Sunday, June 26, 2011

CSA Box and Sweet Box

A few days ago, I got a big box because I won Nicole’s NuNaturals giveaway. Here is what I got:

Along with the NuNaturals products came a big stack of recipes. I can’t wait to experiment… Thanks Nicole and NuNaturals!

We also got our CSA box. Unfortunately, there was a mix up this week, and we didn’t get several of the items we were supposed to get. I was especially sad that the beets were missing… Sad smile Fortunately, our CSA is always really good at making things right and gave me a partial credit on my account. Here is what we did get:

Besides the CSA box veggies, we have also been enjoying our tomatoes. Most of the tomatoes are consumed by the toddler who seems to be under the impression they are all his… He picks them and eats them right off the plant.

Lastly, the teenager came home for a short visit, and we all got to go out to breakfast. It was fun hanging out! The toddler discovered his love for photography and took the photos of the teenager and me as well as of the straw. I think we’ll have to get him a kid’s camera as I was a bit nervous that he might drop ours… It was also quite funny when the toddler started to take photos of all the food. I guess he sees us taking lots of food pics…

Questions:  What was the highlight of your weekend? Have you ever tried NuNaturals or other stevia products? If so, do you like them? If so, what is your favorite way to use them?
Be well,

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Salad Week

The weather is finally nice around here (almost a bit too nice!), so salads are my natural food of choice. The other day, on my Lunch Salad post, I asked you what your favorite salad was. I got some great comments and used them as inspiration for this week’s menu.

But first up is a salad that I grew myself. There is honestly nothing better than planting, caring for, and then eating your own veggies. It also makes me appreciate my organic CSA more as I had to share quite a bit of my salad with various little critters… Here is what I was left with: 

  • Arugula
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Tomatoes
And here are the salads for the rest of the week. Thanks everyone for your comments! I will supplement the salads with different sources of protein (Buffalo chicken, egg whites, chickpeas, and salmon).

Salad 1: Kathy’s favorite summer salad: “My favorite summer salad uses fresh tomatoes as the base for the dressing. I dice a couple and put them in the bottom of a big salad bowl before sprinkling them generously with garlic powder and salt and pepper. I let these marinate for at least a half hour and a couple of hours if I have time. Just before serving, I add some pepper strips, cucumber, and thinly sliced sweet onion separated into rings along with some crisp Romaine lettuce. I then pour a little olive oil and red wine vinegar over the top and toss. The tomatoes gather a little pool of garlicy tomato juice in the bottom which mixes with the vinegar and oil to form the tastiest dressing ever! Just a teaspoon of oil is plenty and balsamic vinegar can be subbed for the red wine variety for a little sweeter version.” I discovered Kathy’s blog when I first started blogging more than two years ago, and I love all her recipes. We have often said that we’d love to share a meal. Too bad we don’t live closer!

Salad 2: Lauren: “I love avocado, with jarred tuna and lemon and oil dressing over greens.” That’s one of my recent favorites as well. I love smashing the avocado in with the tuna.

Salad 3: Roz: “Right now, my favorite is beet and orange salad with fresh mint and goat cheese.” Sounds delicious. I’ll experiment!

Salad 4: Marisa: “My favorite lunch for a while was Buffalo Chicken Salad- I was pretty hooked on it for a couple weeks!” Sounds delicious!  

Questions: What’s your favorite food at the moment? Any more salad ideas to share? Have you ever grown your own vegetables and/or herbs? If so, what was your experience? I love growing my own vegetables and herbs. There is truly nothing better than a freshly harvested, homegrown salad. However, I have also had my fair share of “failures.” Or maybe I should say the squirrels, snails, birds and other animals in my neighborhood are often very well fed! Smile 

Be well,

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Making Healthy Choices While Traveling

Traveling is a “special occasion,” and I have previously written about the fact that my “special occasions attitude” got me into a lot of trouble at one point. That is, I went “all out” whenever I thought it was a special occasion and forgot all about healthy living. There were way too many “special occasions” in my life, and my unhealthy choices caught up with me.

While I like to enjoy myself while traveling, I don’t abandon my healthy living principles completely. One way to stay healthy is to bring quite a bit of food for the road trip as well as the actual vacation. We usually try to stay in places with a small kitchen, so that we can store and prepare at least some of our meals. I like to bring plenty of fruits, veggies, and healthy snacks. I wash and prep everything at home and transport the items in a cooler. That way the “cooking” time is kept to a minimum once we arrive at our destination.

Here are some of the items we packed for a recent two-night trip:

  • European Style Whole Grain Bread
  • Almond Milk
  • Coffee
  • Cheese crackers
  • Ak-mak crackers
  • Laughing Cow cheese wedges
  • Snapea Crisps
  • Raisins
  • Apricots
  • Peaches
  • Grapes
  • Avocados
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • String cheese
  • Beef jerky
We also took (not in the picture):
  • Pitcher with water filter
  • Cheese slices
  • Turkey meat
  • Tomato soup
We still ate some of our meals out. Generally, I like to allow for two treats per day while on vacation. Usually that means some wine or beer and some sort of dessert. I love Coldstone Creamery ice cream, but I have a rule that we only eat it on vacation. Hubby and I love to share the Peanut Butter Cup Perfection.Smile

We also like to stay fairly active on vacation. Whenever possibly, we go on a hike, and we also love to swim and walk everywhere. However, I also enjoy reading a good book for a bit and doing “nothing.” However, “doing nothing” is quite rare with the toddler around…

Questions: Do you ever take food with you on vacation? If so, what do you take? What is your attitude towards food and exercise while on vacation? I like to relax my “rules” a bit without completely abandoning them. Being active is also key for me to feel my best, so there is usually plenty of walking, hiking, and swimming.

Be well,

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lunch Salad

Years ago, when I had a desk job, I was quite good about bringing lunch to work. I didn’t have a lot of money, and a homemade lunch was also healthier. I think I would have never eaten out had it not been for the Greek salad at a tiny, nearby café. It was the best Greek salad I have ever eaten. It had a simple oil and vinegar dressing, fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese and olives. Plus, it was always served with a slice of freshly baked, warm bread. To this day, I have never been able to replicate the salad, and no Greek salad in any restaurant has even come close to “my lunch salad.”

The other day, I felt a bit nostalgic and made my own version of “my lunch salad.” It wasn’t as good as the original, but it was nevertheless very satisfying.

Greek-Inspired Lunch Salad 

  • Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • Tomatoes, cubed
  • Cucumbers, cubed
  • Olives
  • Feta cheese
  • Grapes, halved
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Super simple directions: Mix all ingredients and enjoy! Smile

Questions: What’s your favorite salad? I love all kinds of salads but go through phases. But anything with feta cheese and olives is a winner in my book. What’s your favorite lunch at the moment? I love salads as well as veggie wraps.

Be well,

Monday, June 13, 2011

Food Thoughts

On Saturday morning, hubby and I had the rare pleasure to go on a quick breakfast date. Due to where we were, we ended up in a hamburger place that also serves breakfast on the weekends. All the choices were very hearty. Not my normal breakfast picks. Here is what I got: 2 over-easy eggs, 2 pancakes (with tons of butter on one of them), and bacon.

I ended up eating one pancake with a little butter and a bit of syrup, one egg on half a slice of hubby’s toast as well as one slice of bacon. I also had a few bites of hubby’s omelet and hash browns.  I ate slowly and mindfully and stopped when I was full. It certainly wasn’t the healthiest breakfast out there, but I made it fit into the rest of my day, and I felt no guilt. Most importantly, I really enjoyed my one-on-one time with hubby!

About ten years ago, when I went through a very stressful period of my life, I gained a lot of weight. I used food to deal with life, and I also made everything about food. That is, when I went out to a restaurant, my entire focus was on the food, and I didn’t slow down enough to really enjoy it. I often left uncomfortably stuffed.

I also was very stressed at work, and to relieve my work stress, I often ate huge amounts of food at night. I was in a bad cycle of not eating a lot during the day, and then eating way too much at night.

Luckily, I never stopped exercising, and exercise is what ultimately got me back on track. I remembered that nothing relieves stress better than a brisk walk. While I was always active, I also realized that I had to step it up a bit more, and I got serious about lifting weights and doing high interval training.

To get back on track when it comes to food, I knew that I had to be better about eating throughout the day so that I wouldn’t walk in the door starving. I started by always eating breakfast and carrying healthy snacks and water at all times. Meal planning really helped me keep things simple, organized, and healthy.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, I learned to move on when I made a “bad” food choice. I realize that the next meal always provides the opportunity to make a different choice.

At different times, I would have approached the above breakfast very differently. At one time, I would have eaten it all very quickly, and I would have felt horribly stuffed afterwards and then would have beaten myself up for eating it. About a year ago, I would have probably refused to eat it at all as it was not “healthy enough.”

I like the place I am at when it comes to food and exercise. I’m by no means perfect. There are days when I eat too much or feel some guilt for a little while. But I don’t beat myself up over “bad” choices, and I eat overall healthy foods and allow for an occasional splurge, which I think is healthy.

Questions: Has your relationships with food ever changed? If so, how? What is the most important “food lesson” you have ever learned? As I said above, I think realizing that the next meal is an opportunity to make different choices has been huge for me.

Be well,

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Barre Workouts

I’ve been getting some questions about the barre workouts I’ve been doing. As I said before, I love barre workouts, which combine yoga, Pilates, ballet, and often orthopedic exercises that focus on proper alignment. There is a lot of thigh and gluteal work, and you often shake uncontrollably by the end of an exercise. Plus your core gets literally “attacked” from every angle. The upper body also gets a workout with lots of push ups as well as exercises performed with light weights but lots of reps. It’s hard to believe that 2 or 3 pound hand weights can cause that much agony… Every workout I have done (especially the ones I have done in person), has been a great, challenging workout. Here are what I see as the benefits of a barre workout:
  • Intense workout that works the whole body
  • Focus on posture, which makes me stand up straighter and feel taller all day long
  • Lots of exercises to strengthen stabilizing muscles as well as stretches which help prevent overuse injuries from lots of running and forward motion exercise; since I’m doing a lot more hiking, walking, and running lately, I feel I “need” my barre workouts to prevent injuries
  • Often includes a lot of balancing work, which I need more and more of as I’m getting older
  • You REALLY see results if you do the workouts regularly (at least 3 times per week)
  • Lots and lots of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) – I think that’s a good thing! Smile 
  • While the workouts are very challenging – you will shake uncontrollably during class – the yoga and Pilates elements usually make for a calming yet energizing workout
I have also been getting some questions regarding taking a class in a studio versus doing a DVD. There are lots of barre workout DVDs out there, and I have only done a few of them.

First of all, I would recommend to take at least a few classes in a studio if you can as proper technique is crucial to this workout, and I think it’s really hard to do the exercises with proper form without being corrected at first. (Barre workouts are expensive, but studios sometimes have specials. Also, there are quite a few Groupon deals, etc.; you can often save 50% or even more.) If you can’t take classes in a studio, make sure you  watch the DVD carefully before doing the exercises and make sure you focus on proper form. You really only get the benefits from the exercises if you do them correctly.

Second, while there are some excellent DVDs out there, I don’t think I get as good a workout doing a DVD as I do at a studio. The workout is very intense, and there is just something about having a live instructor who motivates you. Plus, live classes usually have great music, which also helps me keep going. The DVDs I have done have only very soft music in the background, as there are many instructions given as to how to do the exercises correctly. While the instructions are helpful and necessary, they can get a bit annoying after a while.

I like that the workouts always change in the studio, so you never do the same workout. Finally, chairs, etc. work in place of a barre okay, but it’s just not the same as having a barre, and the workouts are just not the same. Having said that, I think barre workout DVDs are an excellent addition to my workouts, help keep costs down a lot, and make doing the workouts more convenient.
Here are the classes/DVDs I have done and my thoughts on each:
  • The Dailey Method (TDM): TDM was the first barre-type class I ever did, and I’m partial to it! I was introduced to TDM through some free (modified) classes they offered at my local Lululemon store. Over the past year, I have taken classes at TDM on a regular basis. I love the way the workout makes me feel. The instructors give great cues, explain the reasons behind the exercises, and really pay attention and correct students during class. That’s why I think taking live classes is so important. I feel like I got my foundation to do barre-type workouts at TDM. In April 2011, TDM came out with a DVD. The DVD contains two workouts – a 35 minute express workout and a 55 minute workout. I like that there is a shorter version (but you have to be familiar with the workout as it is somewhat advanced). I also like that there is quite a comprehensive introduction that goes through the terminology and the moves of the class. Jill Dailey advises new students to watch the introduction several times as well as the whole 55 minute workout before attempting to do it. I think that’s very good advice. She also tells students to go back to the introduction whenever something isn’t clear. The instructions on the DVD are very clear, and Jill is making sure that students can do the moves correctly at home, but I miss the energy and music of a live class.
  • Exhale: Core Fusion - Lean & Toned: The DVD consists of five separate 10-minute workouts that you can play continuously for a 55 minute workout (including a 5 minute cool down and stretch), or you can play the workouts individually and mix and match for a shorter workout. The focus of the five workouts is as follows: upper body, thighs, flat/round back (core), gluteal tone and stretch, pretzel (core and gluteal muscles). I enjoy this DVD and like that I can do it when I’m short on time by just doing two or three of the workouts. The flat/round back workout is very difficult and could be frustrating to a beginner, but if you keep at it, it’ll get easier.
  • Pure Barre: I took several classes at Pure Barre when they offered special deals through Groupon and other sites. It’s similar to TDM, but there is more focus on aerobics with louder and faster music. A friend of mine described it as “TDM on steroids.” It’s definitely a challenging workout. Personally, I haven’t gotten the kind of feedback and correction at Pure Barre like I have at TDM. But I also haven’t taken as many classes there… While it is certainly a great workout, I miss the calm feeling I have after a TDM workout.
  • Barre3 Total Body Lift Workout: I did this  40-minute DVD several times when it was offered on Exercise TV on Demand. It’s a decent workout, but I feel it would be difficult for someone who has never done a barre-type workout to do the exercises correctly (but I’m not sure if the actual DVD maybe comes with an introduction that explains the exercises a bit more). Plus, in addition to light hand weights and a chair, you also need a small exercise ball. Alternatively, you can use a towel, which didn’t work very well for me.  However, the day after the workouts, I felt muscle soreness in my leg and gluteal muscles that I hadn’t felt in a while… So I guess it did something!
Questions: What’s your favorite workout? I love all kinds of workouts, but hiking and barre workouts are my favorites at the moment. Have you ever done a barre  workout? If so, what did you think?
Be well,

Monday, June 6, 2011

Weekend Fun and Weekly Meals and Workout Plan

We had a lot of weekend plans, but most of them did not happen due to lots of rain and cold weather. But we still had lots of fun.

Our weekend fun started on Friday night with the SubZERO Festival in San Jose. There was food, art, music, and beer. What more can you ask for? Luckily, the toddler had taken a short nap earlier in the day, so he made it until 9:00 p.m., which is definitely past his bed time on a normal day.

On Saturday, I met my friend Lara for a free class at Lululemon. It was a great workout and fun to catch up. Unfortunately, the rest of our Saturday plans didn’t happen.

We also had plans for Sunday morning, but, again, they had to be canceled due to the weather. On Sunday afternoon hubby had managed to invite himself over (as well as the toddler and me) to our friends’ house to watch them brew beer. It’s been a dream of his to brew his own beer for a while now, and it was actually really cool to watch the entire process. I see beer brewing in our future! There was also lots of delicious food.

Here are our meals for the week:

Meal 1: Brown rice, sautéed veggies, and tofu.
Meal 2: Grilled asparagus and grilled salmon.
Meal 3: Brown rice pasta, tomato sauce, and meatless meatballs and a Greek salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, feta, and olives).
Meal 4: Roasted beets, potatoes, and carrots topped with over-easy eggs on a bed of lettuce.
Meal 5: Salmon salad (wild canned salmon mixed with lemon juice, avocado, and capers) on a bed of lettuce.

And here is what I have planned in terms of exercise:

Monday: Barre workout.
Tuesday: Upper and lower body weight circuits.
Wednesday: Cardio (either a long walk/hike or stair climber and elliptical at the gym)
Thursday: Upper and lower body weight circuits.
Friday: Yoga and HIIT.

Questions: What was the highlight of your weekend? What are you eating this week? What exercise do you have planned? 

Be well,

Friday, June 3, 2011

Veggies and Cookies

It’s been a few weeks since our last Farmers’ Market trip, and I had almost forgotten how energizing buying fresh produce directly from people who care is. Besides tasting our fair share, we also purchased a good amount. Here is what we got:
Earlier this week, we received Newtons Fruit Thins cookies in the mail through the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program. I am not the biggest fan of Fig Newtons, and I didn’t expect to like these cookies as much as I do. They are thin, crispy, not overly sweet, with small, tasty pieces of fruit and just a hint of cinnamon and other spices. They are the perfect “tea cookie,” but honestly I have been enjoying them throughout the day with and without tea.

Questions: What’s your favorite cookie? Any exciting plans for the weekend? We have actually lots of fun things planned. I’ll let you know what we did on Monday! Smile

Be well,