Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Today is the second day of my one week paid vacation.  It's not enough time to go anywhere, not that I really have the desire to go anywhere anyways -  I am a stay close-to-home body!  Some people really enjoy traveling but I'm not one of them and I am content looking at pictures of far away places.  The older I get the less I want to be bothered with things like traffic, airports, luggage and tourists!  I can always find something to do around here and am rarely bored.  I'm going to use this time off to do some things I can never find time for when I'm working.  I do think it's wonderful for people who enjoy it  to travel the world and experience different places, and I wish them safe travels!

I've been thinking about quiche the last couple days but didn't really feel like making pie crust and didn't want to go out to the grocery store so I decided to make a mock quiche with the ingredients I had on hand.  It's a cross between a quiche and a frittata.  There were a few vegetables left from the weekend that I wanted to use up and they worked out fine for what I wanted.  I had an ear of corn, some zuchini, green onions, red peppers and some cheddar cheese.

You can use any combination of vegetables that you like, your favorite cheese, and you can also add bacon, ham or chicken if you want meat in it.

If using zuchini like I did, grate and lightly sprinkle with salt and allow it to drain in a sieve for about half an hour to remove excess water.

                                I may have let it brown a little too much, but it was still very good.

*Quick and Easy Mock Quiche*

3 cups  chopped vegetables of your choice - I used corn, zuchinni, green onions and red bell pepper
1 cup cheese, shredded - I used organic old cheddar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup Bisquick baking mix
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
a couple dashes of tobasco (hot pepper sauce)

1/2 cup chopped ham, cooked bacon or chicken, if using 

Preheat oven to 400F.  Coat a 9" pie dish with cooking spray or lightly grease with butter.

Spread vegetables in bottom of prepared pie dish.  (If using meat, sprinkle over vegetables.)  Sprinkle grated cheese over vegetables.  In med bowl whisk remaining ingredients and pour over vegetables and cheese.  Bake for 40-45 minutes on center rack. 

Quiche is done when a knife inserted comes out clean.  Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

                                       I served mine with pan-fried white and sweet potatoes!

Monday, July 30, 2012

For the past year or so I've been practicing clean eating.  Clean eating (by my definition) is following a whole and unprocessed (or minimally processed) and mostly organic diet.  My reasons for doing this is to heal my body of any inflammation or disease that may be occurring and to lose the 10 extra pounds I've been carrying around since I quit smoking and went through menopause.  I think I am successful at least 80% of the time!  So the question remains - has it made any difference?

I don't honestly know.  I just had a physical and blood work done and everything is just great.  Other than age related arthritis and work related repetitive strain injuries I am perfectly healthy and disease free and I'm not on any medications.  So why don't I feel like a million bucks?   I've read that it takes awhile to rid your body from years of accumulated toxins and that it can make you feel ill as this happens.  I don't know if there is any truth in that but it could be a possibility.  Maybe I just expect too much.

I haven't lost that 10 lbs. but on the other hand, I haven't gained any weight either and I get to eat lots of food!  It is hard to fit 10 servings of fruits and vegetables in a day as well as protein and grain products.  It really is a lot of food.  Times when I do slip up and have something not so good (like potato chips or bought cookies) I don't feel very satisfied and find myself looking for something else to snack on.  I can see how a calorie dense, over processed diet can lead to over eating and weight gain.

In the last year I've started eating a lot of new foods that I would have never thought to try or that I would enjoy.  I read somewhere that  a taste bud has a lifespan of about ten days and you have anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 of them so after a couple of months it is possible for your tastes to change.  After eating this way now for so long I have found that I no longer enjoy the sweet, salty or fatty foods I used to and that's a good thing!  So just remember this when trying new foods and give them a couple of try's before you write them off.

I think the sad truth is that for most women my age and older it is a battle just to prevent weight gain let alone take some off.  Our bodies were designed to store weight, especially around the middle, for lean times and for childbearing.  We needed those stored calories and additional calories to get us through pregnancies, childbirth and breast-feeding.  (And let's not forget all the running around after our kids and husbands!)   By the time we hit menopause we've already lost the war against gravity, and the loss of hormones has caused us to lose muscle mass so what little muscle we have left sags.  It's not a pretty picture and a good case for full-body spanx! (Spanx is like spandex on steroids) As we age our metabolism slows down.  It's this loss of muscle and slower metabolism that keeps us from losing weight and calorie-restriction is not the answer.  Restricting calories can actually cause us to lose muscle and loss of muscle causes slower metabolism - it's a vicious cycle.

The obvious solution is to increase your muscle and thereby increase your metabolism.  Aerobic exercise is great for many reasons but in addition to this, strength/resistance training is needed.  The aerobics will get the blood and heart moving and will burn calories but resistance training will build muscle and the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be.  People with a high muscle mass burn more calories just sitting than someone with a low muscle mass.  Alternate between these two types of exercise - maybe brisk walking or cycling one day and weight lifting the next.  I kid you not!  I'm not telling you to go out and join a gym or buy a Bowflex although both are excellent ideas if you are seriously going to make use of them.  You can buy a set of hand weights relatively cheap or even fashion a set with what you have on hand  (a water bottle filled with sand or a can of soup come to mind) and do a search online for muscle building exercises..  Before engaging in any exercise program it would be wise to first consult with a physician. 

I realize that some people have physical limitations to what they can do and it is important for them to start gently with exercise.  Some communities offer aquatic exercise programs as well as tai chi and yoga.  What's great about yoga is that you only have to go as far into a pose as your body will allow without causing injury, and it still benefits you!  You will also find that with time your flexibility improves and you can go further into the pose.  Yoga is something you can practice in the privacy of your own home but I would recommend starting out with an instructor who can correct your pose/alignment while you learn.  It's a gentle way to strengthen your muscles.

I think I'm going to have to break down and start using that dang Bowflex I bought last winter that's just sitting in my storage room if I'm ever going to lose that 10 lbs. !  I'll have to let  you know how that goes.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Recently I thought I would use my bread machine - three years or so is a long enough hiatus I think.  I don't eat much bread myself usually.  I couldn't find the manual that came with it but with a little help from the Mr. we were able to decode the functions by pushing the buttons a few times.  My first attempt was a spelt brown bread in which I substituted coconut oil for the canola oil and halved the amount of molasses because I thought it called for too much.  It turned out good, nice taste, a dense bread, but not very interesting and I was glad I did not add all the molasses.  Since it was to be my test bread I did not bother to take pictures.

After that small success I got a little cocky and thought I would really experiment with a few different ideas I had that would make it healthier and more interesting.  I have to say that I am not the bread maker I thought I was going to be because after 3 hours and 40 minutes it was a complete flop.  That's all I have to say about that.

It was time to redeem myself while at the same time satisfying the Mr.'s bread-lovin' heart.  I found a recipe from a well known flour manufacturer, Robin Hood, for banana yeast bread, and other than using coconut oil instead of canola, followed it to a T.  It used more white flour than whole wheat which went against my grain but excluding yeast the ingredients were all organic and that should count for something!

While it's a little misshapen it had a nice light texture and banana flavor though it is not sweet or cake-like as a quick bread would be.  It was good toasted and spread with crunchy peanut butter.  Since it was my desert day and I had no deserts in the house (not even a cookie I kid you not!) I had two slices. : )

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The challenge...

The challenge was to make a tasty salad out of this grain mix I picked up at the grocery store last week.  This mix has 5 grains - spelt, barley, rice, kamut wheat and whole oats.  I just cooked it according to the package instructions.  Approximately 5 cups cooked.

The add-ins:  grated carrot(1), finely chopped green onions(4), red peppers(1), celery(1 stalk), parsley(small hand full), dried cranberries(1/2 cup), toasted chopped walnuts(1/2 cup). 

Toss well with maple balsamic dressing, recipe below.  I think this salad rose to the challenge, but I would be interested to hear other opinions should any be brave enough to try making it or altering it to their taste!  I think it would be great served on a few baby spinach leaves.

*Maple Balsamic Dressing*

3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
3 tablespoons lemon juice (1 lemon, juiced)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Whisk vigorously in a large measuring cup and mix well with salad ingredients.        


Monday, July 2, 2012

Did you eat your water today?

Now that summer is here and with it hot temperatures, it's very important to keep properly hydrated.  So just how much water do we need?  We've been told all our lives that we need to drink 8 glasses a day.  I've never been able to drink that much water in addition to the coffee, tea, milk, juice, etc that I may drink in a 24 hour period.  Now the experts are saying that it doesn't just have to be water, but any fluid, as well as the water in our foods.  Now that makes sense to me because just about all living things are made up of approximately 70% water.  The human body's cells are 65-90%, living plants are up to 85%, and the world itself is between 70 and 75%.  I find this interesting.

Dehydration seems to be a problem  many suffer from be it headaches, fatigue, or constipation.  I think a big part of the problem lies with our food.  It's so over processed that all of the natural water in it has been processed out.  Many people live off a fast food diet and I doubt they get much water out of burgers or fries!  We should try to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables while they are in season to help keep ourselves hydrated and replenish  nutrients.  Since it's hard to know just how much water I'm getting I let thirst be my guide and drink more if it's warmer or I'm exerting myself more.

As part of my lunch that I take to work I usually include some fresh cut up vegetables which I eat throughout the day and sometimes on the ride home.  I've had people call it my diet food and I always say if by diet food you mean part of a healthy diet food...you know, get your 5 - 10 a day then yes it's my diet food.  Raw vegetables afford you the time to think about what you are eating - the bright colors, the intense flavors and the cool crunchy textures.  Not only is it a healthy way to get some of your daily water, but it stimulates the gums and cleans plaque off your teeth and it gives your jaw exercise and your taste buds a workout!

Not the best picture, but yesterday I made a sweet potato lentil chili from an excellent lentil recipe site found here http://www.lentils.ca/recipes/sweet-potato-lentil-chili-with-cinnamon-sour-cream.  There are lots of interesting recipes which I plan to try out because I love lentils!

I did enjoy this chili - while it may not quite satisfy my meat-lovin' spouse, I found that it had a texture similar to chili's with ground beef and I did not miss the meat at all.

In keeping with the chili theme I decided to make some simple salsa.  You can make it hot or not depending on your taste - we like it hot so I used 2 jalapenos.

*Simple Salsa*

1 540ml can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 large sweet onion,  finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 - 3 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

Combine all ingredients and let chill for an hour or two before serving.