Category Archives: Healthy Body

Red, White, and…Green!

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Happy 4th of July America! In honor of the holiday I decided to post my most recent creation in the kitchen.  I called it my “red, white, and green salad” to go along with the patriotic theme.  Our household is learning how to cook in a gluten-free environment nowadays, so I have found myself experimenting with gluten-free swaps.  This recipe used a gluten-free elbow macaroni, and the consensus was a total thumbs up!  I think I even heard the words, “you can’t tell the difference.”  Sweetness to my ears!

Going gluten free is more common nowadays than it was even ten years ago.  My household is doing it for medical purposes, but many people choose to go gluten-free for a variety of reasons.  The time it would take to fully go into this topic would make this post longer than necessary, so I will save gluten-free issues for another day.  Needless to say, if you need or want to take gluten out of your diet, it doesn’t mean you can never have pasta, cakes, or sandwiches again.  

So if you want to try gluten-free, and get some healthy greens in your diet, perhaps you can give this recipe a whirl at your next meal.

For the “meat” of the salad:

  • 2 cups of gluten-free elbow macaroni (any brand will work) 
  • 3 large leaves of lacinato kale, stems removed and roughly chopped 
  • 1/2 cup of julienne sun-dried tomatoes 
  • 1/2 cup of chopped artichoke hearts
  • 1/4 cup of diced red onion

For the dressing:

  • 3/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar 
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 or 2 small anchovies, chopped 
  • 1 to 2 tsp freshly chopped parsley 
  • Salt and pepper, to taste 

I mixed the dressing ingredients together and set aside while I assembled the salad ingredients.  For the kale, I did massage the juice of half a lemon with the leaves to help break down the fibers and cut the bitterness a bit.  Once everything was cooked and chopped, I combined it all in a large bowl and let it cool in the fridge for a bit.  Then it was ready to serve! For hot summer cookouts, this is a great accompaniment without worrying about what is secretly hiding inside.  If you can’t do the kale, substitute fresh spinach leaves instead.  Easy-peasy and still just as healthy. 

So at your next gathering, instead of going to your grocery store’s deli section, surprise your guests with a healthy alternative to pasta salad.  

Happy Birthday America, and until next time,

Cheers!

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Dinner on the Run

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If you would have asked me years ago how I felt about green peas, I probably would have made a gagging motion.  Especially the kind that come in a can and appear to be a funky green color from over-processing.  

But today I was able to find some fresh green peas while in St. Louis, and decided I wanted to do something for dinner.  I was in between obligations for my kids, and I needed to figure out what everyone was going to eat and when.  I also needed to clear out some vegetables in my refrigerator.  What better way to incorporate both than through a salad? 

Here is what I used to whip up this tasty, but really healthy “Dinner on the Run.”

For the salad:

  • 1 10 oz bag of fresh spring peas
  • 1 cup of broccoli florets, chopped
  • 1/2 English cucumber, sliced and halved
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.

For the dressing:

  • 2 heaping TBSP Primal Kitchen brand paleo mayonnaise
  • 1-2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Coconut vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard 
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp garlic powder 
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste 

Wisk all ingredients together and pour over the vegetables.  Toss and then enjoy!  It gets better as it sits in the refrigerator.  So if you feel stretched for time, but want to make something healthy for yourself, always remember vegetables make a great salad.  If mayonnaise-based dressings are not your thing, then use a vinaigrette you love.  Whatever you do, make it your own.

Until next time,

Cheers! 

The Magic of Maca

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Sunday afternoon in the kitchen, and I find myself prepping a bit for the week ahead.  Something I try to do is make easy-to-grab snacks that are healthy and filling.  Today I decided to make protein balls.  One thing my friends know about me is I hate to exact measure ingredients, which I know, is not the greatest trait for recipes.  But in my defense, I like the freedom it allows me in the kitchen, and once I have a recipe down then I figure in the needed amounts.  So here we go with today’s Sunday creation.

Last week I listened to a lecture by a man named David Wolfe.  For anyone who may not recognize this name, Wolfe is a well-known superfoods guru.  He has traveled the world and done extensive education on various things like cacao and spirulina, learning and teaching about how powerful superfoods can be for the body in today’s toxic environment.  Something new I gleaned from this lecture was a superfood called Maca.  Maca is from the Peruvian Andes and is known to help increase energy, endurance, strength, and even libido.  Maca powder also contains more protein and fiber than a potato, and it is loaded with 20 amino acids, seven of those being essential amino acids.  So in a nutshell, this superfood is a great addition to one’s diet.

Maca comes in a powder form, making it easy to throw into smoothies, yogurt, or even on top of your morning cereal.  Just don’t put it in something you plan to cook, like soup, because it breaks down the nutrients.

After finding some Maca powder at my local health food store I decided to use it in my protein balls.  This recipe is super quick and easy, plus you don’t have to bake a thing!  I made these gluten-free, but you can tailor it to your own health needs.  Here is what you need for this particular recipe:

  • Gluten-free rolled oats
  • Crunchy peanut butter
  • Almond butter
  • Local honey
  • Carob chips
  • Protein powder (I used hemp in this case because of its nutty flavor)
  • Maca powder
  • Ground Chia seed

I mixed together one cup of the rolled oats, one cup of the chunky peanut butter, 1/2 a cup of almond butter, 1/4 to 1/3 cup of honey (just do it to taste here, you know how sweet you want it), 1/4 to 1/3 cup of carob chips, two tablespoons of protein powder of choice (you may want to steer clear of flavored powders here and go for the unflavored version), one to two tablespoon of Maca powder and one tablespoon of the ground chia seed.  Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and don’t worry if the powders and chia seeds slightly change the color of the mixture.  Then simply form small balls using a rolling motion between the palm of your hands.  I make mine about the size of a golf ball, maybe slightly smaller.  Store in an airtight container and enjoy throughout the week!

If you have a peanut allergy, substitute a crunchy almond butter, or some other kind of crunchy nut butter.  You can even make your own at home in a blender to get it even closer to the source.  If honey is not your thing, you could use the same amount of brown rice syrup or agave nectar.  But honey is a wonderful sweetener, especially locally grown honey because it is full of antioxidants, probiotics, minerals, and enzymes.

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These are great for on-the-go breakfasts and snacks, or as a sweet ending to a meal.  Either way, you choose, you know you are putting good stuff in your body that your taste buds will enjoy.Until next time,

Until next time,

Cheers!

 

 

Inspirations 

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The last couple of days I have been home with a sick kiddo, so I had a few minutes to let my kitchen take over my brain.  One of my favorite go-to proteins is ground turkey.  It is easy to prepare and you can add just about any spice to it for a tasty outcome.  I usually buy a one pound package of organic turkey meat to give me a few meals to eat during the week.

This week I dediced to make my turkey more “Korean” inspired by adding my favorite condiment in the world, Go-Chu-Jang.  Although it is impossible for me to actually say aloud, this sweet and spicy pepper paste will make you turn away from any barbeque sauce on the market! You can marinade with it, toss it in ground meats, or use it in dips and dressings.  So this is what I poured over my turkey as it was sizzling on the stove, along with a little sea salt, cracked pepper, cumin and onion powder.  I would say a hearty pinch or two of each spice and at least an oversized tablespoon of the paste.


My ultimate goal was to make a Korean Taco Salad for lunch, so after I sautéed some onions and a little lacinato kale in the turkey I started on the salad.  Salads are great because you can tailor them to whatever your dietary needs may encompass.  For mine I did an organic mixed greens with spinach, baby bok choy, and sweet baby kale.  For my “add-ins” I threw in some roasted macadamia nuts, half a diced avocado and some goat cheese crumbles.

I wanted the dressing to mimic a fiesta ranch, but minus the dairy.  So I used two tablespoons of paleo mayonnaise, 1/2 to one teaspoon of Harissa, a good dash of onion powder, basil, parsley and cumin.  Then I whisked it together with some coconut vinegar and fresh lime juice (about a teaspoon).  I adjusted the taste with salt and pepper, but the outcome was exactly what I wanted! Spicy and creamy, it made the perfect dressing.  All I had to do after mixing the salad was top it with my turkey meat. I will definitely be making this salad again because it was so yummy and healthy! Plus it was filling, leaving me completely satisfied when I finished.

Day two of being home I decided to go a different direction, and it was super quick and easy.  I hulled out five Baby Bella mushrooms and topped each with Daiya mozzarella cheese (non-dairy cheese that melts like real cheese!).  Placing the mushrooms in a dish, I broiled them in the oven on high for about 3 to 5 minutes.  Long enough to warm the mushrooms and melt the cheese.  Once they were finished I topped each mushroom with my remaining turkey mixture and part of a diced avocado.  Round two was just as tasty as yesterday’s salad!

So the next time you find yourself staring blankly at the contents of your refrigerator, maybe these two little inspirations of mine will lead you to your own creation in the kitchen.

Until next time,

Cheers!

Back in the Saddle Again

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The second day of January reminds me a little of Ash Wednesday after a gluttonous Fat Tuesday.  New Year’s Day usually involves trying to remember resolutions and finding the jar of aspirin to calm that raging Champagne headache.  But the second day of January usually entails gym memberships and healthy diet plans.  Today I was thinking as I start this new year how I need to get back in the saddle on things, especially my diet.  I don’t really worry too much about the holiday season, especially the two weeks my children are home from school because staying on track with a body-healthy diet takes up time and energy I don’t have to spare. Perhaps you are “Supermom” or “Superdad” and can do this, but this mom is realistic and knows where to pick her battles.  Kale smoothies and beet juices are not going to be one of them.  And thankfully the gym stays in my normal routine because it is the only place in town with a kid-friendly “parental reprieve” for stressed-out moms and dads.  So I know when the walls are crashing down at home I can always turn to my window of “free” time at my gym.

Now that the holidays are officially over I decided today would be the perfect opportunity to work my way back into cooking the foods I love because in a couple of days my kids will be back in a routine and life will calm down for a while.  One of my dear friends gave me a cookbook for my birthday.  Now I love a new cookbook, especially one that involves mind, body and soul.  It just makes me want to go home and start whipping up dish after dish.  This cookbook, entitled “Eat Yourself Calm,” by Gill Paul, teaches what foods are considered calming to the human body based on whatever ailment you may be suffering.  It explains what superfoods, minerals and vitamins are great to help with issues ranging anywhere from depression to headaches.  When I first got the book I flagged several recipes to try and tonight I cooked the lamb stew.  According to the cookbook (co-written with a nutritionist), the ingredients in this recipe are linked with easing depression, sleeplessness, headaches and low energy.  There are definitely a few of those I have experienced recently and on a rainy night, the stew sounded comforting.

The recipe called for lean lamb stew meat, lamb stock (which I used homemade beef broth), beans, canned tomatoes, garlic, shallots, bouquet garni, flour (which I swapped for brown rice flour), sea salt, black pepper and cherry tomatoes.  One thing you need to do when you cook stew meat, especially lamb, is to simmer it for a while on a low heat.  This is where the stock or broth came in because I used it to help tenderize the meat after browning it in the skillet for a few minutes. Although the recipe called for beans, I decided to omit them for the simple fact I did not have any at home.  I also swapped out the green beans for Brussels sprouts for the very same reason.  The lamb is supposed to aide in breathlessness, the sprouts handle concentration and forgetfulness and the tomatoes help relieve headaches.  I poured the finished product over some brown basmati rice and was really surprised how light the stew was, considering how thick and hearty it appeared to be in the end.  The brown rice I used is supposed to help with several factors, including low energy, mood swings, depression and even sleep problems.

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I am excited to try out a few more recipes in this cookbook and to maybe gain a few ideas for making up my own meals to get myself back on track with a calm and healthy lifestyle (or at least aim for that most days!).  Whatever your resolution may be this year, I highly recommend buying a cookbook to help jump start your goals or to give you some inspiration in the kitchen.  And remember you can always change up ingredients in a recipe to make it fit your lifestyle, so don’t be scared to experiment!

Cheers to a healthy and happy 2017!

 

A Soup with No Name

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We all have that moment when we open our freezer, fridge or pantry and realize it is time to clean house.  Just like a closet, your food needs to be inspected and weeded out every six months or so.  It is good to check your expiration dates, move items around that need to be  cooked sooner and make a note of what you don’t need the next time you find yourself wandering the aisles of the grocery store.  And this means saying no to the “10 for 10” deal on items your local grocery is trying to clean off THEIR shelves.

For some reason today I found myself trying to come up with something for lunch and the only thing that sounded good was soup.  Fall just lends itself to soups, chilis, and stews to warm the belly when the temperature starts to fall outside.  Today was no exception, and I knew I needed to clean out the pantry.  Of course, I found a plethora of items that needed to be used before going bad.  So I pulled several out of the pantry and came up with an idea for soup as a way to use them up.  The great thing I love about making soups is you can throw just about anything together and make it taste good, so long as your ingredients are wholesome.

Today I had cannellini beans, dried porcini mushrooms, canned tomatoes, some frozen greens, a frozen bag of onions/peppers/celery, and some frozen “meatless” crumbles.  I was feeling an Italian inspiration coming on with this one, considering the tomatoes, mushrooms, and beans were from Italy.

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Basically, when you are making a soup from scratch you just cook each item in layers.  So I started with the onion blend and some good olive oil on a medium-high heat.  Once that was defrosted and sauteed a bit I added the meatless crumbles.  I let that cook up a few minutes before adding the tomatoes, beans and then the vegetable broth.  I had to let the dried mushrooms soak a bit in warm water before throwing in just a handful to the liquid.  My seasonings were an Italian blend, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  I used roughly a teaspoon of the blend, 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic and a pinch of the remaining two.  With soups, you need to let all the ingredients cook down a bit and simmer before adjusting your spices.  My last go-to spice I use, thanks to my Mom, is Beau Monde seasoning.  This is the best little gem to having in your cabinet, especially when it comes to soups and sauces.  I can’t tell you what it is, but it really can pull all your seasonings together in the end of the cooking process.  I use it all the time in my cooking.

With soups, you need to let all the ingredients cook down a bit and simmer before adjusting your spices.  My last go-to spice I use, thanks to my Mom, is Beau Monde seasoning.  This is the best little gem to having in your cabinet, especially when it comes to soups and sauces.  My mom used this all the time in her recipes and passed this little secret on to me.  A mixture made of salt, onion, and celery, can really pull all your seasonings together in the end of the cooking process.  I am currently trying to use up my current jar so I can find an all natural version.  The one I have used for years has a couple of hard-to-pronounce names in the ingredient list.  I tend to steer clear of those when grocery shopping.  I may try and make my own Beau Monde blend when I find the time!

For a soup with no name, it turned out pretty tasty and gave me a healthy lunch without spending a dime.  Now I have some leftovers to get me through the weekend rush of activities.  I am trying my best to stay healthy and true to myself and making soups from some great ingredients is a sure way to fill your belly while saving on excess calories and unhealthy fillers.

Now, the only thing to make it better is a good glass of wine…but that would be ringing Friday in a little too soon for this mom.  If I had the chance, I would open up a nice Italian Chianti or Montepulciano.  No need to worry about a specific year or vineyard.  I would just find something that fits your budget but gives you a great punch on the tongue with the robust earthiness typically found in your Italian reds.  At least that is what I often taste when presented with one, others may have a different viewpoint (which is perfectly fine in my wine-tasting opinion).

So I hope your next adventure in the kitchen whips up something tasty while cleaning out the shelves.

Until my next inspiration,

Cheers!

Asian Fried Rice, without the Rice? How Paleo can reinvent the wheel.

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In my quest to continue cooking in the kitchen, I have been trying more and more recipes and personal “culinary” experimentations.  Something that keeps intriguing my taste buds is one of the latest trends in the health and nutrition industry, the Paleo diet.  I find numerous cookbooks, iPhone apps, and websites centered around this ideology.  I am always intrigued about new “diets.”  After reading the books about the Whole 30 program I wanted to dig deeper into the principles behind it.  To become “Paleo” means you eat foods lacking harmful additives and preservatives and have been minimally processed (close to the source).  Basically, you eat as our ancient hunter-gather ancestors ate (Fred Flinstone probably indulged in a few of Wilma’s Paleo dinners).  This diet includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, proteins, nuts, healthy oils and coconut derivatives.  The foods you avoid are all forms of dairy, grains (yes, even whole grain), legumes (think peanuts, beans, and peas), processed sugars and all foods containing additives of any kind.  So long and farewell to Hostess cupcakes and harmful food dyes.  So why would someone want to cut out entire food groups, such as heart-healthy whole grain or protein-packed edamame?  The reasoning behind eliminating these items out of your diet is to reduce digestive issues normally caused by these foods.

So why would someone want to cut out entire food groups, such as heart-healthy whole grain or protein-packed edamame?  The reasoning behind cutting these items out of your diet is to reduce digestive issues normally caused by these foods.

Digestive inflammation is a leading cause of certain health issues.  The problem is many people walking around today don’t even realize they suffer from inflammatory reactions due to dairy (lactose) or gluten.  Simply eliminating foods that contain inflammatory triggers can improve someone’s health in a matter of weeks.  It has also been touted to help some people with their weight loss journeys or improve the autoimmune problems of others.  Paleo has also been linked with aiding some people with their weight loss journeys.  Foods that can trigger inflammation in the body can also add on pounds despite the person calorie counting or exercising every day.  Some researchers go on to say Paleo diets can also help improve cardiovascular health, Type 2 diabetes, cancer and certain autoimmune problems.

Whatever your choice may be, if you decide to go Paleo you will need to clean out the pantry, fridge and freezer and re-stock with Paleo-friendly ingredients.  You may also find yourself doing some cooking and whipping up things like paleo mayonnaise (extremely simple and delicious) or cashew cream (which can be made sweet or savory).   Eggs are also another large staple in the Paleo diet, but individuals with an egg allergy have to get creative on certain recipes.  Other must-haves are good cooking oils such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil or any other nut oil (no peanuts, please).  You will need to avoid things with soy or made with corn-based products (canola oil is a biggie), so be aware of what are in the condiments you keep in your fridge (think soy lecithin).  Just start label reading and you will get the hang of watching out for Paleo sabotagers.

If this all sounds too intimidating and time-consuming, there are more and more products coming out on the market geared towards a Paleo lifestyle.  Some items I use at home I found off Amazon or at my local health food store.  If you think this diet would be for you then I highly recommend browsing some good Paleo websites, cookbooks, and magazines.  Find a game-plan to make your major and minor switches in the kitchen easier.  Lifestyle changes are not always easy and these sources contain helpful tips and recipes.  One of my go-to apps on my phone is Nom Nom Paleo (nomnompaleo.com).  You can get step-by-step recipes ranging anywhere from desserts to main courses.

Tonight I made dinner from one of the recipes I thought looked tasty.  It is a new version of Asian “fried rice.”  How do you have fried rice without actually using rice?  The answer is cauliflower.  Put it through a food processor and your taste buds won’t miss this grain one bit.  Some grocery stores may even carry a packaged grated cauliflower that is easy to use in the recipe, which is what I ended up doing tonight.  Cauliflower plays a perfect second fiddle to its carbohydrate counterpart, just watch how long you cook it so the vegetable doesn’t become too mushy.  The meal tonight was new for my husband and I, but he was pleasantly surprised with how good it tasted!

The actual recipe, with pictures and step-by-step instructions, for Asian Cauliflower Fried Rice is posted below.

 

If you wonder what it is you can and can’t drink on a Paleo diet, the options are actually quite good.  Besides water, there are plenty of healthy drinks available, so long as you avoid those bad sugars forbidden by the Paleo Police.  As for alcohol, well there is hope in that area too.  Vodkas made without potatoes or grains are absolutely fine, as are red and white wines (they are made from grapes) and brandy (made from wine).  Avoid things that are made using grain products, such as scotch or beer.  I would drink a nice white wine, maybe a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough region of Australia with the fried rice recipe.  Something that would match the lightness of the meal.  You can eat, drink and be merry all while fueling your body with healthy alternatives.

I highly recommend trying it if you haven’t before, you might be surprised at how easy and tasty going Paleo can be for you.  As I continue to research and experiment with Paleo I hope to let you in on helpful tips or pass on other great eats to make your own journey a little bit tastier.

Until next time, cheers!

 

The “Whole” Enchilada

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After surviving my Anatomy and Physiology class I have finally rewarded myself with a much needed break.  It has been a long while since I have had a chance to read and research nutrition.  My books have collected dust on the nightstand next to my bed.  But now I am back in the game and I am loving what I am learning.  A couple of friends had told me about a new book and nutrition regiment called “The Whole 30.”  Based upon the book, “It Starts With Food,” Dallas and Melissa Hartwig address the idea how the food we eat each day is harming our body and could be the possible root to many illnesses and diseases ailing the general public.  It is not the first book I have encountered in my readings to hit upon this idea, but I always enjoy learning what each individual’s personal take is on the theory.

When I say the “food” we eat I mean the overly processed, meal-in-a-box variety that haunts a majority of our grocery shelves.  The need for quick meals and food at our fingertips began when our society grew and expanded decades ago.  Instead of growing vegetables, using local markets and eating “closer to the earth,” our society’s on-the-spot demand for products led to mass-produced quantities of canned this, dehydrated that, all carried large-haul shipments across the nation and around the world.  To preserve food, companies had to find a way to keep it from spoiling while traveling to your grocer’s shelf.  Begin the era of additives, preservatives and food dyes.  There is enough room to write about this phenomenon, but I am not going to boggle you down in those details.  It is worth research, though, just so you can be a more proactive consumer.

Today we are becoming more educated, mainly because our health has slowly deteriorated.  Although a lot of companies still use preservatives and such in their products, many are taking notice of what consumers are asking for and removing some of those harmful things.  But you still run into the problem of keeping food from spoiling, and this still requires some sort of preservative or less-than-natural additive in food.  And this is where much of the problem arises today.  I mean, how many of you have been to a restaurant and seen bottles of mayonnaise sitting on the tables instead of in the refrigerator? That is the stuff that makes my stomach flip a little and want to run the other way.

I have always been someone that tried to eat healthy, but ignorance was my enemy and I made a lot of mistakes.  I ate low-fat, store-bought foods and completely missed the forest for the trees.  Instead of looking at the ingredient lists of what I ate, I always payed attention to the calorie and fat content.  I am not saying those things are not of major concern, but they are definitely only a piece of the proverbial pie in today’s nutritional regiments.  Now I am more concerned about what a product has in it in addition to making sure it is not loaded with saturated fat, sodium and trans-fats.  But that isn’t really enough for me, and I want to go a step further and get closer to eating things with ingredients I can say.  I want to open up my refrigerator and see more condiments and food that I made with ingredients I want to use so I know it will be good for my body.

This is how I ended up becoming interested in The Whole 30 program.  So now I am setting out on an endeavor and trying to adhere to the 30 day eating regiment and see if I feel as great as others claim to feel.  I am excited to learn how to make my own ketchup, BBQ sauce and other food items with the ingredients I want my family to eat.  Today marks a full week on the program.  Was I perfect?  No, but I tend to not do well with really strict regiments.  I just love the process of flavors, textures and such when I cook.  But I will say I stuck with it until the weekend.  I had a few missteps in the form of Vodka, red wine (my ultimate indulgence) and a few birthday cookies.  But I was more conscious of what I was eating and why.  So I still feel the Whole 30 was in my head and working because I was being mindful of what I ate on the “naughty” list, and I took the time to enjoy each bite.  I never would have done that before this trial, diving head first into a delicious cookie without really tasting it.  Hope that makes sense, but it is truly how I felt when I sat and thought about my week.  I never felt guilt, I guess I just appreciated and sensed flavors better after having an entire six days with really good, whole foods that didn’t have a lot of additives, sugar or other stuff I can’t pronounce (or even type correctly).  I am A-Okay with that too.

I will check in again after going through another week of the program and trying out some new recipes.  I think once I get the hang of cooking in this mindset, I will be able to become more adventuresome in my cooking.  For right now, I am pulling things from the books.

The hardest part of this program is not being able to drink wine.  That is such a cultural thing for me, and I do miss all its pomp and circumstance.  So I am not going to beat myself up when I slip and have a glass, or two, of something fruity and fabulous.

If you are interested in checking out the Whole 30 program, I highly recommend reading the book “It Starts with Food.”  It gives you a lot of the  reasoning and science behind the program.  Those are two areas I am extremely interested in, so I read every single page and added lots of highlights.  If you are not into that and just want to find a good regiment to kick-start a healthy lifestyle, then just get the Whole 30 book/recipe guide online or at your local bookstore.

For any other information, just visit the web site at http://www.whole30.com.  There you can read a bit about the authors, their educational background and get insight from others who have adhered to the program.

Wish me luck as I continue on, and I promise to be open and honest about my progress!

Until next time,

Cheers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Miracle Worker: How fascia can make or break your body

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The start of a new year brings typical resolutions to eat better, work out more, etcetera and etcetera. With all these new “regulations” and “requirements” we put on ourselves, it is prudent to remember to start slow and give those tired-out, unused muscles a good stretch. I am not talking Stretch Armstrong stuff here—what I mean is by preventing injury, muscles feel the need to bend and pull a little before they are forced to go Mach 10 on a treadmill.

For a gym rat like myself, I am constantly surfing the Web or reading various fitness/nutrition magazines to learn new and essential things I can do for my overall health. It is always a goal for me to do what I can to prevent injury, disease and physical strain on this one body I have to live in. Which leads me to the subject of this article: fascia.

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What is “fascia?” No, I didn’t mean to type the word “facial” and just misplaced a couple of letters. For those who have studied the human body, you probably know what this miracle organ is, and why it is so important to our health. As for the rest of us laymen, fascia is the connective tissue that acts very much like a thin stocking over our bones, muscles and other connective tissues. If you think about peeling an orange, and the thin layer that covers the pulp, our fascia acts in a similar manner. It keeps all the important stuff in our body in one place. We all are born with fascia, but how we treat this little miracle organ creates the path to how our body responds to everyday stress and activity.

There has been lots of traffic on this subject, the fascia. Goop.com had a great article several months ago highlighting a personal trainer by the name of Lauren Roxburgh. Roxburgh lives and teaches in California and for over 20 years she has studied the body, mind and spirit (she has a degree in nutrition and exercise science and is also a structural integration practitioner, A.K.A. fascia expert). Roxburgh, now dubbed the “Body Whisperer” by some of Hollywood’s most elite celebrities, created a program that is dedicated to stretching and exercising the fascia. Her weapon of choice, you ask? A basic foam roller, the kind you see lying around in the corner at your local gym.

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Roxbourgh claims her classes give her clients the opportunity to lengthen the muscles, improve overall alignment and even alleviate pain. Roxburgh has a book coming out in 2016, and I plan to purchase it so I can read more about her methods with this fascinating part of the human body. If you want to do your own research on her, she is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pintrest. Or you can simply type in her name in any search engine and find pages of great information.

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After reading about this woman, and what she has basically spent her life researching, I wanted to learn more about the fascia and find out a way I could work on mine since the chance of having a private session with her is slim-to-none.

Aside from Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes getting their fascia worked over by Roxbourgh, it harbors the question as to what we can do in our own environment and time to help “work out” our own fascia. One thing to remember is fascia tends to be a fluid system that needs constant hydration. The less hydrated our body, and our fascia, is the greater risk for tears and ruptures. For example, I left a wishbone out on the counter the other day for my daughter and I to pull apart when she returned home from school. It sat on the kitchen counter all day, drying out and becoming brittle. When it was time to see who got to make the wish, my daughter and I both lost out because the bone was so dry it shattered into several pieces. Fascia can do the same thing if left without hydration, like a dried-out kitchen sink sponge. Remember everyone telling you to drink plenty of water? Well, there is still a lot of truth and necessity to that piece of advice.

If we know that working the fascia out like any other muscle group in our body is beneficial, what exactly do we need to do? For starters, switching up your workout routine is a great way to shake things up. When a certain body part is consistently used without proper training and stretching, it can become weak and susceptible to injury. If you are an avid gym junkie, think about alternating days for running, doing the elliptical or some other form of cardio workout. Take a few group classes to change the way your muscles move. It can be beneficial to the metabolic system as well as the muscular structure to change things up and make our muscles “think on their feet” so to speak. Ever tried yoga or Pilates? That is another area to get the fascia stretched and strengthened. A good friend of mine owns a yoga studio in the town where I live, and she is skilled and knowledgeable in various forms of yoga, body flows and vinyasa classes. Most recently she has started up an aerial arts program at her studio, which I have been a diligent student for the past six months. When it comes to working out my fascia, I now realize this woman sees it accomplished properly each week! And I thank her for it.

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I found on Breakingmuscle.com a great and simple checklist to help me better maintain my own fascia. Here it is:

  1. Remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
  2. Vary your movement patterns (this means switching up your exercise routines)
  3. Keep in mind that with fascia, “it’s all connected.” Like the song we learned as kids about hipbones and leg bones being connected, so goes for fascia. When you get an injury in the foot, for example, and you have weak fascia, chances are you will eventually feel some pain in your hip or even the lower back. Left unchecked, you could see that pain work its way up the body. Ouch!
  4. Keep the spring in your step! Get physical every day, even if it means a simple walk or parking in the far end of the lot to have a longer hike into the grocery store.
  5. Fascia is the largest sensory organ in our body, greater than the human retina. We keep our eyes in tune with glasses, contacts or yearly examinations. Why not do the same for the fascia? Consider buying your own foam roller (Target, Wal-Mart, Kohls carry them). Find some stretching routines you can do for at least 10 to 15 minutes each day.

Perhaps I am a nerd for being so interested in this subject, but I have had plenty of injuries in my lifetime, and plenty of injections to help those injuries. So I completely buy into the idea of keeping this amazing organ functioning to its full potential. Had I been more conscientious of that a couple years ago, it may have saved me a few visits to the orthopedist office. For my resolution this year, here is what I plan to do. I am going to pull my own foam roller out of the closet, look up Rosburgh’s specific plan and start the stretching process. Because one thing is for sure, flexibility is a necessity to maintain a well-balanced life.

Of course I can incorporate wine into about any subject, and fascia is one of them. When I was thinking of the connection between this awesome organ and my favorite drink, it dawned on me the relationship exists between fascia and grape skins.

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For a winemaker, knowing when to pick the grape can make or break a harvest. Pick a grape too soon, and your wine can turn out too tannic and higher in acidity. Pick a grape too late, and your wine can turn out to be too flat in taste, smell and body. When it comes to making the perfect vintage, it is safe to say the skins of a grape can play a pretty large role, especially for red wine vintners. It plays a part not only in the color of the wine, but also in the taste. How a winemaker chooses to begin the fermentation process will determine how the skins are treated. Some winemakers, depending on the type of wine they are producing, will use maceration. This process, mainly used with red wine, allows crushed grapes to mellow with the skins, seeds and even branches. It can help bring out softer tannins and unique flavors. Much like the way our fascia plays an integral part in our physical well being, grape skins can affect how a simple piece of fruit can become something splendid and pleasing to the palate.

The next time you decide to have a glass of wine, whether it is white or red, think about what the skin served to help bring whatever flavors and aromas you find floating out of your glass. Some of the biggest triumphs and treasures can come from something very thin and very fragile.

Until next time, cheers!