Thursday, June 28, 2012

Reacquainting Myself With An Old Friend

As Summer has now blown in with a gentle breeze and my children have flown off in different directions like the seeds of a dandelion delicately drifting towards their destinations I have found myself wanting to rekindle lost friendships and reacquaint myself with me. I want to find myself again now that my permanent job as keeper of dreams, nurse of scraped knees, doctor of tummy aches, cook, storyteller, money tree, & chauffeur to all places big and small has taken a back seat. I sometimes feel like I spent my whole life so wrapped up in being a mother that suddenly being laid off from some of those jobs has left me what? My children will always need me, this much I know, but now is a time for reinvention. I recently called a good friend of mine who I had lost touch with. It was like no time had gone by. We were talking at a bubbling speed trying to catch up on all of the years. We talked abut so many things, but one thing that stood out was the fact that over the years we all have put on a few pounds or noticed significant changes in our bodies that we are not fond of.
I have always been interested in fitness, and worked out regularly for the past 20 years. I have been knwon to be a yo-yo but I have never given up trying to be the best I can be and being the healthiest I can be. A few years ago I stumbled upon a great on line program that really helped me get a grasp on what I was doing with my fitness program. I had great results and suddenly it dawned on me. "I could be dong this for other people". I could be a living testament to the health and fitness we need as we get older. It was my "ah ha" moment. Do you remember when your love for fitness and eating healthy hit you? When you felt you just had to make a positive change in your life?

What was your "ah ha" moment? Please leave your comments.

Big Hugs, Gina

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fruit Tart With Almond Meal Crust - Gluten free - Grain Free - Sugar Free

While I was making my Chicken Sopes the other night, I had some left over sope shells and had this brilliant idea to make fruit tarts. I made a small tweak to the dough recipe and came up with a winner. This dessert is perfect for Summer entertaining. You can make the crust a day or 2 ahead of time and putting this dessert together is a snap. If you eat a clean diet then you will most likely have all of these ingredients in your pantry or fridge.

  • 12 fresh strawberries (medium size) sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup Fage Greek Yogurt (you can use fat-free or 2%)
  • 5 Packets of Xylitol (or 1 1/4 Tablespoons of Agave Nectar or Honey if sugar isn't a problem) 2 of the packets will be added to the dough recipe, 2 will be added to the yogurt and 1 will be added to the fruit mixture
  • Salt to Taste
  • 2 cups of Almond Flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tbs Olive Oil
INSTRUCTIONS (Fruit Filling):
    • Add sliced strawberries, raspberries & blueberries in a bowl
    • Add 1 packet of Xylitol
    • Toss well to coat and let sit
INSTRUCTIONS (Yogurt Filling):
    • Mix yogurt and Xylitol together. If you are not worried about having sugar, then use Agave nectar or Honey to sweeten. Chill in refrigerator until ready to assemble.
  • Preheat Oven to 350 degrees F
  • In a medium bowl add the 2 cups of almond flour, 2 eggs, 1 Tbs of Olive Oil & 1/2 teaspoon of salt & 1 - 2 packets of Xylitol. This is a matter of taste. It depends on how sweet you like your crust. Even without the sweetener this crust is good.
  • Mix well to incorporate. You will need to form a "dough" ball with your hands.
  • If the mixture is too wet add a bit more almond flour
  • Form the dough into a 2 1/2" roll
  • Form each slice by gently flattening the middle of the tart and pinching the edges up to form a little wall. Each tart should end up being about 3 1/2"
  • Lay them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or foil
  • Bake in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 10 - 12 minutes (don't overbake them they will get dry)
Here you can see the prep of the dough. Notice the little raised edge on the tart shell. It is really helpful to use a dough cutter (pictured) to slice and move the tarts around. The almond dough can get very sticky. I also like to work on waxed paper and then transfer them to parchment paper to bake. When you bake the tart shells, they may not actually get golden so don't overbake them. They should be crisp outside and tender inside.

  • Take a large spoonful of the yogurt mixture and spread it on the tart shell.
  • Carefully add a few scoops of the fruit mixture. You can add berries where needed to make them look pretty.
  • Top each mound of fruit with a small dollop of yogurt mixture and top with a blueberry
That's it! Enjoy this simple, refreshing dessert without the guilt!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Chicken Sopes – Gluten Free – Grain free- Sugar Free

If you've never had a Sope, you are in for a treat. These delicious little gems originated from Mexico.
From Wikipedia:
A sope is a traditional Mexican dish originating in the city of Culiacán, where it was first known asgordita or pelliscadas in Culiacán. It at first sight looks like an unusually thick tortilla with vegetables and meat toppings. The base is made from a circle of fried masa of ground maize with pinched sides. This is then topped with refried beans and crumbled cheese, lettuce, onions, red or green sauce (salsa, made with chiles or tomatillos respectively), and acidified cream. Sometimes other ingredients (mostly meat) are also added to create different tastes and styles of sopes. Sopes are roughly the size of a fist. Don't panic. My version of Sopes are Grain free, Gluten Free & Sugar Free. This recipe is simple and quick to make. While nothing can make up for the thick, fried, corn tortilla I think you will find this a satisfying and healthy alternative. Don't be afraid to experiment with flavors and add your favorite spices and "heat"! INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 - 3 boneless chicken breasts (use 4 if they are small)
  • 1 can of chicken broth (less sodium is better)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes (I used the petite diced)
  • 1 large onion - diced
  • 1 green bell pepper - diced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced or use a garlic press
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste
  • 1/2 - 1 Tsp Dried Cumin (to taste)
  • 1 diced jalapeno (or any hot sauce you like)
  • 2 cups of Almond Flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 Tbs Olive Oil (save 1 Tbs for the Almond Crust)
  • Black beans (mashed up & seasoned) , You can omit this if you are not eating legumes.
  • Cilantro, shredded lettuce, fresh diced tomatoes, cotijo or crumbled cheese, diced onions, sour cream or "crema" or any other toppings you may want to add.
INSTRUCTIONS (Sope Chicken Filling):
  • In a large pot add 2 Tbs of olive oil and the diced onions. Let them saute a bit until softened.
  • Add the chicken breasts and season with salt & pepper
  • Add the canned tomatoes with their juice
  • Add the diced bell pepper
  • Bring to a light simmer
  • Season the pot with cumin, and any other spices you might like to try such a chipotle, cayenne, red pepper flakes, oregano, etc. I kept mine simple because my daughter is so fussy.
  • Allow the chicken to simmer in this liquid until it is just cooked through (about 15 - 20 minutes depending on the size of the chicken breasts.)
  • Remove the chicken breasts from the liquid and set aside to cool.
  • Add the fresh garlic to the liquid
  • Continue cooking the liquid until it reduces down quite a bit and the vegetables are softened. Time will vary depending on the heat of your stove.
  • Once chicken is cooled, shred it finely and set it aside
  • Add the shredded chicken back to the liquid mixture in the pot, and remove from heat
  • Stir to incorporate. Be sure to taste and re-season if necessary. Now is a good time to add the hot sauce or more spices if you want your sopes to have a little "kick" to them.
  • Preheat Oven to 350 degrees F
  • In a medium bowl add the 2 cups of almond flour, 2 eggs, 1 Tbs of Olive Oil & 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • Mix well to incorporate. You will need to form a "dough" ball with your hands.
  • If the mixture is too wet add a bit more almond flour
  • Form the dough into a 2 1/2" roll
  • Form each slice by gently flattening the middle of the sope and pinching the edges up to form a little wall. Each sope should end up being about 3 1/2"
  • Lay them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or foil
  • Bake in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 10 - 12 minutes (don't overbake them, but you want them crispy since they will absorb the juices from the sope filling.
Here you can see the prep of the dough. Notice the little raised edge on the sope shell. Itis really helpful to use a dough cutter (pictured) to slice and move the sopes around. The almond dough can get very sticky. I also like to work on waxed paper and then transfer them to parchment paper to bake. When you bake the sope shells, they may not actually get golden so don't overbake them. They should be crisp outside and tender inside.
Here is a photo of what it the sopes should look like after they come out of the oven and you add the first layer. I just used mashed up black beans that I seasoned with salt and pepper. If you are not eating legumes then just omit the beans. This layer is sort of like the glue that will hold it all together, lol. After the beans you add the chicken mixture and then top it off with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, onion (green onions work here too), sour cream or crema can be used as well as guacamole, cheese, salsa, whatever you like.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pesto Salmon With Basil Zucchini

My local market had some fresh, wild caught, sockeye salmon. It looked really good, so tonight, I created a delicious, healthy, gluten-free dinner that is easy to prepare. You can either make your pesto fresh or just buy some at your local market. I like to know exactly what is in my food, so I chose to make my own. My daughter is a very fussy eater and when she smelled this cooking, she came running to the kitchen asking what I was making for dinner. She said it smelled amazing! Woo, hoo! Salmon is rich in protein but is also high in omega-3 essential fatty acids. Sockeye Salmon is very red in color and remains that way even after it is cooked. If you are using Sockeye salmon be sure not to over cook it. The pesto recipe below is intended to make just a small amount that will be enough to cover the top of each fillet. INGREDIENTS:
  • 4 Salmon Fillets (Fresh is better)
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves (plus 5 extra leaves chopped for zucchini mixture)
  • 1 Tbs Pine Nuts
  • Olive Oil (about 1/8th cup, plus 2 extra Tbs to saute the zucchini squash)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 3 zucchini squash
  • 1 Tsp dried Oregano
  • Brown Rice (prepared as directed on package)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or foil)
  • Lay Salmon Fillets on Parchment and sprinkle lightly with salt
  • In a food processor, add basil leaves and pulse until chopped.
  • Use a garlic press to mince garlic and squeeze directly into the food processor.
  • Add Pine Nuts and run food processor until they all is blended.
  • Add salt & pepper to taste (this is just a topping for the fish, it doesn't have to be perfect. Give it a taste and see if it is to your liking.)
  • Wash & slice zucchini squash and slice it into thin slices.
  • Preheat olive oil in a large skillet
  • Add the squash and stir to coat evenly
  • Season with salt and pepper and add in the dried oregano
  • Saute until the squash softens and becomes tender'
  • Use a garlic press to mince the garlic and add it to the pan.
  • Continue to cook for a couple of more minutes and remove from heat
  • Add in the chopped basil you set aside and stir to incorporate
My daughter really liked this, Success!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Eat Right 4 Your Type - Is it Hype?

Can it be possible that your blood type can determine which foods will aid in weight loss and which foods will actually cause you to gain weight? That is the claim in the book "Eat Right 4 Your Type", by Dr. Peter j. D'Adamo. The book was written in 1996 and I just recently happened across it when I was asked to do a report on the diet for a nutrition class. I had never heard of this diet or even this concept. I am not in any way trying to sell you on this book or diet, just let you know my experiences with the diet. Some of the information really is very interesting and certainly worth looking into. The idea is that depending on your blood type certain foods can actually be harmful to your system causing all sorts of problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, etc., while other foods can be very beneficial to your health and promote weight loss and reverse the signs or beginnings of some of the above mentioned health issues. I happen to have type A+ blood. I was shocked to learn that many of the foods I love and enjoy on a daily basis were actually on the foods to avoid list. I was also informed that I should be a Vegetarian, can you believe it? I am only listing a few of the recommendations. You will have to buy the book if you feel you want to follow this diet. I just found it interesting to see some of the food listed. Here is the run down of how blood type A's should eat.:   Type A's:
    • We are "Cultivators", the first vegetarians
    • We will be naturally thinner and will lose weight rapidly in the beginning on this type of diet if we eliminate meat products.
    • We should NOT do strenuous, high intensity exercise, but rather will benefit from Tai Chi & Yoga (seriously? I have been killing myself with my workouts and love it, lol)
Food that will encourage weight gain:
  • Meat (they say it will be stored as fat, yikes)
  • Dairy foods - no milk, cheese, etc.
  • Kidney & Lima Beans (we can have all other beans, oh my, I always eat kidney beans, oh well!)
  • Wheat (we can have wheat, just not too much, but this is one thing I don't eat much of anymore so I am okay with this, lol.
Foods that will encourage weight loss (sounds good to me!):
  • Soy Foods (another shocker, I have been told to avoid these foods like the plague, but maybe I will give this a shot and it will help with my awful hot flashes)
  • Vegetables, (hmmm, no mystery here, anyone who eats their veggies (and not much else is bound to lose weight, right?)
  • Vegetable Oils (like olive oil, so this is good, but NO coconut oil? Say it isn't so, I love the stuff, sigh!)
  • Pineapple (good for digestion, okay, I will try it, I like pineapple)
Type A's can should eliminate all meats from diet, but we can have some fish and chicken a few times a week.
Fish and seafood to avoid (the list is longer, these are just my favorites):
  • Crab
  • Halibut
  • Lobster
  • Scallop
  • Shrimp
Dairy & Eggs (Okay to eat):
  • Eggs (1 - 3 per week, I eat 1 - 2 per day)
  • Feta
  • Ricotta
  • Goat Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Mozzarella
Bad Dairy:
  • All Cheeses including cottage cheese, brie, cream cheese
  • Ice Cream
  • Half & Half
  • Milk
  • Parmesan
  • Whey (seriously??? What about my protein shakes!!!)
Good Oils & Fats:
  • Olive Oil
  • Walnut Oil
  • Flaxseed
Bad Fats & Oils:
  • Coconut Oil (boo hoo, I love the stuff)
  • Corn Oil
  • Peanut Oil
I can go on and on, and I am sure I will be adding to this list. Type A's are also allowed to have some grains, cereals & pastas. This is good news to me but also scares me a bit. It is necessary to eat certain grains like rice when you have legumes (beans), in order to make a complete protein. This is not from the book, but a simple fact of any nutrition book you will read. It is science.

Type A's really only need to avoid these Grains, cereals & pastas:
  • Cream of Wheat
  • Grape Nuts
  • Wheat Germ, wheat bran, shredded wheat
  • Whole wheat bread, multigrain bread, high protein bread
  • Whole Wheat flour (pasta, too)
Type A's need to avoid these Vegetables:
  • Cabbage
  • Peppers
  • Olives
  • Potatoes (all colors/varieties)
  • Tomatoes
  • Shiitake Mushrooms (all others are okay)
  • Eggplant
  Type A's need to avoid these Fruits:
  • Bananas
  • Coconuts
  • Melons
  • Papayas
  • Oranges/Tangerines
  • Mangoes
This makes me a bit sad, I love some of these fruits. I have a banana everyday and also love oranges and tangerines, and mangos, sigh!

Lastly, Type A's must avoid these things:
  • Pepper , black, cayenne, red flakes, white (all my favorites)
  • Vinegar (I am italian, this could be hard)
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Pickles
  • Worchestershire sauce
  • Beer & alcohol
  • Soda
  • Tea (except green is good)
Things Beneficial to Type A's - I LOVE This:
  • Coffee
  • Red Wine
  • Green Tea
  • Chocolate (is neutral)
So, I plan to give this a try. I will let you all know how it goes. When I did my report, I concentrated on the type O blood type since most of the people in the nutrition class were type O's. If you have tried this Blood Type Diet, please feel free to leave your comments. I would love to hear how it was for you!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

HIIT Workout Today - Fat Gone Tomorrow!

I hope that got your attention.

Don't let the "June Gloom" get you down.

Get your metabolism revved up and chase those blues away! Sometimes you just gotta "get it done". In the amount of time it takes you to procrastinate about your workout, you could have it done and be reaping the metabolic benefits of the workout. When you workout this way, you don't have to work long, but you have to work hard! Your metabolism will be going long after your workout is done.
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training.
I prefer to do a HIIT workout with 1:00 working out and 2:00 minutes of active recovery but you can set your timer to an interval that suits your needs. Some find it more challenging to go 90 seconds - and then actively recover for 90 seconds.
If you need less of a challenge try doing 30 seconds of full-out work and then actively recover for about 30 - 45 seconds.
What does it mean to actively recover?
You want to keep moving during this recovery period. Do not sit down, do not stop moving. You want to keep the movement simple with a slow to moderate pace to bring your heart rate down. You can take this workout outside and try sprinting (running) as fast as you can during your work period and then slowing it down to a walk to recover.
Start with a 5:00 minute dynamic warm up that mimics some of the moves you will be doing, to get the blood flowing to your muscles and help them warm up.
Here is a workout you can do indoors or outside, to get you started:
Remember that the first 1:00 is as fast as you can go, do not stop.
Set your timer (I like the Gymboss) for 2 intervals, 1:00 & 2:00 for 8 rounds.
  • 1:00 - Sprinting (running in place or if out side go for it)
  • 2:00 - Squats (active recovery, slow to medium pace)
  • 1:00 - Jumping jacks
  • 2:00 - Alternating side lunges (active recovery)
  • 1:00 - Switch Kicks
  • 2:00 - Alternating Front Lunges (active recovery)
  • 1:00 - Side to Side Ski Jumps
  • 2:00 - Alternating 1 legged Toe Touchdowns (active recovery)
  • 1:00 - Suicide Drills
  • 2:00 - Alternating Reverse Lunges (active recovery)
  • 1:00 - Reverse Jumping Jacks
  • 2:00 - Alternating Standing Side Crunches (active recovery)
  • 1:00 - Heismans
  • 2:00 - Alternating Side Lunges (active recovery)
  • 1:00 - Squat Thrusts
  • 2:00 - Seated Romanian Twists (or simple floor ab crunches)
Take a few extra minutes to recover.
It is important to stretch out after your workout to keep your muscles from getting sore.

The "Weigh In" on Weighing In

Should You Weigh Yourself Everyday Or Not?

Scale Help Weighing InWe all ask ourselves that question. You will hear many conflicting reports. I will admit I am a slave to my scale. Yes, I said it. I am a scale junkie! That small, little metal box seems to have a hold on me that I can't shake. On some days I can step off that little box feeling elated and thin...on other days it can mess with my head and convince me I am a failure. This is not a good feeling. The purpose of a scale is to give one a base to start at and a means to track your progress, but so many factors can affect our weight throughout the day. We should not be alarmed with these changes as it is natural for the body to fluctuate in weight everyday. Your body metabolizes your excess fat in different degrees depending on how you eat each day or each meal, how much you drank, what kind of stress you may be feeling, how much sleep you got the night before, and so much more. You know that feeling when you have been so good. You are excited to step on the scale...and then you see it! You have gained a pound! Or worse, you go three days without losing anything. Frustrating, right? Believe it or not, your body is still in a fat loss mode, but it could be as simple as having had too much salt in your food, or if you are exercising it could be muscle gain. Body Water WeightIf you gain weight, be sure to really look at your food and activity of the day before. Maybe you tried a new workout that has fatigued your muscles, or maybe you ate a bit more than you want to admit, or again, maybe your food choice was a bit saltier? The human body is made up of over 70% water. A fluctuation in weight can easily be attributed to water weight. This will cause your body to hang on to that extra water. Don't beat yourself up. If you are really being good in your diet by eating cleanly and you are working out consistently then don't give up. As long as you have created a calorie deficit , (you burn slightly more calories than you are eating), then you should feel proud. You are on the right path. Bottom line on weighing in? Do what you feel comfortable with. If the scale is causing you too much agony, then by all means, get rid of it. If you can take what it says with a "grain of salt" (yes, I said it, lol) Then step on it once a day, once a week, or when you ar feeling thin. Don't let the scale control your feelings, just use it as a guide to keep you honest and on track! I would suggest using a tape measure to accurately gauge your wight loss progress. Here are the areas to measure and keep track of:
  • Chest/Bust (at nipple line)
  • Waist (at smallest point)
  • Hips (at widest point where your buttocks stick out)
  • Thighs (I like to measure at the widest point)
  • Biceps (widest point, arm extended palm facing upward)
  • Calves (widest point)
No matter what the scale says each day you are still losing fat and inches, and one step closer to La Vita Bella, The Beautiful Life.