Thursday, 26 December 2013

10 Resolutions for a Healthy New Year

Hi friends! How were your holidays?  Very good here.  I did a recap of our Christmas day celebration on Honey We're Home if you want to take a peek.  Healthwise, I'm proud to say that I stuck to a good workout routine that definitely helped me not feel too bad about enjoying all the extra food I ate in the last couple of weeks.  I am ready to kick off the new year strong and was thinking about things we can do daily to change our health for the better today.

I'm not talking about general goals like, "lose weight", I'm talking specific actions that you can incorporate into your daily routine that hopefully become a habit and add up to some pretty big changes at the end of 2014.  


1. Control Portion Sizes  Sometimes we eat too much just because the sizes served to us in restaurants are so big that we forget what a realistic portion size looks like.   Drink sizes are huge, refrigerators are huge.  Have you looked at a fridge from the 50s and laughed at how tiny it compares to today's varieties?  Instead of eating straight from a bag or box (because it's hard to tell how much you're consuming), portion out your snacks into baggies or small tupperware.  Use smaller plates and understand that most portion sizes are about the size of your fist. 

2.  Don't Go Hungry  If you wait until you're starving to eat, chances are your food choices will be poor and you will overeat.  By balancing your meals and snacks evenly throughout the day, you are more likely to eat better and stay fuller longer.  Bring healthy snacks to work or keep them in your purse.  Things like nuts and apples don't need to be refrigerated, but if you have access to a fridge, you can bring cold snacks like cheese or Greek yogurt.

3.  Quit Smoking  Period.  We all know by now it's terrible for our health.  I've never smoked so I cannot say I understand the addiction or how hard it is to quit.  I do know that your family members probably wish you would quit because they want you alive and healthy for a long time.  I tell this to my parents all the time.  I have several friends who quit using acupuncture and/or hypnosis.  

4.  Get More Sleep  Stress and lack of sleep are so hard on a body physically.  Do what you can to wind down at night, so you can get the rest you need.  Getting off the computer, cell phone and turning down the lights can help get you ready for bed.  Sometimes I'll just get in bed before I'm ready to go to sleep, intending to read, then quickly fall asleep not realizing how tired I actually am.  

5.  Eat Breakfast My quick go-to breakfasts are oatmeal, toast with peanut butter, or Greek yogurt with granola.  My friend makes a protein smoothie for breakfast.  Whatever it is, it's good to get your metabolism going and start your day with calories and energy. 

6.  Eat More Veggies  Incorporating vegetables into our diet is important because they contain essential vitamins and minerals that offer protection against many diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.  Try switching out one meal a week for a salad loaded with veggies or add a vegetable to one of your daily meals.  I like to snack on a handful of mini carrots or celery and peanut butter.  Baked Kale chips are awesome.  Edamame is delicious.  A veggie omelet is a good way to incorporate more vegetables and you can always toss some spinach into a smoothie. 


7.  Slash Sodium The recommended limit of sodium is a teaspoon (or 6 grams) daily. Besides contributing to water retention (i.e. bloating), sodium can raise blood pressure. Processed foods contain the most, so make sure to read labels. Lower sodium diets are linked to decreased risk of heart disease, but are also associated with lower hypertension and weight management.  via Reader's Digest

8.  Cut Out Soft Drinks  Soda, soft drinks, pop (whatever you call it) has no nutritional value and can pack on the pounds.  Giving up these drinks (without doing anything else) can reap great rewards in terms of weight loss.  I read at FitDay that estimates show that two cans of soda per day adds approximately 24 to 35 pounds of fat per year, depending on body size, age, habits, etc.. Some people (weighing in at 140 pounds) have reported that by giving up two cans of soda per day, without exercise, they lost 20 pounds in six months.  

9.  Drink More Water We talked about drinking water recently and how much is enough.    Ladies Home Journal found the benefits are: 1) younger looking skin and better complexion by staying hydrated; 2) helps lose weight by keeping you feeling satiated; and 3) boosts mood and brain power.  

10.  Get Active Even 10 to 30 physical activity has positive benefits like weight loss, improved mood and energy,  and better sleep.  The easiest way I've found to to incorporate exercise is by walking more.  It costs nothing and you can do it anywhere.  I park far away from the door at stores and take the stairs when possible.  If your weather permits right now, just open the door and walk around the block a few times.  Once you start this habit, it will feel so good that you'll crave more.  Even if it's difficult at first, the payoff is worth it and it gets easier!  

Here's to a HEALTHY and FIT 2014!




Sunday, 8 December 2013

Are You Drinking Enough Water?

One thing I noticed after the Thanksgiving break was that I was drinking less water because I wasn't working out and I got out of the habit of keeping my water cup full at home.  I felt like my skin was looking dull and icky, so this week, I got back on my normal water routine.  


It helps so much to have a large bottle or cup that you like to drink from near you so you remember to drink water throughout the day.  I like the insulated cups the best so they don't sweat and create a puddle on your furniture.  The one pictured on my desk is from Wal-Mart and holds 20 oz. of water.  I drink about 3 of these a day, so about 60 oz. of water.  

It used to be recommended that people drink 8, 8 ounce glasses of water a day = total 64 ounces.  But now, the Institute of Medicine sets general guidelines for total water intake and recommends that women consume a total of 91 ounces (that’s about 2.7 liters) per day – from all food and beverages combined. But, depending on your diet, about 25% of the water you consume comes from your food.  

I've read that most healthy people get enough water in the food and liquid they take in on a regular basis, but you can gague whether you're getting enough water by if you feel thirsty or your urine is dark.  

I feel better when I'm drinking water throughout the day and definitely notice a difference in my skin.  

I really like these 24-Ounce Insulated Cups.  They come in a variety of colors too for a great price.  I always prefer a lid (just in case of spills) and straw.


How much water do you drink per day?  Do you use a special cup too?  



Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Healthy Beef Burritos

I've often talked about one of my go-to healthy meals, Tex Mex to go, and sometimes I mix it up and make it into a healthy beef burrito.  It's super easy and delicious!

I like to make a big batch, so I start with 2 packages of Laura's lean ground round or sirloin (4% fat).  Lean beef still has plenty of flavor, try it if you typically go with something fattier.  I'd be surprised if your family even notices the difference.


Then, I add two packages of low sodium taco seasoning and mix with 1.5 cups of water and bring it to a simmer until the meat has absorbed all the seasoning.  Meanwhile, I heat up a large can of low-fat refried beans.  

For me, the key to a delicious burrito is fresh pico de gallo (salsa), which is very easy to assemble.  I make it the same way I make guacamole, just without the avocados.   Just dice up tomato, white onion, jalapeno (deseeded for milder flavor) and cilantro and toss it all together with a squeeze of lime.


When the beans are heated through and the meat is ready, I assemble my burrito on a whole wheat tortilla (that I warmed up on the stove or in the microwave) and add low-fat cheese and sour cream- just a touch. 


Let me know if you try it and how you like it. 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Healthy Hair

About a year and a half ago, I accidentally (and stupidly) fried my hair in an effort to save money and do an at-home Keratin treatment.  The Keratin treatment was supposed to turn my naturally-a-little-frizzy hair into smooth, shiny locks.  The box clearly stated NOT to use it on bleached hair (which I have), but I thought it would be okay.  Wrong!  After you put the treatment on your hair, you are supposed to comb it through very straight.  As I started combing my hair, it starting coming out in big chunks.  I quickly washed the product out of my hair, but the damage was done.  It continued to break for months after that, I had to chop it, and I've been working on growing it back out, healthy, ever since.

Of course, it looked nice chopped when it was just styled from my awesome hairdresser.  But, I have a major cowlick and could never get it to stay side swept like that.  I really don't mind the shorter length, I  just want it to be healthy!


Now, I try to wash it every other day (I can't go more than that with workouts) and only dry it with a hairdryer or use a curling iron on the first day, trying to let it air-dry as much as possible.  Then I might put it up in a top knot the next day.   


I use Kerastase oil (just on the "pony tail" so it doesn't get weighed down) and I think it's been working miracles.  It's the green one for damaged hair.  I was surprised to see that Amazon sells it- I used to have to wait until I had a hair appointment at the salon.   


I only use it a couple times a week and a tiny bit goes a long way. It makes your hair really sleek and shiny, taking out the frizz too.  It also smells divine.  I love the Kerastase shampoo and conditioner too, but it's expensive so I don't always buy it. 


I wanted to ask y'all about Biotin supplements.  I read that Biotin is often recommended for strengthening hair and nails, though scientific data supporting this outcome are weak. Nevertheless, biotin is found in many cosmetics and health products for the hair and skin.  I found this brand on Amazon and it had a lot of great reviews, but I was wondering what you think or if you've tried it.  



Let me know!


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Protein IQ

How was your Thanksgiving?  I was home the whole week with my son and we also had house guests, so I didn't get in any exercise.  My body is craving a good workout, so this week it's back at it!  I can hardly believe we're in December already and it's just 3 weeks until Christmas!  Let's make these 3 weeks count so we can finish the year strong.  And so we don't add on additional weight that we have to work to lose in the new year.  You with me? 

If you can't make it to the gym and/or just don't have time to workout, you can still accomplish so much by watching what you eat.  I love this visual example of how much protein, veggies, and starches should be on our plates.


And this list of proteins is pretty helpful too.  I aim for about 90 grams of lean protein a day when I'm trying to gain muscle and get lean.  I used to count and measure all my food but now I'm pretty good at estimating it.  If you want an easy way to track your calories, protein, carbs, and fat, try MyFitnessPal.com.  It's a free site and is very easy to use.


So, what are you doing to finish 2013 healthy and strong?  


Monday, 18 November 2013

Checking In & Melissa Bender Fitness

I was so pumped with the "finish the year healthy and strong" and have loved reading your comments about your plans to do the same.  Week one getting back to the gym was really tough, I was sore, sore, sore.  But, that's the pain that comes from being sedentary too long and it's a good sore- if you know what I mean.  Sitting in the steam room at my gym after a hard workout is on my thankful tree list this year. 

Week two, I started to feel like I was getting my groove back.  Don't get me wrong, it's still difficult getting into those workouts, but about 15-20 minutes in and the music is pumping on my iPod and something just clicks and the workouts start feeling GOOD!  Do you know what I mean?  That is the best.  And in just two weeks, I can see small changes to my body that are really inspiring.  

And now, week 3, I'm backing off because I'm not feeling too good- got run down, feeling sick, and have to listen to my body and take a little break for about a week.  I am just like you and I can't do everything all the time, and obviously I don't kill myself to post on both of my blogs daily, but just when I have something I want to share with you and can make the time to share.  I only want to write things here that you will find useful, beneficial, inspiring, or informational.  

So, today, I'm just saying, I'm not giving up, I'm not giving in.  I just needed a little break.  Back at it real soon.  Can't keep me down.  :)

How's it going for you?  

And I wanted to share a fitness blog I found that I was really impressed with- Melissa Bender Fitness.  This woman trained for a fitness competition without ever training in a gym- she did all her workouts at home. No excuses, right?!  I know getting to a gym is a struggle for a lot of people, so I thought you might want to check her site out.  She shares in great detail all her contest prep including food and workouts.  Let me know what you think and tell her I said hi!  


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Monday, 4 November 2013

Finishing the Year Strong Update & Tex Mex Casserole with Egg Noodles

We last talked about our goal of finishing 2013 healthy and strong and I so appreciate your feedback in the comments.  Your courage to share where you are in your journey helps me be transparent in mine too and I feel like we're in this together.  I got in 4 really great workouts last week, and I feel that that's a good fit for my current schedule through the end of the year.  It takes some planning and preparation to make sure to get to the gym, but if I workout hard for at least 50 minutes, I'm good with 4 days. 

Getting started back into a weight-lifting/workout routine is especially hard because you are so SORE for the first few days.  I had to take Advil a few times, but I'm already fine.  And isn't it funny how after just a few workouts you feel 5 pounds lighter?!  My scale says I'm down half a pound.  It's a start!


On Halloween, I ate 2 chocolate chip cookies that a mom from my son's school made and a mini Reese's Peanut Butter cup.  To be honest, the cookies were delicious, but I should have just had one, and the Reese's didn't taste that good- probably because I'm a PB cup snob now, having fallen in love with the homemade variety.  The point is, if I'm going to "cheat" I want it to be worth it!  And I know that finishing the year strong requires some sacrifice and diligence with my food especially during the week.  So, I'm being more conscious of what foods I'm choosing and having something really good to look forward to on the weekend.  On Saturday night, we went out to a great restaurant and I ate oxtails and potatoes- so good, but really rich, so I only ate about 1/3 of what was on my plate.  I had 2 glasses of wine and for dessert, had a big ole ice cream cone that I really enjoyed.  Back on the wagon for Monday.   

My other tip for this week is to SHARE MEALS when you go out to eat, if possible.  I'm usually full after half my meal, but feel like I need to finish, so I'll end up eating too much.  Leftovers from restaurants usually end up in the trash and it's a shame to waste the food and money.  Sharing with someone eliminates that and you don't leave the table feeling so heavy from overeating.  


I made a healthy meal last week that I think you might like too.  I warn you that it's not the prettiest dish, but very tasty and full of protein.  It's kind of a Tex-Mex casserole with egg noodles.  I really believe that "abs are made in the kitchen", which is why the eating portion is so crucial to seeing results.  My meals last week pretty much consisted of:

7am- oatmeal and coffee
10am- protein shake 
12pm- this casserole
3pm- tuna sandwich and Sun chips 
6pm- this casserole
8pm- Greek yogurt or hot cocoa

I also stopped in Starbucks a few times (which is a step back from my previous daily addiction).  


Ingredients
1 Jennie O- Extra Lean Ground Turkey
1 Laura's Lean Beef (94% Lean) - or go leaner
1 bag No Yolk Egg Noodles
1/2 container of Philadelphia Cream Cheese (1/3 less fat) - or use fat free
1 cup Shredded Mexican cheese (2%) - or use fat free
1 package Taco Seasoning (low sodium)
*Update 2/16/14:  add some minced parsley, chopped onion and garlic for added flavor

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Boil the egg noodles for about 8 minutes, then drain.

Meanwhile, (*Update 2/16/14, brown the onion and garlic) and then add the two meats until cooked though, add the seasoning mix with about a cup of water and let it boil until the water and seasoning is absorbed.  Then, I add the parsley.

Off the heat, add the cream cheese and the shredded cheese to the meat mixture and stir until all melted and mixed in.  Add in the noodles and stir until combined. 

Pour the entire thing into a 9x13 baking dish, top with remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese.  Bake for about 20 minutes.  *Update 2/16/14:  I'm not baking this dish anymore because I felt like that dried it out.  

I based this dish on a pin from Pinterest, but lightened it up.  To make it even lighter, use leaner beef and fat free cream cheese and fat free shredded cheese.  Some people may also like to add salsa to this for more flavor. 

If you portion this dish into 10 servings, below is the nutrition information.  I use myfitnesspal.com to calculate the nutrition- it's free and really user-friendly. 

So, how's it going for you?  If you've fallen off the wagon, just get back on!

via Nike

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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Finishing the Year Healthy & Strong

*First let me apologize for having to truncate my posts (causing readers to have to click "read more" to read the post in its entirety) because my blog content has been stolen by some thief with a domain registered in India.  Thank you Leanne for letting me know- I had no idea.  Back in August 2012, several well-known bloggers started truncating their posts because "scraper sites" had been stealing their blog content.  I never worried about it and, as a reader, I find truncated posts kinda annoying, so I never did that.  But I have to now.  My entire blog- every word and photo has been scraped and is now appearing as original content on another blog.  So annoying! And the worst part is, I haven't yet figured out what I can do about it.  So, I just wanted to explain why I'm now truncating my posts- apparently this makes it much harder for the thieves.  I hope you'll keep reading!

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I think I need to get your attention and my own regarding the reality that the holidays are just around the corner!  I get giddy with excitement this time of year.  Halloween is in a couple days, which really just marks the beginning of the real holiday season for me.  I love everything that is related to this time of year, including the coziness of colder weather, wearing red and feeling festive, getting together more with family for longer, relaxed gatherings, celebrating family traditions, shopping for gifts for family and friends, decorating the house, and yes, of course, all the yummy FOOD and DRINKS!

But seriously, do we have to just check out in the health department this time of year?  I've already gained a few pounds in last couple of months as I've slacked off my workouts and discovered this ridculously delicious gelato that I've been induldging in too often.  It happens.  But, we need to be reasonalbe and balanced.  I know I'm less happy and more uncomfortable when I'm heavier.  Just a few extra pounds on my very short frame (5'1) makes my jeans too tight.  And even a couple extra pounds are hard to lose.

I want to look and feel GREAT this holiday season!  

via Nike


Read more »

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Healthy Yogurt Station

After seeing the breakfast bar in my kitchen (which now includes a quick morning oatmeal), Leanne (Away We Go) emailed me to share something similar she does in her home with yogurt.  She created an adorable, functional way to have a healthy yogurt snack with a variety of toppings.  It's great to have all these yummy ingredients on hand and easily accessible.  Here's Leanne to tell you how she did it.

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Yogurt cups have always been a popular snack in our house and over the past few months we have pretty much made the switch to Greek. The health benefits are plentiful and these days the options for flavours are endless! I absolutely love the individual containers that include a portion of toppings to add in.  I find the combination of nuts, granola or even dark chocolate to be a very satisfying late afternoon snack!  However, as much as I love these little treats, I do find their cost adds up. In order to save a bit of money, but keep this healthy option in our kitchen I decided to put together a little Yogurt Station. 


To get started, I gathered a variety of nuts, seeds and dried fruit from the bulk section of our grocery store and placed them in some glass jars that I already had on hand. 


I placed a washi tape label on each jar to identify it's contents. I think that washi tape is great for this job because it can easily be switched out as the contents of the jar change.  


The jars fit nicely in this small basket, which is a perfect fit for our pantry shelf.  


Here is a list of what I currently have in our "Yogurt Station"
~
roasted almonds
 candied pecans
dried cranberries
shaved dark chocolate
 pumpkin seeds
honey
cinnamon


Now I am able to buy large tubs of Greek yogurt, which saves money and waste (the individual servings are often too large for my kids). When we need a little snack we grab the basket from the pantry and top our yogurt to fit our mood! I love granola and honey in the morning, and pecans with dark chocolate before bed!


Thanks so much for sharing Leanne!  I adore the jars and washi tape labels too! - Megan

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If you have a healthy food recipe with bright, gorgeous photos and would like to be featured on Honey We're Healthy, email me at: honeywerehealthyblog@gmail.com


Monday, 21 October 2013

Vitamix Blender- Worth It?

Last year I was considering purchasing a Vitamix blender and then was shocked to see how expensive they were when I visited the website.  I was so naive about the price!  I wrote about it on Honey We're Home, asking people if they thought the Vitamix was worth it and got a lot of responses, mostly people encouraging me to make the splurge and others saying blenders that sell for much less will do the job fine.  I was still on the fence when I was at Costco one day and they had a Vitamix 5200s on sale (but now I can't recall the exact price) so I went ahead and bought it.  Amazon sells a Vitamix5200s for $449.99 ($100 less than the Vitamix website).

I have to say I love it!  I mix protein smoothies in it almost daily and they contain ice and frozen fruit, which blend up perfectly.  Perhaps a less expensive blender would also work, but I'm confident this one will last a very long time- it comes with a 7-year warranty.  



I will say, the downside of my Vitamix blender is it's height- it won't fit on the counters under our cabinets because it's too tall.  We tend to keep ours out near the kitchen sink because we use it so often, and store it in a lower cabinet where it fits fine.  I just rinse it with hot soap and water right after each use, and lay it upside down to dry.  

One feature I really like is that it's not that loud compared to other blenders I've heard.  Now, I want to venture outside of just making smoothies.  I know you can make soups, dips, salsa, and have even heard of chicken salad and dough.  

Do you have a Vitamix?  I'd love to hear what you are making in your blender besides smoothies.  

I'm considering pureeing up some veggies to sneak into my son's food (maybe into his blueberry muffins or something like that).  Any recommendations? He's the pickiest eater I've seen!

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Saturday, 19 October 2013

Faith

Worship and worship music is a huge part of my expression of joy, thankfulness, faith, and love of God.  I enjoy different kinds of worship music, listen almost exclusively to contemporary Christian radio in my car (89.3 KSBJ), and sing in the choir at my church.  I often feel the closest connection to God and His peace and love in my times of worship.  Many tears of both joy and heartbreak have fallen during my worship time.  Only He really knows everything we've been through.  But, I almost always feel a deep sense of peace after a pure time of worship when I didn't hold anything back.  To me, worshipping through music is pouring out your heart to God through the songs and acknowledging Him as Lord.  Then, feeling His responsiveness and connecting to it.  It blesses my soul. 

When I first joined my church in 2001, the song I recall getting me "hooked" on contemporary worship music was "You Are Good" by Isreal Houghton.  Do you know it?  We actually just sang it again two weeks ago and it's as good as I remember.  It's really upbeat and FUN!  Gets you moving and dancing and just celebrating the genuine goodness of God.  Did you know that worship music could sound like that and that some people dance and jump at church?  I didn't.  

Here's a video of Isreal and his band New Breed signing You Are Good and Rejoice in South Africa.


Certain songs in life just take you back- they don't even have to be Christian songs- to a certain time in life and you can almost taste the experience.  I vividly remember how I felt as a "baby Christian" going to church regularly for the first time as an adult, completely ignorant of Christian music and definitely feeling a little . . . weird about even hearing lyrics like, "I worship you Almighty God, there is none like you." And I felt really out of place because I didn't know any of those songs.  I was more familiar with My Love Don't Cost a Thing (it was 2001 after all).  At church, I was self conscious and awkwardly clapped my hands to the beat of the music, but my mouth was shut tight.  

Slowly over time, as I continued to show up on Sunday mornings, the songs became familiar.  I bought our church worship CD (or maybe it was given to me?)  and started listening to it in the car.  At church, I looked forward to my "favorite" songs being played.  It wasn't long before I knew ALL the words and was sining in my car.  Then, the girl who used to keep her mouth shut, auditioned for the choir. When I look back now, I realize I didn't need to feel self-conscious about not knowing the songs (I doubt anyone even cared or noticed).  We all start somewhere in our walk with God.  What matters is just starting and knowing that HE IS GOOD!

Do you have a favorite worship song?  

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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Kitchen Must Haves

Over the years, I have definitely found my "must have" kitchen items that I use over and over and that are essential to preparing healthy meals.  If you're going to go to the effort to cook meals at home, having these tools on hand will get you through most recipes.  And, you don't have to spend a fortune on these things.  I sourced all of these products through Amazon (which has great prices on quality products), and I know that many people use the site because it's such a big time-saver and the convenience of having things delivered right to your door is hard to beat!  

These items may not be as inexpensive as you would find at Wal-Mart, but the prices are great for the quality at Amazon.  Since cooking and preparing meals is a daily chore, you want your tools to last and be easy to use.  I have all of these items in my kitchen and can attest to their quality and usefulness. Because I'm simply a home cook who still has a lot to learn, I do not have the "best of the best" chef's cookware, but I consider these items very high quality for a good value. 


8-inch knife //  This one knife, if you keep it sharp, will make preparing meals so much more enjoyable.  So many of my meals start with dicing up an onion and then chopping up fresh herbs.  

Serrated knife // Essential for tomatoes, which we eat often, and also for bread. 

Cutting board //  One really nice cutting board, like the Boos brand, will last forever if you care for it by handwashing and oiling it regularly.  I like a cutting board with a very large surface area so I can chop different foods and keep them on one board.  The one pictured is 24x18, but smaller ones will be less expensive.  

Peeler // I'm forever peeling carrots and cucumbers.  I hate peeling potatoes, but if I have to, this is the peeler I like to use.  I've had mine at least 5 years and it's still going strong.  It's dishwasher safe too.

Can opener // I use a manual can opener to save counter space and keep it in a drawer (as opposed to an electric opener).  This one works really well and you don't have to be superwoman to use it.  Just be sure to clean it after using so the blade doesn't get stuck. 

Mixing bowls // One set with a few sizes is all you really need for both meal prep and baking.  I keep one handy as a garbage bowl for all the garbage/recycling as I'm preparing my meals.  

Spatula // A four-inch stainless steel spatula is good for turning almost anything and I feel it is sturdier than its rubber counterparts.  I also use it for separating meat while cooking like ground turkey for chili or my Tex Mex dish.

Grater // Again, I opt for a one sided microplane grater (as opposed to a box grater) to save space. I mostly use mine for cheese. 

Wooden spoons // There's always something to stir or mix.  

Rubber spatulas // I call them rubber spatulas, but they are really made with silicon.  They are great for helping empty the contents of a jar or bowl and are heat resistant so you can use them when stirring hot things on the stove. 

3-quart pot // The smaller, nonstick pot is good for steaming veggies and boiling smaller amounts of pasta. It's dishwasher safe, but I always hand wash mine for extra precaution.

10-inch pan  //  I use this for cooking everything from meat to pancakes and omelets, and for sauteeing veggies.  I've made a million grilled cheeses in this pan.

5-quart pot // Perfect for chili, stews, and soups.

A few more things not pictured that I also use all the time and have in my kitchen:






 plastic measuring cups

stainless steel measuring cups and spoons (These are a splurge.  They were a Christmas gift from my girlfriend Karen a few years ago and I love how they feel in my hand.  Such a crazy good gift!)

What's YOUR must-have kitchen item? 

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Monday, 14 October 2013

Healthy Coleslaw

Cole slaw is a great side side dish that's a wonderful additional to so many meals.  I particularly love it with barbecue and made it as an addition to slow cooked pork shoulder last week.  To make a healthy cole slaw, I used the America's Test Kitchen  Healthy Family Cookbook recipe, which uses buttermilk, light mayo, and lowfat sour cream.  The result is less calories and less fat- a 1-cup servings has 70 calories and 2 fat grams.  Note that this recipe takes about two hours (non-work time) before it's ready, so plan accordingly.  You can also make the coleslaw ahead and refrigerate in an airtight container up to one day.  Just taste before serving- you may need additional cider vinegar, salt, and or pepper. 
INGREDIENTS
1 head cabbage (cored and sliced thin)- I used a bag of prepared cabbage and carrot mix
2 carrots, peeled and shredded 
1 teaspoons salt 
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup light mayo
1/4 cup lowfat sour cream
3 scallions, sliced thin
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey

DIRECTIONS
1.  Toss the cabbage with the salt in a colander and let it sit for an hour until wilted.  Rinse and drain the cabbage in cold water and dry thoroughly.  Then add in the carrots.  (Cabbage is naturally full of water which will end up watering down your cole slaw thus dulling its flavor unless you draw out some of the water first.  Salting and draining the cabbage releases most of its liquid resulting in crisp crunch and better flavor.

2.  Whisk all of the other ingredients in a bowl until smooth.  

3.  Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to coat.

4.  Cover and refrigerate until the flavors have blended (about an hour). 


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Saturday, 12 October 2013

Faith

I have quiet confidence that God knows what is best for my life and that He has a plan and purpose for me.  I'm earnestly seeking to know, "What would YOU have me do?" There have been many times in my life when I had dreams and hopes that did not come to fruition and, at the time, was utterly and painfully depressed that God wasn't giving me what I wanted- what I pleaded and prayed for with all my heart.  But HE knows better.  No, HE knows best.  He sees what we cannot see.  It doesn't always numb the pain, but I also believe in feeling your feelings and allowing them.  Then, we can deal with it and heal it.  I'm taking comfort in Proverbs 19:21 today.  The NIV translation says, "Many are the plans in a person's heart; but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."


Just like I believe there is a certain peace and comfort in having a man be the head of the household (a somewhat controversial topic I know), there is a big sense of relief knowing that I don't have to figure everything out on my own.  I can give situations to God and seek HIS will and then patiently (oh, that one is so hard) wait to hear from Him. Sometimes we "hear" by doors opening or closing or by certain people coming or leaving our paths.  But, I TRUST in Him and his purpose.  Thank God for that peace.  

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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Homemade Pesto Pizza

Had I known sooner how easy it is to make tasty pizza at home, I would have started making it so much sooner.  My best friend Karen and her husband are wonderful cooks.  Many years ago, we used to do a rotating Thursday night dinner club where we'd take turns eating at each other's houses.  I always looked forward to the Thursdays when it was their turn to cook! Karen often shares her recipes with me and this homemade pizza is one of her latest.  She texted me the pics of her pizza with directions and I knew immediately I wanted to try it. 

She said she was still experimenting with cooking temps and times, but I read that the trick to cooking pizza at home is to get the oven very hot (500 degrees) and heat the pizza stone (I used a baking sheet) to very hot as well by preheating it in the oven for at least 30 minutes.  I did that with this thin-crust pizza and baked it for about 12 minutes.  It turned out so good!  


I think the thing that intimidated me before about making pizza at home is the crust.  But Karen recommending buying frozen premade crust and just rolling it out.  


I bought my dough at Whole Foods, but I know they sell it elsewhere.  My package comes with two frozen dough balls that you thaw in the fridge for a day or on the counter for about an hour or so.  I rolled the dough with olive oil so it wouldn't stick. 



This is a pesto pizza with spinach, mushrooms, red pepper, mozzarella, a little feta and a couple cloves of garlic.  I steamed the spinach on the stove, then made sure to squeeze any excess water out.


Mix the prepared pesto with a couple drops of olive oil so it spreads easily onto the rolled dough. 


Then top with all the ingredients.  


Like I mentioned above, I preheated the oven and cookie sheet for about 30 minutes at 500 degrees.  The pizza baked for about12 minutes. 


I will definitely be making this again.  It will be fun to experiment with different variations of ingredients too. 


Do you make pizza at home?  What are your favorite toppings?

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Monday, 7 October 2013

Healthy Banana Bread

I've been searching everywhere for a healthy banana bread recipe and found one at Half Baked that looked pretty healthy because it contained no sugar or oil and uses whole wheat flour.  I made it this weekend with a couple substitutions- adding chopped walnuts and skipping the honey because instead of regular low fat Greek yogurt, I used my favorite carmel Greek yogurt by Stoneyfield.  I thought that would add enough sweetness.  Adding the walnuts was a hit, but don't omit the honey like I did.  My bread wasn't sweet enough, but I'm thinking this recipe would be good with the honey.  I'm going to keep experimenting!  


Healthy Banana Bread via Half Baked

2 cups whole-wheat self-raising flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
3 bananas (very ripe)
¼ cup honey
2 eggs
¼ cup yogurt- lowfat Greek 
1 tsp vanilla

Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a loaf pan.
  • Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  • In a separate, mash the three bananas and stir in the rest of the wet ingredients. With a mixer, mix until well combined and the banana is smooth.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir together, but don't over mix.
  • Pour the mixture into the loaf pan and bake for about 30 minutes.  
  • The bread is done when a toothpick comes out clean.

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