Thursday, December 12, 2013

Lavash Bread and Paleo Hummus Sandwich - Gluten/Grain/Egg/Dairy Free, Vegan and Paleo Options

This is my new favorite lunch! The lavash bread is gluten/grain/egg/dairy free. It is also delicious and pliable which is not typical with bread that is gluten/grain/egg/dairy free :) I found this recipe on the Brittany Angell site: Lavash Bread (click the link to get the recipe). I used the spinach since it doesn't have it's own strong flavor but I'm sure the basil would be delicious. I also don't use cheese since I can't have dairy. Finally, I cut a little of the garlic out because even though I LOVE garlic, as a personal trainer, I need to be able to breathe on people without making them gag ;) After I make the Lavash Bread, I make a cauliflower hummus that I found on the site Livin Paleo: Paleo Hummus. I love the spices in this hummus! I haven't figured out the nutrition information to compare it to traditional hummus but I'm thinking you cut at least some calories using the cauliflower rather than garbanzo beans.

I spread the hummus on the lavash bread then add mixed greens (choose your favorites), sliced cucumbers, and sometimes a lean protein like grilled chicken breast or ground turkey if I have some. The lavash bread is made with psyllium husk and coconut flour so it will keep you full for a while. On that note, the bread is delicious but don't let yourself eat a lot at one time. As my mom pointed out to me, psyllium husk is basically Metamucil, so if you're not used to a LOT of fiber, you could be overloading your GI system if you eat more than one or two pieces.

The variations are endless since the bread does not have it's own strong flavor and you could change the spices you use in the hummus. Now it's your turn ~ how would you build your sandwich?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato and Apple Deliciousness ~ Gluten/Dairy/Egg-Free and Paleo Friendly

Let me start by saying that I still don't know the difference between a sweet potato and a yam. So I'm just going to tell you to get the orange one. Whichever one that happens to be at your local grocery store. Once you've done that, you can start making one of the most delicious and simple dishes I've had in a long time. I frequently eat it for breakfast but I am taking it to my parents' house for Thanksgiving as a side dish. It is very versatile since it has both sweet and savory elements. This is not a traditional dessert-y sweet potato casserole dish. No marshmallows or butter on this baby! There is no added sugar, just the natural flavors of the ingredients, heightened by the yummy goodness that is bacon :)

3 mediumish sweet potatoes (or yams)

4 mediumish granny smith apples

1ish package of bacon I use Applegate Farms Uncured Sunday Bacon since I try to avoid the nitrates/nitrites. I just found out that Hormel also makes one without preservatives in their Natural Choice line.

Half of a largish sweet yellow onion

Chop the bacon and set aside. Chop the onion and set aside (how finely you chop it is really a matter of personal preference). Peel and then cube the sweet potatoes and apples. Set them aside separately. Cook the bacon in a frying pan over medium-high heat until you've rendered out the fat and the bacon is nice and crispy-brown. Remove the bacon and place on a paper towel covered plate. Pour the bacon fat into a heat-safe bowl.

Pour a couple of tablespoons of that bacon fat you set aside into a new pan. I use a large, high sided pan. If you are using non-stick pans you can always reduce the amount of fat you use to cook the onions. If you are trying to lose weight, this could cut down on the calories and fat in the recipe substantially. I've heard the Scanpan line is really good (and Chef's Catalog has quick shipping). Hint-hint Santa Clause :) 

Cook the onion in the bacon fat until it is translucent and soft. Put the onions in a slow cooker or a dutch oven. Put the sweet potatoes in the pan you just cooked the onion in (you might need to add a little more bacon fat) and brown them. You don't need to cook them through, just get a little of the flavor of the bacon and that nice golden color they'll get from hitting the hot pan. You might need to do this in batches to be sure the sweet potatoes are just getting browned and not steaming in the pan. Put all of the sweet potatoes in the slow cooker. You can throw the apples into the pan with a little of the bacon fat or not. You have enough of the bacon-y taste with all of the other elements that it doesn't really need that step. And again, it can save a bit of calories and fat if you put the apples straight into the slow cooker. Add the bacon with the rest of the ingredients. Finely grate some orange zest (about half an orange) and mix together until all of the ingredients are evenly combined. The orange zest is an important element so don't skip it! Cook in the slow cooker on low for about an hour. This makes a very large batch but it will keep well in the fridge in a sealed container.

Enjoy! Please comment and let me know how you like it :)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Chocolate Mint Truffles ~ Sugar-Free and Dairy-Free!

I made these last night and . . . WOW . . . just, WOW! They are so easy, are allergy-friendly, and lower in calories, and yet they are rich and delicious enough to feel totally indulgent!

1/4 cup coconut oil (I use raw, organic)

1/4 cup cacao powder (I like TerrAmazon Organic which I've gotten at both Sprouts and Whole Foods~ make sure you don't get COCOA powder as that will have dairy and sugar in it!)

1/4 cup powdered Xylitol (put the xylitol in a coffee grinder for about 30 seconds and it will resemble powdered sugar. It's crazy-easy)

Pinch of salt (I used a salt grinder and did about 2 turns)

4 drops of peppermint flavor liquid

Extra cacao powder for dusting.

Put the coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl and get it liquid but not hot. Add in the cacao powder, powdered xylitol, and salt and mix until everything is well incorporated. Add the peppermint flavoring and mix well. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is the consistency of a cookie dough. Put a little cacao powder into a small bowl. When the chocolate mixture is ready, roll some into a ball between your hands (your hands will get chocolatey, but that's okay!). Once you have a nice little ball, roll it in the cacao powder to coat it just enough so that the balls don't stick together. Put the truffles in an airtight container and refrigerate. I like them stiff and cold so I ate two right out of the refrigerator today. If you want them softer, just take them out of the fridge about 10 minutes before you plan to eat them.

It's up to you how big you want to make your truffles. I'm like a toddler in that if you offer me one big cookie, or two smaller cookies, I will take two because it just feels like more to me. So I made the truffles pretty small. How many truffles you end up with, and what the nutrition information would be is totally dependent on how big your truffles are.

If you try it, and you don't feel that they are exactly what you want, you can adjust the ingredients slightly without drastically affecting the outcome. My husband thought they were too sweet and a few of my taste-testers thought the mint was a little strong. You can easily play with either of those elements by slightly reducing the amount of xylitol to make it less sweet, or putting fewer drops of the mint in to make it less minty. If you omit the mint altogether, you will get chocolate with a slight coconut taste ~ also yummy.

These are allergy-friendly and great if you are limiting sugar. They are not, however, calorie-free. The coconut oil is calorie-dense and while the xylitol has a lower glycemic load than refined sugar, it still has about 10 calories per teaspoon. These are a healthier alternative but they still need to be thought of as a treat, especially if you are trying to lose weight.

If you make them, please let us know what you think!

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Good God I Miss Sourdough, Part Two

In the last post, Good God I Miss Sourdough Bread, Part 1, I wrote about why I drastically changed my diet and how it greatly improved my everyday well-being. Overall, the changes have been beneficial but they have been difficult. Figuring out what to eat was a huge problem. Dealing with social situtations has been awkward. And as with weight management, sticking to a restricted diet is challenging and sometimes makes me feel resentful of people who can eat whatever they want. I've identified a few main challenges and a few things I would have done differently. I hope that the following information will help you if you decide to embark on this journey!  

Problem 1: Now what do I eat? I gained weight when I stopped eating gluten. I did not expect that. When I explained to people early on that I was going gluten-free the first response was usually, "Oh, you'll lose so much weight!". Unfortunately for me, I didn't take the time to really research, plan and prepare myself for going gluten-free. I just went to Sprouts and Whole Foods and bought a bunch of gluten-free, high-calorie crap. Before the gluten news, I ate whole grain everything in my general diet. Every once in a while I'd eat a cookie or piece of sourdough bread as a treat. I had done Weight Watchers for years so I was always looking for the high fiber options (lower points, whoo-hoo!). Most gluten-free options are made with things like potato starch and rice flour so they are lower in fiber than whole grain options. When I found out I couldn't eat eggs, dairy, and almonds, we were about to go on a family vacation with two other families. I drove straight from the doctor's office to Whole Foods Market (crying) and bought all of the packaged foods I could find that were safe for me to eat. I left with "oreos", crackers, bagels, bars, breads, coconut milk ice cream . . . Again, a whole bunch of stuff that I wouldn't normally eat. I basically went from eating minimally processed food, to almost entirely boxed or packaged junk. I was so overwhelmed by thinking about everything I couldn't eat, that I didn't take the time to figure out what I could eat. It took me a little while to realize that this way of eating was not going to work for me (reality hit when my pants stopped fitting).

Solution 1: Eat real food and substitute with real food. Once I got over the panicky feelings, I sat down and made lists of what was safe and healthy for me to eat. It meant more cooking, which I wasn't happy about, but I knew that it would be worth it. Vegetables and meat are okay for me to eat (but I have to prepare the meat myself). When I discovered quinoa, it was like the heavens opened up and the angels started singing! I've included more info about what I eat later in the post. Luckily, I reversed the trend and after a few months of being very careful about what I ate, I lost almost 15 pounds (which was on the lower end of the healthy weight range for me).

I recently found out about some more health issues and am having to cut more food out of my diet. This time I was smarter. I took a few days to research and plan. I made a list of the foods I could eat. I found recipes that would work. I set aside time that weekend to shop, prepare, and cook food for at least a few days. Sometimes I feel like taking care of my health is a full-time job that I have to fit into my life in addition to being a wife, mother, and fitness professional. But the positive changes I notice make me optimistic and willing to continue.  

Problem 2: People think I'm crazy and there's never anything for me to eat at parties except for raw carrots. Another issue with cutting foods out of my diet has been social awkwardness. My family and some of my friends see me as a bit of a hypochondriac (even when there are scans and tests that show that yes, there really is something wrong). I think many of them were rolling their eyes when I first told them that I stopped eating gluten and that I felt better. I was very defensive and emotional about it. Beyond dealing with my close family and friends, I struggled to find a graceful way of dealing with social outings. At restaurants, I felt embarrassed to ask the questions I had to ask and order the way I needed to order. I was worried the servers and the people with me would get annoyed. At parties, I was either really self-conscious when people went out of their way to have something that I could eat, or annoyed because there was nothing safe for me and I was starving. People always end up asking why I'm not eating and when I explain, I feel like such a downer. I have actually avoided going to social gatherings just because I didn't want to deal with the issue.

Solution 2: Get over it. I'm less self-conscious when I order at restaurants but I also only go to a few now that I feel relatively confident eating at. I try to limit social outings that revolve around food and I feel okay bringing my own stuff to parties. I also try as often as possible to eat before an event so that if there is nothing safe for me, I don't faint or get drunk because I have no food in my stomach (made that mistake again recently and it was not good). Sometimes I'm surprised by people's reactions. I was at a 3-day training this weekend and had to pack all of my food in a big cooler. I wheeled it in every morning and made my special little snacks and lunches. The funny thing was, the rest of the group was interested and actually a little jealous of my food as they ate their Panera sandwiches!

I have also come to the conclusion that I need to surround myself with people who won't be annoyed when I take 5 minutes to order a meal, or I bring something with me to a party, or have to hear me explain, for the 100th time to someone new why I can't eat what's on the table. The people who really love me have gotten over it now and are very supportive (and many have gone to get tested themselves!)

Problem 3: I'm ready to punch everyone around me who can eat pizza. I shake my fist at the sky and get a little "why me" every once in a while. This whole thing really is a pain in the ass. It is torture to watch other people eat pizza or to make my kids sourdough toast with butter. And then every 6 months or so, I get really mad, say "screw it", and eat stuff that my body can't handle. Then I pay the price and remember why I'm doing this in the first place.

Solution 3: Be grateful. In the grand scheme of things, I could have much more serious health problems or may never have figured out why I was feeling bad to begin with. My health is not great, but right now, I can move without pain. Nothing I'm dealing with is life threatening. I'm not facing an illness that could bankrupt my family. And so far, most of my auto-immune issues are being held at bay. I believe this is at least partly because I am so careful regarding my diet. I have an amazing husband, awesome children, a wonderful family, and great friends. I have a job I love, working with people who inspire me every day. Overall, I'm one lucky chick. Sometimes I just have to remind myself of that. 

Resources: There are so many resources available that make this process easier! 

1. Blogs: There are a ton of bloggers out there creating recipes that are healthy and allergy-friendly. I have been especially happy with the recipes I've tried from Real Sustenance. I have only made a few of her recipes but they have all turned out well. I have a few recipes here on this blog that are also very allergy-friendly. The most popular is my Turkey Quinoa Meatloaf. I've also been checking out Paleo food blogs because they tend to omit most of what I can't eat.

2. Labels: If I'm going to go with packaged foods, I read labels very carefully. Since I can't have dairy, I have to look for a whole host of ingredients that have different names but which are derived from dairy. When I had the testing done, the paperwork that came with my results listed everything I needed to avoid for each category. Packaged foods list major allergens, so I know that if I don't see dairy, and if something is marked Pareve or Vegan (and doesn't contain all of the other stuff I have to avoid), then it should be safe for me. Learn your trigger foods and research all of the ways they are used in packaged foods. Dairy and Soy are probably the two that are the most prevalent and the most "hidden".

3. Fresh food: As difficult as it can be to have to cook as much as I do, when I'm primarily eating vegetables and meat I prepare myself, I feel much better. And it's much easier to maintain a healthy weight. My fridge is usually stocked with salad greens (Big Green Salad #1), greens for smoothies (My Favorite Green Smoothie), cooked chicken, and the odd Applegate Farms meat product. I also make Tuna Salad and some grain-based salads (Mom's Summer Quinoa Salad, Mango Quinoa Salad) frequently. My new favorite snack or meal base is my Cauliflower "Couscous". Last week I added some grilled chicken and curry powder and ate it for lunch ~ Deeee-licious! Almost all of the recipes I make can be made in a large batch and then either refrigerated or frozen for later use. I find it easiest for me if I spend a few hours on a Sunday making most of my food for the week. And the more I cook, the faster I get!

4. Substitutes: I've replaced most of my dairy with coconut milk products. I eat grains like quinoa and rice instead of wheat. I really like using Daiya shreds in recipes where I need cheese. I use Tamari instead of Soy Sauce (now that I'm also avoiding soy I'm going to try coconut aminos). I also like The Pure Pantry mixes because they use more high fiber grains like buckwheat and quinoa in their baking mixes. I'm also starting to bake more from scratch and less from mixes (the little baking that I do).

I don't believe that everyone needs to, or should, create dietary restrictions for themselves. However, If you are not feeling well ~ headaches, fatigue, intestinal distress, foggy-headed, etc. ~ it may be time to talk to your doctor or look into testing for these types of antibody reactions. It's not easy but it may make as big a difference for you as it has for me!

If you already live with dietary restrictions, please share any resources you find useful. The more information we all share, the easier this journey is!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Healthy Halloween

I love Halloween. I love costumes and parties and trick-or-treating. I don't love the junk food (for me or for my kids). Here are a few things we do at our house to try to keep the fun of Halloween without making it a gluttonous excuse to eat a bunch of crap (and to keep Mommy from feeling like a heroin addict sweating and shaking as I obsess over the bags of candy in the pantry).

1. Pass out non-candy treats -- you might get egged by some pissed-off 12 year olds who wanted full-size Snickers bars, but the cause is worth it. Check out the dollar section in Target or Michael's, the favor section at a party supply store, or a discount store like Big Lots or Dollar Tree. Here are a few ideas:
    • Halloween erasers/pencils
    • Stickers 
    • Glow bracelets (our choice to hand out this year; my kids are actually excited about it!)
    • Small packs of sugar-free gum
    • Goodie bag trinkets like kazoos, whistles, toy rings
    • Temporary tattoos

2. The Halloween Witch -- I read about this in a parenting magazine when Makayla was a baby and we've done it every year since she started trick-or-treating. At the end of the evening, the kids each get to eat 2 pieces of candy on-the-spot. They then pick out 5 more pieces to keep. The rest go in a bag on the porch for the Halloween Witch. *She* takes the candy away and leaves a small present in it's place. For example, last year the kids agreed on a dvd they wanted. The first couple of years I sent the Halloween Witch candy with my husband to his office but then I felt bad for his co-workers who then had to fight the temptation. I've heard about donating it to soldiers or firefighters but I kinda' want them to be fit and ready to protect or save me if it is necessary, so I'd rather not load them up with high-calorie, sugary treats. The bottom-line for me is that if I shouldn't eat it, and I don't want my kids eating it, I shouldn't be passing it off to other people. So the last couple of years (this is difficult for me) I've thrown it in the trash. And I throw it in the big trash can and dump something gross on top so I don't get tempted to pull a Costanza and take something "off the top".

3. Healthy Halloween Party Food -- I've never actually made any of these, but they look awfully cute and they are much healthier alternatives to most of the fare you'd see at a party for kids! Let me know if you try any and love them. And if you try one and get a complete pinterest fail you definitely need to share!
    • Green Meanies -- cute monster mouths made with apples, peanut butter and almond slivers
    • Banana Ghost Pop -- Shredded coconut and bananas make a fun treat. Or you can dip a frozen banana half in white chocolate and add the mini chocoate chips for the eyes and mouth
    • Witch's Brooms and Clementine Pumpkins -- pretzels and string cheese; clementines and celery -- easy and so cute on a platter
    • Spider Deviled Eggs -- gotta' have some protein
    • Ghastly Pear Ghosts -- I never would have thought of this but when you see it, the shape of the pears are just perfect! And pears are in season (unlike strawberries which I saw in a lot of posts).
    • A bowl of no-sugar added red fruit juice with an ice "hand" in it. You take a latex glove, fill it with water, tie a knot in the opening and then freeze it. When it's totally solid you peel the glove off and put it in the bowl. My Mom did this at a party when I was a kid and I still remember it!
I hope these ideas help! How do you keep Halloween healthy in your house?

Cauliflower "Couscous"

I was very skeptical when I read about cauliflower "rice". I don't despise cauliflower as my mom does but it's not my favorite vegetable. I especially doubted claims that it could fool my brain into thinking I was getting something like rice. But my diet is fairly limited due to some health issues and I am desperate for variety, so I thought it was worth a shot. I read a bunch of recipes online and decided to experiment. I was so happy with my first try that I took some to a family gathering. Having the women in my family taste something I made is a huge step for me as they all cook really well and me, well, the gene seems to have skipped me. The last time I asked my professionally trained chef-grandmother to try something, it was a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free muffin. She gagged, spit it out and asked how I could possibly eat something so vile. She is not afraid to tell me the truth. So I knew I hit the jackpot when she said, "This is pretty good!". Then my kids tried it and they both loved it! Victory dance :) Best of all, it is pretty quick and easy to make AND is still good reheated! 

I decided to go very basic in the seasoning so I could get a sense of how else it could be used. Just some salt and pepper this time but I think the options are almost endless. The coconut oil gives this a bit of a sweet, nutty flavor which counters the cauliflower taste well. The texture is firm and would work well on it's own or under a stir fry.  

One head of cauliflower
3 Tbs Coconut oil
1/2 a large Sweet Yellow Onion

Cut up the raw cauliflower and place in a food processor. "Pulse" until the cauliflower is shredded and set aside in a bowl . Mine looked more like couscous than rice. I had to do it in batches to do the whole head.

Finely chop the onion in the food processor. Mine was almost a pulp because I didn't want chunks of onion.

Put 2 Tbs. of coconunt oil in a large skillet set to medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until it is translucent and slightly browned.

Add the cauliflower and the last Tbs. of coconut oil. Stir continuously for about 10 minutes and then cover with a lid for a few more minutes. I like mine with a bit of "bite" but if you like yours softer you may need to cook it longer. I finished it off with some fresh ground peppercorn medley and Himalayan salt.

If you are trying to lose weight and are reducing your fat intake, you could make this in a non-stick pan and reduce the amount of oil (probably by at least half).

I have a few variations I will be sharing soon so if you like this recipe be sure to check back for more!

Enjoy! Please let me know what you think after you try it!

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Good God I Miss Sourdough Bread: My Gluten-Free Journey

I'm sure all of you have heard about going "gluten-free". You may have heard it's just a fad. You may have heard that all you have to do is eliminate gluten and you'll get a flat belly. You may have heard that it can actually hurt you to eliminate gluten. You may have heard that you can solve your child's behavior problems by eliminating gluten. I'm not here to give a universal opinion on whether or not YOU should eliminate gluten from your diet or your child's. I'm simply going to share my personal experience in this post. In the second installment, I will share the pros and cons as well as what I would do differently if I was starting all over again.

Five years ago I went to a new doctor. When I signed in at the front desk, they handed me a very detailed 4-page questionnaire to fill out. I was ready to check "no" to virtually every question and write down the few surgeries I had. But this form was different. It didn't just ask if I had diabetes or had ever had a stroke. It asked how often I experienced headaches (daily), how much they affected my life (greatly). It asked how often I experienced bloating or intestinal distress (when did I NOT?), and how much it affected my life (significantly). It asked about my allergies and asthma. It asked about my level of energy and moods. It asked how often I felt irritable (ooooohhhh, should I answer this one or call my husband for HIS answer?). It was redefining "healthy" for me as I answered the questions. I started to realize that lack of major illness did not necessarily mean that I was "healthy".

When I met with the doctor, she said that many of the symptoms I was experiencing could be caused by a gluten sensitivity. She didn't reccomend any tests, but she did suggest that I eliminate gluten from my diet for a couple of months to see if it changed how I felt. It was really difficult. I LOVE me some gluten. But within a couple of weeks I was feeling significantly better. My headaches disappeared completely. A couple of months later I got a little headache and I couldn't even remember where I put the Excedrin. I wasn't running to the bathroom several times a day. I wasn't avoiding social situations because of "intestinal distress" that could clear a room. I had more energy. I felt less irritable. I felt like I could think more clearly (it was just like a Claritin commercial). I definitely felt the difference. The first couple of times I ate gluten again (either by accident or because I just said, "screw it, I really want that pizza") I felt all of those symptoms come back. It got to the point where it was pretty easy to say "no" because I felt so crappy when I let myself give in. Five years later I've identified other, more subtle side-effects of eating gluten. The most surprising to me was the dry skin/eczema I would get around my nostrils and on the sides of my chin. It started in my early 20s and I didn't even realize it had gone away at first. It wasn't until 3 years into my gluten-free journey that I realized that every time I ate gluten, the dry skin would come back about 48 hours later. I never would have thought there would be those sorts of connections between what I ate and very specific changes in so many parts of my body.

A couple of years after going gluten-free I started having severe, debilitating headaches again. I was also having some increased intestinal distress. I went through neurological testing, CAT scans, an MRI, and some kind of crazy probe that went up into my sinuses. Everything was coming up clear. Then, at the ENT's office, I noticed a poster advertising a test for food sensitivities. I told him about my gluten issue and asked if some other sensitivies could be causing my problems. We did the test and it turns out I am also sensitive to egg yolks, egg whites, all dairy, and almonds. Your body can develop these sensitivities over time. With no gluten, I was eating a lot of these other foods which may have contributed to developing a sensitivity to them. Within a couple of weeks of cutting out these other foods I felt much better again.

The testing also helped me to understand the actual process of what was happening in my body. When most of us think of food allergies, we think of hives or anaphylactic reactions. It turns out there is another type of allergy that results from different antibodies. These non-IgE allergies are more likely to have a delayed onset and have a wider variability in symptoms. This is why it is often so difficult to make the connection between the food and the symptoms. When you eat shrimp and break out in hives 30 minutes later, it's not hard to figure out what's happening. When you eat bread and 18 hours later you feel foggy headed and have diarrhea, it's a lot harder to connect the dots.

Going gluten-free is not easy. Luckily there are many quality products widely available in stores and there are great resources on the web. But a lot of gluten-free stuff is high-calorie crap. In the next post, Good God I Miss Sourdough Part Two, I'll share some of the most difficult aspects of going gluten-free as well as a few of my favorite resources. I hope that sharing my experiences can help you if you decide that going gluten-free is something you'd like to try.

Please share your experiences if you've cut gluten or other foods out of your diet and feel that it has made a positive difference in your health. Your story might help someone make a positive change in his or her own life!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Playing Tug-O-War With the Ocean

A few weeks ago we were at the beach trying to eke as much fun out of the end of summer as we could. Towards the end of the day, our daughter saw a huge kelp bundle floating in on the waves. I guess she decided that it needed to be part of the sand sculpture they were building because she spent the next 45 minutes or so trying to bring it all of the way out of the water. My husband and I watched her, and laughed, and marveled at her persistence. At one point I said, "Only she would play tug-o-war with the ocean and think she's gonna' win." I noticed that my smallish 8 year-old was frequently trying to use her bodyweight to muscle the kelp up the beach instead of using the motion of the ocean to help her. The other day, the image of her fighting the ocean popped into my head as I was waging my own internal tug-o-war.

I struggle with balance. A lot. And I'm really awful at time-management. As sad as I was to see summer end, I was excited that THIS school year, both kids would be in school ALL day!!!! More time to work, more time to get housework done, more time for ME :) The first day they were back in school I unfroze my gym membership so that I could start taking classes again. I promised myself that I would schedule in time for my own personal workouts. We're a week and a half in and even though I really do feel like I have more time, I'm still constantly being tugged in multiple directions. The feeling of being pulled apart is not new and isn't even entirely uncomfortable for me. The hard part is the guilt I feel once I make a decision . . . a huge wave of guilt crashes in and sucks my positive energy away with it. I choose to stay at the PTA meeting and miss Yoga . . .  a wave crashes over me that I'm not sticking to my exercise plan. I take a Zumba class instead of doing the laundry and cleaning the house . . . a wave crashes over me that I'm not taking care of my family. I get a chance to take on a new personal training client or teach a new class in the afternoon . . . a wave crashes over me that it means less time with the kids. I choose to go to Yoga instead of helping to set up the Book Fair . . . a wave crashes over me that I'm not pulling my weight at the school. It seems that no matter how much more *time* I seem to have, and no matter what I choose, I feel like I'm losing.  

What I realized the other day is that the only way to win is to stop fighting. I kept thinking as I watched my daughter that if she would wait for the wave to bring the kelp almost all the way up and then pushed it as a mass to the farthest point of the wave, the kelp would not get pulled all the way back in as the wave receded. If she just waited patiently, the next big wave would help her push the kelp a little farther into shore. Patience and Strategy. I've realized that there are a lot of opportunities for me to exercise. There are a lot of ways that I spend time with my kids and help them (including making money to help support our family and provide experiences for them). There are a gazillion ways I will be able to help out at school this year. I just need to be patient and work on my time-management. Patience and Strategy. And when the waves crash in, and I start to feel guilty about whichever decision I make, I need to turn that feeling around. Instead of letting my positive feelings get sucked away, I need to let the receding wave take away the guilt. We all have multiple demands on us at any given moment: jobs, romantic partners, kids, family members, friends, pets, volunteer organizations, personal endeavors and hobbies. It is impossible to say yes to everything and to make everyone happy; we all know that. But it's not enough to just learn how to say "no" ~ we have to actually accept that it's okay to say "no" and then, to let go of the guilt. We can't be everything, to everybody, all of the time. But we can be enough, for the people who really need us, when it matters. And right now, I'm going to practice floating on that knowledge and learn to enjoy the rhythm of the ocean.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Quinoa Shrimp Salad -- Gluten Free Summer Salad Series

So I realize that summer is coming to an end, but I also know that the warm weather is not going anywhere for a while (at least here in SoCal). I know I will rely on these make-ahead salads even more now that afternoons will be busy with homework, soccer practices and a few more classes for me to teach. Hopefully they will make your life more convenient (and healthy) too!

My Mom and I talked through this salad and then she did the heavy lifting and actually came up with the proportions. She managed to create one of my absolute favorites so far!

2 cups of cooked shrimp
1 cup of red quinoa
3 cups of brown rice
1 cup of toasted pepitas
1 cup of sliced celery
1 cup of chopped avocado
1 cup of chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup of chopped red or sweet onion
1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes
fresh cilantro to taste

1/4 cup of white wine vinegar
1/4 cup of lime juice
1 tsp of honey
1 finely minced shallot
1 tsp of ground coriander seeds
1/4 tsp of chipotle flakes
1 cup of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Throw everything into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Enjoy!

I haven't figured out the nutrition information or the Points Plus value on this one yet. I will update the post when I do :)

Let me know what you think!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Life-Lessons From an Ironman Triathlete

Palm Desert Triathlon -- Katie placed 1st in her age group (40-44)
I've always felt that one of the best ways to become a better person is to study people whom I admire. My friend Katie is tops on my list in a few categories. Not only is she a fantastic mother, an honest and reliable friend, and a very smart cookie, she is now also an Ironman Triathlete. While competing in a triathlon has never been on my bucket-list, I knew that I could apply what Katie has learned from her success in all of these areas to my own life. 

Katie has always been athletic and competitive and even played soccer for Stanford University with Julie Foudy.  She continued to stay fit through three pregnancies by running regularly. After undergoing knee surgery, however, her doctor suggested she stop running. Katie realized that she had taken her athletic body for granted and decided to start training for triathlons both to make the best of what her body could do now, and to extend her ability to exercise farther into her future.
Competing in triathlons has now become a major part of Katie’s life. She completes one or two big races a year and fits some smaller, single-activity races in between. She trains most days of the week with a combination of long swims, long bike rides, runs, or strength and conditioning work. She has traveled the world to compete, including a sprint triathlon in Australia and a full Ironman Triathlon in Canada. For anyone who is not super-familiar with triathlons (like me), an Ironman is a 2.1 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run (I know, HOLY CRAP!!!!, right?)

I am inspired by Katie’s accomplishments, however, as someone who hates to run and can’t imagine doing a triathlon, I wasn’t so interested in learning about triathlons or the training itself. What I really wanted to know was how she fit all of that training into the rest of her busy life as a wife and mother. And I wanted to know how she has maintained her focus and commitment to this lifestyle for years. 

Here are the life-lessons Katie shared with me:
1.       Figure out what makes you “sing inside” and find a way to do it. Living your passion makes you happier which makes you much better as a person and a parent. It also sets a wonderful example for your children. Katie’s parents set this example for her and she, in turn, is teaching her children this valuable lesson. Whether her kids compete in triathlons or not, they will value physical activity and hopefully make time for whatever makes them sing inside. Side note: her 10 year old son Patrick has already competed in 2 kids' triathlons and will be competing in the Pacific Coast Triathlon this September!

2.       Identify your purpose. Every workout should have its own specific purpose which should fit into a framework of the overall training goals. Having a goal gives you focus. Triathlons provide clear results that show how the training is paying off which keeps her motivated. Even her off-season rest is purposeful; it would be impossible to keep up that kind of training and focus all year-round.  Wanting to be successful in the triathlons prompts her to eat better, rest, sleep, and recover because those things are as important as the training itself.

3.       Get support. Katie trains with a team and a paid coach. Her teammates encourage her and her coach gives her invaluable knowledge and support.  She makes sure that she communicates with her family about how her training affects all of them. Her husband, Steve, is very supportive, taking care of the kids' needs while she trains. Sometimes she is away for hours on long bike rides or at competitions. She frequently “checks in” with Steve to make sure that she’s not leaning on him too much. She also  touches base with her children and asks that they let her know if they feel that she is away training too much.

My favorite quote from the interview is: “There will always be things that need to get done, and they WILL get done.” When she gets on the bike she just focuses on the pedaling and within a few pedal strokes the endorphins start to kick in and the to-do list starts to fade away. It becomes meditative. She said it’s her Prozac. She recognizes that other things can be put off or delegated to others allows her to focus on her workout. This is possible because she has built and maintains such a strong support system. 

4.       You can do more than you think you can. You may have to break the task down into smaller challenges, but you’ll still be moving in the right direction!  Katie said that competing in triathlons has changed her definition of “hard”. Now she feels like if anything seems too difficult, it just means that she needs more practice. While she always feels nervous before a race, she knows that in order to accomplish anything, she needs to push into uncomfortable zones. Competing in triathlons gives her the opportunity to keep raising the bar for herself and challenging her body in new ways. Since I interviewed Katie, I run this as a loop in my head when I workout. And she's correct; it is very empowering.

I won't be competing in any triathlons, but I've already applied these lessons in other areas of my life and I know that I am better for it. Thanks Katie! 

How will you apply these lessons in your own life?



Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mango Quinoa Salad

I love mango. I love quinoa. I love spicy food. This salad has it all! The amount of dressing makes it very wet so it is perfect to have over a big bed of greens. Filling, nutritious, and delicious!

2 cups red quinoa
1 cup chopped mango
1/4 cup fresh cilantro finely chopped
1/4 cup red onion finely chopped (soaked in ice water for ~ 15 min, it takes away some of the "bite")
1 cup of black beans (no salt added, rinsed and drained)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

calories: 208
carbohydrates: 43
fat: 3
protein: 7
sodium: 8
sugar: 19

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 an orange
1/2 a lime
1 chipotle pepper from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce (I put the whole pepper right out of the can. If you don't like a lot of spice, you can rinse the sauce off and/or split the pepper and take the seeds out)

I put all of the ingredients in my Vitamix and blended until it was completely smooth and liquid. You should be able to use any blender to achieve the same results. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix thoroughly.

calories: 139
carbs: 5
fat: 14
protein: 0
sodium: 71
sugar: 19

Weight Watchers Points Plus Value = 7 PP for the salad and the dressing

I hope you enjoy it! Let me know what you think!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Green Salad Staples

A member of my Facebook accountability/support group recently asked what salad staples I keep on hand so I can throw something together quickly. I gave her a list off of the top of my head but I've spent a little more time thinking about it and came up with this:

Black beans no salt added
Mandarin oranges in their own juice (no sugar added)
Roasted peppers
Artichoke hearts in water
Sundried tomatoes in a bag, not packed in oil
Water chestnuts
Dried cranberries ***
Dried cherries ***
Balsamic Vinegar
Rice Wine Vinegar
Olive Oil ***
Olives *** my family especially loves Kalamata

Healthy dressings-- I tend to go as natural as possible even if it means higher fat and calories. I don't want a bunch of chemicals on my healthy food. Just use it sparingly. You'll find that you don't need as much if you add a lot of other fun stuff to your salad.


Here is some fordhook chard growing in my garden

Greens I try for a variety of pre-  washed mixes, baby spinach, and any that are growing in my garden
Green onions this one is usually dependent on my plans the rest of the day!

Avocados ***

Boneless, skinless chicken breast
Canned tuna
Lean ground turkey

Nuts/Seeds***: I like to toast them a bit first (thanks for the tip, Mom!)
Sunflower seeds

Cheese *** is also great in salads. I can't have dairy anymore so cheese is no longer in my staples but a little goat cheese added to a salad can be heaven!

***Be careful with these additions as they are calorie-dense so they can rack up the calories or Points Plus Values very quickly. They can make a "good" salad into a sabotage salad in seconds.

I shop a lot at Trader Joe's and Sprouts but most of these items can be found at any grocery store.

What do you love to add to your green salads?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Stretch Video

This video is a stretch segment I've used in both my Boogie Body and Strength and Stretch classes. You can use a yoga strap or necktie for the stretches that require assistance. Please be sure you warm up your muscles before doing a static stretch routine like the one I've posted.

I hope you enjoy it! Click here to view

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Big Green Salad #1

Many of us struggle with an issue we've "solved" in the past only to find ourselves in the same predicament again. I've been struggling with a little extra padding that is making me uncomfortable in my clothes. I eat very healthy foods . . . I just eat too much. I know I need to eat less, but over the last few months, every time I've tried to reduce the amount of food I'm eating, I end up ravenous and cranky! I've been very frustrated trying to figure out a plan of attack and then I finally realized that I already knew what to do. In the past, every time I've been successful at losing weight or maintaining it, I've eaten a lot of green salads -- low-calorie, high-volume, nutrient-dense green salads! So my challenge for this week has been to eat a green salad every day. So far it has gone well, even though I have been very busy with my work and the fun summer activities I've been doing with the kids. Eating the salads has helped me reduce the number of Points Plus I'm eating each day to a range that should end up with some weight loss and I have not felt shaky, cranky or homicidal at all!

I made this salad for my lunch the last two days. Both days I knew I was going to be away from home at lunch and my only options were to bring food with me or to eat fast food. The salad was satisfying and kept Points Plus low enough that I could still eat later in the day. Both times people made comments about how delicious it looked :)

I pre-cooked skinless, boneless chicken breasts in the Crock Pot the other night so I'd have them ready (just seasoned with some salt and pepper). I also buy the pre-washed greens for my salads. The same night, I washed, tore and put some fordhook chard from my garden in a bag and cut up the artichoke hearts and tomatoes, storing them in containers in the fridge. When I do this, I can throw a salad together in a matter of minutes.  I saw a great idea related to this on pinterest: you use a mason jar and fill it up with the dressing on the bottom, the denser veggies next, then the greens on top. It's a great way to make the salad the night before and transport it safely wherever you're going. Because the dressing is on the bottom, the greens won't get soggy. And it looks so pretty in the jar!

I measured the foods that contribute to the Points Plus values in grams just because I find it easier to enter.

Baby spinach (about 2 cups)
Spring mix lettuce (about 1 cup)
Fordhook chard (about 1 cup)
87 grams chicken breast
68 grams of raw avocado (sliced or cubed)
a couple of tomatoes
half a can of artichoke hearts (canned in water)
about 1/2 a cup of roasted red peppers from a jar
14 grams of sundried tomatoes from a bag (not in oil)

I happened to have some Fig Balsamic Vinegar and Strawberry Champagne Culinary Sauce in my pantry which were both low in calories and didn't have any weird preservatives in them. I mixed about 1 Tbs of each together and added a little salt and pepper. It wasn't too exciting but it was less than one Point Plus. It "wet" the salad and didn't compete with the flavors of the other ingredients so I was happy. I am going to spend some time researching dressing recipes and experimenting so hopefully I'll have some good ones soon!

The Weight Watchers Points Plus value of this salad came out to 8 PP which is great for such a huge amount of food! The protein from the chicken and the fat from the avocado kept me satisfied for a few hours.

So tell me, what do you put in your salads?