that" became popular. But overall, she typically would at least sample something.

2) Educate. Of course kids don't know about reading labels and what portion sizes are, they're kids!! It's up to you to explain (and just because they're kids doesn't mean they're dumb, they can follow what you're saying) just what's in something, or why one choice might be better than another. I find the girls are generally interested in learning why an orange is better than orange juice. Or why wheat bread is better than white bread. Or why they can't have cookies for breakfast.

3) Limit. Kids will not set limits for themselves. It's just not something they do. Willpower and limits are hard enough for adults- can you imagine being a kid again? You have a huge ice cream sundae in front of you. Are you going to stop halfway through and think, "Hey, I should really stop. I mean, a serving is only a half a cup." I'm going with "no." So, the adults have to set the limits. Kids do not need ice cream and cookies and chips and garbage all day. I grow weary of people telling me, "But that's all he/she eats/likes!" When they get hungry enough, they'll eat the fruits or the veggies. They will! I'm not saying kids can't ever have treats, obviously they should get treats. But with the youngest charge (I use her as an example because I'm with her the most), she knows she has to finish her grilled cheese, carrots, and milk before she gets her cookie. Or whatever the treat might be that day. And honestly, she's FINE with that. She never complains about getting one cookie, or how small her ice cream scoop is. She eats it, she enjoys it, and she moves on to her coloring book.

You know the saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks"? Well, you can, but it's really hard to implement changes the older we get. You get accustomed to a certain way of eating, a certain way of exercising/not exercising... hell, I have a certain way I get out of bed each morning. We are creatures of habit, every last one of us. It's hard to shake it up! Why not start kids on healthy habits as early as possible? After all, they are the future- wouldn't it be nice to see the next generation not have the weight and obesity problems our current nation has? A healthier generation? And helping kids get healthy helps you out, as well. Its a lot easier to make healthy choices when you're doing it together, as a family. It's a built in support system, you can all hold each other accountable.

Don't be afraid to mix up your habits. Make healthy choices today, for an easier tomorrow.

until later...

If our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all. ~Pearl S. Buck

Sunday, March 7, 2010

New favorite sites!

I've been poking around the good old internet for new ways to track my health and fitness goals. I thought I'd share a couple of awesome sites with you guys!


This site was one that a friend turned me on to a couple of summers ago. What's neat about it is all the little extras it has. You can build your "daily plate" if you are into counting calories and seeing what you've built up in a day. You can map out a run and see just how far you're running. You can blog or write in your food diary. It'll figure out your BMI (Body Mass Index) for you. There are even LIVESTRONG dares, ideas of ways you can change you life for the better. And these range from quitting smoking to stretching every day to finding a job. There is information on a million different topics; ending a destructive relationship, tips to stop drinking, food and exercise. It's seriously a wealth of information, and I recommend it to any/everyone reading this!


This website I just joined, a friend from my run club had posted something about it on Facebook. Really an awesome site for tracking your exercise plan. I've been using it to physically write down my own goals. You can log every exercise you do, whether it be running 2 miles or hitting the yoga studio, and it'll figure out the calories you burned based on weight and length of time you exercise/pace. There's also the cool function of being able to comment on your friends' workouts; you can give encouragement to the people you love! It's great.

So there are a couple of options for recording your goals. I highly recommend writing down the things you're doing to get healthy- there is definitely something to be said for seeing something you're proud of written down in front of you. It makes you feel great to see what you've done, and it'll stare you in the face when you need a little extra motivation.

until later...

"All great achievements require time."
Maya Angelou

Saturday, March 6, 2010

This gorgeous Saturday....

What a morning.

So, I'm a part of Borgess Run Camp, which is awesome. I'll give you more details about it's awesomeness later, but the basic gist is that I run long runs on Saturday mornings, along with about 450 other people. And within those 450 people, I have a little pace group of people my similar pace. It's really nice to know there is a group of people helping hold you accountable for doing your runs.

With that said... knowing full well I had to run 10 miles this morning at 8am, I went to Art Hop last night. For those not in the know, Art Hop is where downtown businesses open their doors for art, shopping, free snacks, and most importantly... free wine. I set out early enough, about 5:30pm, with some friends and my mom. I figured I could Hop, kick back a couple glasses of wine, and get to bed early.


We "Hopped" for a few hours, had a really delicious dinner at Ouzo's, and then decided to go to Old Peninsula for a bit. THEN decided to go dance at Metro for a while. Long story short, I had a really fun time, but didn't get in between my sheets until probably 1:30am.

Now, my solid run buddy and I had decided we were tired of our 9:30-40 rut we were stuck in, and wanted to bust out of it this week. Knowing full well we were going to face some challenging hills, I woke up worried this would not be an attainable goal.

Thank goodness for Mother Nature being easy on me this morning. Then sun was shining, it was a brisk but do-able 35 degrees... I felt my apprehension about impending doom-filled hills and a long stretch across the City of Portage melting away. A cup of green tea and a banana later, I felt pretty damn ready to run.

And run we did. Finishing with an overall pace of 9:25 per mile, I felt really satisfied with shaving some seconds off of our usual time.

The real point of this story is, I did not wake up this morning thinking I was going to pull an awesome run out of my hat. I woke up groggy and unimpressed to be awake. But sometimes you're just wrong about what you can accomplish, which goes back to my philosophy about never telling yourself you can't do something. Every day you get on this planet is special, and you don't know how many of them you get. So go out and run a little bit. Or ride your bike for a half hour. Or walk 25 feet. Because something is always better than nothing. Simple math says, walking 25 feet down the sidewalk is more than sitting on the couch. And chances are good, once you put on your shoes and walk those 25 feet? You'll keep right on walking.

until later...

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine. ~Anthony J. D'Angelo, The College Blue Book

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Oatmeal.... the most filling breakfast of all.....

It's unbelievable how many people skip breakfast or just drink coffee. This approach to weight loss will not make you lose weight. It will make you totally starving by 9am, and you will raid whatever chips, cookies, and crackers are nearby. I promise you this.

SO STOP SKIPPING BREAKFAST!!! Breakfast is A) tasty, B) wonderful, and C)seriously important. It gears your stomach up to be full. It gears your brain up to think and be productive. How distracted and unfocused are you when you feel hungry? Extremely.

Most mornings, I like to eat grapefruit and Kefir, a probiotic yogurt drink. The brand I buy is Lifeway, but there are many brands/flavors to choose from. And you're not limited to buying "health foods" at health food stores anymore. Meijer carries Kefir in the yogurt section. Why pay more? (Or so the motto goes.)

My other favorite thing to eat in the morning is oatmeal. Not that crap that comes in individual packets. Real oats that I cook on the stove. Which isn't to say it has to be the oatmeal that takes 8 hours to cook. They say steel cut oats are "best", but when I flip around containers of steel cut (which take a good 30 minutes to cook) and regular oats (much quicker), I don't notice much of a difference between the two. But it's important to cross-reference your oats so you get the most bang.

Here is one my favorite recipes for oatmeal... so delicious.

~ Stove-top oatmeal of your choice (follow directions for one serving)
~ 1/2 banana (or a whole one if you're feeling crazy), sliced up nice and thin
~ a big spoonful of natural peanut butter (or Jiff, if that's what you have sitting around)
~ a 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
~ a packet of Stevia (if you like your oatmeal a little sweeter.)

So easy. Just make the oatmeal according to directions. While it's boiling, add the bananas and cinnamon. When the oatmeal is thick, I stir in the peanut butter and sweetener if I want it. Ooh, and sometimes I toss in a small handful of nuts, too.

I can promise you, this will keep you feeling good and satisfied well through the morning. And, it's yummy.

And now, I must make some popcorn to enjoy the big birth on "The Office." Just remember... EAT BREAKFAST!! IMPORTANT!!

until later...

Expect problems and eat them for breakfast. ~Alfred A. Montapert

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


If I had to pick a favorite food in this whole wide world, it'd have to be Asian cuisine. I love Chinese food, sushi, Thai noodles... pretty much all of it. But one thing I love, possibly above all food ideas you can throw at me, is... CHINESE BUFFET.

I visited a Chinese buffet that I frequent in Battle Creek the other day. I sat down in my booth, and felt a familiar problem- I felt like I couldn't reach the table. "Why are these tables ALWAYS so far from the booth?!" I thought. Then, I looked around.

I was definitely in the minority. Most of the people who were eating at the Chinese Super Buffet were fairly... erm, "super" themselves. Could it be possible that these booths were fashioned to accommodate those with larger mid-sections?

I felt kind of sad, really. To me, a buffet presents the ability to choose whatever kind of Chinese fare I want that day. I'll usually start with a soup I created- wonton broth with a little scoop of rice and some scallions. Sometimes I'll have a small salad. Then I'll pick whatever I want for a main course, something with lots of vegetables. If there's any room leftover, I'll have some fresh fruit for desert. I like to leave the place feeling "satisfied, not stuffed."

To many people in this "super-size it" nation, however, a buffet presents the ability to stuff yourself with as much food as you can for a lesser price. Plate after plate of orange chicken, with a big plate of three or four different desserts afterward.

Portion size is ALWAYS important. You might be surprised to learn that a "real" serving of chicken breast is about the size of your fist. Or a serving of pasta is half a cup. A serving of salmon is a deck of cards. As a country, we over-eat SO much, all the time. Of course our stomachs are hungry if we eat "real servings"- we've stuffed them to the point that they think they need bigger portions.

But again, you should be eating to the point that you feel satisfied, not stuffed. And wait 20 minutes after you're done with a meal to decide if you're still hungry. If you're still really hungry, okay. But usually, if I wait, I find I wasn't as starving as I thought I was.

So check portion sizes. If you're making pasta or rice, flip that box around to see what you're actually supposed to be eating. Google a meat (which sounds hilarious, now that I've typed it) to see the real portion size. Or websites like http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthtool-portion-size-plate can help you set up proper portion sizes.

Also, I was telling a friend the other day- I treat vegetables like spinach, broccoli, squash, etc. (most aside from corn and potatoes) as "freebies", I eat as much of them as I like. So if you're finding that it's hard to adjust to a life-style of smaller portions, make extra broccoli or winter squash that night. It'll fill you up for less calories/more nutrition that an extra cup of rice.

until later...

If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree. ~Jim Rohn

Monday, March 1, 2010

"Music...makes the people.... blah blah Madonna...."

So, you want to exercise, but you don't know what to listen to? People are always asking me for new workout music. The music you listen to when you run/lift/bike/whatever (although I don't recommend taking your iTouch in the swimming pool) is pretty important. Some people prefer not to listen to anything, for fear it will knock their rhythm off. In fact, a lot of marathons forbid the use of iPods, generally because there are thousands of people running and it's a good idea to be aware of your surroundings. But unless I'm carrying on a conversation, I know I definitely dig some tunes when I run. There is something fun for me in getting to listen to an album start to finish, uninterrupted. Or listening to a specially compiled playlist.

So, if you need ideas, I thought I'd share my running playlist. It's pretty varied. Some people like something that rocks, some people like to drop it like it's hot (I've noticed I get some funny looks on the trail when I'm listening to Ludacris), and some people like something calming. And sometimes I like a combo of these things, or something different on Tuesday than I wanted on Saturday. So it's definitely a good idea to have varied lists as well as more streamlined lists. Make more than one playlist, is what I am saying!! This list is my overall pavement pounding list.

So Much Love- The Rocket Summer
This Is How We Do- All Time Low
Don't Stop Believin'- Journey
I Must Be Dreaming- The Maine
Kiss My Sass- Cobra Starship
3- Britney Spears
Dammit- blink-182
Ever the Optimist- Lights Out Dancing
Drop the Girl- Hit the Lights
TiK ToK- Ke$ha
Hotel Room Service- Pitbull
Rooftops (A Liberation Broadcast)- Liberation Transmission
Live Like We're Dying- Kris Allen
Down- Jay Sean
Do You Feel- The Rocket Summer
Keep the Change, You Filthy Animal- All Time Low
The Rock Show- blink-182
Moneymaker- Ludacris
Hot Mess- Cobra Starship
The Pretender- Foo Fighters
I Gotta Feeling- Black Eyed Peas
Carry Out- Timbaland/Justin Timberlake
Yeah! (feat. Lil Jon and Ludacris)- Usher
Homecoming- Hey Monday
Party in the USA- Miley Cyrus
Wasted- Cartel
I'm Calming Down- Lights Out Dancing
Josie- blink-182
Separate Ways- Journey
Let You Go- The Rocket Summer
Hot Damn 100- Just the Kid
My Last Mistake- I Call Fives
Skyway Avenue- We the Kings
Crazy B****- Buckcherry
Hum Hallelujah- Fall Out Boy
Crushcrushcrush- Paramore
Imma Be- Black Eyed Peas

So... that's a sample. MySpace, iLike or PureVolume are good places to listen to tracks to see if you like them before you buy them. Great music can be valuable to motivation!

until later...

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." ~Berthold Auerbach

Friday, February 26, 2010

Top Five Favorite Things In My Kitchen

Part of healthy eating is cooking for yourself. And I don't mean popping a Healthy Choice entree in the microwave, I mean actually putting together a meal with fresh veggies and meat/soy, and cooking it on your own stove. It's something I've come to really enjoy. Not only does cooking for myself with the fresh stuff save me money (more on that in another blog), but it's fun to experiment with different ideas I have. I'm not a huge recipe person, I usually just come up with something that sounds like it *might* be good, and then throw stuff together. I figure if it tastes good, then I've succeeded. But in order to eat healthy, you have to cook healthy, and you have to have the tools to do that. These are my top five favorite things I use in my kitchen.

#5. An air popper. So, my old roommate had one of these little babies. You drop some popcorn kernels in the top, plug the sucker in, and about three minutes later have a big bowl of fresh popcorn. Speaking as someone who loves snacks, fresh popcorn is pretty much guilt-free when it comes to that after-dinner "I'm hungry but shouldn't eat a big meal" period. I typically throw on some salt and some butter spray. (Side note: the "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" spray is fat free, cholesterol free, it's practically calorie free. I don't know what they put in it, but it's pretty damn useful on popcorn, veggies, tons of stuff.) Luckily, my amazing roommate gave me my own for Christmas, so I am free to pop all the popcorn I want.

#4. A vegetable steamer. I love my little steamer. I put a little water in a pot, put some veggies in my little collapsable steamer, and put the steamer in the covered pot. A few minutes later, freshly steamed veggies. There are also pans you can buy that have a steamer built right in, but I got my steamer through Pampered Chef. Very useful!

#3. My Magic Bullet. I keep telling the world to get one of these, and no one listens!! Ok, that's not true, some people listen. The Magic Bullet, for those who don't know, is a smoothie genius. You dump fruit and yogurt or whatever you like in your smoothie in the individual cup. You screw on the blending tool, put the whole thing in the console, press down, and suddenly you have a single-serving smoothie in your hands. It's seriously outstanding. And really easy to clean up, too.

#2. A great set of knives. Cutting vegetables is a lot less frustrating if you invest in a set of knives that actually works. I'm lucky in that I inherited my awesome knives, but I highly recommend you get a good set if you don't have one. It speeds up the cooking process immensely.

#1. An awesome stir-fry pan. You need a pan that you can cram a lot of vegetables in, and cook without everything flying all over the stove every time you try to flip your veggies over. Something with high sides and a good non-stick coating. There is really nothing more important to healthy cooking than the ability to sautee' vegetables efficiently. I can't stress enough, there should really be vegetables incorporated into every meal. But I know that's not entirely possible, so you definitely want to make sure you have a big bunch of them with dinner. It leaves you feeling full, and stocks you with nutrients and vitamins that you absolutely NEED! So get a good pan, and start trying vegetables!

Check your kitchen... do you have any or all of these things? They certainly make my life happier! Next I'll be talking about shopping, and how I do my shopping to eat healthy AND save money.

until later...

A word to the wise ain't necessary. It's the stupid ones who need the advice." ~Bill Cosby

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Run on....

Never, ever, in my whole life was I a runner.

Remember that kid who picked dandelions out in left field during softball when you were 8? Yup. That was me.

How about the girl who finished a mile run in middle school in just over 18 minutes? Oh yeah, that was ALSO me.

You know the old saying, "I only run if I'm being chased?" I'm not sure I would have even run then. It just wasn't something I had in me, nor something I had an interest in. I did theatre! I was a singer! I was going to go to Broadway and never have to run, because theatre people aren't athletic and it's okay!! At least, this was how the 17-year-old version of myself rationalized my lack of athleticism.

Eventually though, I started to get bored with *just* doing theatre. I always saw the same people. I did shows at the same theatres. It was a routine I was very comfortable in, but it was making me restless. I wondered if there was more out there, something different that could give me a similar thrill to being on stage, but would give me a chance to push myself in a new way.

I started this little run club about three or so years ago. I called it the "Run Club for Losers". The premise was, a bunch of theatre kids who weren't necessarily runners would get together a couple of times a week at a local run path. Together, we would theoretically be able to push ourselves to run, something none of us particularly loved.

And the scary part was, it worked. Sure, we had different people every week, and some people came once and never came back. But there was a small core of us who faithfully showed up every week, and two miles turned into three, and then four... and it was only a couple of months before I actually... LIKED running.

Then I started racing. Here was the thrill I was looking for. Hoards of people getting up early on a Saturday morning JUST because they loved to feel their feet pounding on the pavement? I loved crossing the finish line with a new personal best. And watching the cows in a field watch me as I run past. I even loved running in the pouring rain and getting completely soaked.

It was like this little Narnia I didn't know existed was waiting for me right on the other side of the stage. And that summer, I ran and I ran and I ran. I'm not sure how many races I ran, but it had to be at least 8-10. It felt so good to stretch my legs, and accomplish something new. Something I didn't even know I had in me!! I wondered why I had always hated the idea of this sport, why I just assumed I wasn't a runner and could never be.

I ran my first half-marathon, the Detroit Free Press Half, in the following fall with a couple of "Run Club" devotees. Did I ever in my life think I would run a half-marathon? Of course not. But we trained, and we pushed, and sometimes it sucked. One of my friends experienced what could have been a setback, as personal tragedy hit her family in the days before the big race. I've always admired her courage, that despite losing someone so dear to her, she made the commitment to fight on and race. That just proves how the human spirit and body can triumph... why would you ever tell yourself you can't do something? There is so much strength inside of you, so many things you can do if you put your mind to it.

There was a perfect moment at sunrise as I neared the bridge to Canada during that race. I pushed up the hill, the bridge loomed up before me. With red and orange rays streaming across the water, I looked up- literally hundreds of people were moving almost like one body across the bridge, through the early light. Passionate people, all doing something they loved. Maybe doing something for someone they loved who was gone. Hell, maybe doing something they didn't love, but did to prove something to themselves. 90-year-olds, 13-year-olds, skinny people, not-skinny-at-all people... there is no set mold for running like I had thought when I was younger. Just regular people, like you'd see on any street in America, getting together and doing something special for themselves.

Never tell yourself you can't do something; "can't" is the unwillingness to try. And you may be missing out on something absolutely awesome in the meantime.

until later...

"Regret for wasted time is more wasted time." ~Mason Cooley

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Squash Casserole

A super delicious winter squash casserole. This is me we're talking about, so you know I substituted stuff.

-1/2 a butternut squash, cubed into about 1/2 inch cubes OR you can buy the bagged stuff that's already in blocks, if you're pressed for time.
(I added about 3/4 cup chopped sweet onions and 3/4 cup diced fresh mushrooms, too.)

-2 tsp olive oil (I used olive oil Pam instead)

-sprinkle of salt (I also used some ground black pepper and Italian seasoning)

-1/2 lb whole wheat elbows (that's about 10-ish ounces, I think. I don't know, I used half a package.)

- 2 Tbs butter (I used Smart Balance olive oil butter)

- 2 Tbs flour (I used whole wheat flour)

- 1 1/2 cups reduced fat milk (I used skim)

- 1 3/4 cups reduced fat white cheddar cheese (I used fat free Kraft cheddar, I'm sorry, it melts awesome and tastes fine to me. But feel free to use the reduced stuff.)

- optional: handful of bread crumbs

Step one: Preheat oven to 375. Spread squash (and any other veggies) on foil lined tray, and eat coat with olive oil or spray with cooking spray. Add salt/seasonings. Bake for 20 minutes or until tender, then set aside.

Step two: Cook pasta for two minutes less than package says. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, melt butter over low heat. Add flour and whisk in- cook for about two minutes.

Step three: slowly whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, then simmer. Cook about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 1/2 cups cheese, stir until melted.

Step four: Spray casserole dish, I used the 9 by 13 glass kind. Add pasta, then add the squash/veggie mix. Mix it all up, then stir in the cheese sauce mixture. add the last 1/4 cup of cheese to the top, then sprinkle on the bread crumbs if you like.

Step five: Bake for 10 minutes.

Also, once you've mastered this cheese sauce, you can use it for pretty much anything. I've used it in macaroni and cheese, topping for potatoes, you name it. Pretty handy little side recipe.

until later....

Monday, February 22, 2010

Owning my sweet tooth....

Hello. My name is Jen, and I'm a recovering sugar addict.

I have a sweet-tooth that is difficult to match. In fact, I can't think of a sweet I didn't like at some point in my life, with the exception of Licorice Snaps. Which really, no one but old people and my mom actually *like*.

I remember once going to the dentist when I was about 15. I almost fell out of the chair when Dr. T told me that I had nine cavities in my mouth, so many that we'd have to drill four on one day and five on another. They blamed it on things like poor enamel, but I knew the truth- I ate too much sugar.

Fast forward 11 years, to the first months into a new job, a job I'm still holding; working as a nanny for a major cereal company family. Everything was great at first. More cereal than I knew what to do with, boxes of granola bars, crackers.... I thought, "Sweet. I pretty much never have to shop again. Care for a toaster pastry, guest at my apartment? How about a case?" I felt like a Snack Pimp.

But in reality, it only took probably three or four months to notice I was putting on weight. I couldn't figure it out, what was I doing differently? I was eating cereal, granola bars... these are healthy!! Right?

Then I started flipping those boxes around and paying attention to what was in them. Sugar, corn syrup, cane juice... sweeteners everywhere. Hiding in my tomato soup. Lurking in my bran crackers. Peering out from the depths of my yogurt. Everywhere.

I decided to try a little experiment. I wondered what would happen if I made the conscious choice to try and avoid refined sugar. Now, I'm not talking about the natural sugars you find in things like milk and fruit. I'm also not talking about avoiding carbs altogether. And I certainly wasn't putting down my glass of Jameson on the rocks. What I was proposing was refusing desert, cutting back on things with lots of sugar. Checking labels to see how many grams are in things.

And I was shocked by the results. Sure, the first few weeks sucked. I wouldn't even lie to you about that, it was agony to be near a plate of brownies. But I started noticing that not only was I losing weight, but I had more energy. No more ups and downs with an afternoon snack bar.

I started cutting the sugar out of other things. No more cereal- switch to oatmeal with fruit, BAM! Peace out, sweetened yogurt! What up, plain Greek yogurt?! After a few months, cantaloupe tasted like candy, and I hated the smell of donuts. It was like this crazy new world of deliciousness opened up for me, and it tasted so fresh!

I'm not so crazy that I don't eat peanut butter, or enjoy a pancake once in a while. I eat artificial sweeteners every so often. I love dark chocolate, but only if it's 88-90%. And people often tell me they don't think they could do it, but what they really mean is that they don't WANT to do it. And that's ok, it's probably not a lifestyle for everybody. It's not always fun to be the jerk at the birthday party who refuses the cake.

But really, I haven't had a cookie in a good year and a half, and I'm totally okay with that. It's interesting- I just don't miss what my body seems to have forgotten.

until later...

Live today. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Just today. Inhabit your moments. Don't rent them out to tomorrow. ~Jerry Spinelli

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Getting started....

It seems like people have been encouraging me start a blog about all the healthy crap I do for a long time. And to those friends, I say, "Blogging? That is so 2002. Tweets are where it's at."

But as it turns out, a "Tweet" is really not enough space for a recipe. Or a story about soy vs meat. Or a little anecdote about the little old man who passed me in Mile 12 of a Half-Marathon. It's really more of a space to say, "Wow- great squash casserole, too bad I don't have enough characters to tell you about it!"

So here I am, fighting the evolution of technology, regressing to the roots from whence MySpace and Facebook and yes, even Twitter, once began. And actually, it's good to be home.

So who am I? Well, I'm a girl. A girl who is quickly leaving her 20's, bound for those 30's everyone keeps raving about. I'm not so sure what's so great about them; I'm not married, I don't have kids, I rent my apartment, I'm more or less exactly where I was 5 years ago.

Except for the part where somewhere in those last five years, I became something of a health nut.

I started reading about what we put in our bodies, and how little exercise we get. I opened my eyes, and I started looking around. With a slice of pizza in one hand and a delicious McDonald's Shamrock Shake in the other, I asked (in between chews and slurps), "Why is this country so FAT?" Other places simply don't have the obesity problem we have. And I wanted to know why.

So I put down the pizza. I put down the Shamrock Shake. Then I picked it back up and finished it, because Shamrock Shakes are deeeeeeeelicious. But once it was gone, I totally threw the container away, and said "No more! I'm done with junk food!"

Two weeks later, I was back to cookies and fast food. "Eating healthy is HARD!" I cried, to no one in particular.

No, it was a few more years before I was able to really put myself on the healthy track. Because the fact of the matter is, most of us have spent our whole lives enjoying donuts and sodas and McNuggets. Our bodies know them, our bodies crave them. There is something so familiar and comforting about these foods, they blanket us... no, seriously. They REALLY blanket us. Because as tasty as they may be, they are full of chemicals and preservatives and syrups that our bodies turn into a nice, warm blanket of fat. It's the truth; a sad truth, because things that taste good should be good for us.

The awesome news is, there are plenty of natural foods out there that DO taste good. I know, I've tasted them. And I'm all too willing to share my journey with you, in the hopes that you can take away what's useful to you, and scrap what isn't. As I push into my 30's, I think about that family I don't have yet, and I wonder, "What kind of example would I like to set for them?" Maybe you have a family, or want one. Thik of your eating/exercising habits- are they a legacy you'd like to pass on?

And hey, maybe you'd rather sell your uterus than have a kid. I can understand that. But do you have a list of things you'd like to do before the big grave party? Are you doing enough to ensure that, assuming there is no plane crash and no piano drops from the 56th story, you can enjoy that hike through the Grand Canyon tomorrow?

Overhauling your entire diet and exercise regimen in one fell swoop is a really easy way to fail. You're not Superman and you're not Wonder Woman. Wait, are they relevant enough? It doesn't matter, the point is that taking on the world all at once is impossible, but making small changes is not. You start with one thing, maybe biking a couple time a week, or even taking the dog for a walk. Just stand up while you're typing instead of sitting, I don't care!!! I'm challenging you to pick one thing to do differently, or eat differently. Add a vegetable to a meal. Have one sweet a day instead of four. Just one thing.

And see if you feel differently. Give it a week, and then say "Oh, that wasn't so bad. I didn't mind taking the stairs instead of the elevator too much." Congratulate yourself on whatever small change you made.

And then... find another one. Just like the calories from the fast food we love so much, the small changes ALSO add up. In a great way. In an empowering way. In a way that helps ensure we make the most of the small amount of time we get on this beautiful planet. All I ask is that you give it a try.

until later...

I believe we form our own lives, that we create our own reality, and that everything works out for the best. I know I drive some people crazy with what seems to be ridiculous optimism, but it has always worked out for me. ~Jim Henson