Thursday, June 26, 2008

Food-Fuel Question

I'm not sure what the conversation around promoting corn-based ethanol went like, but here is my best guess:
US administration: So, the barrel's about dry...what else can I burn to keep my Hummer on the highway?
US policy maker: Corn. We have enough of it; and we'll give our farmers a sure-market.
US administration: Will my vehicle smell like a movie theater?
US policy maker: Yes
US administration: Make it happen
No thought about how it would affect the food supply, or the prices of food for the basic consumer. Read this article to get a better view of this half-measure measure.

Eating out at my favorite brunch spot on Sunday I was shocked to find the price up to $25/plate. This is a minor inconvinience, but the bigger picture is earth-shattering:- starving people around the world, (including the US) and we're putting food in our gas tanks.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Camping and Clean Eating

Eating away from home is the largest threat to clean eating. Attractive appy's, entrees and drinks at hot restuarants with clients, and comfort-food at family gatherings aside, camping is proving to be a challenge. Camping as a kid was always the one time a year we could have 'sugary cereal' growing up; you know what I mean- those small boxes you cut apart and pour the milk right into. The trouble is that they came in an 8 pack, and there were only 2 fruit loops and 2 corn pops and the rest were rice krispies and raisin bran...I digress. It was also roasting marshmallows over the fire, banana splits on the grill, steaks, potatoes, chips, candy, pop, and as we got older, liquor! Nothing has changed about camping, except the reluctance to put that crap into my body while doing it.
So, here's my game plan for this long weekend camping trip:
1. Cook egg white and oatmeal pancakes ahead of time, enough for each morning away. Re-warm them on the grill in the morning as everyone else packs in bacon and eggs. I'll enjoy mine with pb (a treat in itself!)
2. Chop massive amounts of vegetables- there is always a shortage of clean, fresh vegetables on camping trips- how ironic since we are striving to be so close to nature in our tents. Pack enough so you can have a cup of veggies every 2-3 hours for every day you are away. Yes, this could mean 4 green peppers, 3 cucumbers and an entire bag of carrots chopped into fun sticks or disks- it's a time consuming task- but worth it. For suppers these can be mixed and matched in foil packets on the grill with garlic and S&P. And don't be surprised if others around you start chowing down on your greens- they get sick of junk too.
3. Buy a huge case of bottled water in addition to packing your huge water jug for cooking/drinking etc. I'm not an advocate of bottled water at all- the waste created in bottling it is stupid and our tap water is of much higher quality in most cases (Yay Canada!). Have a bottle of water in your hand at all times- no kidding. Then you can be drinking while others are having a beer, and you won't get dehydrated. If you're like me and spend most of your time camping on a boat or beach and find there's water everywhere, but none to drink- you'll need a ton of bottled water. Make sure you recycle when you get home. Don't forget to keep a couple bottles for the drive to and from the site.
3a. Don't drink liquor; there is no sense dehydrating yourself- the stuff usually doesn't taste good pulled warm from a cooler they have been in all day after the ice has melted.
4. Pre-cook turkey burgers, chicken breasts or even the chickpea patties from my previous post and bring ziploc bags with you. Grab a handful of veggies and a pattie and you've got your meal done- no reason to stray from your meal plan.
5. Make sure you eat! It's too common when camping to eat a huge breakfast, then nothing but junk throughout the day and then a huge supper. Stop it! Be consistent or you will feel like crap outside of your eating schedule.
6. Take advantage of being outdoors and go for a trail hike, walk or run. Why else would you be in the great wilderness if you don't take action to enjoy it. Bring a camera, take some pictures- make it fun.
7. Sleep! You are on holidays aren't you?
8. Be wary of granola, trail mix and bars- keep them handy for emergencies only, but don't have more than 1/2c trail mix or granola while you are out, and don't eat more than 1 bar.
9. Explore the area for farmers markets- grab some fresh berries, or other seasonal fruit as a treat.
10. Indulge in a treat once this weekend- if you love s'mores have one! There are very few opportunities to have a real, fire-roasted marshmallow on chocolate and graham crackers. Choose your treat wisely, make sure it's your craving and choice and indulge.
You're going to look great and feel great as you lay in the sun in all your glowing glory! Put on that swimsuit and rock it- you're clean.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Chickpea Patties

A good friend requested this recipe and I thought I would share here. This is a great alternative to a burger for the summer. The texture is really satisfying and smooth; these pack well in lunches.
Chickpea Patties
4 green onions, chopped
2 c spinach, chopped
1/2c fresh mushrooms, diced
2, 15oz cans garbanzo (chickpeas) beans, undrained
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2c onion, chopped
3Tbsp curry powder
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp ground cumin
dash nutmeg
dash cinnamon
1 1/4c oatmeal, pulsed in a food processor to resemble bread crumb texture
3 egg whites
Pre-heat oven to 375F. Saute green onions, onion, garlic, mushrooms and spinach. Cook until tender. Set aside to cool slightly.
Blend undrained beans in a food processor. Add spices, oatmeal and egg whites. Mix well. Mix sauteed vegetables into bean mixture. Form into balls, and then flatten. Place in oven on cookie sheet for 20 min or until golden brown. Makes 4 servings, each: 515 calories, Fat 12g, Carbs 80g, Fiber 27g, Protein 25g.
Adapted from Oxygen, March 2007 Kennedy Publishing
These get better with setting; even better out of the fridge a day or two after making. Great to put on a salad or wrapped in a tortilla. Enjoy!

Food Diary

I've kept a food diary for two years now; I have information on what I have eaten every single day since day 1. Not only has it come in handy to monitor how my body and mind respond to what I put into my mouth, it has also become extremely valuable in diagnosing my gluten intolerance and other health matters. When my doctor or nutritionist has had a concern about my health, I can turn to a page in my food diary that relates to that period of time and usually pinpoint exactly what went into my body which caused my body or mind such stress. It's also been really helpful resource for myself; meal plans and recipes are logged there and even my exercise/training routine. If I want, for example, to get back to how good I felt in October 2007, I can turn to those pages in my diary and see what was working.
Two components that I am now diarizing are how much water I put into my system, making 5 square boxes on a page and checking one off when I have a litre of water. I am also recording hours of sleep. Not surprisingly, when I have caffeine after 11am, I sleep less at night. My book is a small journal with blank pages- pages where I can record the date myself, in case I need more than one page a day for thoughts/recipes/meal planning. I tried a daytimer, but felt restricted by the one-page-a-day outline.
I will carry my journal everywhere, to remind myself that if I put something in my mouth, I have to admit it and put it in my journal. Keeps me accountable and I'm glad for the information it has provided me so far. How many of you are keeping health logs/diaries? Try it, even for a day and see how you feel looking back on your day after recording it. Then try it the next day as well. It may help in unexpected ways, next time you have a health concern.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

LSD Sundays

The raindrops cooled my run this morning: 7k at a 7:15/km pace. After spending 6 hours (yes, from 10am to 4pm) in the kitchen preparing meals for the next two weeks I needed some thoughtful, relaxing time to myself. I started by putting two sirloin roasts in at 10am, then went in 20 chicken breasts on grills, then two pans of meat balls and one large casserole of brown rice pilaf, and one batch of GF Banana Yogurt muffings (fabulous- you can't wait for that recipe! later). Weighed and portioned in ziploc containers, most of it will come out as we need it. Since we are going camping next weekend, next weeks' food had to be done as well. Without planning ahead, our clean meals would have hit a train wreck when we returned from camp with no food in the house and work on wednesday. Think ahead, it's worth it.
I'm just finishing up a light breakfast of 4 hard boiled eggs (yolks scooped out after cooking), 1 tomato seasoned with S&P and 1/2 apple w/ 1Tbsp almond butter. This is lighter than normal, especially since I should be refueling after my LSD (long slow distance) run this morning; but me and my ladies are heading out to a fabulous brunch at a dtown hotspot and then the S&C movie! I'll order off the menu instead of getting the buffet, that way I can control portion sizes and eat only 1 plate full. Also, buffets are usually laden with Gluntinous treats like waffles and pancakes which I can't have anyway (and shouldn't have anyway on a clean menu - making your own can produce cleaner waffles/pancakes. I'll post on those soon).
Pancake season approaches Calgarians! Don't indulge in those Stampede breakfasts! Just think of all the butter, oil and flour that goes into their pancakes, of all the grease they've used on their grill (and how many millions of eggs/sausages/bacon strips/pancakes have passed on it). Envisioning the open bucket of pancake batter on the ground next to a volunteer sweating over a hot grill turns me off them anyway. Stock up on fresh fruit, bake a batch of clean muffins, fill up on healthy food when you can and have Stampede black coffee while your mates feast on that pancake batter (yech!). Feel that healthy feeling within yourself when you know you're body is cleaner, your skin is glowing, your hair is healthy and you're not endangering your well being by chowing down. As we approach Stampede, let's get together to support one another clean eaters! What challenges will you have? What client appreaciation events? drinks? ho-downs? will you face and get through? Let's talk about it.
Love and peace; VV

Friday, June 20, 2008

Cookie Monster- Monster Cookies

This isn't a pretty post. What you'll see here is ugly...a whole lotta ugly. Last week I went by the bookstore to pick out a gift for a graduate of high school; normally I would swing to Dr. Seuss' Oh The Places You'll Go and I was tempted by Curious Georges' You:On your Way! But these seemed a little cliche. Digging a little deeper into the childrens section I ran accross David Horvath and Sun-Mun Kim's Ugly Guide to the Uglyverse. Flipping though I realized it was perfect; it talks about a monster town with monster room-mates who will steal your stuff, about monster line-ups at supermarkets when you're grocery shopping, about monster bosses at your first job. Perfect for a grad finding her way into the world and experiencing all of this for the first time. I took it home and chuckled more than once at the ridiculouse illustrations and simplistic story. I even sighed at the conclusion (yes I'm ruining the story) when they wrap up by saying that Ugly means really just being yourself, in all your ugliness in an uglyverse.

Fittingly, and very much coincidently, my GF baking adventure last weekend was Monster Cookies, which turned out UGLY! but tasty nonetheless. Try the original recipe here, if you're looking for 5 dozen monster-size monster cookies. I scaled it back and got 7 big cookies. Note: these contain oatmeal- oats are not generally gluten free, so ensure that you are using special, GF oats (available at any health store) if needed. I also added coconut to the original.
Small Batch GF Monster Cookies
1 egg, beaten
1/3tsp corn syrup (I used honey instead)
2Tbs + 2 tsp butter
1/2c natural peanut butter
1/3 tsp vanilla
2/3tsp baking soda
1/3c brown sugar
1/3c splenda
1 1/2c GF oats, slow cooking
1/4c M&M's
3 Tbsp flaked coconut
1/4c chocolate chips

Beat together egg, syrup or honey, pb, and vanilla, add in oats, sugars and soda- stir with a sturdy wooden spoon. Add candy and coconut, stir into mixture. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drop by heapfuls, may press down slightly if needed. Bake at 350F until puffy, but still soft (about 10 min); remove from oven and let cool on sheet for crispier cookies, and on a cooling rack for chewier ones.
Ugly little guys aren't they?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Egg Fu Yung

Family gatherings are a great challenge to my clean eating regime. On one side, I have a Dutch family who loves 'hearty' meals, and on the other, I have a Chinese background whose food I tend to enjoy more. No matter where you came from, there is still the attitude that you show how much you love each other by cooking and eating together. Grandma's care packages are always stuffed with sweet buns, cookies and home-made nuts&bolts. And truly, we clean-eaters must be careful about how we handle these situations; rejecting (even politely and humbly) these offers of food is often equated with rejecting their kindness and efforts to make you happy. Sometimes it's the only way they know how to express their love and fondness of you. So take care, and take the care packages. Plan your treat meal to be with members of your family who equate food with love to show them that you understand their efforts if a family bbq is planned. Freeze the goodies given to you by thoughtful members and enjoy them over a long period of time (an indulgence a week in a treat meal).
So, thinking of these fun, family get togethers always made my stomach ache for good, authentic Chinese food. No, not take-out. No, not 'sweet and sour chicken balls'- think about it- have you ever seen a Chinese person eating a deep-fried chicken ball with bright red sauce smothered on it? Noooooooooooooooooo.................
A dish I especially enjoyed was Egg Fu Yung, with a nice gravy-type sauce on it. This was served with lots of veggies and seafood for a supper- not to mention garlic ribs (mmmm...). I had some bean sprouts in my fridge I had to use up, as well as some pre-chopped red cabbage and celery. So for this morning's breakfast I whipped up a quick, clean Fu-Yung-style omlette. Veggies and eggs- a great way to start the day.
Egg Fu Yung Omlette (Clean)
6 egg whites, wisked to frothy
1 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup red cabbage
1/4 cup chopped fine celery
dash of soy sauce
Saute bean sprouts, cabbage and celery in olive oil and soy sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan, add to egg whites and pour back into pan. Cook until eggs are solid on top, flip to brown the other side.
Instead of the traditional, high sodium, high calorie gravy-sauce that usually accompanies egg fu yung (which would be a littel strange for breakfast) I spread 1tsp of plum suce on the top of my omlette. I enjoyed this with 1/2c creamy rice cereal with 1Tbsp chia, 1Tbsp flax and 2Tbsp of cranberries and a cup of black coffee for breakfast today.
One day, I'll make traditional Egg Fu Yung for a supper entree, as it usual and include the full recipe, including mushrooms, shrimp and the gravy sauce.
Happy Sunny Day!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Health Check

An email from a mailing list peaked my curiosity last week; an event in itself I know. Mailing lists usually just get filtered and ignored. I should have ignored this one as well but "Free!" and "Health Check" screamed at me from the subject line. My employer was offering free health checks, promising nutritional analysis, dietician consultation, weight management consultation and other general health screening. I thought I should go, just to see how I measured up and see if they can't offer some advice on stabilizing my metabolism after my fitness competition. So I made my appointment, blocked off my calendar and headed over this afternoon at my appointed time.
Unfortunately, I ended up just pretending that their advice was new and exciting for me; "As a woman, you need more calcium- are you getting enough calcium?" Yes, I am...1000mg a day to be exact. (Shocked look across dieticians face when I could recite exactly how many mg of calcium I'm getting a day- and from what sources). "Have you seen the Canadian Food Guide?" Yes, and it's really not applicable to me. "How? It's applicable to everyone". No, it's not. Everyone's metabolism is different and the only way you know what works for you, is by monitoring your meals and results closely and diligently. I kept my mouth shut though, thanked the very kind lady and moved onto blood pressure. No problemo there; I'm at my normal 110/72- kind of low which is why I am always cold. "Do you suffer from dizzy spells or faintness?" Nope.
Ok, last stand- weigh in. A friend just recently reminded me how important it is to stay away from the scale as much as possible and to focus on how you are feeling, and how your clothes fit. Well, no surprises on my weight, or waist circumference. I know my measurements. But this kind lady proceeded to interpret them acccording to the evil instrument known as the BMI...urgh. The indicator came back that I am at risk for a heavy-weight related illness. Yes, that's right. I train at the gym 2x a day, I eat a strict clean menu, I walked up 13 flights of stairs to my policy committee meeting this morning and I am overweight? Not bloody likely Thank You! SOOOOOO....yet another support for the tao: Feeling healthy is being healthy. If you feel good, if your clothes fit and you are happy- stay there. It's a good place to be, and don't buy into a bmi, scale or other measurement outside yourself. I thanked everyone, handed in an evaluation of the session and walked over to the gym- which I have been to for more than 100 consecutive training days! I had another good workout (after they cut the lock off my locker- the lock died- staff didn't give me the 'what the hell did you do to it' speech. They know I'm there, everyday, for months and months and months. It was it's time to go.)
So, a new combo lock (and memorization task) and a new outlook on my fitness level. I guess the health check served it's purpose after all.

Clean Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Dads have everything; really, unless they can eat or drink your gift, they will probably just store your gift for Father's Day along with every other knick knack you've gotten them since you've had a paycheque. So this year, knowing my Dad's love for cookies for breakfast, I decided to make him the cleanest cookies I could. His favorite is Oatmeal Raisin; and there just happend to be a recipe for them in Clean Eating's Summer 2008 issue.

I had to make some changes of course, so this is loosely based on the published version. I added the pb to give it some more moisture and protein. These were golden on the bottom, and a nice cakey, not too chewy, not too crispy texture. Lovely if you ask me. Also, I soaked the raisins in 1tsp of vanilla and 1/2c water for about 2 hrs to soften them up; the secret to plump raisins in your cookies. I encourage you to try these next time you're hankering for a oatmeal raisin fix; cleaner than most recipes.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (2 doz)
1/2c canola oil
1/3c+2Tbsp honey
1 egg white
3/4tsp vanilla extract
3Tbsp water
2Tbsp natural peanut butter
2c slow-cooking oats
2/3c whole wheat baking flour (or gluten-free mix of your choice)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2tsp baking soda
2/3c rasins
1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a bowl, mix (can be done by hand easily) oil and honey. Add peanut butter; when well-mixed add egg white, vanilla and water. Add oats, flour, salt, soda, raisins and cinnamon. Don't over-mix; you want to retain the large flakes of oatmeal. Drop Tbsp-size balls onto cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown. Let cool on cooling racks before eating.
For gifting baking, I buy plain brown paper bags and write messages of my own on them, or use a colorful ribbon/rafia w/ hole punch to tie bag at top. Line the bag with a sheet of wax paper to reduce oil spots.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

6 Health Imposters

Thanks to everyone who has read the blog; it always amazes me that anyone finds my drivel more than tolerable. I think so many of you have such great, creative ideas, so please start blogging yourself and send me the link, or use the comment section here to express yourself.
Training this weekend was stellar (I have decided I don't like the word 'stellar' and won't use it again). 7k on Sunday through my fave wood reserve, kept pace really nice and slow to condition for long runs. Monday and Friday are days off according to Running Room's training schedule- but who needs to rest? Not me! So Monday I did a steady 3K run- cutting it short to make my seminar downtown in time for networking. And today, I stuck to the Running Room's recommendation (mostly) and did a tempo run (fast!)- the only change I made was doing a 5K tempo instead of the recommended 4K. My chosen route was 5k, I'm not going to compromise, especially when I can stay outside a little longer on these beautiful morning.
My gym routine is intact despite some scheduling issues. I still weight trained yesterday and did an extra 30min uphill treadmill walk (cardio 2) and today I did 1hr on the bike (no weights) intervals.
My menu this week is simple, although with this extra mass from my 'bulk'- ok- my 'fattening-up' cycle not coming off, I'm so tempted to mess around with my meal plan and drop all my carbohydrates. I'm only doing 2 meals of carbs, and both are before 11am (thereafter being only protein and veg) and am tempted to cut it down to one, and then next week to none. But that's unhealthy- very unhealthy. If you're like me, and have determined that you are carb sensitive, then please be careful and don't cut them out. Cut out the junk you eat on the weekends, and in the evenings when it's so easy to grab something off the meal plan. those are keeping my goals unattained- not the rice cakes and oatmeal I eat daily. Get perspective, get real. Be honest.
Here's a go at honesty: I'm 5lbs over my goal weight. I'm overtraining. I'm considering dropping healthy carbs to reach the goal weight (unhealthy) when in reality I should drop the treat DAYS I have over the weekends.
Goal: Drop the extra 5lbs by June 30 by sticking to a healthy meal plan, with 2 meals of carbs, maintaining my current training schedule. Planning ONE cheat MEAL per week rather than 2 cheat DAYS on the weekend. When baking on the weekend (part of my goal to become a competent GF baker) make sure to GIVE the goodies away so I don't eat an entire batch of Monster cookies (they were fab, but bad for me mentally, emotionally and physically when overindulged).
Of interest, and related to the title of this post, is Dr. Mercola's "Six Healthy Sounding Foods That Aren't". Read it, and get real about what you're eating- even 'healthy' foods need to be examined for their authenticity. As I mentioned in my Power Ball post, energy/health/protein bars are not to be incorporated into a daily menu- they should be considered a treat or for emergencies only.
Get outside- isn't it wonderful?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Community Supported Agriculture

I make a weekly trip to the market, to get my vegetables; because by doing so I support local producers (or as local as they can get in a land-locked, cold prairie region). These may not be 'organic' certified vegetables and fruit, but because they are transported less, they are exposed to less chemicals- some growers are pesticide fee (which is good enough for me). Organic produce is great, and yes, I can taste the difference. But my choices are more guided by sustainability and economy (I don't make six-figures to support my organic-only vegetable addiction- yet).
Elanas Pantry has long been a source of vegan and gluten free recipes for me, and now she has become more of a role model. Today, she posted how her family gets fresh produce, the day it is picked directly from the farmer. Her family bought a share in a CSA model, where produce is delivered directly to her each week during the harvest season. Can you just imagine a pick-up truck pulling up to your house/condo/apartment and unloading buckets of the freshest, local? Your vegetables would last so much longer, they could be pesticide free (depending on the grower) and the carbon footprint of transporting vegetables cross-country to your grocery store is eliminated.
This makes me think that we should look into if one exists in our area; and if not, then I will just continue making my weekly trip to the farmer's market. If you visit a market, make sure you get to know the people selling- are they the grower? If not, do they know the grower? Where is the farm? How far is it from the market? When do they harvest their crop? Try to find the farmer who is selling directly- giving him all your cash instead of a middle-person pandering his hard-grown wares.
Off to the market!

Friday, June 13, 2008


Half-marathon training last night was undaunting; we ran 3k- yay. no problemo. And the group was fantastic; I can't wait to get to know everyone. It was great to connect again with my friend H, it's been too long and it seems we have much to do! (Triathalon??). I think that training for this will be easier than training for my fitness competition- but I may eat my words.
My dilemma this weekend, is what to eat actually. I like baking on the weekends, as a stress reliever but haven't found a recipe that I am motivated enough to try- And I do have the time this weekend to try something. I might try my had at these logo sugar cookies for my partner's organizations' logo. He designed the logo, and is leaving the company at the end of the month, I thought I could send a batch on his last day. But that just doesn't seem like much fun yet.
I am thinking of diverging from my usual chocolate and/or pb stream and getting into more vanilla and fruit combinations; the beautiful vanilla and vanilla beans I brought back from the Mayan Riviera earlier this month is part of that motivation. And the wonderful fruit I see in Costco each week is tempting. I've also got ice cream cupcakes on my dashboard lately. And a layered cake/cheesecake combination- which I haven't really found a nice recipe for yet.
So, my post after the weekend will be a surprise as to what I've done. I may just get to do my patio flowers and no baking at all. I still do have to make our meals for the week.
Anyway, have a fabulous June weekend- anyone come up with their clean eating menu yet this week? Share it in the comment section to help inspire me, and others.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Power Balls

Tonight is my first running clinic for my first half-marathon. I am nervous, I am such a beginner runner and there are so many people out there with a passion for it; I hope they are not in my running clinic- I'll look like a fool. I don't run gracefully. I'm 6', lanky and hard-footed. It's strange because this is exactly how I hoped I would feel; because it's a risk, a challenge and attending tonight will help me overcome it.

These little balls of power may help as well- a good alternative to a health bar, they are versatile, easy to transport and taste terrific (not just palatable, like most health bars out there). The original recipe came from the Salt Spring Experience: Recipes for the body, mind and spirit. They call them "Bliss Balls" for a good reason. I made a few adjustments, like leaving out the cardamom; the only cardamom I have is in pod form and I wasn't sure if it would grind nicely in the food processor. I'm also quite new at using savory spices in sweet goods, although it's something I would like to try someday.

These are like healthy truffles, very rich and sweet. The texture is divine at room temperature, so take them out of the fridge for a while before eating them if you can wait...but I usually can't. I wouldn't include these into a weekly meal plan as they are high in natural sugars and fats from the dried fruit and nuts; but to overcome that sweet craving without blowing your entire meal plan, have one or two when needed. Otherwise, save them for a treat meal.

Power Balls (minutes to pull together, some time to roll them all)

Makes about 2 dozen 1" balls.

1/2c frozen almonds
1/2c currants
1/4c tahini
1/4c almond butter (can use another 1/4 tahini as the original recipe calls for)
1/4c honey
2tsp cinnamon
1/2c chocolate chips
flaked coconut for rolling (about 1/3c)

Grind the almonds in a food processor from frozen (if they are at room temperature, they may become butter, which is not desireable at this point). Grind until fine. Add the currants and grind until they're chopped up. Add the tahini, almond butter (or other nut butter/tahini of your choice) and cinnamon and blend until well mixed. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in chocolate. Refrigerate for 20 min if desired, to make them easier to roll and then form balls and roll them in the coconut. Keep refrigerated.

Use raisins or dried cranberries instead of currants
Use white chocolate chips instead of chocolate
Add coconut to the mix before rolling
Add oatmeal to the mix before rolling
Use peanuts, pecans or walnuts instead of almonds
Use peanut butter instead of almond butter
Add some ginger and nutmeg

Wouldn't these make a nice, healthy addition to your seasonal baking trays? I might try a cranberry-pecan-white chocolate combo for my christmas baking this year. And of course, I'll have to try a peanut-peanut butter-chocolate combo, to feed my neverending pb addiction.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Spinach Chicken Goat Cheese Pizza

What a pleasant morning; I love the rain, even day after day after day. I had a good run on the treadmill this morning (3 10min run, 1 min walk cycles for a total of 30 min plus warm up and cool down). Didn't want to drown my sneakers outside; I don't mind the rain coming down on me when I run, but I hate having it splash up. Besides, the storm drains are so backed up that there are lakes in the middle of the intersections- I could have gone for a swim. I completed my training for the day by doing my full body circuit and 30 min of intervals on the bike while reading contracts. Must multi-task!
After my morning jog, I tried Peanut Butter Boy's pb banana omlette using my regular egg whites. Mine was not at all photogenic, otherwise I would share it with you. But, for such a strange combination (eggs, banana, pb) it was delicious. I used organic, all-peanut pb, so it didn't melt as nicely as his. I'll get better at flipping omlettes and try to post my next one.
And now to the picture above; a delicious GF (gluten free) pizza crust (available at Superstore in the frozen specialty items) topped with tomato sauce, goat cheese, spinach and chicken. This was a treat on the weekend, for my 1130am meal. The crust browns nicely on the bottom, but still stays soft as I like it. The spinach wilts just enough, but does not become too soggy and the chicken crisps nicely without being too dry.
Personal size Spinach Chicken Goat Cheese Pizza (I'm not one for short titles eh?)
1 frozen GF pizza crust
1.5c fresh spinach
2Tbsp tomato sauce (or substitute for your fave GF bbq or teriaki sauce for a twist)
3 oz cooked, cubed chicken breast
1 oz crumbled goat cheese
1/2 fresh tomato, cubed
Brush crust with tomato sauce, top with spinach, cheese, chicken and fresh tomatos. Bake on a grill or cookie sheet for 10 min at 400F or until cheese is softened and crust is nicely browned.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

GF Peanut Butter Bars

I love cookies, my favorite treat is a heaping bowl of ice cream, over 2-3 large cookies, microwaved for a couple seconds to soften. I am certainly a cookie monster, so my GF diagnosis has been hard to take. And as some of you know, I have already failed at GF cookie baking so I thought that a bar cookie would eliminate the problem of spreading. I came across Celiac Chick's recipe for Peanut Butter Bars, which looked spectacular for a PB&C addict like me. These are my new favorite indulgence, though mine turned out more like a peanut butter brownie than a pb cookie. Soft and moist, almost uncooked in the center- just how I like my brownies. So I'm still searching for a solution to my cookie conundrum, but these were a welcome mishap along the way.

I cut the recipe in half, and used a loaf pan; so I didn't feel so bad about eating half of them right away- the rest are in my freezer waiting for another treat meal. See her original recipe for a larger batch.

Small Batch GF Peanut Butter Bars

8 oz. organic natural peanut butter (the kind with peanuts listed as the only ingredient)

1 egg

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup honey

1/2c mix of chocolate chips and pb chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix with an electric hand mixer until blended. Spray a loaf pan with your favorite non-stick method (I used Pam). The layer will be very thin, don't worry- it puffs up amazingly! Sprinkle the chips on top and bake for 20-25min.

They brown quite a bit, so don't worry if the edges look a little dark; try turning down the temperature on the oven, and cooking for longer if you prefer a less chewy/raw center- I couldn't wait and I do like the fudgy center.

Some future uses for this recipe: I will add coconut, maybe a little oatmeal to see if I can make them closer to monster cookies.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Full-body Circut (30min)

My workouts are focused on leaning out right now; after my fitness competition I inadvertantly did a really effective bulking cycle. Eating more calories than I had in months, and lifting heavy weights consistantly allowed me to pack on muscle mass and return to a normal body fat percentage. I would like to loose some of this mass, to get back to a more streamlined physique. I use lighter dumbells (between 7.5-10lbs) and timed reps for this full-body circuit. It takes about 30min to complete. I work hard and find myself sweating, panting and spent after this workout- measures of a good workout.
Get a watch, or watch the clock. I use a timer on my wrist watch set to 1 minute countdown. Perform each of the following for as many reps as possbile for 1 minute, then repeat the entire circuit through. Follow up with 30 min cardio and you've got a super workout! Do this three times a week with recovery days in between.

Full Body Circuit 1- remember to suck in your stomach at all times- envision pulling your belly button towards your spine.*

Upright Row (the link shows barbell, I use dumbbells)
Rear Delt Fly
Reverse Lunge
Shoulder Press (I do standing, focusing on pulling in my abs)
Deep Squat
Standing Bicep Curl
Lying Triceps Extension
(Normally, I would do these standing to focus on pulling in my abs, but I'm being lazy)
Do as many reps as possbile for one minute, restart your timer and go right into the next exercise. Your heart rate should get up there; do NOT rest between exercises, you may take a quick 30s break between circuits if you need it. Do this three times a week, for four weeks and then switch up your program. I'll post another when I do.

*No, there are no ab exercises in here but you can add one anywhere you choose if you work your abs. I think I have mentioned before, I don't work abs in the conventional sense, rather I just concentrate on pulling them up and in at all times (walking to work, in the kitchen, seated at my desk, on the treadmill, while lifting weights). I want to keep stablized without adding mass to my midsection. Think about it, when you do dumbbell curls with heavy weight, you add muscle mass- so when you work your abs...

Goat Cheese Asparagus Stuffed Turkey Breast

Friday night I wanted to spend some time making something nicer for my partner and I; he is so impressed with even the smallest effort in the kitchen. So I strayed slightly from our meal plans and added goat cheese to our Friday evening menu. What can I make with turkey breasts, asparagus, and goat cheese in half an hour? This is quick and easy.

Goat Cheese Asparagus Stuffed Turkey Breast

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

1 clove garlic
3T olive oil
Mince garlic, mix into olive oil. Brush grill or baking dish with 1/2 of the mixture

2 turkey breasts, butterflied, flattened
2 Tbs Goat Cheese
6 Asparagus spears
Brush both sides turkey breast with remaining oil/garlic mixture. Salt and pepper. Crumble 1Tbsp cheese onto exposed surface of turkey, roll around 3 asparagus spears.

Place in baking dish, bake for 20-25min depending thickness of the turkey.

The cheese melted very well, and the asparagus was crisp, but tender. This is a recipe I had at a catered volunteer event last week which I wanted to try at home; the catered dish had much more cheese and had a bread coating on the chicken. I cut the cheese and breading to make it cleaner. Served with a huge side of veggies, it's the perfect evening meal.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

No Jogging, No Equipment Cardio
A friend of mine recently asked about cardio options without jogging/running. I can totally relate- jogging/running is boring and hard on the joints. I just tried the circuit (see link) at and it was fab! Challenging, gets your heart rate up and if you put on some good tunes, it could feel like you're dancing your heart rate up. Try it out- 25-30min is all it takes. Once you're comfortable with it, run it through twice. I know I will.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Birthday Cake

No, it's not my birthday but I can't think of any other day which would warrant such extreme indulgence in a cake and I ran across a cake I would like to indulge in. I haven't had a birthday cake for myself....well, ever! I'm a twin, and loved sharing everything with my brother on our birthdays. But now, I think I'm ready for my own cake, and more importantly, I think I'm ready to tackle a hefty one like this.
But I would of course, change it a bit to incorporate myother favorite thing- browines! by making it on a brownie base. My birthday is in July; and it looks like I'll be making myself a cake! woohoo!

Handy Tool

Tired of searching all over the internet for the best recipe? I hate sorting through the hundreds of recipes on recipe collection sites. I like seeing pictures, and reading reviews; much better than a 5-star rating system when only 2 people have rated it (for example) for skewed results. So now, when looking for a recipe I go straight here: . Food bloggies are very good at stylizing their creations and reviewing not only the finished product, but the process of creating their masterpieces. You can tailor your search for dietary restrictions (great gluten free section).

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Week Menu and Grocery List

***I posted this and thought I should explain- my meals are pretty low in carb servings like rice, beans, etc. because I have a carb-sensitive metabolism- no kidding I eat 1/2c rice and I gain 1lb (true- it happens!). I have a fantastic nutritionist who can let you know what is best for you-only follow the advice of a professional nutritionist (and that I am not!). I only post to give you an idea of the mechanics behind eating clean.

Clean Eating takes a lot of preparation and planning, and that ever elusive thing none of us really have- time. Sitting here planning my menu for the next week and making my shopping list takes a lot of brain capacity! I've been doing this for months now, so I can't imagine how it is for those who are just beginning to tighten up their meal planning. Here is what I have done for next week, to give you a sample of what I go through every week. It's become a habit now, and without question- TOTALLY worth it. Yes, you'll be paying more $$ for fresh lean protein as well as veggies, but how much do you put towards junk food?
I always start with a weekly menu- yes I eat the same basics every day for a week, but don't get'll see why.

June 9-14, 2008 Menu

Meal 1:1/2c oatmeal with cinnamon and sugar substitue; add 1T ground flax, 1T chia seeds; 6 egg whites, 1/2c veggies in omlette, 1 cup black coffee

Meal 2: Tuna salad; tuna, apple, celery, beets, black beans (only 1/2c black beans and 1/2 apple in each serving, so i'll make the salad, portion it and then add the beans and apple to each individual container). I top with a small amount of any condiment except mayo that I want (see why I don't get bored- my fridge is loaded with snazzy condiments)

Meal 3: Chicken, lettuce, misc. veg -Can make this into a salad, or use lettuce leaves for a wrap, again any condiment (i.e. salsa, bbq, ketchup, mustard, salad dressing)

Meal 4: Chicken, veg stix (this meal usually hits in the middle of an afternoon meeting, it must be quick and portable). Any condiment

Meal 5: Turkey meatballs in a vegetable soup or on a salad

Meal 6: 1/2c plain, non-fat yogurt mixed with 2 scoops chocolate or vanilla protein powder (usually around 9pm)

From there I make my shopping list: Anything on my list that isn't on my meal plan is for my partner's meal plan. He eats more rice and red meat than I do.

Costco: black beans, brown rice (my partner's meal plan uses about 2c rice a day!), ground turkey, Romaine lettuce, Asparagus, Yellow and Red Peppers, Tomatoes, Chicken breasts (fresh), Steak, Gr. Hamburger, Milk, Tuna, 3 doz eggs, 2.5L egg whites (come in 500ml containers), Chia seeds

Coop: Creamy Rice cereal, oatmeal, carrots, celery, apples, broccoli, yogurt, cottage cheese (I like putting a Tbs on salads instead of goat or other higher-fat cheese), ground flax

And finally a timeline for cooking/freezing/chopping/portioning

Friday- hit up the grocery stores- no one goes shopping on fri nights, soak the dry black beans overnight

Saturday- grill the chicken plain so it can be snazzed up by different condiments each day of the week, make the turkey meatballs, boil the beans. Basically- cook all your meat, dice it up and weigh it into portions. Freeze some for the latter half of the week, but keep some fresh.

Sunday- Cut veg stix, throw some into a pot of soup base for soup, portion the rest into containers (i usually pack 2c of veg sticks a day), make tuna salad using the beans I boiled on Saturday

It's so much easier than it looks, just throw your meat in to cook and you have free time while it cooks. Then just spend about 45min on Sunday chopping veggies and you're done. You'll thank yourself during the week, when healthy choices are already for you in YOUR fridge- well done!

Baking Plans Averted

I had set myself up for an enjoyable afternoon on Saturday in the kitchen, prepping meals for the week and indulging in another gluten free baking experiement. I was going to try either jam squares or peanut butter bar cookies. But unfortunately we will have to go out of town this weekend, taking me away from my kitchen. Perhaps I'll find time friday night, which would be grand because i could bring them with me and have others taste test them so i don't eat the whole pan!
Training today:
45min walk ~4.0mph (POWER walking) up every hill I could find in my neighborhood.
21min intervals on elliptical- start at level 1 resistance, and increase resistance until level 7 every minute three times
40min steady elliptical jog resistance 3

Kind of an active recovery day- my legs are so sore from my week of hard training after vacation. My partner thinks I am overtraining, and I think I agree, but I just can't stop it!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

4 Week Training Plan

So, my sister's reception is in 4 weeks and I get to put on my gorgeous maid of honor (yes I'm proud!) dress again and share in a wonderful party in a small town community center. For those of you from a small town know the dynamics behind this event- the whole town will turn out. I will sit at a head table including all of the wedding party, there will be a first dance, and then bridal party dance. Eyes, eyes and more eyes- ugh. By then I hope to be back at my healthy weight and fitness level. Here is my 4 week training plan to get there; I will follow a menu similar to my last post for the duration, and heck- for the rest of my life. Consistent clean eating will help keep me lean year-round.

Monday: 40min jog (pacing for half marathon), full-body workout (will post later), 30 min incline treadmill (7.0incline, 4.0speed)
Tuesday: 30 min power walk, 15 min plyometrics, 1 hour elliptical (Active recovery day)
Wednesday: 40min jog (pacing for half marathon), full-body workout (will post later), 30 min incline treadmill (7.0incline, 4.0speed)
Thursday: 30 min power walk, 15 min plyometrics, 1 hour elliptical (Active recovery day)
Friday: 40min jog (pacing for half marathon), full-body workout (will post later), 30 min incline treadmill (7.0incline, 4.0speed)
Saturday: Yoga class
Sunday : Running club run (whatever the club runs)
I'll follow this for the 4 weeks and then if I feel bored, I'll change it up. Other changes may exists once my half-marathon seminar begins- which will be an additional run on thurs nights.


Each of us has it: Power. Though too often we don't really recognize it, or feel it within ourselves. It is easier to see others' power; the influence of a politician, or celebrity or even the charisma of a co-worker or friend.
I felt mine today as I left the gym; accomplished, strong and healthy. I was calm and purely present in the moment. This combination of vitality and peace is my place of power; I could feel it surging in my body, breath, mind and heart. But the thing about power is, once you have it, you must concede it. Without being open to the influence of others, the environment and life one can become isolated, coercive, arrogant and disconnected. And so I humbled myself by expressing gratitude for the light spring shower and the smell of lilacs on my walk back to the office.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

All Inclusive-itis

Training: 40min walk, 15 min plyometrics, 1hr elliptical\
0700: (post morning-workout)6 egg whites, 3/16c creamy rice, 1/2c peppers/tomatoes, 1/2 apple;
1000: (post workout) 1/2c brown rice, corn, bean mix and 3oz ground turkey w/ salsa, 1/2 apple;
1300: 2c veggies, 3oz coconut chicken;
1600: 1c tomato salad, 3oz tuna;
1830: 2c salad, 3oz turkey breast;
2100: 1/2c cottage cheese 1%, 2scoops soy protein powder.

Changing up my training to incorporate more fat-burning and less muscle-building. Weighing in at the heaviest I have ever in my life, I am not in a very calm state of mind. I am anxious, stressed, and have very low self-esteem and belief in my ability to control how I look and feel. It is a direct result of my indulgent week away at an all-inclusive resort. I did hit the gym, took part in yoga and hiking just about every day, but my nutrition was deplorable. And I didn't steer away from gluten in any situation- in fact I headed straight into the different cake the resort served every night for dessert.

So the next few weeks are focusing on a healthy, soothing recovery for me. I'm going to monitor my weight carefully, drink plenty of water, stop all fat-burner supplementation and just eat calmly, with great intent and purpose. The food I will eat will charge my metabolism, and make me feel good about myself and my health again. The training I will do will be fun and different, bringing the happiness back into fitness. I'm taking a different angle this time around- rather than punish myself for the indulgence at the resort, I'm looking forward to a renewed pattern of healthy eating and training habits. I look forward to nourishing my body and therefore my mind. I choose to live a healthy life, I choose to live a happy life.