Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

HUGE shout out to Hannaford Supermarkets!

I am so impressed.

MJ and I live several miles away from the store where we typically shop and it’s a pain to have to run in on the weekends when we’re out of something.

This weekend, we took a field trip to the local Hannaford, which is still 10 minutes away, but is a heck of a lot more convenient than heading back into town to go to the coop.

Last year Hannaford underwent a fairly serious renovation and reportedly added more organic and healthy products to the their product line. However, since our normal grocery store is on my way home from work and Hannaford is in the opposite direction, we never made it down there. Our mistake.

A few days ago, I was looking online to see if any store in my area carried a particular brand of gluten-free bread. The store finder turned back two stores within 15 miles, one of them Hannaford.

Let’s just say that I was shocked by how much good stuff they had in there! I was also thrilled to see that they had an entire gluten-free section marked out and carried a better selection of gluten-free bread, snacks, cookies, ice cream, and prepared foods than most coops or health food stores in the area!

But the thing that impressed me the most – and if I was a mother with small children I would never shop anywhere else – was at the checkout lines there were only organic snacks, ranging from gluten-free, no processed sugar cookies and brownies to almonds, cashews, and walnuts! Does your kid want a cookie but you don’t want the sugar crash? No problem.

Then to make things even better, as I was flipping through the Healthy Choices magazine (free) that they publish monthly, there was a picture of an interracial couple! Pretty liberal for mainstream advertising!

Then, the icing on the cake, I got home and found that Hannaford has a list of all of the gluten-free products in the store! In addition to a section on the website dedicated to people with gluten-allergies, they also have similar pages for those people who need to reduce cholesterol, manage diabetes, prevent osteoporosis, etc!

I swear, if I gave out an award (and this might encourage me to make one up) they would most certainly get it!

Way to go! If you have a Hannaford near you with a Nature’s Place Section (and you have special dietary needs) I heartily recommend checking them out!

And even if you don’t have one near you, print off those healthy recommendation lists and take them with you next time you go shopping!

Seriously! Bravo!

P.S. Where do you shop for healthy food? What big name stores carry the most variety and best quality health food options in your area?

Diet Survival Tips for Halloween from Beachbody

Not surprisingly, I subscribe to a number of fitness and exercise newsletters. I thought that this one from (from Beachbody) was particularly timely because I heard on the radio last night that 60% (give or take) of all parents actually sneak Halloween candy from their kid’s Jack-O-Lanterns! For shame!

(Now if you’re sneaking it out and binning it – as kids don’t need all that crap either – that’s another thing entirely. But somehow I didn’t get the impression that’s what’s happening)!

Even though I don’t have that particular temptation at hand, some “nice” person at our office has placed a full bucket of Halloween candy on the Administrative Assistant’s desk directly opposite my door (darn them)!

Note that I’m working from home today! And if my colleagues – or at least some of them – are true to form, it will be empty by tomorrow!


My new favorite dessert: candied yams without the candy

As we roll into autumn, my new favorite snack is yams.

Yes, you heard me, baked yams.

I simply wrap them in tin-foil and bake them like regular baked potatoes.

(350 degrees for approximately an hour or until soft)

Then, when I’m ready to serve them, I top them with a dollop of Nutiva’s coconut oil.

Much like vanilla bean butter, coconut oil is wonderfully fragrant and is just a little bit sweet. It’s also incredibly good for you!

Because in addition to just tasting great, coconut oil also boosts your metabolism. And if that weren’t enough, it can also be used as a skin and hair conditioner, as well as deodorant and toothpaste!

I bought the 15 ounce jars on Amazon as a test, but I’m pretty sure that my next order will be the 54 ounce tubs!

Seriously, check this stuff out. It’s amazing! It’s also great for sauteing kale and texturizing smoothies!


Top Ten Selling Grocery Items in the U.S.

Why am I not surprised? And why is anyone surprised that we are the fattest nation in the world?

I echo the question at the end of the post: “But does it really make sense for Coke to partner with the American Academy of Family Pediatrics to develop educational material promoting “healthy” soft drink consumption?”

P.S. And just so you know, the so-called U.S. Food Policy is as much to blame as any one individual walking down any given grocery isle in any given store on any given day.


What’s for Dinner? Finding Gluten-Free Alternatives to Old Favorites

As you may remember, one of my all time favorite winter foods (well, anytime foods since it’s cool year round where I live) is Lentil Barley soup. Problem is, barley is on the no-fly list now that we’re gluten-free!

So, I have been searching for alternatives. My first effort wasn’t so bad right out of the pot. The good thing, though, is that it seasoned right up after a couple of days in the fridge. It’s milder than my previous lentil offering, but it’s equally good in its own right.

So, highly recommended, but give it time to season. And again, I’m talking days, as opposed to hours.

Check it out: Lentil Soup from The Moosewood Cookbook, Revised Edition.

I also made my old standby, tabouli, for tomorrow’s lunch. This, time, however, I substituted red quinoa for the bulgur. Not only is it yummy, it’s also quite beautiful.

I’ve been pouring though my favorite cookbooks looking for new ideas. I’ll post them as I test them out!

What’s your favorite gluten-free recipe? I’d love to hear it!

Recipe: Lentil Soup (Gluten-Free)

“This is a very easy fat-free lentil soup that just about cooks itself. Only one pot is needed, so cleanup is easy.”

3 cups of dried lentils
7 cups water
2 tsp. salt
6 to 8 medium cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups chopped onion
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
2-3 carrots, sliced or diced
1/2 to 1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. oregano
lots of freshly ground pepper
1 large can of tomatoes (this is a KJ cheat step)
red wine vinegar to drizzle on top

(Note: I skipped the vinegar as vinegar is acidic; try lemon juice for a less acidic option if you’re following an alkaline based diet).

1. Place lentils, water, and salt in a kettle. Bring to boil, lower heat to the slowest possible simmer, and cook quietly, partially covered, for 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Add vegetables (except tomatoes) , herbs, and black pepper. Partially cover, and let simmer peacefully another 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Chop the tomatoes in the can and then add tomatoes (and liquid). Let the soup cook for at least 5 minutes more.

4. Serve hot, with a drizzle of vinegar on top of each steaming bowl.

Modified slightly from The Moosewood Cookbook, New Revised Edition.

Recipe: Hummus (Gluten Free)

Someone mentioned to me that the hummus that they were buying at the store was processed in a plant that also processed wheat.

I’ve been recently making my own hummus. It’s cheaper, it’s better, and it’s easier than you might think.

Given that it is also gluten-free, I thought I’d share! 😉

This is probably the simplest of the recipes with which I’ve been experimenting (taken [and modified slightly] from one of my favorite cookbooks: The Peaceful Palate).

“Hummus is a creamy garbanzo pate that makes a delicious sandwich spread, or serve it as a dip with fresh vegetables….”

6 garlic cloves
2 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 – 15 ounce cans of garbanzo beans
6 Tablespoons tahini (sesame seed butter)
4 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place garlic and parsley in food processor (I actually use my blender) and chop into very fine pieces. Drain the beans, reserving the liquid. Add the beans to food processor along with the tahini, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, and salt. Process until smooth. The mixture should be moist and spreadable. If it is too dry – and it will be – add some of the reserved bean liquid to achieve desired consistency .

(I added between 2 and 3 Tablespoons of liquid)

Makes four cups.

Updated Kale Recipe

Last night I decided to experiment with my original recipe! This is what I came up with:

1 Tablespoon of coconut oil
6 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of kale
3 or 4 dashes of Tabasco Sauce, Green.
Coarsely ground black pepper
Sea salt to taste
Dash of fresh lemon juice

I heated up the coconut oil and tossed in the garlic.

While that was cooking, I chopped up a bunch of kale, which is one of the healthiest foods on the planet (second only to coconut oil, apparently)!

I tossed that in the pan with the garlic, added a bunch of freshly ground black pepper, a couple of dashes of Tabasco, and sea salt to taste.

I cooked it until the kale was a brilliant shade of green and tender.

If you like coconut, or even if you don’t, this is delicious! And coconut oil, despite the bad press in the 90s, is quite good for you!

Tip for the day: Cinnamon

Add a little cinnamon to each meal!

Apparently, as little as a 1/4 of a teaspoon of cinnamon added to a meal helps prevent your blood sugar from spiking, thus prohibiting the the release of insulin. Insulin, without getting too technical, is a hormone in the body that is released when your body has too much sugar in the blood and then pulls out the sugar and stores it in the fat cells. In other words, it causes the body to store fat!

Sometimes I don’t have cinnamon at every meal, but it’s very easy to toss a little into a smoothie, cereal, yogurt, coffee, tea, etc.cinnamon

Amazing Gluten-Free Blog

Karina’s Kitchen is an amazing resource for those of you who are (or who need to be) gluten-free! I’ll definitely be working my way through her recipe archives and posting reviews as the season moves forward! I’m particularly excited to try the Butternut Chili! In fact, since I am the primary cook at my house, I’m pretty sure it will happen sometime this week! I’ll be sure to let you know how it turned out!

Cardio, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

Up until about a month ago, I was a self-proclaimed cardio queen. Spinning, NordicTrack, StairMill, Elliptical, you name it. If it moved, and got me to move faster, I was all over it.

Somewhere along the line – somehow – I gave up on cardio and became a yoga junkie. Now, I had been trying to get into yoga for years, but I didn’t realize that to do so would undermine my first and (so I’d always thought) my truest love, that is, cardio.

So early on in this blog, I said that the reason that I started blogging was to “remind myself of what I know to be true.” Today I am going to remind myself (and maybe you as well) of why I love cardio (and maybe why you do too).

And I am going to do this so that when I forget, as I have forgotten in the recent weeks while I have been focused on making micro adjustments and opening up my chest, I can go back and remember. Hopefully, just the act of of writing this down will get these reasons back into my consciousness and, given that I am such an abysmal typist, into my body!

This morning, after much negotiating, I decided to hit the NordicTrack and just go for it. I put on my favorite music and hit it for about an hour. This is what I noticed:

  1. It really feels good to move my body.
  2. I like the way it feels when I’m sweating the toxins of the day (or in this case, the week) out of my body.
  3. I love knowing that I am training my heart to be more efficient.
  4. Now that I know that it’s cardio exercise that allows your body to absorb calcium into the bones, thus preventing osteoporosis, I enjoy imagining actually feeling my bones getting stronger.
  5. I love how my body feels when I stop.
  6. I really enjoy the slight fatigue I feel in my limbs after a good cardio workout, even though my mind feels alert and refreshed.
  7. I’ve noticed that I often get my best ideas in the morning while I’m doing cardio – no doubt due to the increased oxygen flow to the brain.
  8. I get to feel superior when I write -500 (or whatever it happens to be) into my daily calorie/food journal.  (Today it was -754 since I followed up my cardio with 30 minutes of resistance training.)
  9. I get an amazing sense of satisfaction from knowing that by strengthening my heart (see #3), I’m making it easy for every part of my body to get the blood and the oxygen it needs.
  10. I love contrasting where I am now with the unhealthy (but nonetheless intelligent, creative, and determined) teenager that I once was who couldn’t make it up a half flight of stairs without panting.

As I sit here compiling this list, I realize that I could go on for a really long time.  There are many, many reasons why I love cardio.  But the main reason I love cardio is because I love myself.  And engaging in cardiovascular exercise is a great way to take care of my most valuable resources – my body, my health, my mood, and my emotions. 

So with that said, I’ll just leave you with my Top Ten.

Hopefully when I get up tomorrow, I will remember my list and I won’t have to argue with myself, I’ll just do it.  Because as is the case with most things that are good for me, showing up with 75% of the problem.  Once I get going, I’m golden.

What’s your compelling reason that gets you out of bed and into your exercise shoes in the morning (or to the gym after work)?  I’d love to hear it!

p.s. Hopefully I’ll figure out a way to love both cardio and yoga, as one is the perfect complement to the other!

Ugh! It’s Time To Go Back to Bed and Start Over! (And it’s not even 3 p.m.)

I’m having one of those days.

Low grade binge since about 9:00 a.m. Luckily everything I have access to is healthy: rice cakes, homemade hummus, salad, and almonds. Unfortunately there’s just been way too much of it!

There’s a woman whose weight-loss program I’ve been following whose thing is, “Count Chemicals, Not Calories!” So far I haven’t been able to get with the not counting calories part, but today I’m at least hoping she’s right! I’ve had over 1,600 of the little bastards so far today and, as per the tag line, it’s not yet 3:00!

To tell you the truth, I’m just bored. I’m going to go exercise, try to reset my mood, and see if I can break even for the day. I figure an hour of cardio and some resistance training (coupled with a reasonable dinner) should just about get me there. But even if it doesn’t tomorrow is always another day!

I knew I was going to wish that I had started off the day with yoga! Lesson learned 😉

Not Your Mother’s Rice Cake

I remember eating rice cakes back in the day when Weight Watchers still had exchanges!

They looked like cardboard and they tasted pretty much like cardboard too! More to the point, they were just about as appetizing as the cottage cheese and salsa mixture that they tried to pass off as dip! Shudder. Thank goodness those days are over!

So, you may be wondering why I’d try rice cakes again given my oh so fond associations?

Well, to tell you the truth, I was desperate.

For those of you who don’t know, I am exploring the possibility that I may have a wheat sensitivity, which means that I am cutting gluten (that is, WHEAT) out of my diet. Unfortunately, I had recently become addicted to whole grain (that is, wheat!) pita bread and hummus, which prompted me to investigate my options.

(Though I must admit, I felt pretty darned virtuous that I had given up wheat and all I really missed was pita bread! It could have been much, much worse!)

None of the gluten-free bread looked particularly interesting and, sadly, there was no gluten-free pita to be found.

Sucking it up, I decided to check out the rice cake section. I figured with enough hummus it couldn’t be that bad, could it?

Much to my pleasure and surprise, I discovered Lundberg Organic Rice Cakes! Made with brown rice, these are very tasty. I am currently loving the Toasted Sesame and am also quite fond of the Flax and Tamari and the Tamari and Seaweed!

The good news is that there are so many different flavors – and they are so sufficiently different – I’m going to be hard pressed to ever get bored. And I haven’t even scratched the surface on the sweet ones!

So far, I have eaten them plain and topped them with hummus or homemade refried black beans and salsa. Pretty darned good.

I’ll be writing more about my new gluten-free diet as time passes. I started on September 29 and after the massive sugar withdrawals subsided, it really hasn’t been too bad. In fact, it’s been absolutely fine.

You know, it only takes 21 days to make a habit. I’m two-thirds of the way there!

The Power of Framing

I was driving to work this morning and the odometer flipped to my – up until that exact moment – least favorite number in the world: 232.5

For those of you who know me (or have been following this blog from the beginning) 232.5 is my all time highest weight. I remember clearly stepping on the scale at a Weight Watcher’s meeting in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and having my classmate’s mother (who must happened to be the leader) call it out like it was no big deal. I was absolutely horrified.

To this day, I see that number – or at least the 232 part – on digital clocks, odometers, timers, cardio machines, etc, weekly, if not daily! And every time I would get this sick feeling in my stomach that was probably the result of some residual of the self-hatred, embarrassment, and shame that I felt then.

When I saw that number today, however, instead of the sick feeling that I normally experience I thought, “Wow, that’s the number that changed my life!” It was that number – that 232.5 – that launched my 24 year (more or less) journey of healthy eating and exercise.

The 98 pounds in third grade hadn’t managed it, nor had the 188 in eighth grade. But for whatever reason, 232.5 in eleventh grade did. I’m not sure if it was my age, the officialness of it, the way it was delivered (so casually, slotted in between questions about my classes), or the fact that I had a social connection – albeit a weak one – to the bearer of the “bad” news.

So this morning, I actually felt gratitude when I saw that number. Because if I hadn’t seen that number so many years ago – in that manner and at that perfect point in time – my life could have been very different. And chances are, it would have been a heck of a lot less healthy, rewarding, and fun!

The next time I see it – probably sometime tomorrow if the pattern holds – instead of closing my eyes and waiting for it to pass, I will close my eyes and, instead, offer a moment of deep and heartfelt gratitude.

Recipe: Quick and Easy Kale

1 Tablespoon of olive oil
8 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of kale
freshly ground pepper and sea salt to taste

I was starving when I got home, so I minced up about 8 cloves of garlic and sauteed it in olive oil (less than a tablespoon).

While that was cooking, I chopped up a bunch of kale, which is one of the healthiest foods on the planet!

I tossed that in the pan with the garlic, added a bunch of freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste.

I cooked it until the kale was a brilliant shade of green and tender. Although I was sure it would have been fine on its own, I served it with a hand full of raw organic almonds for the additional protein hit (there was already 2 grams of protein per one cup serving, and this was at least three cups).

I thought I would share at least half of it with MJ, but he didn’t even get a bite. Maybe I’ll try to be more considerate when I make it again tomorrow!

Check out the new and improved version here!

Pimping the Hemp

I’m not sure when (or even how) hemp surpassed chocolate as my superfood of choice, but there it is. Seriously, at this point, I need to take out stock in Nutiva.

Okay, so why hemp?

Well, to tell you the truth, it all started with that ridiculous YouTube video that I posted a couple of moths ago. As soon as I did, every time I turned around someone was talking about the health benefits of hemp (as a food source, that is). And these weren’t just some random people, these were people who I thought, “Wow, I wouldn’t mind looking like them!”

So, I took a leap of faith and actually bought the hemp, the maca, and the cacao. In addition to the basic health benefits, I was also getting increasingly concerned about consuming so much soy. Let’s face it, the reports on soy are mixed and it’s harder and harder to find non-genetically-modified soy products. Further, from an environmental perspective, soy is a resource intensive crop. Nutritionally, hemp is a raw food and has much higher percentage of digestible protein than soy and a full complement of essential fats. Click here to see more about the nutritional benefits of hemp. And environmentally, let’s face it, it’s a very easy crop to grow.

To date, I have worked my way through most of Nutiva’s hemp based product line. And, as promised, here’s the scoop:

I started with the Hemp Plus Fiber, Cacao, and Maca self-blend, then fell back to the pre-made shake mixes: Chocolate, Amazon Acai, and Berry Pomegranate.

Of the three, the Chocolate is my favorite. I tend to mix it with unsweetened organic vanilla almond milk, ice, banana, stevia plus, and my new favorite condiment (which tastes amazingly like pine nuts alone and hazelnuts when mixed with chocolate): shelled organic hemp seeds. In second place is the Berry Pomegranate, to which I routinely add banana and frozen blueberries. And last, and certainly least, the Amazon Acai Blast, which, unfortunately, has a strange aftertaste that I just can’t seem to shake. (No pun intended.)

Now you might be looking at the price of all these things and thinking, “Oh my God!” But keep in mind that these are – in some cases – five pound bags and you’re using only 2-4 tablespoons at a time! If you’re thinking about trying them – and I really recommend that you do – then you might want to start smaller. I actually bought the big bags up front because I’m cheaper than I am picky, so I figured that way I’d eat it even if I didn’t like it. Luckily for me, I really, really liked it. I also liked the way I felt – that is, super nutritious and environmentally virtuous – after eating it! Not to mention feeling really full, given all the easily digestible protein and insoluble fiber!

My best practice shake at the moment is thus:

Two trays of mini ice cubes
1 cup of organic unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 banana

[crush the ice]

4 tablespoons of Hemp+Fiber
2 tablespoons of raw cacao
1 tablespoon of maca root
1 serving of Emerald Balance Plus (Chocolate)
Stevia Plus, to taste
1 teaspoon of spirulina
2-4 tablespoons of shelled hemp seeds

It’s delicious! Even Michael is hooked and I’d been trying to get him to drink my Spiru-tein shakes for years!

Heaven is a German Chocolate Cake Jocalat Bar

As I have gotten more health conscious, the one guilty pleasure that I have consistently allowed myself was protein bars – you know, those candy bars masquerading as health food?

I was originally hooked on Balance Bars – that is, until I read the label and saw that they had fish gelatin in them! Really?! That sounds about as appealing as, well, fish jelly.

I then went to the dark chocolate Zone Perfect bars. I especially liked the Mocha one, because, seriously, how can you go wrong with coffee and dark chocolate. Even though it has the right protein to carb to fat ratio and, importantly, there’s no fish gelatin(!), there are still a lot of chemicals, sugar, and gluten.

When I finally committed to cutting out processed sugar, processing chemicals, and gluten (for at least four weeks) that left me with LARABARS.

Now, Michael J and I have been eating LARABARS for a while now. He’s a bigger fan than I am.

I always used the justification that I wanted more protein for my 200 calories (LARABARS typically have around 3 to 6 grams of protein, compared to the 12 to 18 in the other bars).

But, to tell you the truth, it was really all about the chocolate and, well, let’s be clear, the sugar! And, though LARABAR was trying with their Jocalat line, the ones that I’d tried just weren’t quite cutting it.

Until today.

Enter the newest offering in the Jocalat line: German Chocolate Cake.

Made from dates, pecans, almonds, unsweetened chocolate, unsweetened coconut, extra virgin coconut oil, and cocoa powder, this thing is truly a little chunk of heaven.

In all fairness, the Chocolate Hazelnut (which I tried day before yesterday) is also quite good, but the German Chocolate Cake is, literally, divine.

If you haven’t tried LARABARS, they’re definitely worth a taste.

Besides being great for you, and great tasting, they also have a very cool corporate philosophy:

Our Food Philosophy: Simple. Pure. Delicious.™

LÄRABAR firmly believes that the foundation of a sound mind, body and spirit is derived from what you eat. And what you eat is healthiest and most satisfying when it’s in a whole, natural state.

Our company name comes from an ancient belief that food falls into two categories:

which beckon consumption again and again, sapping the body of energy without any real health benefits, Today, they’re called “junk foods.”

on the other hand, resonate with energy in a whole, natural state. When consumed, they cause you to feel vibrant and alive.

You can expect an unmistakable urge to humm after every LÄRABAR bar you eat.

Let the humming begin!

How can you not like a product from a company that uses a concept like Humm Food as part of its marketing?!

We are currently stocked with Ginger Snap (excellent), Apple Pie, Cinnamon Roll, Peanut Butter Cookie, Chocolate Hazelnut, German Chocolate Cake, and Pistachio (my former favorite).

These bars, unlike the competition, are not only organic, but also gluten free, dairy free, soy free, non-gmo, vegan, and kosher.

Check them out; I’m sure you’ll find something to like!

Let me know what your favorite is, because – believe it or not – I haven’t tried them all and am always open for suggestion!

Comprehensive warm up and cool down guide from Jillian Michaels

Everyone knows that they’re supposed to warm up and cool down before any strenuous exercise.

The problem is that most people haven’t been kept up with the move from static stretching (holding a stretch in place) to dynamic stretching (stretching while in movement).

Or, like I used to, they simply ignore stretching all together because it takes too long, they’ve only got 50 minutes to work out, or they want to get on to the business of burning calories.

Warming up and cooling down have innumerable benefits, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll just give you the top three: they get your body ready to (and recovered from) strenuous activity, they help prevent soreness (which promotes continued activity), and they prevent injury! See more here.

In case you’re like I used to be, check out this very nice warm up/cool down guide from Jillian Michaels. She also has a related article on the dos and don’ts of stretching! Check it out here!

Enjoy! And if you aren’t warming up and cooling down, try it. You might be surprised how much more you enjoy your workout!