Starting the New Year right!

I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s when I get to relax with my hub and enjoy all the wonderful tasty treats we’ve been gifted by family & friends.

This year we received so many yummy gifts — bottles of red wine, Erik’s favorite Omaha Steaks, a tasty basket of goodies from Harry & David, and a unique gift from Zabar’s in New York, a Babka & Rugelach Crate. Even with the large crowd we had for Christmas, we’re still up to our eyeballs in treats — luckily much of this can be frozen and pulled out at a later date!

‘Tis December 31st and the night before January 1st. Uh-oh.

I’ll admit two things —

One: I don’t like resolutions, I prefer goals …

Two: Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had a few too many Hershey Kisses amongst other things (I’m looking at you snickerdoodles and gingerbread lattes).

It’s time to give my system a break, reset and recharge.

I’m no stranger to cleansing or as I prefer to call it clean eating (less scary, right?!). Cleansing is an excellent opportunity to slow down and focus on YOU for a moment! This is why I was beyond excited to receive my February copy of Whole Living featuring a clean eating 21 day action plan. This plan is fantastic as it includes a number of recipes to help keep you on track throughout the 21 days and … it begins January 2nd — no excuses. Can you say perfect timing or what!

The Cleanse

The No’s (I’m good at this word now, see puppy)

Just say NO to processed foods & beverages, sugar, dairy, gluten, caffeine and alcohol for 21 days. Stick with it! Crankiness may ensue but trust me within days you’ll be feeling better and will be glowing from the inside out!

Week 1: eat lots of fruits, veggies & plant-based fats (nuts, seeds, oils). For me this will mean green smoothies for breakfast and veg heavy salads for lunch and dinner. I’ll probably also treat myself to some of the delicious juice recipes included in the clean eating plan like this grapefruit, carrot & ginger juice — delicious!

Week 2: add back in seafood, beans & lentils.

Week 3: add back in gluten-free grains and eggs.

Some advice to keep you on track!

Stick to the perimeter of your market — everything you need for the next 21 days is right here.

H2O — drink it — lots of it! You’re going to be moving a whole bunch of toxins through your system and will want to flush them out quickly. Water will also keep you hydrated as you increase your fitness routine.

Recount & Reflect. Journal your food intake as well as set some fitness goals. Make reasonable goals like taking the stairs or drinking an extra glass of water. Jot down your ups and your downs throughout the 21 days. What was challenging? What surprised or excited you? Don’t beat yourself up if you slip up — just get back on track. Paper journaling is great or try a website like calorie count, an excellent and quite accurate online resource. Bonus — it’s free!

Tell everyone that is important to you that you’re cleansing! In fact, let everyone in on your secret — tell them why you’re glowing! Those around me have always been incredibly supportive in honoring my eating/exercise plan. Remember, these are the people who know how hard you’ve worked on your goals and want you to succeed. Rely on your biggest cheerleaders — I’ll bet many of them join in.

So … who wants to join me?

On that note, have a safe & enjoyable NYE!

I wish all of you the best for an amazingly fit & fabulous 2012!

Thank you for reading my little blog — it truly does mean the world to me. 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!


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Seasonal fun!

I love decorating my house for the holidays and this year is no exception. Each year on the day after Thanksgiving, I head to Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts to treat myself to some new decor as well as some new crafting items.

My friend Victoria, who writes the lifestyle blog vmac & cheese, hosted a gathering after Thanksgiving this year and I was inspired to recreate her beautiful DIY fluff lanterns she had displayed on the mantle at her home.

While the lanterns do take a little time to produce, they’re totally worth it and absolutely stunning. If you would like to recreate them for your home, you can check out Victoria’s instructions here.

I placed them on the piano and covered the cord with green garland and this red ball garland I picked up at Crate and Barrel Outlet. They look like big lit up snowballs — I love it!

Dr. O also needed a stocking so rather than buy a prefabricated one, I picked up a natural stocking from Target (puppy size of course) a red glitter pen from Paper-Source, and glue-gunned a star decal I had in my box of tricks. We’ll be able to fit a few treats from Santa and Mrs. Claus in there for the good boy!

Stay Tuned …

Due to finals week and a nasty cold catching me off guard at the worst possible moment — my blog is temporarily on hold!

Don’t fret!

I have some yummy recipes up my elf sleeve I’m excited to share with you before Christmas as well as some delightful decor tips that will knock your socks off! If you’re looking for something to soothe your winter chills, check out this delicious decaf caramel apple tea I’ve been enjoying from the Republic of Tea. It’ll keep your sweet cravings at bay and because it’s so wonderfully decadent, you’ll feel like you’re getting away with something all month long!

Stay warm and be well my blog friends!

The gift that keeps on giving

Looking for the quintessential gift this holiday season? Well, you’re in luck as I have the perfect idea!

How about a well-stocked pantry? Hands down, a pantry full of all the good stuff is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy diet and prepare delicious meals for you and your family all year long. While it may take a little legwork, my guess is many of you already have the bones to begin with and all you need is a little organization to build a fantastic pantry!

For those of you starting from scratch, take your time investing in quality ingredients such as spices (which add layers of fantastic flavor without the added fat) and pick up a few things here and there like nuts or condiments as they go on sale throughout the year.

Here is a list of what I like to keep in my pantry:

Pasta, Rice, Grains & Legumes
pasta (whole-wheat, stock many varieties like penne, rotini, spaghetti, etc.)
brown rice
quinoa
wheat berries
bulgur
whole wheat couscous
steel cut oatmeal
dried lentils

Canned Goods
whole & crushed tomatoes (I stock San Marzano – aim for no or low sodium)
tomato paste
chicken & veggie stock (choose no or very low sodium)
light coconut milk
cannellini beans, chickpeas, black beans, red kidney beans (no salt added)
tuna (oil & water packed)
salmon
sardines

The Spice Rack
allspice, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, chili powder, chinese five-spice, cinnamon (ground & sticks), coriander, crushed red pepper, cumin, curry powder, dry mustard, garam masala, garlic powder, ground ginger, herbs de provence, kosher salt, nutmeg, onion powder, oregano, smoked paprika, peppercorns, pumpkin pie spice, thyme, turmeric

Oils, Vinegars & Condiments
extra virgin olive oil
canola oil
vinegar (balsamic, red & white wine, apple cider & rice wine)
low-fat mayo
dijon mustard
ketchup
worsteshire sauce
cornichons
capers
kalamata olives
Asian ingredients: reduced sodium soy sauce, wasabi paste, pickled ginger, fish sauce, oyster sauce, chili-garlic paste, curry paste

Baking
granulated sugar
brown sugar
agave
powdered sugar
vanilla extract
honey
pure maple syrup
unsweetened cocoa powder
chocolate chips (semi-sweet & white)
rolled oats
AP flour
whole-wheat flour
pastry flour
baking soda
baking powder
cornstarch
cornmeal
plain dried breadcrumbs

Nuts, Seeds & Dried Fruits
walnuts
pecans
almonds
pine nuts
sesame seeds
peanut butter
almond butter
dried fruit (apricots, cranberries, prunes, golden raisins, figs)

Refrigerator
low-fat milk
low-fat plain greek yogurt
unsalted butter
Parmesan cheese
feta cheese
eggs
orange juice
dry white wine
Trader Joe’s steamed lentils
nutritional yeast

Freezer
frozen veggies: edamame, spinach, artichoke, broccoli
frozen berries
low-fat frozen yogurt
protein: chicken breast, whole chicken, ground turkey breast
Trader Joe’s pre-cooked brown rice

Staples (other)
celery, carrots, parsley, onions, shallots, lemons, limes, garlic

What are some of your pantry mainstays?

Healthy Holiday Tips!

I’ll admit it, I love all the rich dishes and cut out cookies the holidays bring. In fact, I love them so much that I have to remind myself not to sabotage all the hard work I do throughout the year. While the temptations might seem endless (I’m talking about you peppermint bark & pumpkin pie), I’m positive a balance can be struck. This year, I have a game plan in place so I can indulge without the added bulge!

Workout. I know, I know … However, I refuse to go to hell in a hand basket this year and spend my winter break fitting back into my skinnies. Yoga is my mainstay and I enjoy my weekly run club, but, it’s easy to “oversleep” on the holiday or punt due to day after coma. While I’m not advocating a massive workout session, use this opportunity to take a walk with a loved one and enjoy the fall foliage or join a local turkey trot like this one. Not only will you feel better for it, that pumpkin pie will taste all the more sweet!

Eat a healthy snack. I already know I am going to be tempted to pile on an extra spoonful of my mother-in-law Mia’s fantastic mashed potatoes that are reserved specifically for Thanksgiving. Chances are good I’ll make a few fruit kebabs like these (minus the mini brownie, though I LOVE that idea) to throw in the car for my husband and I to snack on before dinner. If you don’t want to snack before dinner, a few tall glasses of cool H2O should do the trick!

Bring a healthy dish. If you’re worried that Thanksgiving dinner may be a bit too rich for you with all that butter and cream, bring a healthy dish with a bit of decadence like this acorn squash. I like that the author includes a savory option as well as a sugar & spice version. Your host will appreciate the contribution to the dinner table and you can feel good knowing you contributed a healthy touch to the day.

Remember if you overindulge one or even two days, it’s okay. Don’t beat  yourself up and don’t use your overindulgence as an excuse to fall of the wagon for the rest of the holiday season. Just get back to your healthy eating habits the following day and move forward. Feel like you need a jump start? Try replacing one or two meals with a healthy green smoothie. They’re incredibly filling and super nutritious!

Let the festivities commence!

Delicata Squash

Wednesday is my favorite day of the week and that’s not just because the weekend is almost here. Each Wednesday when my husband comes home from work, he brings me a present … a big box of beautiful produce from Riverdog Farm. I never know what’s in store for me until the box arrives — it’s awesome!

This week we received a bounty of beautiful fall produce including one of my all-time favorite veggies, kale (excellent in green smoothies or have you tried kale chips — delicious!) as well as lots of yummy greens (spinach and arugula) and fingerling potatoes (toss with fresh garlic, olive oil, salt & pepper, and roast — yum!). I really could go on and on … how much produce gets packed into this weekly CSA box never fails to amaze me.

Which brings me to … squash!

Delicata squash.

While many of us out there (myself included) are quick to pick up a familiar squash like butternut, for its excellent ability to dual as both a delicious roasted vegetable side or pureed into a thick and creamy satisfying fall soup. It turns out by passing over these “decorations” I have really been missing out.

After a quick trip online to research recipes for this (new to me) winter squash, I decided to keep it easy, choosing to simply roast the squash. Once I got to work, the squash was super easy to manage due to its small size, making it a snap to clean, chop, and roast. The skin on the delicata squash is thin and edible, so I chose not to remove the skin, but instead to keep it on for its added nutritional benefit.

Nutritionally, delicata is about 30 calories per 3/4 cup serving and contributes almost 3/4 of the daily nutritional requirement for vitamin A, which is excellent for eyesight, especially nighttime vision as well as vitamin C, which aids in immune support and wound healing.

To prepare the squash, I chopped it in half lengthwise, removed the seeds and then sliced the squash into thick, beautiful half-moon slices. I then lightly tossed the slices of squash with some fresh rosemary and thyme I had on hand, salt and pepper, and olive oil. I also sprinkled in about a teaspoon of hot red pepper flakes for a little extra added spice! I laid the squash in a single layer on a sheet pan and roasted the squash for about 30 minutes (turning occasionally) in a 425 F oven. The finished product was perfection, a beautiful crisp golden exterior with a rich and creamy mouth-feel.

I always thought late spring through summer were my favorite for local Bay Area produce. This weekly box sure has me changing my tune fast!

What are some of your fall favorite veggies? How do you feel about the “decorations?”

photo credit

Trick or Treat Tips!

Oh my … is it high season for candy or what?!

This year, I’ve proudly avoided the candy isle, but, with a neighborhood full of kiddos gearing up for trick or treating this weekend, I’ll need to make a shopping trip soon before Halloween is all but replaced by Christmas.

Each year (in addition to candy) I purchase a variety of spooky non-candy alternatives such as pencils, stickers, temporary tattoos and pretzels; which surprisingly, many children in my neighborhood respond to quite well, with some coming back to ask for more at the end of the night!

Here are some tips to get you through the highs and lows of the most sugary (and scary) night of the year:

Set the ground rules. Remind your child that no candy should be consumed until after you have had a chance to check it over at home. Take this opportunity to feed your child a snack, like a piece of fruit or healthy meal before heading out for the fun. If your child has a full tank, they will be much less tempted to dig into their candy hull early!

Be a role model for you children. I know all too well how tempting it can be to over indulge in these sweet treats. If your child observes you eating Halloween candy in moderation, they will surely follow your lead.

Out of sight out of mind. Rather than leaving out a community candy bowl or allowing your child to keep the candy in their room, take this opportunity to let your child pick a few pieces of their favorite candy for a sweet treat later in the week. Remember, candy is an occasional treat.

Send away the leftovers. This is a tough one, but worth it. Halloween is the beginning of the holiday blitz. Don’t let these treats weigh you down! Send em’ away!

Boo! Don’t get caught with your paw in the candy bowl!

Have a safe & happy Halloween!

Canary Melon

Today, we received a beautiful, bright yellow melon in our weekly CSA box from Riverdog Farm. Intrigued by this unusual piece of produce, I consulted the newsletter. “It’s a canary melon,” I announced to my husband who in return pointed to the sad face he had drawn on the melon. You see, we aren’t really a melon household. My husband Erik, since his early childhood has had an aversion to melon. Though I will give credit where credit is due. Recently while traveling, we were treated to a delicious plate of refreshing watermelon after our meal, and while he tried it, the look on his face said it all. We’ve decided melon is just not his thing.

So what does one do with said melon? I waited until he went back to work and wasted no time diving right into this (new to me) treat. Also, knowing this snack is packed full of goodness, I could indulge practically guilt free! Melons are low in calories (about 80 calories per quarter cup serving) and happen to be an excellent source of dietary fiber as well as vitamins A & C.

The canary melon (aka Spanish melon), named for its vibrant color, not the island, is an oval shaped melon that turns bright yellow when it is at its peak ripeness. The flesh is a rich creamy white framed by pale green edges, firm in texture, and deliciously sweet. A sure way to to knock out any of those midday sugar cravings! While some melons can be quite musky, I didn’t find this melon to be so in the slightest.

Act fast! If you’re at the market and happen to see one of these beauties, pick one up now as the season in Northern California is almost over. The melon, though delicious as is, would be wonderful topped with some low fat tangy Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of granola for breakfast.

Tip! Before cutting into a melon (or any produce for that matter), wash the rind well under hot water to prevent bacteria from contaminating the flesh as you slice through the rind.

If you are interested in knowing more about our CSA, Riverdog Farm, delivers high quality produce to multiple sites throughout the Bay Area. You can find out more about Riverdog Farm by clicking here.

SFSU Farmers Market

I absolutely love that my school has an all organics farmers market every Thursday and appreciate that promoting health is an important aspect of student life at San Francisco State. While the market is rather small (it’s still growing!) the vendors who participate are friendly and the goods they offer are reasonably priced. In addition to fruits and veggies, the market also has pantry staples including bread and spices as well as some healthy snack options like hummus. For me, the weekly market makes quick work of dinner as I am able to pick up fresh produce on a rather long day in between my classes.

If you’re in the area, the farmers market is every Thursday, 10:00am – 3:00pm in front of the Humanities building. Stop by, pick up something healthy and support the community in which you live.

Tonight, I’ll be roasting beets!

Today, I picked up bunches of bright red and deep golden beets that were piled along beautiful green bell peppers, cauliflower and squash. Beets are pretty special. They contain phytonutrients called betalains that have been shown to provide excellent anti-inflammatory and detoxification support to the systems of the body as well as dietary fiber that may aid in colon cancer prevention.

Also, don’t toss aside the tops! Beet greens are easily prepared like other greens such as kale. The tops are rich in nutrients such as carotenoids, which are responsible for giving beets their rich red and golden color. Carotenoids are a powerful antioxident that may protect the body’s cells from damage by free radicals. Beets should be in season through October in Northern California.

Here is a recipe for my easy roasted beets.

Preheat oven to 375 F

Scrub the beets under hot water and trim them of their leafy tops. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 45-60 minutes or until tender. When the are beets cool, use a pairing knife to remove the peel, then quarter, reseason, and serve at room temperature. These beets are served excellent alone or toss with whatever fresh herbs you may have on hand and a little bit of feta or goat cheese for extra flavor. Enjoy!

Look for more “seasonal” posts as I continue to explore the weekly market and what the vendors have to offer. Is there a seasonal vegetable or fruit you would like to know more about nutritionally? How about a new recipe? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!