Saturday, July 16, 2011

"You Choose" - Sarah's ingredient: Zucchini

"You Choose" - Sarah's ingredient: Zucchini

Are you familiar with my summer blog series, "You Choose"?  I posted about this on My Facebook Page a few weeks ago .  In short, I asked some of my friends & page followers to suggest an ingredient that they'd like to see in a (fairly) healthy recipe.  My assignment is to find a recipe, tweak it to make it more my own, and blog about it.  I'll also give a shout out to the person who recommended that particular ingredient in the post on my Facebook page.  What a fun summer challenge for me - and BONUS - I get to try all of these new recipes!

Would you like to participate too?  Please visit my Facebook page, click on "Notes" and add your ingredient - a veggie, a fruit, an herb, a root...(anything that's not meat).  I'd love to see some more fresh, seasonal things that I can find at a farmer's market.  If you can't find the note, no worries!  Just comment on my page.  I'll see it.  I encourage and am asking for more participation, so please join in!  Here's the link: Fit & Healthy Mommy

When my friend Sarah suggested zucchini, I thought "Sweet!!  I love zucchini!"  Originally I was planning on a stuffed zucchini, but the thought of using the zucchini in place of noodles in a casserole or lasagna became very appealing to me.  I was torn between making a traditional Italian version of lasagna, replacing the pasta with the zucchini, or making a Mexican lasagna, replacing the tortilla with zucchini.  I asked Josh what he preferred and he said the Mexican version.

So, tonight I made a Mexican Lasagna with Zucchini.  It was AWESOME!!  Let's see if I can now recall what I did.  I made it up as I went along.

~ 2 large or 3 medium zucchini
~ bag of frozen Morningstar soy crumbles, partially thawed

~ can of unsalted organic black beans, drained & rinsed well
~1/2 small onion, diced
~ pouch of Frontera red chile simmer sauce (I found this at My Organic Market)
~ 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
~ 5 wedges Laughing Cow Light original swiss cheese
~ approx. 2-3 T plain almond or skim milk
~ cumin
~ chili powder

I used a mandolin and thinly sliced the zucchini lengthwise.  Let me back up for a second.  Have you used a mandolin before?  If not, let me give you a tip.  You know the little handle/safety guard that you're supposed to use to hold the vegetable or fruit in place while slicing?  Yeah, don't be a hero and tell yourself you don't need it for a large veggie like zucchini.  I was not paying close attention as I was slicing and I sliced right through my finger nail and cut my finger pretty badly.  It's no joke.  Use the handle/guard - re-guard-less (haha).

Preheat over to 400 degrees.  Once the zucchini is sliced, steam it for a few minutes to soften it.  Remove it from the heat and put it to the side.  (I added more water to the pot I used to steam the zucchini and I boiled corn on the cob in there to go with dinner.)

In a second wide pot, spray a little olive oil and add the Morningstar crumbles to the pot, along with the diced onion.  Let that cook about 8 minutes, stirring often. Add the black beans and the red chile sauce and heat it through, then remove from heat.

While that is cooking, put the 5 wedges of Laughing Cow in a bowl and add the milk.  Mash the cheese with a fork and then microwave for about 45 seconds.  Add cumin & chili powder.  I did not measure, but I'd say and 1/2 tsp of each.  Stir together to make a sauce, a bit like queso.

Time to assemble!  Lightly spray a 9x13 baking dish with olive oil.  Layer the bottom of the dish with slices of zucchini.  Add 1/2 of the soy crumble/bean mixture and top with sparse dollops of your cheese sauce.  Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese.  Repeat a layer of zucchini, the rest of the soy crumble/bean mixture, and the rest of the cheese sauce.  Top that with the rest of the zucchini slices and top that with the rest of the shredded cheese.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until bubbly and heated through.

I wasn't sure how it would turn out, but it was SO good.  We both had seconds!  Now, onto the pictures. Please forgive the lack of pictures today.  Between the finger-slicing incident and getting a new puppy today, my camera skills were lagging.

Soy crumbles, onions & black beans (before adding chile sauce)

After baking

Dinner is served!!  I filled 1/2 of my plate with salad
AWW!!  Welcome to our family, Tyson! ♥

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Confessions of an emotional (over)eater

Hi, my name is Debi.  And I am an emotional eater.  Sometimes, an emotional over-eater.  Earlier this year I was handed a ticket for the roller coaster and I jumped on, eyes squeezed shut, gripping, white knuckled, screaming.  Perhaps I was only screaming on the inside, but it felt like I was screaming for someone to listen, to help, to understand.  I've since released my grip and hopped off the roller coaster, but how long until I'm shoved back on again?  I'm always a little worried that something will trigger me to feel upset, frustrated, overwhelmed, guilty, sad...whatever...and will cause me to head to the store for a muffin or to Starbucks for hot chocolate and pumpkin bread.  Yeah, those are my "comfort" foods, the first ones on the list when I *need* something to wallow in.

The problem here is that those foods don't really comfort me.  In my mind, I like to think that they do, but the result of racing to processed, sugar-laden, fatty foods leaves me feeling more guilty, more frustrated, and bitter.  Then the whole cycle begins.  The last time this happened at the end of January, it lasted for over 3 weeks - and resulted in a pretty shocking weight gain.  You may have heard me refer to that time as "in the trenches".  While I'm happy to say that I clawed my way out of that with the support of many friends (and people who don't even know me) and via therapy...I do still worry that it's something like alcoholism.  I'll never be "cured" of this.  It'll always be in the back of my mind, nagging at times.

Today, something  happened that triggered some frustration for me.  I felt myself sliding slightly towards losing myself in food.  When my husband came home from work, I wanted to get out for a bit, have some time to myself.  When I got in my car, my first reaction was to drive to the store and get a muffin.  That damn muffin...always there for me when I want it.  Instead, I took a drive, taking in the summer sights...BLARING my music.  Maybe I looked a little strange - this woman driving with the windows down, blasting Prodigy, with the cute little family stickers on the back window of my mommy-SUV.  No worries, folks.  The kiddos were at home.  When I got home - having NOT driven to the store to binge on baked goods - I stole a little more time to read quietly from The Success Principles, and then took a shower.  After that, I made a huge salad.  Feeling MUCH better now.

A few months ago, that scenario would not have happened.  I would have driven to the store, bought that muffin (or two) and ate them in the car so no one at home would see me.  Maybe I would have gotten my Starbucks and lost myself in my hot chocolate.  Either way, I would not have had the discipline to talk myself out of it, find other outlets for my frustration & emotions, and it would have been another ride on the roller coaster from hell.

It's been a lot of soul searching, therapeutic talking, reaching out to friends and other acquaintances in my health & fitness community to draw positivity and strength from them.  It's comforting to me - now - to be able to see those signs and redirect myself as best I can, before I lose control and say "the hell with it".

If you find yourself in a similar pattern, needing help & support, needing a hand to pull you up and out of that hole, your trenches...I'm here.  I've been there and I know how awful it feels.  I am here to help you through your struggles and offer support, lend an ear, and share a smile.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I'm a busy mom! How can I find time to exercise?

You're busy.  I understand - I'm busy too.  I have three young children, an adult dog, a puppy coming home next weekend, activities every day of the week.  Let's not forget the part time job, work-from-home job and teaching.  Oh, did I mention I am starting an at home, 11 month nutritional study/Health Coach certification program this week?  How can we find time to fit exercise into our schedules when we have so much going on every day?

We've heard it before.  "Take the stairs instead of the escalator/elevator."  "Park further away from the store entrance."  But, how many of us really do that at each opportunity?  I will admit I don't always, but I should.  When I take the stairs, my heart rate accelerates.  That's a good thing!

Here are some other things we can do to increase our heart rate and burn a few more calories in our day:
  • When bringing in groceries, carry one, maybe two bags at a time.  Don't be Super Mom and carry 8 bags at once.  Yes, it's nice to get them all into the house in one trip, but 4 trips will get your heart pumping a bit faster.
  • Do you fold your laundry on another level of your house - or even down the hall from the bedrooms?  When you're putting clothes away after folding, take one pile at a time to whichever room those clothes belong in, and why not make a lot of piles so that you can take a few more trips?
  • Do you work during the day?  Get a short workout done during your lunch break.  Walk around the perimeter of your office several times.  Wave and smile at the folks siting at their desks as you stride by - and you never know, a few people might join you next time (how's that for paying it forward?) Walk outside if the weather is nice or take fifteen minutes to walk the stairs in the stairwell.  You can keep a pair of socks & sneakers under your desk or bring them in a bag each day.
  • When you take your kids to the pool, instead of sitting on the chair reading a book, how about playing in the water too?  Throw a water ball back & forth, help your children swim, let them jump into the pool while you catch them and help them swim back towards the ladder.  Better yet, have a jumping contest with them!
  • Go for a walk after dinner.  If your kids run, run with them or jog along side them while they ride their bikes.  Bring the dog, make it a family event.  What a great example to set for your children.
  • When cleaning the house, put on some fun music and dance or bop around while cleaning.  Sounds silly, I know, but have you tried it?  You can't help but smile.  So, now you're not only exercising a bit, but you're in a great mood as well - that's a two-fer right there.
  • While watching your favorite TV show, do jumping jacks or push ups (modified on your knees if need be) during the commercials instead of skipping them with your DVR.  How many can you do in an hour-long show?
  • Walk briskly.  My husband walks like he's got a fire under him.  I used to joke "get out of the way before Daddy runs you over".  I often say that he walks with purpose.  Quite honestly though, he's burning more calories when he's walking around than I am.  I need to pick up my pace, even if just around the house.
  • Exercise in ten minute intervals a few times a day.  Fit it in when you can.  Push ups, jumping jacks, squats, lunges, standing crunches, leg lifts, bicep curls and many other exercises can be done in intervals or sets throughout the day if need be.
Don't wait for exercise to find you when you have a busy day.  Add it as a task on your to do list.  Make it mandatory, as if it's a requirement for your job.  Find the time, make it fun.  If getting it done first thing in the morning is the only way you can ensure to do it, then wake up half an hour earlier.  If waiting until the evening is better, make sure you set aside that time and don't do anything else until your workout is completed.

Last week I met some friends at a park playdate for our children.  While pushing my girls on the swings, I did squats, push ups and lunges.  I spaced them out and did sets when I had a few minutes.  A man walking his dog called out "Nice form!"  It might not be the ideal setting for a brief workout and it might look strange to passersby, but that's how I fit it in when I have a busy day ahead of me.  You can do it too.  I'm here to support and motivate, so don't hesitate to comment or email me.  Now, get to it!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"You Choose" - Mary's ingredient: Tomatillos

"You Choose" - Mary's ingredient: Tomatillos

Are you familiar with my new summer blog series, "You Choose"?  I posted about this on My Facebook Page last week.  In short, I asked some of my friends & page followers to suggest an ingredient that they'd like to see in a (fairly) healthy recipe.  My assignment is to find a recipe, tweak it to make it more my own, and blog about it.  I'll also give a shout out to the person who recommended that particular ingredient in the post on my Facebook page.  What a fun summer challenge for me - and BONUS - I get to try all of these new recipes!

Would you like to participate too?  Please visit my Facebook page, click on "Notes" and add your ingredient - a veggie, a fruit, an herb, a root...(anything that's not meat).  I'd love to see some more fresh, seasonal things that I can find at a farmer's market.  If you can't find the note, no worries!  Just comment on my page.  I'll see it.  I encourage and am asking for more participation, so please join in!  Here's the link:  Fit & Healthy Mommy

I have to say, when my good friend Mary Brown suggested tomatillos, the first thing I thought of was salsa verde.  I think that's what most people would come up with.  While I didn't want to go that route, I found a recipe that I really wanted to tweak and try - but, the tomatillos were made into a salsa verde.  Ah well...hope I don't disappoint.

I made Sweet Potato & Bean Echiladas - and holy smokes, they were pretty awesome!  *Don't forget to scroll all the way down to see the pictures!

1 can rinsed & drained organic pinto beans
5 or so tomatillos, husks removed & quartered
2 medium sweet potatoes (I peeled & diced them very small)
1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
6 whole wheat flour tortillas (about 8" round)
1/2T cumin
1/2T chili powder
optional chopped jalapeno for spice
1/2 tsp salt
about 1T extra virgin olive oil
1T organic ketchup or red chile sauce
cheese (I used about 1/2 cup shredded sharp white cheddar and 1 small pkg goat cheese feta, but you can use queso fresco, cheddar jack or Mexican blend...whatever floats your boat!)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Add diced sweet potatoes to bowl and toss with evoo, cumin, chili powder,ketchup & salt.  Roast in oven for about 20 minutes or until cooked.  While those are cooking, make your way over to the tomatillos.  In wide pot, add tomatillos, chopped onion and just barely cover with water.  Cover and bring to a boil for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool in water - don't drain.

Add sweet potatoes, pinto beans and half of the cilantro to a bowl. (I mashed slightly to make the enchilada filling less chunky.)  Stir in half of the cheese(s).  Set aside for a moment (see picture #2).  Add tomatillos, onion & cooking water to blender or food processor.  Add rest of the cilantro (and jalapeno if using) - then blend to make the tomatillo sauce (see picture #3).  This is when you want to make sure that the tomatillos have cooled, otherwise your blender may explode - not a joke - it's happened.

I lined my baking dish with nonstick foil.  Take each tortilla and add a few spoonfuls of sweet potato/bean/cheese filling down the center and top with a spoonful of tomatillo sauce so the insides do not get too dry (see picture #4).  Roll each tortilla - folding the sides first to keep filling inside.  Place seam-side down in the baking dish.  Once all 6 are side by side, top with rest of tomatillo sauce, then add the rest of your cheese (see picture #5).  Note - it looks like a ton of cheese, but it's really not that much, really!

Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes until cheese melts and enchiladas are heated through (see picture #6).

Tomatillos & onion - fresh & ready to go!

#2 ~ mashed sweet potato, pinto beans, cilantro & cheese

#3 ~ Tomatillo sauce, after blending

#4 ~ add the potato mixture & spoonful of tomatillo sauce to each tortilla

#5 ~ tortillas rolled, seam-side down, topped w/tomatillo sauce & cheese

#6 ~ Voila!!  Fresh from the oven.

Dinner is served!

Enchilada, cut open - look at that YUMMY filling!

Friday, July 1, 2011

"You Choose" - Dana's ingredient: Rhubarb

"You Choose" - Dana's ingredient: Rhubarb

This is the very first blog post in my new series "You Choose".   I posted on My Facebook Page earlier this week and asked some of my friends & page followers to please give me an ingredient - something unique or just something they'd like to see in a healthy recipe.  I will then find a recipe, tweak it a bit, and blog about it.  I'll also tag the person who suggested it in the post on my Facebook page.  I have gotten a nice response so far!

Would you like to participate too?  Please visit my Facebook page, click on "Notes" and add your ingredient - a veggie, a fruit, an herb, a root...(anything that's not meat).  I'd love to see some more fresh, seasonal things that I can find at a farmer's market.  If you can't find the note, no worries!  Just comment on my page.  I'll see it.  What are you waiting for?  Go now...well, after you read this blog post.  Here's the link:  Fit & Healthy Mommy

Our first ingredient was chosen by my BFF, Dana Harding.  She requested RHUBARB.  I love Rhubarb!!!  However, I've pretty much only used it in pies, crumbles & crisps (or, when I was younger, I ate it raw in my grandmother's back yard).  I decided to make a savory recipe using rhubarb.  I have to was pretty amazing.  Josh - my dear husband - does not like rhubarb.  We've been together for nearly 18 years and I have never seen him eat it.  He surprised me by asking for seconds (then even went back for thirds!!)  Score!

I made pizza!  I found a great recipe for Savory Rhubarb & Chipotle Goat Cheese Pizza (thanks to a great blog post by Eats Well With Others).  I tweaked it a little and here's what I came up with...

* Homemade or store bought pizza crust (I used an organic, whole wheat crust from MOMs)
* 1 lb rhubarb, cut into 1/4" pieces
* 1 cup cranberry juice
* 1/4 cup brown sugar (I used Turbinado, or maybe it was of those!)
* 3T balsamic vinegar
* 1 tsp ginger
* 1 tsp cornstarch (optional)
* baby spinach
* feta or goat cheese crumbles (couple of ounces)
* chipotle chili powder (about 1/2 tsp)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Add rhubarb, cranberry juice, brown sugar/sugar substitute, balsamic vinegar & ginger to pot and bring to a boil.  Let reduce until it resembles a chunky cranberry sauce texture.  Mix cornstarch with a little bit of water, then add to rhubarb mixture.  Let thicken slightly and remove from heat.  Toss goat cheese crumbles with chili powder.  Slice baby spinach thinly.  Spread the rhubarb mixture onto pizza crust (I had extra so I put it into a sealed container in the fridge - looking forward to using it as a spread!)  Sprinkle the spinach on top of the pizza, then top with the chili cheese crumbles.  Bake in oven about 12 minutes or so, until done.  SO GOOD!

Rhubarb, chopped & ready to go!

Chili cheese crumbles & chopped baby spinach

Rhubarb sauce, at a boil

Pizza, before baking

Pizza, after baking

I really had two and a half slices - it was THAT good!

Don't forget to hop over to My Facebook Page and give me your ingredient!!  I hope to have new recipes to share with you all summer long!

A Mommy...Finding Time For Me Changed My Life

I have many titles in my house.  Wife, Mom, Friend, Chauffer, Planner, Organizer, Cleaner, Launderer, Cook, Teacher, Workout Instructor and Student.  Makes me tired just thinking about all of that.  I spend most of my days with my girls.  It's what I opted to do 6 years ago when my first daughter was born.  It's funny to hear my husband tell me that I should have all the time in the world to get things done, because, after all, I'm home all day.  (Can anyone else relate to this?)

As parents, we put our children first, almost always.  Our personal time tends to be very early in the morning, maybe naptime, and generally when the kids go to bed.  How much can we really get done during "our time"?  I don't know about all of you, but when bedtime for the kiddos rolls around, I'm about ready to head there myself.

A few years ago I made a promise to myself that I would make more time for me.  I was feeling tired, lethargic, lacking energy, and was most definitely not in very good physical shape.  I never envisioned myself being a mom who lacked energy and vitality.  That's not the lifestyle I wanted to project onto my girls.  My promise was to spend about 45 minutes to an hour a day exercising and working on my own personal development through audio and books. My goals were to become happier & more productive, and also to increase my energy, reduce fat and gain lean muscle.  I wanted to show my girls that their Mommy could run and play with them - and also that it's important to schedule time for fitness in our busy lives.  After all, that's one thing that will greatly contribute to healthier lifestyles in their futures.

I knew it would be hard to try and get to a gym - there's travel time, monthly fees, and limited hours for me to get there when my girls were sleeping - or I'd have to put them in child care.  For me, it was not a very viable option so I looked into at home workout programs.  I knew that if I found those sections of time each day, that I wouldn't have to factor in any extra time...aside from walking down the stairs and pushing play.  So that's what I did.  That was in June of 2009.  That's also when my life changed.

Not only have I become healthier and more fit since I committed to setting aside that uninterrupted (well, mostly uninterrupted) time, but I've opened doors that I never knew were in front of me.  I am happier, more relaxed, less stressed out, more patient and more energetic.  I have since started an at-home business coaching others to determine and attain their fitness and nutritional goals.  My business is growing leaps and bounds this year.  I'm also teaching a group exercise class (please see Parkville Patch's calendar listing for TurboKick or email me for more information), working part time for a raw foods company, and beginning a nutritional/health coach certification program.  I would have never done any of these things had it not been for wanting to get myself healthier and more fit 2 years ago.  Now, I am helping others to change their lives and the sky seems to be the limit.  I've found my purpose, and I am following my heart.  That's pretty profound!

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.  I hope that you will follow my blog, read my posts, consider how you can take some steps to become more Fit & Healthy, and share with me your tips and suggestions for success!
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