Friday, October 25, 2013

Fall Friday - Tips, Tricks and Inspiration!

Fall -- don't you love it?  When we have fall weather in Texas, we celebrate; it can turn back to summer at any moment.

The downside of this time of year is that we have dark evenings and they are especially dark for the next two weeks until the time change. I noticed our neighborhood walkers have disappeared with the dark evenings (and not just because I can't see them! - ha!). In the autumn we have to revamp our exercise routine to factor in cooler weather and darker evenings and mornings. Here's a tip, take time this week to figure out how you can continue exercising in consideration of the environment. Maybe it's time to take all the clothes off the clothes rack -- err, exercise bike -- or dust off the yoga DVDs. "Just Dance" is an ever popular form of exercise in our house when it's too cool or dark outside. Maybe you can incorporate a stop by the gym into your commute or ride your bike for work or errands. Making a plan now ensures that we will be able to keep exercising through the holidays. My personal plan is to hit the home gym before I fix dinner each night. The Littles will need a hearty snack after school to tide them over to a later dinner.

Fall is time for soups, stews, and chili's, right?  Trick your family and your metabolism with this yummy no-meat chili. To speed things up, cook the beans in the crock-pot and then dump it all in a saucepan to finish after work. Alternately, cook the beans a day ahead and store them in the fridge until ready.

You Won't Miss the Meat Chili
Serves 6 
5 Weight Watcher's Points Plus per serving 
Freezes Great

1# 9-bean or 7-bean soup mix; discard the seasoning packet. (Cook beans according to package directions.  Do NOT add remaining ingredients until the beans are soft).

When beans are cooked or nearly so, add:

2.5 T chili powder;
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Cumin
1.5 t salt; 

1/2 tsp Cayenne (or omit if too spicy)
1/4 tsp. powdered ginger (helps with "repeating")
2- 16oz cans diced tomatoes, un-drained; 
1 can (16 oz) tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced

Heat til bubbly; reduce heat, cover, simmer 30 minutes. 

At the last 10 minutes, mix:
6 oz. of beer (room temp is fine)
2 tablespoons masa (corn flour) or regular flour

Add to the chili.

 For a slightly more caloric version of this chili, try this version with cornbread dumplings. SO yummy.  

I also love Surprise Chili which is a more conventional chili but includes pumpkin!

Finally, this week's inspiration is from our little Bennie. He's a four-year-old gabby gander but surprisingly wise. He has India on his mind this week; apparently he's been watching the news. When Tinker said she wanted to move to India, Bennie said, "Don't do it! They don't have enough water!" The next day as we were both exercising, he asked, "Mom, do people in India have elliptical's? " "I doubt it son; I don't think in general they have problems with overeating. I think they have trouble getting enough to eat." "Well," he said, "that's sad." 

I would use the word "humbling." It's the perfect example of a "first world problem." Poor me, I have to go in my home gym and watch my  big screen tv to exercise off all the pounds I gained by overeating. (Whine).

Oh my goodness. I am going to try to put things in perspective this week and actually stop eating when I've had enough to eat. I am not a big over-eater  but I am aware that several times a week I do eat when I am not hungry. I think a little more hungry in my life could be useful.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fall Friday Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration plus a Challenge

It's fab Friday! Time for some tips, tricks and inspiration, plus a challenge.

Here's a tip: Don't Instagram your food if you want to fully savor it. In an interesting study on satiety, researchers see a link between a loss of enjoyment and Instagramming photos of food. I take a lot of photos of food to use in my "Menu Plan Monday" posts and also in my recipe file, so this study made me sit up and take notice. Now to be sure, it's a "first world problem." Nonetheless, as a weight watcher, enjoying my food is part of what keeps me on plan, so maybe I will cut back on that food photography!

Have you ever tried veggie noodles?  This is a simple trick to get more veggies, fiber and vitamins into your diet. In the interest of full disclosure, these "Zoodles" (recipe below) do not taste like noodles, but they are surprisingly satisfying.  I actually crave them now. I love my pasta but these Zoodles are good! My solution has been to eat the zoodles and include a half-serving of pasta along with them. I've fed them to the kids too; I just don't try to convince them it's pasta.  I love them most with tomato based sauces but am experimenting with other recipes too. Try them and let me have your thoughts.

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4 - 6 Servings
4 medium zucchini
Salt 2 tsp.
1 Tblsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic minced

Julienne the zucchini using a julienne peeler, mandoline or spiralizer.  Salt it liberally (use 1/2 tsp. per zucchini) and allow to sit in a mesh strainer for 20 minutes. Don't skip this step; it's essential. 

Rinse the squash to remove some of the surface salt and then gently squeeze it with your hands to remove some of the excess water.

Heat the olive oil gently in a non-stick skillet and add the garlic; when the garlic becomes fragrent, increase the heat to medium high and add the zucchini.  Gently stir fry until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Serve with any sauce you enjoy with pasta.
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Just in time for fall, my inspiration this week came not from a weight loss story, but from a story about apples and a man who loves them. I promise, there is a farmer in me somewhere. Please enjoy this lovely story about apples and then visit a farmer's market near you in search of a new apple to enjoy. If the first story intrigues you, the second one on the same vein is also fascinating. 

I've decided to add a new item to my weekly Tips, Tricks and Inspiration blog: A challenge!  This week's challenge is to make an apple based dish in celebration of fall. Let me know what you love and I'll share your findings here! 

Happy Friday, Friends.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Vegetarians, Exercisers, Potassium (Spuds) and Saturday

Happy weekend! I missed my Friday "Tips, Trips and Inspiration" because I am getting over a terrible cold and just couldn't wrap my brain around getting up even earlier. But here I am on Saturday so, hello!  And hello to my 23 new followers reading from Feedspot; I look forward to your comments.

Regular readers of this blog know: I'm not a vegetarian. Although I have a wandering palate and interest in many types of foods, I have never succeeded at vegetarianism because I find it too hard to get my protein. That said, some studies, including the big one in this Fooducate report, have indicated that vegetarians are indeed thinner than the rest of us. It's an excellent tip; move toward a consciously plant based diet if you want to be thinner. There is a lot missing from the aforementioned study, like the cause of the body differences but it isn't too big a leap to say that adopting a conscientious eating style will serve you in the long run. I notice that as I have personally cut back on my consumption of meat in the past several years, I am getting more protein from other sources, naturally.

The trick of the week is . . . (insert drum roll here) exercise. Yes, it's so simple. For those of us with stubborn metabolisms and seriously obese ancestors, it's especially important. Lean muscle speeds up your metabolism in a way nothing else does. That's why those crazy TV "scripted reality" shows have those contestants exercising 6 hours a day. Lean muscle changes the way our bodies respond to food. I am NOT saying that 30 minutes a day of leisurely walking will change your body much  -- though it does benefit your heart and your mind! -- but serious exercising where you are actually building muscle will change things over time. Calories in, calories out is now and always will be the true equation for weight loss but for those of us with metabolic issues, exercise is crucial. You cannot  My commitment (now stated out loud) is to 6 hours a week until January and then I will ramp it up again. What are you committing to?

These two things have to find balance; if we adopt a vegetarian or more vegetarian lifestyle, balancing those proteins is important. If we are increasing our exercise in a significant way, getting enough protein and enough healthy carbs is also important. I would love to see more of us adopting simply healthy lifestyles where we enjoy healthy foods 90% of the time with occasional treats, exercise regularly, sleep enough, etc. I'm at about 75% on all of that. My goal is to be at 90% by the end of the year.

I've been brushing up on my veggies lately; potatoes have gotten such a bad rap in the "bad carbs" hype --but white potatoes and sweet potatoes too are full of fiber, vitamins and other nutrients, like potassium. Should we eat potatoes smothered in butter and cheese at every meal? Of course not. If, however, you are going to eat the carbs (and we know you are ) then consider potatoes at these meals instead of pasta or rice; you will get a lot more bang for your buck.

Get inspired this week to make a beautiful, healthy meal for yourself and your loved ones. My favorite meal of the week was Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala to which I added green peas. We served it with a lovely whole grain couscous and Cucumber Raita.  I make the Tikka Masala waistline friendly by removing the chicken then cooling the sauce so as to completely de-fat it.  It was so delicious. We also use non-fat yogurt in our Raita and it is so lovely beside the spicier Tikka Masala.